Prior to my time at Iowa State I had never been on a mission trip or done anything even remotely close to it. Luckily, the Beta Sig culture along with other friends on campus put it on my radar. In May of 2016 I had the awesome opportunity to join a fellow Epsilon member on our fraternity’s national service trip to Nicaragua!
Traveling to Nicaragua grounded me so fast. It is a 3rd world country where there was no cell reception or internet to distract me, and where the people were genuinely approachable, kind, and generous even though many of the people we met had nothing more than the essentials needed to make it to the next day. I recall a group of volunteers walking into a local’s home (which wasn’t more than an old shack) and the oldest people of the home, who could barely even stand, offered their chairs to the volunteers and then offered to make them food, which they probably couldn’t afford to give. Their generosity and kindness was astonishing.
The goal of our volunteer group was to help bring clean drinking water to small villages and schools which would help prevent dysentery and other infections caused by the bacteria in bad water. It was definitely no cake walk, but the work was incredibly rewarding. We were encouraged to drink 6-10 liters of water a day to avoid dehydration while working, but no matter where you fell on the physical aptitude scale there was something for you to do. Tools for the week consisted of pick axes, shovels, and buckets. We had two main tasks; digging water lines and hauling a mixture of rock, dirt, and clay for the floor of a new elementary school.
The locals we were working with were beyond appreciative for the work our group completed. We had around 50 volunteers and completed what would have likely taken them a couple months or more. Unlike construction projects here in the States, projects in Nicaragua, even small ones, could last 4-6 years depending on how many volunteers participated.
The majority of the week was spent digging, but the group made time for two other very impactful experiences. The first was climbing to the peak of Cerro Negro, one of the active Nicaraguan volcanoes. The “hike” was intended to bring the volunteers together as a team and prepare us for a week of working together. As you might imagine it was a grueling trek. The incline up the side had to be close to 45 degree, which wouldn’t have been that bad if it wasn’t for the fact that every step you took forward you slid a foot back in the loose, hardened lava. Not only that, you couldn’t really rest on the way up because if you tried to sit down you would likely start sliding back down the face. Overall it was an awesome hike and a great start to the week.
The second experience was a visit to a local orphanage, which was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Due to poverty and a lack of medical assistance children who had diseases, were malnourished, or had other birth defects were often completely abandoned by their families at a young age. Most of the children at the orphanage we visited were not able to communicate at all, but we were able to provide a human presence and touch for the time we were there.
I knew serving others is what God calls us to do as Christians, but I quickly realized it not only benefits those we are serving, but it also makes a lasting and profound impact in our own lives. I have realized there are so many people in this world who are less fortunate than myself and all that I have been blessed with in my life has put me in a great position to serve others in need.