So, I am not a huge fan of flying in airplanes, but last spring break I applied to go on the spring service project to Bluefields, Nicaragua without really any knowledge about the country or about the struggles facing this city. I got accepted to the team and said, “What the heck!” before forcing myself on an airplane headed for Dallas, then Managua, and finally, Bluefields. Long story short, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I knew that I wanted to come back this spring break.
Like I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I was given the opportunity to co-lead this year’s team to Bluefields for spring break. Amidst all the pre-departure meetings and fundraising, I really couldn’t believe how close spring break was getting! However, I got on the airplane this time with the idea that this was going to most-likely be my last time in Bluefields ever because I will be student-teaching next spring and won’t be able to do an SSP.
This year’s trip was, again, one of the best weeks of my life. It was amazing to see a lot of the same kids and adults that I saw last year, and having them remember who I was really made me feel like I had definitely had a positive impact on them. However, something during this trip kept bothering me. There are two boys in Bluefields who I have particularly grown close to over my 16 total days there: Cristian (9 years old) and Isidro (7), who are brothers living in the Tabitha’s House – a house for children whose parents are not able to take care of them at the moment for one reason or another. I call these kids mis hermanitos (my little brothers) because of how much they mean to me!
During the week I was there, I kept thinking about how many people, like me, have come into these boys’ lives for a short amount of time, become really close to them for their week or so in Bluefields, and then leave and never see them again. I do not want to be one of those people. I don’t think it can be very good for kids like Cristian and Isidro to have people do this to them multiple times throughout the year. This bothered me all week, and I really began to question the effectiveness of short-term mission trips that are based on relationship-building like this one to Bluefields.
On one of our last nights, we were hanging out with the leaders of the ministry that we were partnering with, Pastor Adrian, and Dr. Bernadeth Kelly. One of our adult faculty leaders, John Vonder Bruegge asked them what the best thing is that a short-term mission team like ours brings to a ministry like this one. I really can’t remember all of what Pastor Adrian said in response to this question, but there was one part that really stuck out to me. He said, “You can send lots of money and toys to these kids in the mail, but you can’t send a smile, and you can’t send a hug.”
So, with that statement in mind, I had a renewed sense of purpose in Bluefields, especially with Cristian and Isidro. I still really don’t want to be someone who comes into these boys’ lives and leaves after a while, but like Pastor Adrian said, the time I spent with these kids means so much to them anyways, because a lot of them just want to be loved by somebody, even if it can only be for a week or two. The hugs, smiles and laugher shared between groups like ours and kids like this cannot be replicated by anything material. This gave me a lot of peace as I left at the end of the week.
Anyways, I am already planning my next trip to Bluefields, whether it’s with a mission group or not. It’s a place where I feel so much at home, and where I know God is very active in the community. I cannot wait to see mis hermanitos again soon!!