What a Year

Good morning from Nicaragua!

As I alluded to in a previous post and gave away in the title, I have officially been living primarily in Nicaragua for one year.  In celebration of this milestone, I have decided to share ten things I have learned over the past year.  More than likely, many of these “pieces of wisdom” will be completely irrelevant to your life.  With that said I hope you enjoy them and feel a part of the journey.

Number 1- Proper food storage in the tropics is extremely important.  Over the course of my life, cereal has been a consistent part of my mornings.  It was no different when I moved to Nicaragua.  As I did in the U.S., I would pour a bowl of cereal each morning, roll up the end of the cereal bag, close the box and put the box in the cabinet.  This seemed to be a great strategy until one morning, approximately two weeks into my journey, I opened the cabinet to find my cereal box had been invaded by more ants than I had seen in my life up until that moment (a bit of an exaggeration).  After pondering if eating ants would add protein to my breakfast, I decided it would probably be best to dispose of the cereal.  Since that day, I now store my cereal, and many other items, in Ziploc bags.  In Nicaragua, insects are an unavoidable part of life, including home life.  Growing up in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, this was a change for me.  In the end, however, I have found that the insects and I can live in harmony, as long as they stay out of my cereal.

Number 2- Patience is a virtue learned best in practice.  Growing up in the Baltimore/Washington area, life has always been relatively fast paced.  If I am honest (and if you ask my family and friends), patience has not always been my strong suit.  Whether in the case of driving, walking, talking, or living in general, I have always preferred a certain level of quickness.  This is how you know God has a sense of humor, because he called me to move to a place where life moves a little slower and most people are okay with that.  While that might sound like an insult, it is far from it.  After getting over my initial frustration with having to now drive, walk, talk (because I am still learning Spanish) and live in general at a slower pace, I have found a certain level of joy in not always having to be in a hurry.  One of my favorite parts of is day is waking up in the morning, exercising and then enjoying a cup of coffee (or two) while reading my Bible and enjoying the beautiful scenery of Nicaragua without stressing over how much time I am “wasting”.  I have learned to enjoy each moment at a time and that waiting really won’t kill me.

Number 3- God is way bigger than I could ever imagine.  A few years ago in a discipleship meeting led by a friend of mine, Pat Goodman, we talked about how we tend to put God in a box and that, as our relationship with God grows, God expands our picture of Him and, therefore, our box.  In moving to Nicaragua, I have truly come to realize there is not a box in the world that is big enough to contain God.  From going to worship services that are different than my norm, to seeing lives changed in rural areas of Nicaragua, to doors opening that seemed nailed shut, to being a part of a prayer time that reminded me of things I read in the Bible, to just having the opportunity to be used by God to bring about change, the “box” I had God in is definitely in pieces.

Number 4- Owning a 4-wheel drive truck with big tires and zebra stripes on the side should have been on my bucket list.  In case you missed one of the previous posts in which I talked about my truck, I have the privilege of driving a jeep style 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser (zebra stripes included) on a daily basis.  Affectionately called the “Zebra Mobile”, the “Zebra” and the “Zeeb” by many of my friends, my truck has been an incredible perk to living in Nicaragua.  In fact, it even earned me a small zebra toy that now sits on my dash (thanks, Crowley’s!).  By having a 4-wheel drive vehicle that is made to go anywhere, I have been able to visit beaches and other parts of Nicaragua that I otherwise would have been able to.  It is also nice to have when the roads of Managua get destroyed by rainy season or when you forget about one of the many large speed bumps on the roads of Nicaragua.

Number 5- I am far more blessed than I could ever have imagined. While this could easily apply to material things, in this case I am referring to the environment in which I grew up and live.  Sometime you have to be away from something to realize how much it meant to you.  This was the case for me with my family and friends.  I have been incredibly blessed over the course of my life with a loving, stable family and friends who care about me.  I have also grown up with the opportunity to do almost anything I want as I as I could dream it up.  Being away from my family and friends has made me realize how much they truly mean to me.  As challenging as being away from them has been, I wouldn’t change a thing as I don’t know if I otherwise ever would have appreciated their significance in my life.  Also, living in the midst of so much brokenness has shown me how blessed I was to be born into the family God gave me.

Number 6- Sunsets, volcanoes, and waterfalls never get old.  Over the course of my year here, I have had the chance watch the sun disappear into the Pacific Ocean, stand on the edge of volcanoes and swim beneath tropical waterfalls a few times.  Every time I have had this opportunity, it has reminded me how creative God truly is and how thankful I am to get to experience it firsthand.  In some ways, I think these moments are glimpses of heaven and a reminder of how loved we are.  It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it (haha).

Number 7- People are capable of far greater love than I ever knew.  I have seen this in many different ways, but the way the staff at Puente de Amistad and Casa Bernabe love the kids they care for on a daily basis is something to aspire to.  To be willing to love children that aren’t your own as if they were your own, whether they love you back or not is a great picture of God’s love for us.  It is incredibly impressive that they continue to press on, no matter the circumstance.  I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to experience that level of love and hope I can love half as well someday.

Number 8- People are capable of greater evil than I had ever fathomed.  In working with young people and communities that have experienced a lot of pain and brokenness, I have heard many stories that have broken my heart.  The dehumanizing things people are willing to do to others makes you realize there truly is a battle between good and evil in this world.  This is not unique to Nicaragua by any means, but my awareness of this reality has been heightened over the past year.  This is something I will hope I will take with me for the rest of my life as I seek to a light in the dark places of this world.

Number 9- Poverty is more a lack of hope than a lack of resources.  I recognize that this is somewhat of a controversial statement and should probably be expanded upon more than I will here, but I have found it to be very true during my time in Nicaragua.  A person’s belief about who created them, who they were created to be and what they were created to do has a great impact on their ability move beyond their present circumstances.  I believe it is hopelessness that keeps a person locked in the chains of extreme poverty, both spiritually and tangibly, and that it is finding real hope that allows them to end the cycle of generational poverty.  I believe all of the resources in the world won’t make a difference without this critical change.  It is my hope in the power of this change that sustains me in Nicaragua.

Number 10- There is hope!  I see this in the lives of people in Nicaragua every day.  Despite the challenges, there is hope for a better future.  Through the power of Christ, lives, communities, nations and this world can be changed.  I know believing that makes me naive in the eyes of some, but as a friend of mine says, “I side with the guy who rose from the dead”.  “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man that is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.'” (Mark 10:27, NIV)  There is hope, and hope is a dangerous thing.

-James Belt

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