A young man who wants to build a career towards assisting others recently came home from a week-long mission trip to Nicaragua that he said changed his life.
Garrett McQueen, 19, formerly of Hamlet, left for a week on Feb. 2 with a team called Missionary Friends, which he said is made up of all kinds of Christians who work together on teams for medical outreach, Bible school, construction and veterinarian work.
He said the team stayed in Leon, Nicaragua, in a compound called El Ayudante, which means “the helper.”
According to McQueen, the compound is filled almost year-round with missionary teams from everywhere who have come to help the local folks.
McQueen’s 53 travel partners were broken up into several different teams. McQueen said the teams treated 1,000 patients for parasites, allergies and infections. They distributed 660 food bags, where one bag feeds a family of four for one week and contains things like rice, beans, coffee, soup, noodles, sugar, salt, soap, toilet paper and matches. They conducted vacation Bible school for 784 children. They vaccinated 387 farm animals like cows and horses. They gave out 100 cases of supplies with toys and food, and handed out 50 water purifying buckets.
“The medical teams also gave out a lot of hygienic stuff,” said McQueen.
“It was a real life changing experience,” he said. “At first when I got there, I felt bad for them when I saw how they lived, but one of the pastors told me not to feel bad for them or they would be offended. I was sort of in shock. I’m so used to having a TV, an iPhone, a well-constructed place to live and I’ve always felt safe. It really opened my eyes.”
McQueen said he couldn’t get over how appreciative and happy the Nicaraguans seemed, despite having so little.
“I would hand them a cross on a necklace and you could tell how happy they were from their smile and the look in their eyes, or when I would tell them Jesus loves them, it seemed monumental,” he said. “You never heard anyone complaining. It was a real humbling experience. You could take a rock and the kids would make a game out of it. You could take the least of things and they would appreciate it.”
McQueen said he immediately noticed how tight-knit the families were, and how strong their faith was.
“Maybe when you know you don’t have everything you are more thankful for what you do have,” said McQueen. “It was a really great experience. I didn’t want to leave.”
McQueen said he believes there is no way humans could have done all the work his team accomplished that week, and gives all the credit to God.
He is the son of Jesse and Wanda McQueen of Hamlet, and serves as a firefighter and paramedic in Wrightsville Beach, where he attends college.
“It was God’s way of using us to be his servants,” said McQueen. “He used us the best way we could have been used. We didn’t change the world, but we changed someone’s world. They blessed us more than we could have blessed them. It shook up my whole view of life. You never know what people are going through. This trip reaffirmed that I want to be all I can be to help people who can’t help themselves.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.