Common Ground

8

Finding Jesus

Each night of our mission, our team would come together to pray and process the day. One of the standard questions became, “Where did you see Jesus today?” It not only got me thinking about where in fact, did I see Jesus – it made me actually start looking for Jesus throughout the day. It’s amazing what can happen when you slow down and pay attention long enough to actually “look” for Jesus. What’s even more amazing is where I found Him.

One of the first villages we visited, and the one I visited the most was Bethel. Bethel is a small village closest to the mission house. On the first day when I took a walking tour of the village, I was in shock. Seeing photos of what dwelling conditions can look like in a third world country and actually being there are two totally different things.  Honestly, it was some of the worst conditions I have ever seen, and yet the people were some of the most gracious. They welcomed a group of foreign strangers, who showed up unannounced, with hugs and open arms. The pulled out their best (and often only) chairs and encouraged us to sit. Cony, a woman whose kitchen we worked on all week, actually unplugged her small refrigerator so she could plug in a fan to keep us cool. That’s where I found Jesus.

On Monday afternoon, I visited Ensayo, another small village for women’s Bible study. The Bible study took place in a small clearing, underneath some fruit trees, off of the main dirt road. The women walked in the heat to get there and were taught by two young women from the village, who had been working closely with another missionary. While the women were having Bible study, we entertained the children, and they entertained us. They sang us songs and we did our best to pick up the words and clap to the beat. We blew them bubbles and they shrieked in delight as they chased after them. That’s where I found Jesus.

On Tuesday afternoon, we bagged up 90 7lb bags of rice and 90 7lb bags of beans to distribute to families in Nuevo Amanecer (New Dawn). When we drove up, we were surprised at the number of people who came out to greet us. It ended up being a great day. Pastor Antonio said a few words, followed by our team leader, Ron. We wanted to stress that the blessings did not come from us, but from Jesus. We were working for Him! After the distribution of food, one of my group members read the story of Jesus walking on the water in Spanish. Imagine 60+ kids sitting in the dirt, listening to Bible stories. We smiled as we saw some of the parents move in closer so they could hear as well. We followed the story with a piñata and activities for the kids. My activity was making little beaded bracelets. The kids crowded around us so much I thought someone was in danger of being trampled. I thought a lot about American kids that day, as I watched the Nicaragua kids scramble to take part in making paper airplanes, tissue paper flowers and the bracelets. Something so simple brought so much joy – to us and to them. That’s where I found Jesus.

This trip made me realize that Jesus isn’t found in fancy churches with stained glass windows. Jesus doesn’t care about you wearing your Sunday best. I am here to testify that I found Jesus on a dirt path, in a small village underneath a fruit tree. I’m sure if you look hard enough, you can find Jesus too in places you never thought you would.

He never stops teaching me.

Team Member Jared from Common Ground Church in Indiana shares  about…”Understanding God’s Will First Hand” during his trip with Vision Nicaragua.


Today, God proved that he never stops teaching me. He shows me profound truths that my mind would tell me that I already know but my heart has never really understood. My relationship with God seems to be in a constant balance between knowledge and understanding. I know things to be true but my heart just does not get it. The beautiful thing about Nicaragua is that God is so present and moving here that it is impossible to escape him and the ways he wants me to understand…Truly understand.

Joy

Today the word Joy manifested itself over and over to me. We worked on Connie’s kitchen today. Connie is a member of the staff at Vision Nicaragua and she assists Dr. Michael with the medical clinics they have on the project sight as well as around the villages. Connie has had a dream for some time now to add a kitchen on to her house. Vision Nicaragua stepped in and said that they would provide a loan for her to purchase the materials and provide the labor to install. We were building the back wall. As we all struggled with non-uniform blocks and out of square concrete columns, Connie came up behind me the only phrase in English I thinks she knows, “OK People!” which for me I heard “It’s ok, Jared”

You see Connie does not care that the wall is straight or that it looks pretty, she is just joyful it is there. She does not complain about her leaky tin roof or the smells coming from the pig in the backyard. She is just is joyful to have these things.

In the afternoon we went to a village named Nuevo Amanacer . I watched as Kim Neidigh read the children a story about when Jesus calmed the storm. She read and 60 kids and parents were mesmerized.

