I’ve known Jason Bradford for almost as long as I’ve lived in Tennessee (approaching 8 years now), so when he suggested I join the next Building Love trip, it was a no brainer. Spend 10 days with my buddy helping out with various projects while visiting a part of the world I have never been to before – an easy decision. The outcome of the trip, however, is what has really shocked me. Like most people who go on outreach trips, I knew I would come back having been changed more than any change I could have hoped to leave there. In typical God-fashion, that last statement proved even truer than I ever imagined. So, in my best efforts to recapture my experience, I’ve highlighted a few of the most impactful moments of the trip.
The hunger for Christ in the area is almost tangible, much more outwardly emphasized than anything I had experienced before. The first Sunday we were there was a national holiday – a day to celebrate the translation of the Bible into the local language (Spanish). This is a 444-year old holiday tradition! If the fact that there’s a national holiday for this wasn’t enough, the turnout and excitement for this day absolutely blew me away. It began at 7 a.m., when the temperature was already in the upper 80s (with very high humidity) and continued with a parade through the city with 1000s of people dressed in their “Sunday best,” singing, reading Scripture and holding their tattered Bibles in the air. As the parade came to a conclusion (and the temperature had reached the mid-90s), everyone collected at the local park for continued worship and a wonderful sermon. Moral of this short story: regardless of extreme outside temperatures, the passion to celebrate Christ’s love was unlike anything I have ever seen!
Later that afternoon, with the help of the local pastor, we walked through the “city” and found several families to give a small bag of groceries to and to provide a few Christ-filled words of encouragement. At one particular house, we sat outside with the man of the house talking about Christ’s love regardless of his past stumbles and failures. It was minutes before we were going to leave for the next house when the son, who had been sitting inside the house listening to our discussion (unbeknownst to us), popped his head out of the house and expressed interest in knowing more about this “unconditional love” from our Savior, about whom he knew very little. After some discussion and passing along a Bible translated in Spanish, he accepted Christ! Moral of this short story: it is not my job to change the hearts of other people, that job is solely for the Holy Spirit to do. I was part of the team that planted a seed with hopes that the Holy Spirit would do the rest. To combat my skepticism, Christ used this opportunity to remind me that all I need to do is obey His word, spread the Good News and plant that seed. He will take care of the rest!
One of the long-term projects for Building Love is called Barrios Los Piedras Project. Simply put, Building Love will assist a local church that we have built a strong relationship with in building a community on land already purchased by the local church. This project will have 30 houses for local families of the church to purchase and live together in community. There will also be a centralized park for the kids to play, along with a new church building for the community to attend together. Again, my skepticism kicked in with concern about giving people a home. Christ immediately put me back in my place after we met with the pastor of the local church to hear more about the plans. First of all, there are no free giveaways for these people – they do not want anything for free. Each family will (or already has) purchased the plot of land for their specific home to be built. On top of that, the community center needs a well dug, as there is no fresh water, let alone running water. During the lunch meeting with the pastor, we asked if we needed to hire a company to come dig the well – logical question from the American way of thinking. But, as we quickly learned, this was not the way of thinking for Nicaraguans. The families who would be living in the community center would be digging the well themselves! The well could be up to 60 feet deep, digging through hard dirt and rock, and then bricking the entire well to increase longevity. I was blown away, once again. Not only did this completely restore my confidence in doing everything possible to help this community, but it also reaffirmed Building Love’s purpose as a non-profit.
This trip gave me a new perspective on helping others. Building Love is not about free handouts or becoming a means of reliance for people to improve their lives. Building Love is about showing Christ’s love through action while at the same time teaching people how to create a better self-sustaining life for themselves. Specifically, for the Barrios Los Piedras Project, Building Love is helping to build a community and self-sustaining economy for people who have such a strong desire for this type of community, but simply lack the means. Barrios Los Piedras will be built (structurally) with the help of Building Love, but the local church will sustain it. This gives Building Love the opportunity to move to another area with similar projects while leaving past projects (Barrios Los Piedras) in excellent, local care. We (Building Love, The Peoples Church, etc.) can help create hope for a better life for people without the means to do this on their own.