When the temperature is in the mid to high 30s, the tinkle of the ice cream cart is a great sound.

We were able to enjoy an ice cream sandwich or a fudge bar when the ice cream man showed up at an opportune time during our trip to Nicaragua. Mostly it was the leaders who enjoyed this treat, though, as the students (ACS and Centro de Fe) were too busy playing, working or talking together.

That gave us an idea. What if we treated all the students on the last day together?

Lester made the arrangements and he showed up right on time. It turned out that the amount we budgeted was a few dollars higher than the actual cost. With little hesitation, we handed over the full amount.

The ice cream man accepted it, looked up and said, “Today I can buy new shoes for my daughter.” Tears came to our eyes as we realized how such a small amount to us could make such a big difference for this man and his little girl.

That was a great experience, but ultimately handouts like that do not make a lasting difference—they do not transform lives. The time we spent talking, praying, working and playing together with the Centro de Fe students does; not only theirs, but ours as well.

What a little paint can do

Three years ago, the team led by Scott and Angela Visser, Bethany Bakker and Andrea Korevaar went with the students from Centro de Fe to clean up a neighbourhood park. They painted, cleaned up garbage and did what they could to make the park look a little better.

The following year, I led a team with Alison Williams and we spent a Saturday doing much of the same thing. I will admit, my cynical mind wondered how much difference this could really make. We found hypodermic needles among the garbage (we were very careful), similarly to the problem we have in some parks here. Surely, it would not take long for the parks to return to the condition in which we found them.

While were doing this, however, a couple of men in uniform came to talk to the Executive Director and Principal of Centro de Fe. I sidled over to find out what was going on.

Were we in trouble?

No, but all I really understood was that they made a record of who was doing the cleaning up, including a bunch of Canadians, and why we were doing it. That was interesting, I thought, but didn’t think too much more about it.

That is, until we went back this year.

Those two parks are completely different.

There is green grass on the baseball diamond and throughout the park (even though we were there at the end of the dry season), new bushes, new playground equipment, new bathrooms, everything had a fresh coat of paint and a fence around the park with a security guard at the gate. It was a delight to spend an afternoon playing basketball, volleyball and soccer in this venue.

More importantly, the local community did all the work, providing income to put gallo pinto on the table and to buy new shoes. The staff, students and families of Centro de Fe can see those parks every day and see what a difference they made.

What a wonderful example of shaping God’s world!

Making History Together

Every year that a team from ACS goes to Centro de Fe, we spend the last day together doing a mural. The art teacher helps us incorporate memories and meaningful events from our few days together. The mural from 2014 shows the structure that the team from that year painted in the park.

As I looked at the murals from past years, the memories and stories came flooding back.

I looked at the white panel that would become this year’s mural, anticipating what that last day was going to be like. It struck me that we now have a history together. Everyday, the students from Centro de Fe see those murals and they know that there is a school in Abbotsford, BC, Canada that cares about them. I also know how much that means to them by way of encouragement. I am writing this article in the hopes of helping our ACS community know them and how important they have been in transforming our lives.

I don’t know how long this relationship will continue or how many more times I will be privileged to go with a team. I hope that it continues for many more years and that I get to go again. Read about our entire story of our trip this year on our blog.

Regardless, their story and our story are indelibly part of God’s story. All praise and glory to Him!