My first international mission experience was back in 2005. I remember my first impressions from that Eyeglass Team to Matagalpa, Nicaragua very clearly. I remember the preparation, the Bible study, the team training, and the thought that I would not be able to put it together on the field. How exactly are we, a band of ordinary church members, going to perform eye exams?
Our Team Members ranged in age from 17 - 78 years old. Included in the mix was a pastor, a physician, a nurse, a realtor, a grade school teacher, and a CPA. How were WE going to do this?!
We worked hard to prepare and to raise funds. One of the most important activities, as it turned out, was team fundraising. We got to know each other pretty well by working side by side in car washes, bake sales, rummage sales and volunteer work. This was so helpful in the field but when we arrived of course there were so many unexpected things.
Some of the most vivid things were the armed guards at the seminary where we stayed. One faucet in the shower marked F – this means Frio, or in English, COLD. We were in the mountains of Nicaragua and I’m going to tell you, even in July, cold doesn’t really come close to describing it! Our lodging was simple dormitory style housing, 2 beds to a room, one bathroom without a door in a space about 12 x 10. Nothing fancy!
Each morning we awoke to the sound of monkey chatter and screams from adjoining rooms as our teammates learned what F stood for in their showers. By breakfast we were more than awake.
We arrived at the clinic on Monday, and I recall seeing quite a long line of people waiting outside the door. A small band of musicians played to greet us. We moved through the crowd as quickly as we could eager to set up and start seeing people. We worked from 8 am until about 5 pm taking short breaks as we could, but I didn’t want to rest. I heard various stories of people waiting in line since 4 am. People really needed what we were offering. I wanted to see as many people as we could.
We got to know our interpreters very well and it was wonderful to speak with them about their lives and how blessed they felt to have the opportunity to work with us. They were happy to have the work and some had come from far away in Chinandega (over 100 miles from Matagalpa). Some were Christian, but some were not. It was another opportunity God had put before us as we witnessed to our brothers. One of our translators was an orphan who was taken in by the church. Some of our Team Members kept in touch with him and were thrilled to hear that he later became a pastor.
During the week, I saw God working in the hearts of our team. Our resident physician saw many people who we could not help, and it was clear this was difficult for him. In later years, he returned annually to work in a clinic in Nicaragua that was opened by a fellow physician from Milwaukee. Several of the Team Members went on to participate in teams and do more mission work. One Team Member, who was a college student, became a physician.
My experience on this team had a profound impact on my life. I later applied to become a Team Leader. I had a deep desire to continue to help others experience missions the way I had. Over the years, I have developed many deep relationships with Team Members and with the hosts and families in Latin America. I know my life would be less without the special people God placed in my path.
If you have ever considered participating on a mission team I would encourage you to prayerfully consider doing it. If you are not interested in being a Goer, then know that we love Senders so much. Your contribution is so valuable and precious to teams and leaders! Every bit of effort you put into serving is noticed and appreciated.
If you want to discuss where you can help, please reach out to MOST Ministries to learn more.