After falling in love four years ago, Stephen Smith knows there’s something about Bluefields, Nicaragua, that keeps him coming back for more.
He fit in well with the other college students on the SSP team this year, but the thing is, Stephen’s not a Northwestern student anymore. He graduated from NW in 2010 with a biology/bio health professions double major and is currently going to medical school at Des Moines University with the goal of becoming a pediatrician.
As a NW student, Stephen had a great first SSP experience to New Orleans. He spent spring break in Colorado with some friends the following year. “Colorado was a lot of fun, but I started school again feeling like I could have used that time for something so much more than what I had used it for. I knew I was going to go on another SSP but I wasn’t sure where. I had never been to Latin America, but for some reason I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I should apply for the Nicaragua SSP. So I did, and I was hooked.” Stephen has been on the Nicaragua SSP four times now.
Stephen was originally on the wait list at DMU. “If I didn’t get accepted, I was going to go back to Nicaragua for the entire school year while reapplying to med school. Things didn’t work out that way, but I already had it in my mind that I’d be going back.”
This year, Stephen “couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my spring break than going back.” He e-mailed the leaders and mission director Tommy Moon, asking if he could join the team. After they agreed, Stephen did all of his own fundraising and booked a plane ticket on the same flights as NW so he could travel with the team.
“Why I keep going back isn’t something I can make anybody fully understand unless they’ve been there. You see God in some amazing ways there that you don’t always see in our day-to-day lives in the States. It’s such a privilege to be a part of what God is already doing there.
“It’s a great feeling to be a part of a team that bonds so well and is working for something larger than itself.” Stephen said the team was amazing this year; it felt like a family.
The people at Bluefields are also an inspiration to Stephen and part of what keeps him going back. Having been there four times, Stephen has been able to form relationships with the people there and enjoys seeing them again every year.
Adrian and Bernardeth, the couple with whom the team works, “are so uplifting to be around. It fills you up to see how filled with the Spirit they are. The kids love you almost instantly, and we fall in love with them just as fast.”
Stephen said, “As cliché as it might sound, every year I return to Bluefields, I leave a little bit more of my heart there.”