Mission Nicaragua Testimony - Joyce Kwack

Mission Nicaragua Testimony - Joyce Kwack

Ever since I first heard that our church was going on a mission, I was certain I wanted to go. However, it was the idea of volunteering that drove my desire; I saw it as charity work rather than evangelism. Also, I had always struggled with publicly declaring my faith and so I questioned my qualification, “How can I share Christ with these people when I cannot even fulfill my mission on home field with family, friends, and the community? How can I make disciples of this nation when I myself am an immature believer?” Being aware of my reasoning and lacking abilities, I pushed back my trip for three years. 2016 came, which meant another year, another mission. I still felt this way; I did not feel a desire for evangelizing nor did I feel God’s calling. But with the push and encouragement from those around me, I ended up signing up for the mission.

Because my decision was made blindly, I went into it blindly. During the training session, I had an extremely difficult time. Instead of spending time in God’s word and time in prayer, instead of preparing my heart, I spent all my time preparing the physical activities such as SUM, which includes skits and dances we are to present. I tried to do everything in my power to make it perfect and with my focus being my performance, I left God out of the process. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Our trademark as Christians is love. I learned that without love, we walk down the road of self-righteousness and pride. And that is exactly where I wandered. I had thought that I was doing most of the work and that others were not putting in as much effort as I was. I judged and condemned and I prioritized work above people, results over relationships. In the absence of love, I was robbed the enjoyment of working together with members of the church. As personalities and opinions clashed, challenges arose and I found myself full of irritation and discontent. I could only blame and hate my neighbors, not understand and support them. I was consumed by all kinds of negativity that were the works of the devil and I continued living with resentment deep in my heart. I thought that preparation was the difficult part and that once we got to Nicaragua, it would be a smooth ride. But boy was I wrong, because nothing was easy. Nothing went our way; it was like the training session repeating itself all over again. The stress, the pressure, and the burden all returned. I could not cut the bitterness out this time either and I lost sight of the purpose for going on mission. Due to the fact that I had not guarded my heart and was not spiritually ready, I had let my defense down and my relationships were once again jeopardized. Although we are warned about this in the Bible, the whole time I could not recognize my true opponent and I was oblivious to my spiritual fight. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Reflecting after the mission is over, taking a step back and looking in allowed me to realize that this was a fight between me and Satan, not me and others. He will always attack. He waits for the moment we are vulnerable and the moment we try to go before God, he does anything and everything in his power to get in the way. I experienced this first hand and now know how scary it is being blind to Satan’s work. So I learned, know your enemy and act with love.

To be honest, I really did not want to go. Even when I was in Nicaragua, I just wanted to come home. But while we were there, I was blessed in so many ways, in ways I did not imagine. Like I mentioned earlier, we were a mess. Our mission team showed up on ground reserved by God for us with what we had thought was a solid action plan. Yet it was not good enough. Each day, something would go wrong. What we had practiced and organized would not go as planned. We had worked so hard and all that effort felt like it was going to waste. But every time we were helpless and unable, every time we did not know what to do, our Father showed us what He could do. When we got stuck, He made a way. I learned that we are never going to be completely prepared, never 100 percent ready. Our efforts are not going to be enough because we cannot do it alone. So all we can do is rely on God because He is in control and He is all knowing. He has a plan, one that is always better than ours and one that is always successful. And He had a plan, not only for the people of Nicaragua, but for me as well. God used people and circumstances around me to teach and touch me in a special way.

​Before I went on the mission, I was warned that because the children in Nicaragua do not have much, they might be greedy and selfish. So I went expecting just that. However, they were the complete opposite. One day, we were making bracelets during VBS. We were using beads to decorate them and I kept dropping the beads everywhere. Seeing this, the children began crawling around to gather them, they were so eager to get all of the beads. To be honest, I was expecting them to keep it for themselves, to be sneaky and put it in their pockets to take home. But every single one of these children had picked up a handful to return to me. Realizing how quick I was to judge them put me to shame and I also realized that I had viewed the children with contempt, without even knowing. I guess because we were in a less fortunate country, I looked at the children with eyes of pity and felt a sense of superiority. But when we are before God, what we have does not matter. We are all equal. And so this prejudice I had and this sense of pride that I was not aware of were taken care of as God taught me lessons through these children.

Yes, these children have very little. But they are so giving and thoughtful; they share their portions with their siblings and양보해 to their friends. They are so happy and grateful for the things that they do have. Seeing this kindhearted side of them, I was able to reflect on how much God has blessed my life and how I should be grateful like these children are, in any and every situation.

The one question that was always in the back of my mind while I was on mission was, “Do I reflect the image of our loving Father?” What I discovered was that the children in Nicaragua were doing exactly this. When I was too shy to approach the children first, they came up to me with open arms. Children I did not remember ran up to me, remembering me and calling me by name, holding my hand and wanting to play with me. And that is the image of our heavenly Father, who is the exact same; knowing each of us by name and running after us, wanting to spend time with us.

I did not know one could get so attached in the time span of 10 days. I fell in love with the children and their contagious smiles. They are so pure and innocent. Being with these children, I learned ways to express love, an area I was lacking in. They are so affectionate and I could see the love in their eyes. When I was smiling and laughing, they were smiling and laughing with me. When I was crying, they were crying with me. I wanted to share the love I received. But I ended up receiving a much greater love, from children, children who met me for the first time. They showed me a kindness and love that I have never received before, one that deeply touched me. I was shown that you can love people you do not know and that people who are so different in so many ways can become family. And I knew that this was only possible through God and in God.

​Our team had 7 translators. The oldest are my age, so they are still relatively young. However, they were so diligent and hardworking. Sacrificing your time and energy to do God’s work is not easy and yet they always did what they were asked with a happy and willing heart. I was very inspired and learned so much from seeing them serve and lead with such passion and love. I am so thankful that God placed these friends in my life as examples of how we should live as His warriors.

Truthfully speaking, I was very disappointed and ashamed of myself. When I look back, I do not think the presence of God was evident in me. While I was on mission, I neglected prayer and reading the scripture. The reason was a combination of being busy, being lazy, and thinking that physically being there on God’s chosen land and contributing to the mission is good enough. Not once did I share the goodness of God and His word with the people of Nicaragua on my own. Despite the fact that I was lacking greatly, God allowed me to go on this mission as His warrior. Now I have learned and now I know what I have to do when I go next year; I just need to obey God and He will use me. I pray that I rely on Him completely, trusting that He will give me the courage, strength, and wisdom to be His messenger so that I can spread the good news of God and show the love of God. I will do the work of the Lord with a happy and humble heart, being His hands and feet.

I pray that while I am living my life at home, I can be pulled out of my comfort zone and have my faith stretched. I pray that God will help me to have an unashamed love for the Gospel and let me share the Gospel humbly, boldly, and passionately.

In the beginning, I did not want to go. But by the end of the trip, I did not want to leave. Now, I cannot wait to go back. I realized that mission is not only about the people there; it is about us as individuals as well. It is an opportunity for evangelism training, learning about God’s church, and reflecting on yourself. God said be eager to serve. So I hope that you will receive that desire, or just wing it like I did. Because whatever happens, God always comes through. So let’s all go on mission together, to be the living answer to the prayers of the people in Nicaragua. Thank you.