Back in August, when we were in Nicaragua for the mission trip, Brinson had mentioned to us that he would be coming to the States in October for a thing called Discovery Night. In Denver, Colorado, there is a Christian high school named Valor. Each year Valor’s Discovery program organizes and sends about 20 short-term mission trips from the student population. Everything from three night service events in downtown Denver, to month-long Spanish immersion programs in Guatemala. The students at Valor get a graduation requirement fulfilled by going on these trips, but more than that, they have life changing experiences. Brinson asked us if we would like to come, as Open Hearts is one of Valor’s ministry partners, and we would be seeing a lot of those same students in Nicaragua next summer. One of my best friends from high school and her family just happen to live in Denver, and we have been wanting to visit them as well, so we accepted the invitation, used airline miles to get there, and arrived in Denver on Friday the 9th.
What seems to be happening, more and more, is that the Lord is making connections for us. For instance: my friend who lives in Denver went to college on a pole vaulting scholarship, as did her husband. They were married on the track a few years ago, and then maybe almost two years ago they moved to Denver. I’m not positive of how they got the job, but they were on staff to coach at a local high school. They enjoyed it immensely, and it offered Sam a place to jump, as he pursues his dream of jumping in the Olympics. Last summer when the Piersons were in Oregon visiting, we were sharing with them about this school in Denver that brings a team down to Nicaragua. They said it sure sounded like Valor, the place that they coached. That name sounded familiar to me, so I texted Brinson, and sure enough, it’s the same place. So this school, which has served in Nicaragua for the past seven years and has a huge heart for Ruby Ranch, is also the place where our very good friends (who are deeply in love with Jesus) have influence in students’ lives.
We toured the Valor campus on Friday with Debbie, the biology teacher who is also the team leader for the Nicaragua team that will come to Open Hearts. She is a rock star of a person, so genuine and kind, but also a fiery, passionate woman whose enthusiasm is contagious. She showed us all her ‘favorite places’ around campus, ending out at the football field. We walked out there and immediately all the track kids who were warming up came over to visit with Sam, Emmy and their almost 3-year-old son, Colton. I was acutely reminded of the importance of our circles where we are by watching the Piersons interact with the students out on the track. The impact that we can have by investing our time in the lives of others is immense, and it was apparent by these high school students’ reactions to seeing a familiar face.
On Saturday, Debbie and her husband Mark took us and Brinson on a walking tour of downtown Denver. Debbie is somewhat of a history buff, and used to home school her kids, so she had been on numerous tours of the various areas we went. And she did an incredible job remembering all the facts! It was a warm day, and walking around together gave us ample time to talk about Nicaragua, toss out ideas for the future, and share about the awesome things the Lord has done and is continuing to do in our lives. It was a sweet day of fellowship.
We spent Sunday morning doing one of our most favorite things: hiking with friends. In Boulder, Colorado, fairly close to town, there are a set of mountains called Flat Irons. It’s a very popular rock climbing spot, but there is also a trail that leads all the way to the top. Sam had hiked and then climbed part of the rocks with a friend recently, and explained that it was a hike we could do in tennis shoes and in a morning. It was magnificent. The trail was busier than I’m used to, but everyone was incredible nice and friendly, and it was so fun to hike with Colton. He is adventurous, determined and fearless, and he taught each of us a lot about being those things. The view from the top was beautiful and upon descending we went into Boulder to share a meal before heading back to Denver.
Sunday evening was Discovery Night, and it was powerful. There is something amazing about a gym filled with students and their parents, all passionate about serving the Lord. When we broke from the first main talk into our smaller groups, I was almost in tears as I listened to Debbie, Brinson and then Landon share with the students and parents gathered to hear more about Nicaragua. And I made a point to look around the room and remember the faces so that next summer when they come to Nicaragua, I can remember them. I felt humbled and honored to be a part of this whole thing.
We flew out on Monday evening, but that morning we went to breakfast with some good friends of the Buzbees and Brinson. These are people who have been to Nicaragua ‘so many times I’ve lost track’ and are dear friends. We have heard nothing but good things about the Jones’s, and we were excited to finally put faces to the names. We shared over breakfast about our heart, and what we see as our place in the Open Hearts team, as well as how we got to this place and the goodness of God along the way. We also were told of another connection we didn’t know existed: the wife of the Valor head track coach works for the Jones’s. And the track coach had raved about their pole vault coach to Mr. Jones. That pole vault coach is our friend Sam. We laughed at the smallness of it all, and inwardly I marveled at all of the pieces the Lord has brought together in getting us to this place.
We were so encouraged by the entire weekend, and it renewed a sense of peace and mercy over us as we fund raise and prepare to move. It was a beautiful time.