I recently returned from a trip to Nicaragua. I went with a group from the Central Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa, AL. Here’s what I learned.
1. Leadership Matters
We saw flourishing churches, growing schools, and dedicated servants. We saw
Now, why was that? I believe it has everything to do with leadership.
Have you ever seen the picture of the difference between a leader and a boss? It’s a popular meme going around. Fundamentally the difference is that a leader is out in the front pulling. A boss is behind barking orders. We didn’t see bosses. We saw leaders (Matthew 20:26).
These leaders were servants who were travelling a tough yet rewarding path. I met a man who has a a well paying job. He could be spending his Saturdays eating churrasco on a lazy Pacific beach. Instead, he is spending his Saturdays on a motorcyle, traveling dusty roads of a million bumps. Roads littered with more manure than pavement. Roads with more cows than cars. Why? Because he is leading a school, teaching in the school, and supporting two preachers. Why? Because he is a leader (Galatians 6:9).
2. Networks Matter
I don’t want to make it sound like there were just a few people involved in this work. There wasn’t just one contact. There were many. There were two school directors who were great leaders, and they stood at the hubs of a network of leaders/servants. At each church that supports the schools, we met men and women who were serving by teaching, working with children, and serving in the community. They were well connected and unified.
Just think, Jesus took time to mentor 12 apostles. Why? He saw the need for a network of servant leaders.
3. Make Thankfulness a Priority
One of the thoughtful ladies in our group from Central shared this thought. She said that the Nicaraguan prayers were different. Let me explain. She said that the prayers we (USA) pray are often more about requests. The prayers that our Nicaraguan brothers prayed contained much more praise and thanks. Now, I noticed that the folks down there were quite content seeming. I think it started with thankfulness (Colossians 3:15).
4. Everyone Can Give
Here’s a picture for you.
That’s the church building in San Joaquin. High atop a hill gather about 25 kids and 8 adults. They come from the neighboring agricultural community. Here are some stats
- Average income: $35/month
- Average number of children per household: 8
- The church building is as pictured, and the children meet in the shed in the background.
The roof has holes, the floor is a dirt ground, and they don’t even have hymnals or a pulpit. All the basically have is the leaky roof over their heads. Oh, but they have each other. They have dignity. They have the Spirit. They have love. They have beautiful children.
And, they have watermelons. Do you see that one in the corner of the picture? They gave it to us. They didn’t ask for anything. They just gave. My guess…we’ll probably give back to them.
By the way, their picture is the featured image (top of post).
5. Happiness isn’t a function of dollars.
Why are people so happy in third world countries? I mean we come back to the US stunned that the people are happy. I suppose we assume that happiness and net worth are directly related. I believe there are three reasons they are happy:
- They are connected to each other. When you’re a little kid on the top of a mountain and you don’t have a cell phone or a bunch of toys, what do you do? You play with the other kids. I think those poor kids weren’t so poor at all.
- The are connected to the moment. When you aren’t distracted by technology or fake posturing, you are able to get to the reality of the moment. That’s all we have after all. Jesus said some things about that, too (Matthew 6:25-34).
- They are connected to purpose. With these schools and churches, the people are working for a greater purpose. They are involved in God’s greater story of redemption, of setting the world to rights, of sharing the greatest message of all (Mark 16:15).
What About You?
There you have it, these are the 5 lessons I learned from my short trip to Nicaragua. Have you ever had a learning experience like this (mission trip, etc.)? What did you learn?