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Mission trip pure ‘joy’ for FHS girls

Jessica Griswold plays a game with some children during recess at the elementary school in Los Sanchez, Nicaragua.- Photo submitted
Katie Cargo was among 10 Farragut High School senior girls taking a trip out of the country during Spring Break.

“It was the best week of my life, hands down,” Cargo said about four weeks after returning.

What was so special? Perfect weather in the Caribbean: white sand, clear blue water, wind sailing with her boyfriend, an exciting nightlife?

No. It was Christian missionary work with extremely poor yet happy and selfless children near Managua, Nicaragua in mid-March.

“Being with all the children and seeing how happy they were, even though they had nothing,” FHS senior Hayley Newby said about the joy of working with children ages 2 to 17 in Los Sanchez, Nicaragua. “They didn’t know what they’re missing. They didn’t know that we had flat screens and cars at home. They were just happy with what they had.

“And they were so generous,” she added. “If you literally said you liked something of theirs, they would offer it to you.

“If you said, like, their bracelet was cute, they would take it off and put it on you. It made you take a rain check on how, back here in America, it’s ‘me, me, me’ all the time,” Newby added.

“One word to describe the whole trip is, like, joy,” said Cargo, who after her experience said she is considering mission work at least on a part-time basis. “Everybody was so helpful and so grateful we were there. … That made us feel so great.

“That was the biggest encouragement to me all week, to see how they came when they weren’t forced to,” Cargo added.

The 10 FHS girls — which also included Jessica Griswold, Amy Scheuer, Hannah Rule, Gabby Santa, Sarah Noe, Alison Woodford, Carrie Bryant and Lauren McAllister — left Saturday morning, March 12, and returned Friday, March 18. The girls were in Nicaragua working with the children for five days: Sunday through Thursday.

Parent/teachers assisting, and providing oversight, were Robyn Cargo, Phil Noe, John Bryant and Cindy Woodford.

Newby’s role was “doing the lessons” for children ages 2 to 10 in the afternoon.

“Teens class,” involving Bible study “and a plan of salvation” for about “20 to 30 minutes,” found Newby observing and getting to know the teenagers “while Katie and [Jessica] went through a lesson.”

For all the joy, Griswold said Nicaraguan poverty “was really a shock for us. We knew it was going to be bad, but we didn’t know to what extent.

“Houses were made out of sticks and trash bags,” she added. “And dirt floors.”

Though the charge to attend local schools is just $1 per month, most families couldn’t afford to pay, the girls said.

A “day of papering” for the local girls, which was Thursday, involved “painting their nails and washing their hair and brushing their hair, and braiding it,” Katie said. “Just because we wanted to show them how beautiful they were, and how much they are worth, that they are special.”

With one girl in particular, “When we washed her hair I probably pulled like seven bugs out, and she had lice,” Katie added. “It was just ridiculous how dirty they were.”

For the residents to get clean water, Newby said, “They had to walk three or four miles to get there, and that same distance back.”

Griswold, who said her plan to become a missionary was reinforced during this experience, recalled an incredible example of selflessness.

One of the girls Griswold said she was close to was a 6-year-old named Gala.

Getting Gala a small cup of water after “playing in the hot sun for hours,” Griswold said the extremely thirsty girl gulped it up quickly.

“I got her one more little cup, and she started walking away [with it] and I didn’t know why, so I started following her. She turns around and says, ‘No, no, I’m taking this to my house, to my mom.’

“That was the most selfless thing; that will stick with me forever.”

The bottom line: “We just love them and miss them so much; like, we all want to go back,” Katie said. “We all cried on the last day.”


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