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Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of posts about a Madison Youth Listen and Learn Cross Cultural Engagement trip. You can read more about the purpose of the trip here in the blog post titled A Different Kind of Short-Term Missions Trip.

The Struggle Bus – Saturday, June 17, 2016

The following update was written by Lydia Vanderstelt:

I don’t think that any of us knew that the moment we stepped outside the airport in Nicaragua, we would fall in love. I’m not talking about love with another person, or even the country of Nicaragua (at least not yet – it was very dark outside); I’m talking about love with a yellow van.

Before I get too much into detail about our love at first sight, I should catch you up on why we are in Nicaragua. The 13 of us here are a combination of the different campuses (Square, Ford, and North) of Madison Square Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This Listen and Learn Cross Cultural Engagement Experience is our first international trip as a youth group, so 8 teenagers (ages 15-17) and 5 adults raised a total of about $15,000 to fly down here and listen and learn to the people and surroundings of Nicaragua.

We took a three hour drive to Chicago and flew out from O’Hare airport at about 5:40 pm, had a layover in Houston, and flew out again to arrive in Managua, the capitol of Nicaragua, at 11:30 pm, which to our bodies was 1:30 am. Everyone got their luggage and everyone got through customs with little problems, which was a huge blessing all of us. We were ready to go, and this is where the yellow bus came in.

We walk outside and our main contact person, David, leads us over to a compact yellow passenger van. It is not your normal passenger van, with closed windows and air conditioning. First off, it has a rack on the top where we stored most of our suitcases, and the others went in the back row. This was very problematic. We had a total of 15 people we needed to fit in a 12 passenger van (the other two people being David and the driver), and the suitcases filled 2 of those spots. This was only the beginning of what David calls, and what we now call, the struggle bus. We quickly learned that personal space would never exist within the premises of the van. This was bearable, however, because the windows could slide open and we could get fresh air. About 2 minutes away from the guest house, the van completely turned off. On a hill. In the middle of a night. On a dark street. We like to call this our first team building activity. Everyone got out and started pushing the van around and down the hill. An odd screech and a puff of smoke later, the van was up and running again.

After a glorious night of sleep in comfortable beds, we woke up to the cheery sounds of birds and the wakening smell of banana pancakes and bacon. This was a fabulous and life-giving start to the day. The Nehemiah Center (NC) was gracious to schedule a pretty chill day, so we went over to the NC for orientation, where we learned about the history of Nicaragua.

It’s one thing to learn about a country’s history in America, but I really enjoyed learning about Nicaragua from a non-American viewpoint in the country of Nicaragua.

We then had a delicious lunch that consisted of rice and beans, salad, chicken, baked plantains, and watermelon juice, which prepared us well for the 2-hour nap that was to come. At around 4:30 we headed over to Pastor Denis Miranda’s church where we split up and headed off to different church groups. Some played games with kids, others went to an all-girls small group and watched a movie, and the rest heard a message and played games with different groups. My group did the latter, and what stuck out to me was the way they quickly wanted to pray for us (and pray for our stomachs), and in return we prayed for them and then all prayed together.

We ended the day on a good note, eating fried chicken and fries whilst sitting next to each other and laughing, talking about our amazing first day in Nicaragua and our love for the struggle bus.

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