My Cousin Sarah has moved to Nicaragua while her husband continues his medical training. Your thoughts here challenged me, Sarah! Blessings to you!
The traveling stranger seems to always be someone else. It is the newcomer, who carries a story and knowledge of another culture, entering my familiar circles. However, these days I am the stranger.
Our group consisted of four Nicaraguans (two nurses and two nursing students), three doctors from Spain, and one American…..me. My desire to learn Spanish and to work alongside my husband got me into this set of circumstances, and I was coming to realize that the passion in my heart did not prepare me for how foreign one may feel. Yet I knew this feeling was good for me. Did the others around me realize our uniqueness too? They sure did.
We split into two groups to go from home to home giving medication and education out in the countryside surrounding León, Nicaragua. The one nurse, a jolly man named Carlos, called out to the group of doctors, “Presenting the group of Spaniards!” Then he gestured at me, part of his group and exclaimed, “Presenting the group of Americans!” Everyone laughed and I had to grin too…We were an interesting bunch.
My little group walked up to a home where the man of the house was resting back on his horse cart with a pillow. He immediately arose to welcome us. Carlos happily seated himself, and the other nurse and I sat down on the cart too. Our host soon brought us some warm corn on the cob, cooked over their leña (firewood.) The rich flavor of the corn was a pleasant surprise—no butter necessary!
It did not matter that I could not understand every word spoken. I did understand that Carlos was happy to rest awhile here in the breezy shade and chat with these folk in the relaxed Nicaraguan manner. Eventually we discussed health and education and traveled on our way.
At times I could feel the curious glances of the doctors from Spain…who was this strange lady in a scrub top, cape dress, and hanging veil? One of the doctors could speak some English, and, in a mixture of Spanish and English, we had an enjoyable conversation as we walked the sandy road. Later I overheard her telling the other doctors why I was along and what I was doing here. For some reason, humans retain the ability to know when they are being discussed even across the barrier of culture and language. And, no, the unnerving feeling does not change.
As we walked and talked, Carlos acted as tour guide and rattled off the names of the volcanoes rising in the distance, the titles of the communities we were in, and identification of the agriculture in the fields beside us. And I couldn’t help but think: After two and a half months of living here, I can name one of the volcanoes correctly, and my home is on this Nicaraguan countryside. I am becoming familiar with this place! But as I bumped back to town on the public bus, the words to a well-known song circled in my head…“I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger…”
And the truth is I am a traveling stranger. Every day. Every hour. This world is not my home: I am headed to a heavenly city. Ah, what joy! What delight in the thought!
But what about my neighbors, what about those stylish doctors, and what about the Nicaraguan medical team who so cordially welcomed me? They are traveling too; albeit perhaps unaware.
Paul’s words to Timothy are a comfort, revival, and source of strength for me to keep pushing heavenward and to be about the work God wants me to do. Really it is okay if every day I am living a cultural experience and frequently feeling like I’m on an adventure. I am a traveling stranger.
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God…For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind…I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Hold fast… in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” *Selections from II Timothy 1: 6-14. NKJV.