In July 2014, a group of three campers from Chetek, the Moravian Church Camp in Wisconsin for students in 9th grade thru age 21, and two leaders traveled to Nicaragua to spend 10 days building relationships with the youth of the church there.
The team traveled after an invitation came from First Moravian Church in Nicaragua to have some youth from the United States attend the youth conference hosting youth from all over the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. Jared Gothard and Taylor Vanderbloemen of Christian Faith Moravian Church in Deforest, Wis. and Ally Dickson of Sturgeon Bay Moravian Church in Wis. went to Nicaragua to share in the conference and build relationships. They then returned to attend camp a week later to share about their experiences, and encourage others to discern if they are feeling called to take part in missions as well.
Here are some reflections from Jared, Taylor and Ally:
“Hola. Naksa. Hello. While on our mission trip to Nicaragua these were all greetings that we encountered. During the conference, we took part in large group lectures as well as smaller discussion groups. The youth in Nicaragua were very interested in what we had to say. They worked really hard to make sure we understood what was going on, since the lectures were mostly in Spanish.
“Experiencing such a different culture has made us stop and reevaluate ourselves. The hospitality and community we experienced was more than we ever could have expected. Everything they do in Nicaragua revolves around each other. They all care so deeply for each other that they seem to be one large family instead of individuals. The gifts that we brought went to the community, not individual people. Also, everything they do is an act of God. Their connections to him are stronger than anything we have seen, and we have challenged ourselves to strive for that kind of relationship.
Prayer support carried us throughout the week as we faced new and sometimes difficult or challenging situations. We had an amazing trip and we all got to grow in our faith as we worshiped with another culture. We all have a strong interest in returning to strengthen our new relationships.”
In addition to attending the youth conference, the youth traveled to the community of Sisin where other Northern and Southern Province young adult teams have traveled to help rebuild the church in that community that was destroyed by Hurricane Felix in 2007. It was a blessing to be able to share in worship services in that church, having taken part in several teams that traveled to Sisin, and having worked alongside community members, to bring sand from the river to help mix cement that now stood as finished walls.
As the team returned to the U.S., and attended Chetek, they shared about the importance of continuing and building on relationships. Their witness has inspired a group of campers to begin discussions with the Board of World Mission about ways they can be involved in missions: tentative plans are already in the works for a return trip to Sisin to assist in the building of a small house as a gathering place for AJECIM, the very active group of 40–70 youth high school aged and older that gather each Sunday afternoon.
At the youth conference the team was able to share in bible study, songs, games and worship. A powerful moment was when all the youth at the conference took to the streets singing praise songs together as they walked through town to witness, and to make sure that the lessons they learned did not stay just within the walls of the church.
As the group was preparing to leave the community of Sisin, a special service was held to send the group on its way, and as a part of the service all of the members waved, asking us to bring that greeting to our churches here, and to let them know that they were in prayer for all of us as Brothers and Sisters in Christ. It is a blessing to have the privilege to share those words of greeting.
It is my prayer that we too can hold the Nicaraguan church, and each other in prayer, recognizing that our relationship with one another is strong through our faith in Christ, and deeper than our need to be in the same physical location, or speak the same language. In the words of a Spanish song we learned at the youth conference, “Si tu corazón es como el mío, dame la mano y hermanos será.” (If your heart is like mine, give me your hand and brothers and sisters we will be.)
Justin Rabbach is director of mission engagement for the Board of World Mission.