The appointment to my new parish was confirmed with a confident handshake and the statement “and of course, you’ll be going with us to Nicaragua in January.”
“Of course,” I said, hoping no one would notice the sweat starting to form on the top of my lip. The contents of my gastro-intestinal tract were quickly becoming a swelling, stewing, stoking sign of fear.
Other than heights and eating bugs, not many things scare me. But the thought of going to a Central American country on a mission trip was starting to take hold of my deepest fears. After all, who hadn’t heard of Iran-Contra, Daniel Ortega, and the Communist influence in Central American civil wars?
My goodness, 24-hour news channels over the years had painted a picture in my mind of Nicaragua as an Iron Curtain, goose stepping kind of place, filled with mindless soldiers wielding Kalashnikovs, where everyone thumbed their nose at the Imperialist United States.
I was scared.
And I was wrong.
I’m learning that people are people all around the world. People get up before dawn, make breakfast, get their children off to school. People work hard, multiple jobs, six or seven days a week, just trying to feed their family and put cloths on their backs. People look up to the stars and ask, “Is this all there is? or is there more?”
Babies are born out of pain, tragedy strikes like lightening, the elderly quietly suffer in loneliness. Drops of Holy Water are splayed in the sign of the cross by those who enter sacred spaces. Children jump rope, squeal with delight over a wand from a jar of bubbles, and squeeze themselves in line to take a turn at wacking a pinata with a stick. Coffee brews, carts of shaved ice circle the village park, and older men tip back in their chairs while talking quietly and watching before them a game of pick up foot ball in the street.
International Christian ministries are about people, not politics.
The fear that gripped me began to fade away as I look out the window of the Delta flight and saw the poverty that surrounded the single landing strip airfield. Some old 50’s era military helicopters off to the side looked sad, tired, and rusted; like they hadn’t flown in years. Cooking fire smoke drifted up from Managua homes into the sky like there was some connection to heaven. Even the gruff looking customs inspector at the airport looked like he was compensating for something. He couldn’t fool me.
I could feel the grace of God seeping into my consciousness like water drawn to a sponge. Smiles and waves and warm Hola’s were signs that people just want to be friends.
Being scared is natural, yet it also reveals within me a lack of confidence in my own faith. I know that God is in control. This is God’s world. There is no reason to fear. I’m human; which means, like you, I am a work in progress, flawed, bent, and brittle. Yet, despite it all, making new friends is God’s way of overcoming my fears and drawing me towards Christian perfection.
Scared? Not enough to keep me from going back.
How about you?