When the plane’s tires hit the runway, I immediately knew that I had landed in a special place. This past January, my family had the privilege to travel to Nicaragua with Drs. Paul and Delia Nüesch-Olver. Our church, CrossView in Snohomish, WA, is praying about developing a long-term partnership with the Nicaraguan churches. My family was invited to go and meet some of the people who minister there. While in Central America, I made several observations about the people, the food, the city, and the schools.
During our time in Nicaragua, there were a few things that stood out to me. First, can we talk about the food? Some were shocked that I liked Nicaraguan food, but it was seriously some of the most delicious food that I have ever eaten in my life. I especially enjoyed the Gallo Pinto, which is a simple dish of rice and black beans, and the Fried Plantain Chips. And while we are talking about starches, can I just tell you how much I enjoyed the potatoes! For a teenager like myself, this was my kind of food!
Even though it was obvious they were facing various hardships, I was taken aback by how joyful the people of Nicaragua were. Their homes are tiny, food is scarce, but they are joyful. Although we may have more material resources in the USA, the people of Nicaragua (at least the ones that I met) are rich in other, more significant ways. Their faces were rarely without a smile, their eyes shone brightly, and they were very welcoming to me and my family.
The schools in Nicaragua are quite different compared to the schools in the USA. First, their school days begin much earlier. Due to the heat, their classes start around 6AM and end at 1PM. Why do the schools end so early? Well, many of the teachers work second jobs, so they have to be able to get there. As well, we were told it’s not safe to be out after 4PM, which is another reason for the different school schedule.
When we visited two of the FM schools, I noticed the classrooms are much smaller than what I had expected. I was shocked to discover that 30 or more students and their desks are in one tiny classroom. A typical classroom is only about three times the size of my bedroom––and I have a rather small bedroom. Plus, the classrooms are very hot. There is no air conditioning and very few fans. And the schools are made of metal with very few classrooms having drop-ceilings, which help to manage the heat. I cannot imagine being able to stay focused to learn in that environment, but the students in Nicaragua do.
Speaking of learning, the schools in Nicaragua may have fewer resources than ours in the USA, but they are equipping leaders for tomorrow. Recently, Pastor Jenny Orozco’s school had their first graduation. If my memory serves me correctly, they graduated 22 students. Of those 22 students, twelve received full-tuition scholarships from the Nicaraguan government, which was based upon their grades, formal tests, and face-to-face interviews. In my opinion, that’s pretty amazing!
Sitting on the plane waiting to take off, I recalled the last five days that I spent in Nicaragua. They were very meaningful to me. I am grateful for the people that I met and the experiences that I had. As the plane sped down the runway, we ascended into the clear blue sky and soared above the city. I looked out the window and said to myself, “This is so beautiful, and I will be back here one day.”
written by Jadon Swanson