Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A new year, a new life

At the beginning of January, I had the privilege to travel to Nicaragua with 9 others (4 of whom were my beautiful household sisters) and serve at the orphanages in Diriamba and Managua. Theses orphanages housed children who are disabled and who had been neglected and abandoned by their parents. I had never done anything like this before, so naturally I was a little bit nervous about what to expect. Well nervous is an understatement. When we got there, I started panicking. It was December 31st, 2011, new years eve. Little did I know though that my life was about to change.
The first night we were there, we were in mass with the kids, and of course the mass is in Spanish (which I don't speak). I was sitting there freaking out and looking at all the kids around me, and freaking out some more....I decided that I should probably pray. I asked the Lord to give me His heart and teach me how to love these kids, because I didn't know how to do it myself.
And that's when I started noticing things. The little boy sitting in front of me reminded me so much of my own 5 year old brother. Really, what makes them any different than my own siblings? Just because they have mental or physical disabilities doesn't make them scary. What am I so afraid of? Questions like this started running through my mind. I was pondering these thoughts as we returned back to the orphanage. Since it was New Year's eve, the kids were allowed to stay up and bring in the new year with a dance party and a pinata. Somewhere along the course of the evening, I experience something so powerful, so profound, that I have never experienced before: real, authentic, pure, joy. Now I'm not saying I have never been happy in my life, but this was something different, something so transcendent, so much more. I can't even really explain it. All I know is that my world was turned upside down that night. These kids just loved with such intensity. It doesn't make sense by the world's standards. These kids had been through so much in their lives. They have been abused, ridiculed for their differences, neglected, and yet they were the most loving, joyful people I have ever met in my entire life. My heart of stone had been turned into a heart of flesh. Even throughout the rest of week, while doing manual labor and pulling thousands and thousands of nails out of wood, I was so happy. I didn't care that my hands were sore, that I had scrapes on my arms and legs, that I was exhausted. I was just so joyful. Not even getting sick on the last day could shake the happiness that I had found there. The only thing that could, was the idea of leaving them. I thought that I was going to be fine, that I was ready to go home, but it wasn't until I was actually leaving and hugging them goodbye, that it hit me. I left my heart there with those kids, but I will forever hold onto that joy that they gave me. Everyone always says that you end up getting so much more than you give on trips like these, but I never expected to have my world become so much brighter. I had found my happiness. Of course I am still in pursuit of the ultimate happiness which is union with my Lord in Heaven, but I am one step closer to reaching that by having known these beautiful children in Nicaragua. I could not have thought of a better way to bring in the new year.

Vanessa, who stole my heart <3

Pulling out nails

My wonderful mission team