Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mission trip to Nicaragua is life changing - By Elizabeth Richards

In August, Eric McCusker traveled with a team from The Rock Church in Scarborough to an orphanage in Nicaragua. It was his first mission trip, but he hopes it won’t be his last. “I’d go again in a heartbeat,” he said. 

McCusker, a patrolman with the Portland Police Department, said he heard of the trip when the leaders, Katee and Chris Chamberlain, did a presentation at the church. This was the first mission trip made up of all church members, though many of their members had been on mission trips previously. The 18-person team was a diverse group of people, said McCusker, including a 9-year-old with his mother, two teens, married couples and single people. Some had been on several trips. Others had never even left the country.

On the island of Ometepe, the team stayed at the CICRIN Orphanage, where they did many of their projects. These projects included building a platform and the base for an outdoor oven, helping to complete an outdoor bathroom, and working in the garden at the orphanage. Another group worked at the church, side by side with local laborers, building an in-ground cistern for collecting water. This is the project that McCusker worked on, and despite not speaking the same language as the locals, he said it worked out well. 

“As much as I thought language was going to be a huge barrier, compound things and make things difficult, it wasn’t. It really wasn’t,” he said. They used a combination of gestures, and the little bit of each language that the others could understand, to communicate.

Throughout the stay, the group also did outreach, such as attending a service at the church, and then holding a vacation bible study with over 100 children. McCusker described this as a big camp day, with parachute games, face painting, singing and skits. “There’s no shame. There’s no pride. And the kids love you for it,” he said. Other outreach included a “ladies night”, and serving a meal to approximately 150 children and 50 adults.

The poverty in Nicaragua is overwhelming said McCusker, and upon his return the extravagant way many Americans live was tough to reconcile. When he went grocery shopping for the first time after his return, he stood in the produce section realizing there was more food there than everyone on that island had seen collectively in their lifetime. “We have everything in excess here to such a huge degree,” he said. “It took a while to adjust back.” 

McCusker’s children, Liam, 12 and Sidney, 9, live in Windham with their mother, where they are both active in travel soccer and lacrosse. When McCusker returned, he walked his children through the trip using hundreds of photographs of the trip which had been uploaded onto Snapfish. “They’ve never seen anything like that. They’ve never seen that level of poverty,” he said.

When pointing out things like how they can spend $70 on a pair of sneakers, and how the people he met had never owned a pair of shoes, he said, “I tell them ‘I’m not trying to make you feel guilty about what you’ve been blessed with. I just want you to understand there are people out there that are way less fortunate. Give them a hand if you can.’”  He wants to guide his children to be good citizens, and teach them about giving back. And they understand, he said, as much as children their age are able.

From finding financial support to easily taking time off from work, the pieces just fell into place for McCusker. “I think it was just meant to be,” he said. “As far as my own testimony goes, other than my accepting Christ as an adult, it’s probably number two on the list of profoundly impactful events. I think about this every single day.”

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