Every time I start out in a new blog post, a part of me wishes that we could just have this conversation in person. So can we imagine together for a minute or two?
I really want to share with you some reflections from my recent journey to Nicaragua and back, so imagine we've just pulled up a chair alongside one another. Since we're traveling to Nicaragua for the next few days, there's a warm breeze that wraps its way around you even as your cup of coffee slowly cools in your hands. On the breeze you catch the scent of unfamiliar fruits and flowers that invite you to investigate their source, and inspire you to consider the wild diversity of God's good creation. Perhaps you just heard, as I did, the sound of a mango the size of a coconut just land on the metal roof with a thunderous boom.
Twice in my life I've traveled overseas. Once about 13 years ago to Eastern Europe and the country of Slovakia. Then in August I traveled to Nicaragua for 11 days of learning, working and growing in my understanding of what it's like to live in a truly impoverished country. I left behind my wife, two children, my dog, my church, my car, and even my Blackberry. Okay, that last part's not totally true since I had the Blackberry with me, but never turned it on. Honest, I didn't.
Leaving behind the familiar for the unknown is particularly difficult for me, because I'm a creature of habit and comfort. I tend to gravitate towards situations and people where I know I already have a niche, and where I know I have something to offer. But from the beginning of this trip none of that would be true. Our original team of 7 had dwindled to five by the time we arrived in Boston for our flight, and by the time we left Boston we had lost another team member who, due to some complications with our flights would have to follow us the next day. One of those five team members is a good friend, but the other four were virtual strangers.
Not only would my companions be unfamiliar, but, of course, I was going to a place I'd never been, to speak a language which I'd learned in high school, but had mostly forgotten in the 16 years since I'd said my last "Adios" to senior year. That first travel day, with all of its chaos, set the tone for the trip in my heart and mind. Being in an unfamiliar location, with unfamiliar people, unfamiliar customs and an only vaguely familiar means of communicating would mean that I was completely out of my element.
The morning after we arrived in Nicaragua, I wrote this in my journal: "From the moment they told us a bomb scare had closed part of La Guardia and canceled our first flight of the day there was a chain reaction of events set in motion where I felt very clearly that many things, maybe everything, was out of my control…even in my places of comfort and ease I would do well to remember that I am not the soul (or sole) source for my life."
I took a very simple step of faith; a hesitating, awkward step out into the unknown, and found God was waiting for me there. In the midst of all that was unfamiliar, I was reminded of just how faithful and good God has been to me, and how he is the ultimate source for my life. When I have everything that I know, and when I know everything that I have, I find it very easy to begin to trust in my own ability to control situations and order my life. Unconsciously, of course, I start to think of myself as the master of my own life. Eleven days in Nicaragua were an opportunity for God to remind me that he is the one ordering my life, and that as he orders my life, he provides all that I need to accomplish his purpose in me.
Of all the unfamiliar sights to see, the most unfamiliar was a community of people who literally live on the outskirts of a city dump. Tomorrow I'll post some thoughts on what we saw in La Chureca and La Playa, so come back then and we'll talk some more.