Written by: Mia Luciani, Maggie Dunne, and Hayley Theil
Summer 2022 Partnerships Team Interns
From three interns, sitting in the Rancho and looking back on the summer as we start our last week: here are six things we learned JUNTOS...
1. Just Go With It
One of the best things about trips with Amigos is that people get pushed out of their comfort zone. It can be really hard to feel comfortable while trying new things, but it is really fun to watch groups become adjusted to the discomfort of learning. Last week, we watched this transformation with Academy of the Sacred Heart. None of the 29 girls had ever been to Nicaragua before, but they constantly impressed us with their open-mindedness and willingness to go with the flow.
By the end of the week, they were pickaxing like pros and not hesitating to start conversations with community members. We know that a mission trip to Amigos for Christ requires surrender of control and the ability to be flexible and “just go with it.” This can be uncomfortable and difficult, but we are so proud of the Sacred Heart girls for stepping into that!
2. Understanding Is Not Dependent On Language
We have experienced firsthand how intimidating it can be to try to form relationships through a language barrier. We got to see so many people overcome that this summer, but one person in particular sticks out. Andrew and his family spent a week building a modern bathroom alongside a family in El Pedregal, and he and his wife, Kristen, never let the language barrier get in their way. They connected with the family they worked with through smiling, cooking tostones, and playing games with the kids at the house. Kristen even showed them how to do touchdown dances during a quick game of football! It was really cool to watch the families bond as the week went on. Andrew, Kristen, and their two children taught us that people can have huge impacts on each other without a single spoken word. Next time you’re in Nicaragua, don’t let a language barrier stop you from making friends!
3. Never Doubt God's Ability to Use You
Just a few weeks into the summer, we met two nurses from Kansas City. On one of their first days here, Katelyn and Carly expected to spend the day digging ditches for the water lines in La Palma-Lourdes. Instead, God ended up using their nursing skills when Carly noticed a woman with pain in her wrist. The two nurses jumped into action.
By using what we had on our school bus and in our backpack of nursing supplies, Katelyn and Carly made a sling and ice packs. Then, the three women sat together and made a plan for treatment moving forward.Katelyn and Carly taught us that God uses our skills in the most unexpected ways, and we just need to be open to it.
4. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
There are four Nicaraguan interns on our team that work for Amigos year-round. Carlos, Keven, Wilberth, and Kenneth have shown us the value of teamwork time and time again. Last Tuesday was the perfect example of this. We were digging ditches in La Palma-Lourdes when it started downpouring. Without hesitation, these boys started running through the hardest rain we’ve ever seen, grabbing tools and water thermoses.
Thanks to their efficient and smooth teamwork, everyone else was able to stay as dry as possible. They taught us that we can do so much more “juntos” then we can do alone.
5. Opportunities Are Everywhere
The last week of June, a 10-year-old named Chase came down on a trip with his parents. From the first day, Chase seized every opportunity he could find. He saw an opportunity to climb Cerro Negro twice in one day, and he did – wearing Crocs, by the way! He saw an opportunity to make a friend when he saw a little girl his age in a community, and he spent the rest of the afternoon coloring with her.
He saw an opportunity to play his favorite sport with a group of Nicaraguan boys, so he grabbed a soccer ball and invited them to a game. Chase did not meet a single stranger in Nicaragua, and he never got overwhelmed by new experiences. Whether we’re in Chinandega or back in college towns, we’ll follow Chase’s example of looking for opportunities to love others and try new things.
Exhausted. Sweaty. Hot. Thirsty. Overwhelmed. Hungry. Worn out. These are all words that can describe how it feels while pickaxing and digging ditches for 6-7 hours every day. Sometimes, it is just not fun when the sun is beating down on you and you are covered in dirt. Obviously, service isn’t pretty and clean all of the time. We have learned that it really important to remember that the perspective you choose can majorly impact the work you are doing. This is a lesson that we learned through one of our friends, Emma.
Each day, while we were working, Emma would walk up and down the line of ditches and remind people to smile – or sonrie, as she quickly learned is the word for smile in Spanish. To her, this might have just been a small and fun action to bring some joy to the work we were doing. But to us, that small action was a reminder that perspective matters and we have the opportunity to choose joy even in moments that feel hard, exhausting, or overwhelming.
When groups sit down for their last devo at the end of a week, they always talk about how impacted they are by their time in Nicaragua. And they really are! But they impact others too. On behalf of the Amigos community, we want to express our gratitude for everyone who came to Chinandega this summer. Y’all have taught us so much, and we will carry these memories with us forever. We are so thankful for every moment we spent juntos.
Mia, Maggie, and Hayley