Strangers who became my best friends, a foreign country that became a second home- this was my spring break in a sentence. I was very hesitant to go on a mission trip to a third world country, even though I would be surrounded by some of my best friends. I was scared to meet new people and stay in a place where there may not be air conditioning. Everyone was going to spend their week soaking up the sun in Destin, Jamaica, or Panama City and to be honest, I was extremely jealous. I never thought that one week in Nicaragua could change my life.
I went into the week with two simple goals:
1. To become less selfish
2. To stop getting jealous of people so easily
By the end of the week, I can easily say that I think I accomplished these goals and learned more about myself and others than I ever have. By the first night, I knew the trip was going to be something extremely special. We stayed in the city of Granada the first two nights, which is a more wealthy, touristy town. At dinner on the first night, the two people that were on the trip with us who had gone last year told us about something called “Happy Time” that they had done on the trip the previous year. We were to go around the table and say our favorite part of the day, something we were looking forward tomorrow, and compliment someone. “Happy Time” became something that I looked forward to every night. Listening to everyone’s compliments and what they were enjoying about the trip, I could really see how God was working in our small group and the bonds we were forming over such a small period of time. The people I met on this trip each have their own stories and special talents and even though we are a bunch of people who would probably have never even met one another if it were not for this trip, I can say without a doubt that I am so thankful for each and every one of them and I cannot thank God enough for putting them in my life.
Not only did I make some wonderful friends, but I got to see how Nicaraguans live and work with children and teach them about hygiene and other important health concepts that are second nature to us in America. Even though I went over to teach them, I think I came back learning more from them than they learned from me. I am so inspired by how happy they are with so little. Although they have no air conditioning, a hole in the ground for a toilet, and dirt floors, they are happier people than most Americans that I know. This just goes to show that material things and money do not bring happiness. They are also so appreciative of any help they are given and will go out of their way to give back to people who help them. One group went to a home to help teach a woman about diabetes and were overwhelmed with kindness when she ran out as they were leaving to give them eggs to say thank you for coming to talk to her. The moms are so proud of their children and loved watching us interact with them and telling them how beautiful they are.
I loved working with the children in the schools. Nicaraguan children are truly the most beautiful and genuinely happy kids I have ever met. Their schools are so chaotic and consist of mostly just recess time, and they love being played with. I fell in love with one little boy named Brian, who has the most contagious smile and laugh. He is a shy little boy who loves being tickled. I have never been happier than I was playing with the first, second, and third graders at school in Limon, Nicaragua. I saw God’s light shining through each and every one of those children.
I have never been a glass half-full person, until my trip to Nicaragua. On the last night, I had the idea for everyone to give compliments to everyone. We ended up giving over a hundred compliments to one another and my heart has never felt more full hearing some of the wonderful things everyone had to say about one another. We bonded so much more than I ever have with anyone in just a week. My friends that knew me before the trip were in shock because of the compliments I received about how happy and optimistic I was on the trip. I learned more about myself than I ever have. Being home makes me realize that material things do not bring happiness. I am so thankful for just a home with air conditioning and plumbing. But I realize that all I really need to be happy is to be surrounded by good people who make me smile and know how to have fun. The Nicaraguan people taught me how to live my life to the fullest, and be appreciative of all the simple things.
I was not jealous the entire trip of anyone who was spending spring break in Florida or Cancun or Jamaica, because I knew I was learning more about myself, others, and God’s work than any of them. I was not selfish because I spent every day helping other people and did not feel one ounce of regret for that. I am more than thankful for this trip and these memories, and I would encourage anyone to spend a week serving others and God. You will learn more than you ever have in your entire life, I can promise you that.
I will never forget the happiness I felt when I was surrounded by the laughter and smiles of Brian and the other kids just like him 🙂
This is Martha, the woman who is selfless enough to teach the children in schools in Limon about hygiene and things they otherwise would not know. She works with FIMRC, and speaks fantastic English (she is working on a degree in English). I hope to one day be a selfless and inspiring as she is.
Te echo de menos ya, Nicaragua
(I used Google Translate to type that sentence)
Thank you for the memories and everything you taught me, Limon. I will never forget you.