By Zachary Harris
Special to The Texas Catholic
MUELLE DE LOS BUEYES, Nicaragua — When 13 young adult missionaries from the Diocese of Dallas boarded a plane July 8 bound for Nicaragua, it marked a time of many firsts.
The mission trip to Muelle de los Bueyes served as the diocese’s first young adult mission trip to the area. For many of the participants, the trek marked their first mission trip for the diocese. For at least one participant, it also was their first time on an airplane.
It was a time of new experiences.
Throughout the course of the mission trip, Deacon Charlie Stump, the coordinator of the mission, reminded the missionaries that it is just as important to build a relationship with the community as it is to move rocks and mud.
“This mission trip was about building the kingdom of God. It is good for the young adults in Dallas to connect with people from the community of Muelle de los Bueyes,” Deacon Stump said. “The building of relationships and faith with the community gives the people of Nicaragua hope by showing them that people thousands of miles away care about them.”
The Dallas missionaries split their time between two work sites: the communities of Gorra and Cacao. At both sites, missionaries worked side-by-side with the community members on a variety of projects, ranging from shoveling mud to carrying buckets of rocks to be used as the foundations for the new churches.
Anthony Campise, a parishioner at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, quickly established a friendship with the head of construction at the Gorra site.
“I think it is critical that we continue to build bonds with people here like I have been able to do with Sergio,” Campise said. “Building relationships is essential to what we are doing…without that I don’t think we would be fully achieving what we set to come do.”
Mario Beltran, a youth minister at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Plano, decided to celebrate 26th birthday by taking part in the young adult mission trip to the community of Muelle de los Bueyes. The workers at the Cacao site even halted construction to help Mario celebrate his birthday, throwing a party complete with cake and piñatas.
“When we came in, we were ready to work. The church doors opened and the speakers were playing the birthday song,” Beltran said. “Even though we are the ones who are the missionaries, they’re really the ones that have made an impact on us”.
Father Edwin Leonard traveled with the diocesan missionaries and celebrated daily mass, which gave the missionaries another chance to interact with the community.
“Watching the faithful walk great distances to receive the Eucharist at mass and to have their confessions heard day after day was inspirational,” said Father Edwin Leonard. “They wanted to be close to God and his Church. I prayed I could have that same desire to encounter God and to never take him for granted.”
Ricardo Funes, one of the diocesan missionaries, said he felt moved by the spirit of God while celebrating his faith with those of the Nicaraguan communities.
“We are all one people of God despite the language and geographic boundaries,” he said.
Some missionaries helped the communities by entertaining and building relationships with the children.
“I spent all day drawing with little kids. It started with one kid and then two kids and three and then I had 30,” Erin Haney, an art teacher in the Dallas area, said. “There was a really quick attachment and an overpouring of love from the community for people they just met”.
Missionaries worked with the people of Muelle de los Bueyes for just four days, but were able to help build a lasting relationship with the community.
In addition, the missionaries left clothes, work boots and gloves behind in Nicaragua as donations to the community. Through the physical work and donations and through their efforts to build new faith relationships, the missionaries said the trip made an impact – both on those served and those doing the service.
“I know from our end it has strengthened our faith and I can only think that in return it had strengthened theirs just to see the love from someone across the world that believes in something that you do,” Haney said.
“It shows God is everywhere.”