Location: Ometepe, Nicaragua
Cost of trip: $1,800
Partner Organization: CICRIN
Last year, I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua with Gordon College as a participant. I went with high hopes, open expectations, and the most limited Spanish vocabulary Nicaragua has probably ever stumbled upon. I went, I saw, and I fell in love – with the people and with the country nestled in Central America. And this year, I had the joy and the honor of returning as a co-leader. How beautiful it was to reconnect with those kind hearts and amazing people.
When I think over my experiences, I continuously find myself dwelling on the inherent goodness of our partner organization. Gordon selects organizations with intentionality, and I truly think it is our honor to work alongside of CICRIN. The premise of the organization is to provide homes for at-risk kids. This could mean anything from abusive parents to total abandonment, from parents resorting to prostitution to caretakers suffering from alcoholism. Each child at CICRIN has a story, and each child at CICRIN has a reason for calling CICRIN their home. While the full-time workers at CICRIN are charged with providing home and love and sustainable care, we are charged with doing the same, for the workers. Through work projects and programming with the kids, we are able to temporarily lighten the load of the day-to-day tasks. With each project, I am reminded that our contribution is merely a fragment of the contribution that CICRIN’s full time workers make each day. While we physically laid foundations for bathrooms and prepared the soil for crops, they laid the foundations for healing and prepared hearts for restoration. How beautiful it is to take part in something so much more insurmountable than ourselves.
This year, I found myself walking away with a much different experience. While last year’s fulfillment came through connections with kiddos and successful completion of projects, this year’s was found in the larger vision. During one of our work days, I was able to talk with the architect who had been working with Hellen, CICRIN’s owner and visionary, to develop the long term vision of CICRIN. Next to the kids’ home, CICRIN had untaken the construction of a Christian school. Originally, it began as an elementary school, eventually expanding to include middle school, and just this year adding its first high school classroom. The architect, Bud, explained the ultimate vision for renovation and addition, culminating into the completion of Ometepe’s very first k-12 Christian school. Bud explained his hope that CICRIN could ultimately offer a bus service around the island, being the first to provide a free private education to the kids of Nicaragua. As he talked I marveled at what this could mean: an island enriched by the devotion and passion of one small organization, an entire culture changed through the hope and persistence of one small group of kids and adults. The best part? The school was entirely funded by donors. Bud explained that CICRIN had never developed a projected budget or definitive timeline – God had been gracious, and the school had come together against all odds.
Before I left, Bud noted that they had even taken time to design custom tiling in the new bathrooms. He pointed out the intricate design in the tiling, the intentional color and composition intended to replicate ornate buildings found in the capital and wealthy homes. What struck me was that this had nothing to do with the bathroom itself, but rather with the dignity of the kids. Bud wants the kids to know that everything, everything , from the chairs in their classrooms to the paint on the walls, from the walkways outdoors to the neighboring garden, is being designed with them in mind. They are worth the effort it took to build the school, they are worth the fervent prayers for provision and funding, and they are worth the time it takes to design the bathroom, tile by tile by intentional tile. They are worth it, and they are loved.
The trip was filled with so many sweet and joyous and truly rich things. We saw sunset after vibrant sunset and ate plantanos until our stomachs smiled, we dug until sweat seeped through our socks and bore sunburns redder than a rising sun, we laughed with kiddos until our feet ran out of energy and our mouths ran out of Spanish words. But mostly, for me, I learned why we were there. God had taken the broken backgrounds of lives and used them as the foreground of His glory; He was reviving a community, and through the redemption of an island He was changing the complexion of a nation. We – as Gordon – are not the vital piece. But being a part of something so life-giving has shown me what it means to be a small part of His big and beautiful kingdom. Being a part of this trip has shown me that He believes those kids are worth it, and so do I.