They were so joyful of the story when she got to the part about the boat rocking the kids were chanting, “Derecha, izquirdea, derecha (right, right, left) and leaning that way to mimic the boat rocking… Joy, true joy, in a way that is beyond material things. How much better would life be if we smiled this much, laughed this much, rejoiced this much?

Community

Real community, the kind where a group of people love each other so well that through the ebb and flow of the relationship God interacts with us. Personally, for me I am all about community when I can control it. When I can control how much and how little of the true “me” people get.

I have always had a passion for service. It is a very natural thing for me to do. Being served is something different all together. I am ok if I can decide when and where I am to be served. As long as I can control how much I am vulnerable. Unfortunately for my pride God doesn’t work like that and this place has a way of bringing that to my attention.

I had a conversation the other night with a girl who is down here from another group about my struggles with this. We were washing dishes for the group and she would not let anyone take over for her. Instantly I knew how she felt and how she is because I am the same way. Serve… Don’t be served. I was discussing this with her and I told her how last year while I was on this trip I lost my wallet and was forced to rely on my community for money, for food, water, cash to get out of the parking lot at the airport. God has a way if he wants you to learn something you will, first hand.

One day later this girl was sick. So sick she could hardly get out of bed. When we came back from the village she was laying in the main room on a mattress with five or six girls sitting around her, laying with her, cuddling up next to her… Compassion…Real community.

I understood then that God’s community has no give and take. There are no favors. This is not such a thing of owing somebody. In God’s world there are no such things as I.O.U’s. Only love… Completely free of possession.

One thing I have learned on the two trips that I have been down to Nicaragua is my impact on the people here is small. Their impact on me is eminence; the joys, the smiles, the community. Vision trips are appropriately named. It’s a vision of what life could be like and in many ways what life should be like. The people here give me so much more than I give them and I now understand that is ok.

spotlight on VN medical clinic—common ground blog #4

Within the walls of the Vision Nicaragua compound there is a medical clinic run by a very compassionate Doctor.  Dr. Michael assists the men and women of Chinandega with their health needs.  During the week, Dr. Michael saw multiple patients from Bethel, a neighboring village, who have been affected by chronic kidney failure due to the pesticides used in the sugar cane fields.

Clinic

As a health care worker, I began to see the major differences between Nicaraguan health care vs. the U.S health care system.  I am a physical therapist in the U.S, but in Nicaragua I was a pharmacist, nurse, respiratory therapist, as well as a physical therapist.  Despite the people inside that clinic being very sick, they greeted me with a smile and attempted to talk with me despite the language barrier.  Other than playing multiple roles at the clinic, another difference I noted was the “patience” the patients had while waiting to see Dr. Michael.  They waited over half the day to see him, and never once got upset about their wait time.  Prescription medicines are much easier to be distributed (I didn’t need a pharmacy doctoral degree).  I just needed to know where they were located in the small medicine cabinet in the clinic.  Working with the assistant of the clinic was by far a huge blessing to me.

Cony & I

Her name was Cony, and despite my inability to speak Spanish, we found an effective way to communicate.  At the end of my time working in the clinic, she would say a few of the only English words she knew and I will never forget her saying, “I love you.”  It was amazing how things can be accomplished and deep relationships can be formed when communication with words is limited, but with God those things are possible!

Working w/Cony in a nearby village

Medicines made travel friendly!

feeling at home—common ground blog #3

The team is beginning to feel more at home in the Vision Nicaragua complex, as we have begun to pour some of our own labor into it.  We’ve been painting and performing other small tasks, including the construction of a multi-level scaffolding reaching 12-14 feet in the air.  I, for one, was glad to see that project completed as I spent a large portion of one day painting ceiling beams on the scaffolding’s predecessor, a shaky structure that shifted back and forth with each small movement.

The scaffolding we constructed

The Vision Nicaragua complex was also the scene of of fun and joyous celebration, as children from four small villages gathered for a day of “footbol” and fellowship. As the majority of the village populations travel by foot, bike, or bus, the gathering was facilitated through truck transportation provided by Ronaldo “El Jefe” Read and Mario Chang, who manages the facility.  Our group offered the children a chance to develop and demonstrate their soccer skills in the areas of dribbling, heading, and goalkeeping.

