By Andrea Adams, Guest Writer
My world was flipped upside down this spring when I traveled with a group of business students to Nicaragua.
Our goal was to build a well to provide fresh water for the local community, but nothing could have prepared me for the life changing experiences I gained from the people.
There doesn’t seem to be any words that can do it justice, but Professor Mulder, who led the trip, came close when he said it was powerful.
We traveled to a community named El Limonal.
The impoverished village is also known as “The Dump at Chinandega,” because the entire community borders a massive dump.
Scavenging the dump for recyclables or items to resell make up about 70 percent of the El Limonal community’s livelihood.
My time in Nicaragua challenged a lot of my values and priorities.We experienced a community in poverty to a degree I had never seen before, but despite that circumstance, the locals were some of the kindest and most welcoming people I have ever met.
When we arrived at the community, our team split into two groups.
One group did the manual labor of drilling the well, and the other group taught hygiene to the community.
Every morning over coffee and worship, Mulder challenged both groups to focus on being present in each moment.
During the day, the manual labor team brought the community closer to clean water, while the hygiene team taught new subjects ranging from hand washing to rehydration after diarrhea.
I was part of the hygiene team.We taught the women of the community in the morning, and taught the children in the afternoon.
The men of the community spent their time helping to drill the well.
At times, laughter cut across cultural boundaries to bring us together, such as when one of our group members had to pantomime proper defecation in front of the entire community.
It didn’t matter what language you spoke or culture you were from, because the entire community laughed that day. We ended each day with a Bible lesson.
On our last day in Nicaragua, I had to tell some of the children I had bonded with during the trip I was leaving.
One girl, Ellie, jumped up, put her hand in my face as if to say “stop” and took off running. I was so confused, and I wondered if I had told her to leave by accident.
Luckily, she returned a few minutes later with a photo of herself.
In the photo, she was dolled up for Nicaraguan Independence Day, where she had been a baton twirler.
We sat there together for a few moments looking at the photo and enjoying our time together.
When I went to give her the photo back, she pushed it back into my hands and motioned that I keep it.
I was so touched that this little girl, who had known me all of four days, would give me a prized possession like that.
I suspect it may have been the only photo she owned of herself. I framed the photo, and placed it by my bed as a reminder to pray for Ellie and the rest of the children and community in El Limonal.
It is a hard adjustment being back home.
Everything changed for me in only a week, and I will never forget the community of El Limonal.