13 Oct Uncomfortable Growth | Thoughts on Traveling to Nicaragua
Until three years ago, Barbara Dansby had never had a desire to join an overseas missions team.
She heard about opportunities to join medical or pastoral teams, and, since Barbara is a middle school guidance counselor, neither of those areas were really in her skill set. Then, our Nicaragua teams began to partner with a local school; educators from Grace Church began traveling to Nicaragua to collaborate with and train teachers. This is when Barbara realized that she was out of excuses. She’s been heading down to Nicaragua every summer since then.
Overall, what has been the highlight of your times in Nicaragua?
This past year was the third summer in a row that I went down with the team. It was a really cool thing to have the opportunity to see the teachers applying the skills and strategies we had taught them during past summer trips. While we’re there, we help out with teacher in-service days. And most years, we have just done these training days and left. When you don’t know the language, you have no idea if you’ve been effective. But during this last trip I was on, we spent more time in the teachers’ classrooms. We saw them try out new teaching strategies almost as soon as we shared them.
Also- there’s this ice cream shop. It’s the best ice cream I’ve ever had, but I’m sure you don’t want to put that in your post.
What has been beneficial about returning each summer?
If I had only gone once, it would have become more of an experience- something that I can look back on and say, “Well, that was nice.” But I’ve really had the chance to watch our partnering school grow over these past few years. Like, this year, they hired a school counselor for the first time. I know some of the students, and I’ve watched them be positively shaped and impacted by being a part of this school.
Have you experienced any challenges during your trips?
Oh, so many! For instance, not speaking the same language as the locals is hard. I’m a fairly introverted person, so spending so much time interacting with Nicaraguans and our Grace team each day was a challenge. The weather there is hot; that’s not comfortable.
But, of course, it doesn’t mean you don’t go do something just because it’s going to be uncomfortable. Being challenged in those ways has helped me to grow outside of myself. I’m reminded in new ways that it’s not all about me or about my comfort. I’m learning that I have to be willing to make sacrifices.
Tell us about the personal impact Nicaragua has made on you.
I’ve been impacted by the joy of the Nicaraguans and by getting to hear their stories. At this point, these people in Nicaragua have become a part of my family- not the distant-cousins-I-don’t-know type of family, either. I care about what happens to them. I know their stories because I got to go down and live a part of it with them.
What would tell someone who is considering joining an upcoming Nicaragua team?
Know that, as a Christian, it is a leap of faith. It is an experience that will challenge many of the thoughts and ideas you have about who God is and how the world works. When you’re over there, and you walk into a church with a dirt floor, and your perspective gets shifted. You meet Christians who aren’t praising God for the stuff they have; they are simply praising God for who He is. You get to see their way of life and how it causes them to rely more on God. If you go, go with an open mind and pay attention. It will change how you think about God.