What you may not know about Nicaragua is that there is trash lining every street. Cracks in sidewalks, knots in trees, holes in fences are all stuffed. A highway leading to volcanoes and sparse villages —barren on both sides– displays trash every square foot. When it rains in Nicaragua, the smell of sewage permeates so thickly you feel as though the city just sunk three feet lower.
BUT in Nicaragua, children smile. My Nicaragua Missions team drove the cluttered highway to a desolate town. From there, we decided to take the public transportation to the ocean. The locals, who use this bus, live in shacks.
Two sisters were seated ahead of me on the bus. One was about three. She had marks all over her face, but nothing permanent; they may have been only scabs. I asked her sister, who was maybe 10, questions I felt were risky. I asked what her typical day was like. Relief poured over me: she attended school, she had friends and a family to go home to. And she smiled a beautiful and genuine smile.
God cares for his children in ways we don’t always recognize.
I had the privilege of serving at a private Catholic school connected to an orphanage. These children’s teachers lavished me in gratitude, generously assuming my fluency in the Spanish language. After many attempts of children trying to simplify the words so that I would understand, the conversation of shrugs would end in a “Dice Gracias,” (she says thank you) and a simple “de nada, “you’re welcome.” Children are so simple, yet so comprehending. I love them. I can still picture the face of the shy fifth grader who would hold my hand, look-up, and smile at me.
There may have been a language gap, but he and I had a kinship. It’s hard to believe he will turn 13 or 14 this year. He was so young, so trusting, so friendly. To compare his sweet disposition to my 13 year-old, bratty self is grotesque, really.
There is a book called Crazy Love. It poses the question: If there were no war, no famine, no anger; if all your relationships were mended, healthy, flourishing; if death and destruction were no issue; If you had wealth, admiration, success…if life were perfect, but you did not have Jesus—would it be enough? I know that if this were all true for me, but were not true for a child, or any age being, somewhere else—then no. And honestly, if the whole world had such fortune—there’s no way it could have happened without Jesus. To God be the glory for all things good. Amen. You see, to know satisfying goodness (goodness in the context of God’s plan) is to know God.
Along the lines of another scenario, would you be able to smile if you lived on less than two dollars a day?
I love learning new cultures just as I love being in nature. There is something about being away from purely pleasurable and comfortable places that reminds me of God’s existence. Nature is so subject to weather, elements battling for dominance. To consider that God creates all things that are good, just blows my mind. There are so many good things: everything is unique yet blends and interacts smoothly.
I know we get hung up on “whys:” why do evil things happen? I know there are bad things. In Moscow, industrial pollution is heavy enough to cause deformities: National Geographic has a picture of eight kids lined up and smiling in their underwear…all without left forearms. And babies die of malnutrition—not just “every 8 seconds” but in their mothers’ arms, with hope represented by a syringe of soy milk and health a mere dream.
Juxtapose this with the American dream, and I want to vomit. I’m not saying it’s bad to like nice things and to work hard for a better future; but it’s important to look beyond my network and future.
I don’t know about you, but I am going to pray for people, both in and outside our wealthy country, to feel human again.