Every once in a while, life brings an individual into my world who teaches me a lesson that I don’t know I need but am desperate to learn.
A little over a week ago, my best friend and I headed to Nicaragua with an organization known as Compassion International. We have partnered with them in the release of our upcoming book titled Imprints: The Evidence Our Lives Leave Behind. To learn more about the book or preorder, go here.
The purpose of our trip was to get a first-hand look at Compassion’s work with children living in extreme poverty. While I have been on several mission trips and have had brief experiences with abject poverty conditions, seeing it first hand is always eyeopening and the people I meet always leave impressions that will last forever. Some of those impressions, though are deeper than others. This was the case with a man named Carlos.
We met Carlos on our second day. After a two-hour bus ride from Managua on mostly dirt roads, we arrived at a village in the northwestern part of the country. Carlos greeted us wearing blue jeans and a tucked in blue plaid button-up, with a white t-shirt underneath. His shirts were tucked in.
Carlos is a pastor of a small church here where the house of worship is a simple concrete slab with stone walls and a tin roof. The area surrounding the church is populated with homes of varying types. Some are of stone; most are made of plastic and sticks. All have dirt floors. Despite the limited access to clean water, scarcity of food, and a failing economy, many of the children wore smiles on their faces. Compassion works with the children and families to make sure they have their basic needs met. Knowing you have food coming each day is a far cry from starvation, and these people are grateful.
Still, life is hard in Nicaragua, and Carlos feels the pain of his people.
After spending time with the children, the staff, and visiting with families, we took some of the kids to the beach to play in the ocean. Our time in the salt water didn’t last long because there was a pool close by, and most of the kids had never been in one before. Through the help of an interpreter, we taught the kids how to play the water tag game known as Marco Polo. There were laughter and smiles everywhere I looked. And before I knew it, Carlos was in the deep end of the pool, wearing jeans, button up, and all. The grin that spread across his face as he watched the children playing wasn’t just a grin; there was much more going on behind his kind eyes than simply joy, and I couldn’t help but wonder why in the world he was in the water wearing all his clothes.
After we drove the kids back to the village, I took the opportunity to interview Carlos. I wanted to know what was going through his head when he jumped into the pool fully clothed.
We sat facing each other in small plastic chairs next to a hut made from tree branches and sheets of plastic. Carlos still wore his wet clothes. He smiled as I asked him a variety of questions through the interpreter. Each answer came slow and thoughtful. I learned that Carlos is a recovered alcoholic. He had spent many years living on the streets of Nicaragua, sometimes sleeping in the dump where he scavenged for food. He talked of love, grace, his grandchildren, the joys of life despite such hard living conditions, and his desire for everyone to know love.
Finally, I got the nerve to ask, “What were you thinking when you jumped in that pool with all your clothes on?”
His answer was something I needed to hear. Through the interpreter, Carlos said. “When I was a drunk, no one came to see me, no would touch me or hug me, no one would even take notice of me. When I became sober, I made a promise that no one I met would face their struggles alone. If you are covered in filth, I will hug you, if your clothes are soaked in your own vomit, I will embrace you and show you are loved. Whatever you face, I will face it with you because I know what it is like to be alone. No one should be alone in their pain.”
He paused to gather his thoughts before continuing. His close to his answering of my question will stay with me until the day I die. “We all have pain, and we all need someone to share it with us. And we all have joy, and we all need someone to share it with us. Today was a day of rejoicing, and I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to rejoice with the children. So I jumped in the pool."
Every fiber of Carlos’s being is filled with love for his family and his village. He is all in, all the time, ready to share whatever life brings his people—pain and suffering or hope and joy.
I want to be like Carlos…
I want to be all in!