A Week Later
It was the summer before ninth grade when everything in my life seemed to turn upside down. For most, this statement would sound like a negative thing, but for me it meant a positive life change. There was a moment where it was almost as if I had an out of-body experience. I was a typical church girl; it was the whole nine yards. I grew up in the church, accepted Christ at the age of six, and even went to a private Christian school through my elementary and middle school years. It was not until 2005 that I experienced a true-life change. I had spent my life doing the norm, following the church crowd and barely skating by. I had flown under the radar and had not completely stepped out in my faith. I would not say that I was a brat, but I was definitely spoiled. I had spent my life within my comfortable four walls in Roanoke, Virginia, naively believing that I had the same fancy life everyone else did.
In the summer of 2005 I took a short, five-hour flight to Central America to go on mission with my church. I had no idea that this short flight was taking me into a completely new world. This was the week that changed my life in more ways than one. I spent the flight listening to music and talking with some friends. I was excited for the trip because not only was my best friend going, but also the whole youth group was basically going and there were several attractive guys that had signed up, so for the most part, my going was very superficial. At this point, I was unaware of the change that my life was about to make. Our flight landed in Managua, Nicaragua. We got off the plane and walked outside, it must have been a hundred and ten degrees and the heat hit me like a ton of bricks. We all piled onto a hot, smelly school bus and made a six-hour trek to the outskirts of the country. On this bumpy road I suddenly forgot about the cute guys, the way I looked, and even my friend. I was solely focused on the extreme poverty all around me.
The dirty faces of children that were begging on the streets were piercing. At that moment I was suddenly face to face with starvation for the first time. I began to feel like I had never felt before. I had seen one thousand infomercials on starving children and it had never even dawned on me. I always believed that those commercials were over-exaggerated just to get my money; little did I know they were extremely under-exaggerated. My heart sank at the shacks that these people called houses, the dirty water standing around their homes and the callused barefoot feet that were running along the dirt roads beside my vehicle.
There were so many potholes in the road that we were going slow enough to make eye contact. I could not believe it when I saw their filthy hands reach into the windows of the bus, begging for anything that I was willing to throw out. In that moment, I cringed with guilt. I began to ask myself questions. How could I have been so naïve and why on earth I had been so blessed with what I had been given? It was clear that these children had not had a real meal in days, and I was sitting comfortably with a Dr. Pepper and a Snickers bar. Their homes were built out of garbage bags and mere sticks; the shocking fact was that numerous people lived in these shacks they called home. So much was going through my mind for these six hours, but this was only the beginning.
Arriving at the mission house, also known as The Casa, the reality of everything hit me, I was now face to face with a different world and in that moment I understood that it was time for me to grow up. We got dressed quickly and headed out to our first village. At this remote village, I was once again surrounded by extreme poverty. I was in a village called Villa Esperanza, where I fell in love with a young boy named Hector; he was seven at the time. That day we played and took lots of pictures together. I quickly learned where he lived and his terrible circumstances. There were ten people living in what we would consider a shack not suitable for one. In that village I gave my testimony and shared with the people what it meant to accept Christ as their personal Lord and Savoir. The little boy in the back named Hector slowly raised his hand after I prayed, admitting that he had accepted Christ. At this moment I had no idea that this was the beginning of a true friendship.
Hector taught me a lot. I went into the trip feeling guilty and came out of it realizing that the only thing that separated me from those people was that only by the grace of God was I born in America. I was suddenly aware of the fact that God loves everyone and we are all his children no matter the language we speak or where we were born. I never forgot Hector, and as a matter of fact I have been back to Nicaragua twenty-two times since that trip. He is twelve now and he still has the same special place in my heart. This process, and all that we have been through was truly ordained by God. I never knew that I would meet a little child that would change my life. Six years later, after my first trip, I have been more blessed by him that I have ever been before. I have watched him grow and through his friendship I have found a peace that I never knew before.
I can remember it like it was yesterday; there was one trip where I went to Hector’s village and he was not there. I can remember feeling crushed and I was immediately filled with disappointment, but that day I learned that God has greater plans than we can ever fathom. The next day we went to a different village 150 kilometers away from his home in Villa Esperanza and he was there with his mother. He had traveled such a long way to be baptized and his faith in this moment inspired me. This journey was difficult for them because in Nicaragua they do not just hop in a car; they had to walk on those dirt roads in the heat. That day my father was able to baptize him in the river.
This Nicaraguan child and I have had such a crazy story; he accepted Christ when I gave my testimony, years later my dad baptized him and now he feels called to be a preacher. Their village desperately needs a pastor and I feel like God is raising him up for such a time as this. Our relationship has changed his life but I do not think he knows how much he has changed mine. That day when my dad baptized him, my faith grew immensely and in that moment I knew that God had placed the two of us in that village just for me, so I could see first hand the love of Christ. My family has helped him, his mom, his sister and, his brother get a new home so they can live comfortably. We have taught them how to take care of their possessions and how to manage what they have.
Through the many times that I have been to this country my heart has been left there in the hands of these wonderful people. I have learned so many valuable life lessons and going on the mission trips has truly made me who I am. My relationship with this one child truly taught me something. My relationship with Christ grew because I could see His love through this child. I knew how much He cared in the way He continued allowing me to witness Hector’s life changing decisions. It is crucial for me to see love of my heavenly Father and how much He loves me. These trips have helped me grow and molded me in my faith. Without Hector in my life I would have truly missed out on a blessing.
Hector waits for me to come and frequently asks the other missionaries about me. It saddens me to think that he will never truly know the impact he has had on my life and the joy that he has brought me over the years. Not a day goes by that I do not think about him or pray for him and his family. It is clear that his life has been bettered through our friendship over the years; he is healthier now than he has ever been and he truly works hard in his school. He and his two siblings have a joy and spunk now that I had never seen in them, because not only do they have the love of Jesus in their hearts but also they are now able to live comfortably.
People all over the world face relationships much like the one I have with this little boy from Nicaragua. This friendship was created by God and meant to bring honor and glory to His name. It is important to lift relationships up to God and allow Him to be at the center of everything that you are and do. This twelve-year-old boy has allowed me to grow closer in my relationship with Christ. He has no idea of the impact he made on my life and with the language barrier he probably never will know. He has become my family and I thank God for him daily. God is the only one that could have brought this friendship together in such a way to provide so much joy. It is important to cherish and build up friendships because one can never know the impact that could be made just from a simple bond or connection that is shared with a certain person.
Dr and Mrs. Donald M Gillette
Because We Care Ministries, Inc.
P.O. Box 21806
Roanoke, VA. 24018