Local students travel to Nicaragua, reach out to impoverished families
When Abby Cummings stepped off the plane and onto Nicaraguan soil, she felt like she’d entered a different world.
The 17-year-old Grace Academy student had been wanting to go on a foreign mission trip, but nothing could fully prepare her for what she would see when she arrived in the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
“I’d been to places where I’d seen some poverty, but it was very different,” Abby said. “It’s just very poor. The places that were considered middle class for them, here they’d be the lowest of the low.”
Abby is one of 10 local students who recently took time out of their summer break to spread love to impoverished communities in Nicaragua through a special mission trip organized and executed by Arborbrook Christian Academy. Abby and 15-year-old Kayla Vaughan, a rising sophomore at Marvin High School, set out for the capital city of Managua on July 4 and returned July 13. The other eight members will return later this month.
The team from Arborbrook joined nearly 100 people who had come from all over the U.S. to minister to the people of Managua through foreign missions. They stayed at a hotel New Song Community Church of Louisville, Ky., – the organization that headed up the outreach in Nicaragua – uses for temporary living quarters for groups traveling on mission trips.
Those who went did everything from children’s ministry to the construction of a new church in the area. Abby and Kayla were part of the children’s ministry team and taught the children songs in Spanish, performed puppet shows in Spanish, held vacation Bible school-type lessons and gave the children snacks and food for their backpacks.
“Just the expressions on (the children’s) faces… they would come up and dance and want hugs,” Abby said. “When you’d have a personal connection with this one child, you could give them a bracelet or a snack. They just come up and hug you and you don’t know why, you haven’t really talked to them, but they just come up and hug you and it’s so sweet.”
Abby and Kayla’s group also traveled throughout the city, distributing Bibles in Spanish to the community. Sometimes it’s hard for the people in the area to obtain a Bible in their language, Kayla said, so the team felt Bible distribution was an important part of their mission.
“When we did the Bible distribution, we talked to them personally and got to communicate with them,” Kayla said. “They were so excited. They just loved it and appreciated it.”
Although mission work was the primary focus of the trip, the team members got a little time to enjoy some activities with each other. They went zip-lining across a lake, visited a local marketplace to do some shopping and climbed a volcano, which Abby said was “really cool.”
But like any foreign adventure, the trip challenged the team members to step out of their comfort zone. The showers where they stayed didn’t have hot water, so the team had an icy, cold time getting clean. Drinking the water was forbidden for health reasons, so everyone had to rely on bottled water for everything – even brushing their teeth.
Then there were the harsh realities of the environment, particularly the living conditions of the animals, which both girls pointed out as one of the most difficult things to see. “For me it’s hard to see the dogs because their ribs are showing,” Abby said. “I’m an animal lover, so it was hard to see the dogs really skinny and laying on the side of the road.”
“The dogs were just running in the highways,” Kayla added. “It was kind of a culture shock. I was really upset at how they lived.”
While it was difficult to see the level of poverty that exists in the area, the team was enlightened to discover the people of Managua were some of the friendliest they’d ever met.
“At first it’s really sad (to see the poverty) until you talk to the people and you see that they’re very happy, which is something very different to see,” Abby said. “They’re very content, there’s very much a sense of community and they’re very gracious.”
The girls’ 10 days in Nicaragua left a lasting impression – something they both plan to cherish for a long time. Abby and Kayla, who both took French in school, hope to learn more Spanish so they can better communicate when they visit a Latin American country in the future.
Abby, who plans to attend N.C. State to study psychology after graduating high school next year, hopes to take up filmmaking as a hobby and create independent documentaries profiling the people of Managua and similar communities. “I really think people should see these things, about how other people live,” she said.
For Kayla, who raised the money to go on the trip by baking and selling a total of 60 casseroles, it’s simply about continuing the mission she feels called to do. “God really laid it on my heart for missions,” she said. “I’m dying to go back. It was so good.”