PUERTO CABEZAS, Nicaragua (BP)–When Marie Davidson heard Jim and Viola Palmer talk about their ministry among the Miskito people of Nicaragua, she was deeply moved. And when, more than a year later, she heard Hurricane Felix was bearing down on the Miskito Coast with 160-mph winds, her thoughts immediately leaped to the Palmers and their people group.
“My initial contact about the Miskito people group was when I met the Palmers two years ago at Ridgecrest,” said Davidson, who is a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Princeton, W.Va. “Their stories about the Miskito people really touched me. I just had them on my heart and mind.
“When I saw Hurricane Felix was headed for the Miskito Coast, my first thought was for these people I had been praying for.”
Davidson still didn’t realize, however, that the Lord had much more in mind than her praying for the Miskito people.
She drove over to Fellowship Baptist Church in Princeton to participate in a regular monthly mission project that packages food for needy people in various places around the world. When she arrived, she was excited to learn the boxes packed that evening were headed to Nicaragua.
“I asked the pastor, Lyle Mullins, if he was familiar with the Palmers and he said, ‘Oh, that’s who is getting this distribution,'” Davidson recalled. “I could pray for the Miskito people as I packaged the food! It was like the Lord kept bringing me back to the Miskito people.”
ON SHORT NOTICE
The Miskito people were on Ken Owens’ heart too. Owens, who is pastor of Edgemont Baptist Church in Bluefield, W.Va., had been encouraging churches in the association to participate in overseas missions projects, not just to give and pray for them.
“I’ve had the good fortune over the last several years to be able to go on trips to China, the Philippines, Romania and Cuba,” said Owens, who also serves as the disaster relief director for Mountain State Baptist Association in Princeton. “I had been trying to get our association involved in hands-on missions, rather than just talking about it.”
Owens had hoped to organize another trip to Cuba, where he had helped a volunteer team work on a church building in 2007, but that project didn’t materialize.
“Then I got an e-mail from Baptist Global Response that said teams were needed to go to Nicaragua. I thought I didn’t have a lot of time to put together another trip, but I downloaded the information about the project and took it to my associational council meeting.”
Owens wasn’t convinced a team could be put together on such short notice, but when he arrived at the meeting, he handed the Nicaragua material to Davidson, who is the Woman’s Missionary Union director for the association and had worked with him on a mission trip in 2006. He was stunned — and a little worried –- when she broke into tears.
“When Marie saw it, she began to weep,” Owens recalled. “She said, ‘I’ve been praying for the Miskito people for the last two years. This must be where God wants us to go.”
Encouraged by that confirmation, Owens issued a call for volunteers to help rebuild homes in Nicaragua destroyed by Hurricane Felix.
“I put out an appeal to our association to field a team and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to put together a full team of 12 pretty quickly,” he recalled. “We just waited for God to work and all the details came together.”
Davidson and another woman who had helped pack food boxes at Fellowship Baptist, Jennie Hughes, were among those who joined the team.
For a week in mid-May, the volunteers in Nicaragua followed the pattern established by other teams that had worked among the Miskito since the storm: camping in tents and using lumber salvaged from storm-damaged trees to help build 75 small houses in six months.
“It was a great experience,” Owens said. “We had about six people on the team who had never been outside the country. We were able to take two 18-year-olds and a 16-year-old, and they spent their lunch hour every day playing ball with the local kids. They came away with the sense that there are some people in the world who have nothing and how privileged and honored we are to have all the things we have.
“That was wonderful to me because we need to actively involve young people in ministry in a place that would help them see there’s another world out there and why missions is so important,” he continued. “If we don’t get young people involved in missions, missions doesn’t have much of a future.”
The volunteer team worked through the week, finishing a house begun by a previous team and putting up two more houses themselves. The local pastor had said that, if time allowed, he had some work on his house that needed to be done too.
When Davidson heard the team was going to work inside the pastor’s house, she volunteered to help. She hadn’t been inside any of the occupied houses in the village and was curious to see how people there lived.
She wasn’t prepared for what she saw, however. As they entered the main room of the little house, she noticed a box sitting under a bed. On the side was a label that read:
Feed the Children
Heaven Sent Ministries
It was one of the boxes she and her friends back home had packed in the days after the storm.
HANDS AND FEET
“Our ladies were just absolutely taken aback,” Owens said. “Here’s a box they may have packed, sitting in the house! God always does that. Every mission trip I have been on, God always affirms in some way, ‘This is where I wanted you to be.'”
The food originally in the box was long gone, of course, meeting the needs of a hungry family in the community. But Davidson saw the empty carton as a powerful confirmation that God had more in mind for her than praying for the Miskito people.
“It was amazing, just to see the box there,” she said. “I never really thought I would be there. It was never my prayer to go to these people, just prayer for their well-being and safety. Just packaging the food was thrilling to me, knowing it was going to go there.”
But step by step, God had led Davidson and the other team members toward Nicaragua, putting hands and feet to the love for the Miskito he had placed in their hearts.
“When Ken handed me that paper and it had the name of the Miskito people on it, I just can’t tell you how it felt, knowing I had been praying for them for two years and here we were going,” Davidson said. “When the assignment came, that was confirmation right there. And it was extra icing on the cake to see the box, knowing I could have had a part in packing it.
“No matter where you go, sometimes home is right there,” she said. “When I share with people about our trip, it’s always part of what I say that Princeton, W.Va., is there in Nicaragua.
“Next time I go to pack a box of food, I’ll have a different perspective on it.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.