Exactly one month ago, I was leaving for Nicaragua. I've been home for two weeks, and it's hard to find a place to start. My brain is still processing everything that happened there. Bear with me as I write and sort all these things out. I hope this will be the first story of many.
I think the best stories happen when we have no idea what we're getting ourselves into. And that's where my story starts.
When I first heard about the trip, I felt tugged in a way that I can't explain. I had that same pulling feeling in my gut when I agreed to go to Virginia Beach. It's this mix of excitement and fear and hope, and you know on some level that you will not- you cannot- return home as the same person you were when you left.
As I stepped up to customs, the border officer looked at my passport before he slowly stamped it. He was young. Maybe a few years older than I was. As he handed it back to me, he studied my face for a moment. He said in Spanish, "You are going to love this land." He repeated it again in English, as if to make sure I understood. He had no idea how right he was.
We drove from the airport through the city of Managua, through this beautiful, lush, green place filled with of people. I was immediately aware of my skin and how it glowed white, like the moon. At a stoplight, I noticed two small children trying to sell golf balls to stopped cars. I locked eyes with one young girl who was clenching a neon pink golf ball.
Before this trip, I had plenty of ideas about purpose and what my life should look like after I graduate. And one split second looking into the big brown eyes of this sweet girl changed all that. I felt, deep in my gut, I am so in over my head. I am so in love with this place that it hurts, and I've only been here for two hours.
You see, I expected Nicaragua to be hot. Dusty mixed with tropical.
I expected to see livestock and old buildings and trash in the road. I expected to see and meet a lot of people. I didn't expect how giving they would be, even joyful. I didn't expect them to invite us into their lives. I didn't expect the love God put in my heart for them, which was so much bigger than myself. I didn't expect to feel so much, so quickly. I didn't expect so much love.
It's like I've been walking around all my life with this flat, clay map of how I think about things: success and life and relationships and joy.
I went to Nicaragua and it brushed up against my skin like a stamp, and I am undeniably imprinted with its story. God did so much there, in the prayers that were prayed and the sick that were healed. The people whose lives were changed and the sweet kids we got to teach and spend time with.
All of these things have marked me, like a tattoo or a painting with bold strokes and one thing is certain: my flat, clay map has been changed forever. And I am bright with color.