There For Good: NiCo Summer Mission Trip to La Paz, Honduras
In July 2023, a team of Chase Oaks teens and parents traveled to La Paz, Honduras to work with Niños en Comunidad (“NiCo”), a program with global partner Orphan Outreach which provides children with tutoring, mentoring, nutritious meals, counseling, therapy, and Bible study. Below, three team members share their personal reflections on their trip.
My family had the opportunity to attend Chase Oak’s summer mission trip to La Paz, and it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We love serving in the local church but had never had the chance to serve abroad together. This trip was a rare time for my family of five to be together for a week, present and open to what God had for us. My brothers start their senior years in high school/college, and I start graduate school this fall; God used our availability to bring us closer together through this trip and bless others along the way.
Going into the trip, I had some reservations. Most of our team knew little or no Spanish. I had been refreshing my Spanish from classes I had taken in college, but I couldn’t help feeling worried. How would we be able to teach kids about God if we couldn’t understand one another?
As soon as I arrived in La Paz, my worries about ineffectiveness and inadequacy melted away. We were blessed to have three amazing translators who accompanied us on the trip and made the communication process seamless. Even when our translators weren’t around to assist, our team had no trouble showing our love for these kiddos despite the language barriers we encountered.
Observing how the younger kids on our team would laugh and play with the Honduran kids—even without knowing the language—was truly the sweetest. My youngest brother became quick friends with one of the first graders at NiCo. They would parrot different sounds back and forth, play soccer, and gesture to communicate. By the end of the trip, they were inseparable.
Language barriers were no match for God’s miraculous love.
Towards the end of the trip, I had the opportunity to speak a few words of gratitude to the staff at NiCo and then pray over the group in Spanish. I had never prayed out loud in another language, but getting to see the impact that my words had on these teachers as it was spoken over them in their native tongue was truly remarkable. In my inadequacy and vulnerability, God showed up to give me the words to say and communicate what I could not.
I would strongly encourage anyone who is on the fence about going and serving in a missional capacity to take the leap of faith and do it. Even if you feel unprepared, God will meet you there and use your heart of servitude to communicate what words can’t always say.
Like many mothers, I long to see my teenage children engage with our faith and church community. I suspected that my very private fifteen-year-old son had an emerging relationship with God (based on his Amazon book orders), but he had yet to join the church youth group or school Christian organizations, or to cross the finish line into service (no matter how many meetings we set up with Katy Bailey). We signed him up for a Chase Oaks mission trip with the hope that an experience of service in another country might be the connection he needed.
Upon meeting the team, I was delighted to learn that the other teenagers on the trip also have strong Christian faiths. I enjoyed listening to my son’s deep laugh in the back of the bus as they debated music and movies and discovered like-minded spirits. When we arrived at the project (a holistic afterschool program supported by Chase Oaks) I smiled as I saw my son try to connect with the sweet children of NiCo. Like the other American volunteers, he stumbled a bit over the language differences. But still, he found other ways to connect with the children. I glowed with pride as I watched him take the cultural differences of serving in another country in stride.
However, the moment that will remain etched in my mind began, like many interactions with teenage children, with a text: “I’d like to pray for the families we’re visiting tomorrow.” My husband and I glanced at each other and shared a smile.
The next day we were on our way to a squatter community, carefully picking our steps along muddy roads while balancing a tray of eggs for the family we were visiting. The gracious matriarch met us at the gate and ushered us into their well-kept home. Somehow the mud from the streets had not made it onto their recently swept concrete floors. The sparse stucco walls were adorned with a couple of framed mementos—sources of pride. But the greatest jewel of the family sat in front of us: the oldest daughter, a scholarship recipient who was studying hard to someday become a nurse and pull her family out of poverty.
“Can I pray for you?” my son humbly asked the family.
Then, out of his mouth poured the most beautiful, sincere supplication we had ever heard from him. We were shocked that this normally quiet boy had so much in his heart for these strangers. When I opened my eyes, I noticed the grandmother sobbing softly. We thanked the family for opening their home and headed back to the project, our faces reflecting the elation of what God was doing in them, and in us too.
Later as we debriefed the day, my son revealed that he felt like God had put it on his heart to pray for the family. Although he was nervous, he was glad he obeyed because God clearly used his prayer to touch the family. Moments like this—watching your children sense God’s Spirit, respond in obedience, and realize what it feels like when God talks to you—make a mission trip priceless.
As a Christian and a parent, it has always been a priority for me to focus on instilling two things in my children: compassion and perspective. Missions are a way to fulfill both. It was an immense joy to travel to La Paz and serve alongside my daughter, Grace. She has a huge heart and desire to serve, and it was amazing to see all of the youth on our team serve together. We shared many memorable experiences that will impact our lives forever.
We visited two families in their homes. At one home, we were able to talk with the mom of a boy, Julio, who attends NiCo. She was so proud of her home and family. Hanging right inside the entrance were the only decorations in the home: certificates of achievement Julio and his older sister (a NiCo graduate) had received. The mother, Mayra, wakes up at 4 AM every day to make scratch tortillas to sell, and she proudly made some for us! The resourcefulness, positivity, and community the people have is inspiring. It was eye-opening to feel their joy amidst such difficult life circumstances.
Every day began with a devotion and ended with a debrief. During our introduction to La Paz, our guide Irene encouraged us to “embrace the awkwardness.” Our trip had many introverts (me included). But I was moved to start the week with a devotional about vulnerability and embracing our awkwardness. I chose two prayer emphases for the week:
- While it may be our abilities and gifts that temporarily impress others, it is our vulnerability and struggles that truly connects us.
- Radiating Jesus does not resemble someone who "has it all together." Radiating Jesus looks like someone who has chosen to commit themselves to reflecting the truth that he holds it all together.
On our first day in La Paz, we spent a day playing at the park at a celebration meant to bring our team and the children together. It was genius because it gave us all a way to get to know each other, and it took away any fear or anxiety we had for the week ahead. As I watched Grace and the other kids from our mission group, I found myself thinking of 3 John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth.” Within minutes, Grace met a handful of girls, and they were inseparable the entire afternoon. I saw them talking, laughing, and connecting…even though they did not speak the same language. An intense soccer game quickly got underway, and there were many competitions put on by NiCo staff. Even the rain couldn’t ruin our party!
As much as I love missions, I cannot put into words the awe and joy I felt watching the young people on this trip. They were ALL IN. They created true relationships, committed to putting smiles on faces, and looked for opportunities for personal growth. Our last day, I watched Grace say goodbye to her friends—they were hugging, crying, and wishing for more time together. I can’t think of many more things more impactful.
Missions are what you put into them. The entire week, we were surrounded by positivity, community, and pure happiness. God was undoubtedly present! When people ask me the hardest part of a mission trip, my response is, “coming home.” It is easy to feel peace in the simplicity of serving and creating true connection with others without the busyness of life. I can’t wait for the next trip. I also think my goal of instilling perspective and compassion in my child was accomplished—she’s already recruited her brother for the next trip, too!
Learn more about how you can be involved with our global partners, here.