Kids Arriving for the Soccer Clinic

We also led the children in a round of some of the team-building activities that we practiced before departing to begin to bond as a team.  However, the highlight of the day was the opportunity for each team to test their skills in games against the other villages.  While the villages of Bethel and Piesco remained tied in the final game (despite multiple shootouts), each group of kids represented their communities well, achieving high levels of sportsmanship and spirit.  At the end of the day, all the kids clearly enjoyed the opportunity to come together at the complex and simply play around with each other for a few hours, while our team loved the chance to revel in their energy and to begin to form some relationships with them.

Ryan Elmore

rich in faith—common ground blog #2

This trip has been extrememly fulfilling already, and we’ve only been here a few days.  My favorite experiences have

been the times spent with the children.  Unexpectedly, after church on Sunday morning, we spent an hour or so doing

crafts with the kiddos from the community.  It was rewarding to see their smiling faces as they posed for pictures

and showed how proud they were of their newly-created crafts.

A second opportunity to hang out with kiddos happened during the soccer tournament.  One station was for

team-building, and we enjoyed activities like a trust circle, a teamwork ladder, and the human knot.  Giving

directions to them was challenging due to a limited Spanish vocabulary, but they all caught on fairly quickly.  God

was certainly calling us to have patience through this experience when the kids weren’t working together as a team.

Thankfully by the end of it, though, they were really able to trust each other through a bit of practice!

Soccer Camp Kids

Lastly, we spent an afternoon in a village called Ensayo.  Ron and Marty began and have continued a relationship

with the people of the community, and the rest of the group was excited to jump in with support and love.  We

crafted balloon animals, blew bubbles, flew paper airplanes, enjoyed a pinata, and handed out beans and rice to the

families.  James tells us in 2:5 that “God chose the poor people of this world to be rich in faith and to possess

the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.”  This verse seems very fitting for our friends in

Ensayo because their love for the Lord shined through their dusty feet and tattered clothing.

El Ensayo

Also, we’ve been serving alongside a World Race Team while we’ve been here….check out the link to the video they put together while  we were in Ensayo. I think you’ll enjoy it!  Click Here to Watch

Words cannot begin to encompass everything that we are experiencing, but I hope that these few stories paint a

small picture of the beauty we have been able to enjoy.

Meg Perryman

Common Ground Heads to Cerro Negro

Cerro Negro

Today we journeyed to Cerro Negro, the site of the most active volcano in Central America.  The drive up was long and bumpy.  We had to wait for cattle and pigs to cross the dirt road but we received cheers and smiles from every Nicaraguan child during the trip.  Even when we were being jolted around and ducking to miss branches that brush past, God sent His message of love in the most beautiful ways.

We arrived at the base of the volcano excited and nervous.  We had sleds and knew we were going to get very dirty but had no idea what would lay before us on our ascent to the top.  The crest to the top was 2200 feet.  It was
hot and there were loose rocks everywhere but we were ready to begin. I took my first step, ready for the challenge.  It didn’t go well.  I sprained my right ankle and went down hard, bruising my left knee as well.  A brief
scream and then the tears came.  Some were from pain, most were from the realization that I would not be able to hike the volcano which I had been anticipating greatly.  Immediately I was surrounded by my group in prayer.
I realized that I would not be climbing the volcano but God would be my entire strength in getting to the top.  He appeared in Marty as she immediately prayed for my strength.  He appeared in Nora as she taped my
ankle and helped practically carry me up the entire ascent.  He was with Jen as she encouraged me and carried my board.  He was with Jared who carried two boards so others could help.  He was with Ryan who ran down a third of
the volcano to retrieve tape and bring it back up.  I saw Omar with his encouragement and selflessness to keep me motivated.  He was with Meg who was taking pictures to capture the joy of our journey.  He was with Ron who
came up last to make sure everyone was taken care of.  God was in so many moments today that we could sum up our day with one word, Awe.

Common Ground Team

When we ascended to the top of the crest, we were absolutely breathless taking in the scenery.  The land was lush and green with beautiful peaks all around.  Smoke billowed up from parts of the volcano letting us know it was
safe for now but immense power and destruction loomed close enough to fear the power of God and appreciate His provision.  We knelt down to feel the intense heat from actual lava which was just underneath the loose layer of
rock.  God absolutely blew our mind today.  His glory was beautiful and we were truly grateful to behold it.

Lauren Crafton

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