HAMPDEN-SYDNEY, VA - Mike Murray, a freshman on this year's H-SC Basketball team, went on a mission trip to Nicaragua this past summer. Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America after Mexico, home to approximately six million people.
Murray, along with 39 students and 10 chaperones from Norfolk Christian Academy, made the trip to Nicaragua in August. Murray said the purpose of the trip was to "spread the love of Christ in many ways to underprivileged people living in Nicaragua, serving them in any way, like Christ did for us." To prepare for the trip, they fundraised and collected clothes to give away to the natives.
Like many other Central American countries, Nicaragua struggles with poverty. It is the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere – 48% of the population lives below the poverty line and 80% lives off less than $2 per day.
Nicaragua is a thriving tourist destination, but it has an unfortunate dark side. In addition to its poverty problems, Nicaragua has a high degree of risk for major infectious diseases. According to Mike Murray, trash is "everywhere, on the side of the street, around house, and often in big piles in fields." Likewise, their living conditions are also poor as "their houses are made out of anything that can prevent rain from getting through. Some houses didn't have roofs. Bathrooms were attached outside the house and some only had a bucket for a toilet." Murray said, "It's chaotic because people have to do whatever to try to earn money." Unfortunately that means children are often exploited both for labor and prostitution, a growing problem throughout much of Central America and other poor countries.
While Mike Murray and the rest of the participants on the mission trip can't solve all the problems in Nicaragua, they no doubt did a lot to help as many people as they could. Some of their projects included tarping houses, visiting a girls rescue home to play games and learn a native dance, taking a group of children to a museum and feeding them afterwards, delivering clothes to hospital patients and helping repaint the hospital, taking children to swimming pools and parks in clean parts of town, helping put on a concert in a church, and share the gospel with those who could speak English.
Mike and the others were able to make a significant difference in some people's lives, and the trip also made an impact on him. "It makes me appreciate all the small things that we have here in America, the things we often complain about would be considered everything to the Nicaraguan people. I learned the true meaning of being thankful and appreciative of the things that God has blessed me with; not complaining about what I don't have but to be grateful for what I do have."
Murray also has plans to go back to Nicaragua in the future "because it's a humbling and life-changing experience. It's a true blessing to do as Jesus did by going to serve rather than be served. It's definitely an experience that I always think of and will never forget."