August 02, 2012
After a week of preparation, the 26 teenagers from across the U.S. were ready to run three different evangelistic art projects in three different communities in and around Managua; Mural painting and t-shirt making in Los Cedros, garden planting and pavement painting in Los Brasilles, and mosaic making in La Chureca. What they weren’t ready for was discovering a world far outside their comfort zone and the enormous impact they could have in just five short days.
My group was working in La Chureca, a community who gets its name from where they live: in seven square kilometers of trash. Around 2,000 inhabitants survive in La Chureca by trawling through the mountains of trash dumped out of the city of Managua, looking for anything they can reuse or recycle. In all honesty, it is hard to imagine a more desperate place on earth and yet, as our hosts Coburn and Melissa Murray (students from the Gordon-Conwell–Charlotte campus) told us, the material poverty is not the most serious problem facing those who call La Chureca home. This community is rife with abuse, addiction and spiritual darkness.
Despite all of this, in the heart of La Chureca is a Christian school offering children a place of refuge and safety in the short-term, and a way out of this community through education in the long-term. It was here that our group along with Coburn, Melissa and some translators, ran a week of games, activities, mosaic making and story-telling.
It is hard to express in so few words what a privilege it was to work with the 23 children who came along each day. To slowly get to know them, to gently earn the trust of those who have been so hardened by life and to share with them the message of hope which comes only from knowing Jesus was one of the most challenging and humbling things I have ever done. Each one of us started the week feeling overwhelmed by the depth of the desperation we found in La Chureca; yet, just five days later, each of us had also witnessed some of the most amazing examples of hope we had ever seen. Children like Anthony, Fransisco, Franklin and Flora sharing with us how they have hope, because they are clinging to Christ.
With prayers on our lips, smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes we said our goodbyes. After a weekend of exploring Managua and the surrounding areas, we headed back to South Hamilton to debrief not only our time in Nicaragua, but also the month of Compass as a whole.
I have been involved with many summer camps before, but none of them compare to Compass. If you are 15-17 and love the Lord and are exploring the possibility of going into vocational ministry in the future, or if you know someone who is, then I urge you to sign up next year. The wilderness, theological and ministry expeditions will stretch you and challenge you and push you in ways you have never experienced before. But the friendships you make, the opportunities you will have to serve, and most of all the lessons you will learn about yourself and more importantly about the Lord, will change you forever.
It has been a long hard month but, if I could, I’d do it again tomorrow.
Dimitri (Dim for short) and his wife, Gayles, moved to the U.S. from England in 2011 to pursue a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell. He grew up in a little town in England called Sevenoaks and completed his undergraduate degree in Automobile Design at the University of Coventry. Upon graduation, Dim spent some time as a ski instructor, a church intern and an assistant pastor. When he’s not pretending to study, he’s usually dreaming about skiing.
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