Facing construction projects that turned out to be much more difficult than anticipated, there were times when we wondered if we would complete them. This thought was unsettling to all of us, especially since we know that there are no more teams coming to Pura Vida this year. Not to be discouraged, the men continued digging through mud so thick that it dried like cement on the bottom of their boots. The other team, having left the house on the first day with one side totally exposed and looking like a child’s doll house, worked feverishly to ensure that the only thing undone at week’s end was the installation of windows. Not only was the work at both homes completed, but additional indoor painting was done at one and a last minute plumbing issue was resolved at the other. As the team of the smaller house departed on the last day, Jennifer said farewell through tears telling them that this had just been a dream come true. For us, it was an answer to prayer.

On our final day, we saw the kids of Volio in the field and were delighted that the small group of challenging boys returned for our Bible study. As a matter of fact, they were among the first to arrive. Did they get rambunctious at times? Yes. Did we have to speak to them a bit more perhaps than some other kids? Maybe. But as two of the boys did their coloring while quite literally laying in Vicki’s lap, it was so clear that they just wanted to be loved. And isn’t that what we are here for?

So our week of work has come to an end. We came with all kinds of emotions — anxious, unsettled, excited, anticipating — yet also grieving and hurting for our friends at El Ayudante. We saw from the beginning that things here would be different from what we were used to, and it was a challenge for us to break the mold that we had so comfortably settled into. For me, I thought back to the moment when the decision was made that we would definitely not be returning to Nicaragua this year. Perhaps there were some who decided not to come with us for just that reason — because the destination had changed. My reaction at the time was that if I only wanted to serve at the destination of my choosing, then perhaps I should reexamine what my motives were for going on a mission trip. Was I just going because I wanted to go?  Or was I going because God had called me? Clearly, I had to remind myself of that this week.

Sometimes it’s easy to let our own thoughts crowd our mind making it too noisy for us to hear what God is saying. He speaks in the silences — if we are never silent, how can we hear Him? So after a rocky beginning, I made a conscious effort to stop and ask God to show me what he wanted me to see this week. God has already drawn the outline, I just needed to listen to him and follow His direction to fill in the picture.

What we found was that this was not a destination but a journey, one we took together as a team. And that what made it work was not the place you served, but the team with whom you served. And the first thing we had to learn was to “Latin up!”  Having learned this expression, meaning to just go with the flow, we used it many times this week as, time and again, we had to adjust, be flexible and accept the differences.

Working as a team didn’t just happen on the job sites. We were always there to help one another. We were assigned to groups to wash dishes after each meal, but if someone was unable to help their team, someone else stepped in. Preparing for VBS each day took time, but it took a team to do so — each of us ensuring that we all had whatever was needed for that day. The mountainous topography here made for some steep walks, but there was always someone by your side to lend a hand. And although we might sneak off somewhere for some solitary time, we were never alone.

We can see God all around us, from the majesty of the pounding waterfall, to the beauty of the lush mountainsides. As we depart the mission house on roads that could rival any first-rate roller coaster with their twists and turns, we end our journey in a hotel on the side of a volcano. The landscaping that God has carved all around us is breathtakingly beautiful. As you walk the grounds, you can see for many miles. Facing toward the north we can see a ridge of mountains, on the other side of which is Nicaragua. We will continue to pray for our friends there and the country that so many of us love. But we now also know the beauty on this side of that string of mountains, and whether we return there or here is not up to us. Where He calls, we will follow.