Our interest and heart for Nicaragua began long before we led our first short term team to Managua in 2014. It actually began in 2011, after an event we had coordinated for our church at a local elementary school called One Day.
One Day was a service day that our church, Westside Faith Center, organized and completed a few summers ago at Malabon Elementary School in west Eugene. Landon and I, along with our senior pastor Joe, worked hand in hand with the school principal and the district’s assistant superintendent to plan various work projects around the school. Everything from weeding flower beds to re-painting the entire front office. The school district provided some of the paint, PTO volunteers joined us, and our church rallied. Thinking back on that day now I am in awe of all we accomplished and how willing everyone was to help. We took one day out of our summer, banded together, and completely blessed the school. It was incredible.
As we were leaving the parking lot that day, Joe asked Landon and I to begin praying about where our church should serve overseas. I remember yelling so loud “YES!” in the car that Landon scowled at me because I had hurt his ears. I love serving locally, but have always had a heart to serve globally.
We began praying, and a couple months after that charge from Joe, I was at work on night shift and had this thought, “We should go to Nicaragua.” It was a strange time to have a thought like that, but I took note. Later that same day, a coworker of Landon’s came up to him rather randomly and said, “You know where you and your wife should go? El Salvador. No, no, Nicaragua.” Landon came home that afternoon and shared the interaction with me. I immediately shared the thought I had and then e-mailed Joe this simple question: “What do you think of when I say Nicaragua?” He replied that he thought of his friend Lance, who for many years had been surfing in the Central American country and had eventually bought property there. Coincidentally, the two were meeting up in Bend a few weeks later, the same evening Landon and I would be driving through on our way to a wedding in Idaho. We timed it right and the four of us ended up sitting at a local brewery talking about Nicaragua for hours. We left excited and curious about what would come of it all.
The next fall, Joe and Lance flew down to Nicaragua. They met the Buzbees and caught vision of what they have been doing there. When Joe came back from that trip he shared his excitement with us, and we started looking at flights. We found incredibly cheap flights for February of the next year, and decided to push our debt pay off out a little further to make room for this ten day trip. We contacted Brinson and basically introduced ourselves and asked for a ride from the airport in the same e-mail. Luckily for us, Brinson is a nice guy, and he was there to meet us. It was a little unnerving when we exited the airport doors, welcomed by humid, smelly air, and we did not immediately see any gringos. But luckily, within a minute or two our would be good friend sauntered across the parking lot and introduced himself.
That trip was a vacation for us, but we did get to participate in a birthday party at Casa Havilah, visit the old school grounds at the dump, and walk the hill at Ruby Ranch. I believe that we saw the things in those eight days that we needed to in order to fully turn our hearts towards the mission which is now before us.
We came back from Nicaragua and told Joe that we would love to continue a conversation about taking a team to Nicaragua. That summer and fall ended up being a little rough for our home church, and the idea of sending a team seemed too much. But a cousin of mine did an internship for his degree at Oregon State in Nicaragua during that summer, and invited us to come join him at the end of the summer. We again looked at our finances and decided that the money it would set us back on paying off the student loans was worth the time spent in Nicaragua with our friends.
The week in September of 2013 only proved to solidify what we were feeling stir in our hearts: that Nicaragua was a place we needed to be, serving. We mentioned this idea to the Buzbees during that trip and welcomed them to ask us the hard questions we knew they had for us. How is your marriage? How are your finances? Do you have debt? Are you currently serving in your local church? Though they weren’t the most comfortable questions to answer honestly, we appreciated their candor. And we began thinking about those answers. I also told Landon that the next time I came to Nicaragua I wanted it to be to do something. I had no interest in just coming on vacation anymore.
In the first part of 2014 we had a conversation with our new senior pastor, Brooks. He had been told that we were the ‘mission people’ and he should talk with us about where Westside could serve globally. We laughed at the title we had inadvertently been given but we appreciated his interest. We told him about Nicaragua and the Buzbees, and the work that needs to be done there. He asked us if we would want to take a team, to which we said we would. So in the second week of August of 2014, we boarded a plane with ten other people from our church (some of whom had never been out of the country before) and flew south to help.
That team experience was beautiful, but there was still a sting when we boarded the plane to go back to Oregon. As much as I was excited to begin school and we love our home, Nicaragua was feeling more and more like it had a part of our hearts and we were finding it more difficult to return to ‘normal life.’ In fact, I remember a conversation we had with Brinson in the months that followed. We were feeling a little crazy, constantly thinking of living and helping in Nicaragua, and yet not knowing for sure that we were going. In the conversation Brinson asked us if we thought of it a lot. We laughed and said daily. In fact, hourly that place and those people were on our hearts and minds. His response was simply, “I don’t think that is just you. That is the Lord. If it was you, it would have fizzled out by now.” I think we collectively let out a sigh of relief. It was so good to hear.
We spent the next eight months at a crazy pace. I worked 60+ hours a week between school and work, drove to Portland every week, and for a while, stayed a few nights up there in order to get done with everything. Landon worked his 40 hours per week and supported my studying by doing all of the dishes, laundry, and grocery shopping we needed to keep our home moving along. And I worried about our movement towards Nicaragua because I loved what I was doing. I worried that I wouldn’t want to lay it down in order to move out of the United States and serve. But we kept praying, and walking out daily life, and as school came to a close and real work began, I realized that even though it was interesting and challenging, it was not satisfying in the way that serving in Nicaragua is satisfying. At that deep soul level, it could never compare.
We organized and led another amazing team this August, and as we made our way through security and out into the humid Managua air, I felt a deep peace. I knew that all that I had hoped for was coming and very soon. The trip was different this year, but day after day, the Lord reminded us of His words, His promises, and by the time we went to Miss Ruby’s house to pray we knew that we were moving there. So when Mr. Buzbee prayed through the Spirit to not fear the next six months, I wept. I knew what the Lord was clearly saying and I was overjoyed.
Then the confirmations kept coming. After dropping the team at the airport and returning to the Buzbees and to wifi range, a job offer I was ‘crazy’ to turn down came through via e-mail. But when I read the offer, from a trusted friend, I knew that I knew that I knew that it was not for me. God has not called us to Eugene, Oregon, and to our secure jobs with awesome benefits. Everything in my soul said no to the offer, and there was deep peace.
We arrived back on U.S. soil three days later, and in the Atlanta airport Landon received the most clear confirmation he could have ever imagined. At the end of this calendar year his entire department will be outsourced, leaving him without a job after nearly 15 years of employment with his company. He remained professional on the phone, but after hanging up he began laughing. He shared the news with me and all I could do was smile. Again there was deep, unexplainable peace.
We do not have every detail figured out. Not every question has an answer yet, but we have peace to go and do something ‘crazy’ so we are.