ELIZABETHTOWN — Deanna Worley may have been better at holding back the tears than Ashley Dowless was as they spoke recently about a planned mission trip to Nicaragua, but the overwhelming emotions that were evident could easily be traced to one common thread: a mother’s instinct.
The two women, who are employees at Bladen County Hospital, will be joining 18 others for a feeding mission in September to an area of Nicaragua called Chinandega Dump — known simply as The Dump. The trip is being organized through Beaver Dam Original Free Will Baptist Church in Chadbourn.
“Yes, it’s really a dump,” said Worley, who went on her first mission trip to the area last year. “The village was wiped out by a hurricane in 1992 and they were relocated to the dump with promises of rebuilding their village. But it hasn’t happened.”
This will be Dowless’ first mission trip to Nicaragua, and when she was asked what thought about going, her first response was, “I’m scared.” Not because of the drug cartels. Not because of political coups. Not because of potential violence.
“I’m afraid I’m going to want to bring all of those children home with me,” Dowless said through her cascading tears. “When I saw the photos from that area, I knew I wanted to be part of this mission. My heart just broke for those children.”
Worley can relate.
“I have a 3-year-old boy who absolutely loves Batman,” she said as her eyes began to mist. “And when I went to Nicaragua last year, I saw a little boy there wearing a Batman T-shirt and couldn’t help thinking about my son and the fact that there are little Batmans all over the world.”
Worley added that it’s very difficult to explain to people just what Chinandega Dump is like.
“You have to see it to understand,” she said. “It’s a landfill, but worse than any we have here. The children actually guide us around the area because there is broken glass and used needles everywhere.
“And these people have literally nothing,” she said. “One of their highlights is when new trash is brought to the dump.”
Worley said that, prior to 2013, the children of the area were fed three times a week by the feeding mission. The rest of the week, “they would pick from the trash as best they could.”
Now, however, because of missionaries who have bolstered a feeding program headed by a local man named Oscar, there are now 62 feeding sites — mostly set up at churches — operating everyday and serving an average of 200 children per day. The only obligation to receive food is that each child must have a bowl.
“That’s one of the things we take with us, is bowls for the children who don’t have one,” Worley said.
Bowls are necessary because the food that is given consists of a rice and liquid nutrients mixture. Often, mission teams will bring vegetables and chicken to add.
Usually, the food is eaten by tipping the bowl to the child’s mouth. But last year, the mission team brought plastic spoons.
“They were just so amazed with those spoons,” Worley said.
About the trip
The local 20-member group will fly to Nicaragua on Sept. 25 and return Sept. 30. While at Chinandega Dump, they will participate in far more activities than just the feeding program.
“We work hard from the time we wake up until well into the evening,” Worley said. “We’re good and wore out by the time we get back to bed.”
Worley said the group will spend time throughout the day playing with the children, painting faces, sharing the gospel, praying with anyone in need and more. They will also be involved with preparing food, cooking and serving.
“These children just want someone to love on them,” Worley said. “I worried about the language barrier when I went the first time, but found out quickly that a hug and smile go a long way.”
And it’s not only the children who get special attention from the missionaries.
“We do what is called a blessing of the hands for the women,” Worley said. “Women aren’t looked upon very highly there, so this is a pretty special thing for them. It’s kind of a Mary K-type of thing where we wash and pamper their hands.
“We really try to feed everyone physically and spiritually in an effort to build their love of God,” she added.
The trip can cost about $1,000 per person — plus the cost of a passport. But a number of find-raisers are planned locally that will help defray those costs.
The first is a mini photo shoot that is being donated by a trio of businesses — Alisha Reaves Photography, Amber Rhodes Photography and Sugar Plum Lane. The event will take place at Jones lake State Park on Saturday, April 19. Each photo shoot, which will cost $100, will be limited to 20 minutes and result in eight digital images. All of the proceeds will benefit the mission trip to Nicaragua.
Anyone interested should call Worley at 910-840-3686 to schedule an appointment.
The group also plans to hold a day-long donut sale on Saturday, April 12, in front of Melvin’s in downtown Elizabethtown starting at 7:30 a.m.
“We get asked a lot about whether we felt safe there,” Worley said. “But honestly, we never felt threatened while we were there, ever.
“We were shown so much gratitude from the people — children and adults alike,” she added. “We got a lot of ‘thank-yous’ from everyone between the airport to the feeding site.”
While Worley talked about how rewarding a trip like this can be, Dowless spoke about how she is looking forward to taking on the experience. And each said they will bring a certain degree of humbleness back with them.
“I know that, when I went the first time, it helped me to see my own sins — how much we are so self-serving and wasteful,” Worley said. “It made me realize how important it is to raise my son in a Godly way.
“But to be honest, I really think this trip blessed me as much or more than it did for those at The Dump,” she added. “And I know it will do the same for Ashley.”
Anyone who would like to contribute monetarily to the mission trip can call Worley at 910-840-3686.