Pastor William Mills thought about purchasing a larger space for his quickly growing Sycamore church. Instead, he went to Nicaragua.
Mills, pastor of Bethel Assembly of God, recently returned from a mission trip to Nicaragua with 20 of his congregation members to help a local church build a new structure as the old worship place was not large enough to house people who would stand outside and listen and watch through the windows.
The inspiration for the trip, which lasted from Feb. 22 to March 3, came after Mills thought about how badly the Nicaraguan church was in need of expansion as he pondered his own church’s potential move to a new facility.
Mills had visited the Nicaraguan church two years ago with a youth group from Bethel Assembly of God and Glad Tidings Assembly of God in DeKalb.
“I thought let’s go do something for someone else before we think about ourselves,” Mills said. “It’s important to be part of something outside of yourself.”
For nine days, Mills and his group of church members left a part of themselves with the Nicaraguan church, sweating in 90-plus degree heat as they laid roughly 24,000 bricks, tied rebar, poured cement, loaded dirt, dug holes and performed any construction that needed to be done.
By the end of the trip, Mills said the church was about two-thirds done with the only the roof remaining as the last major project. He said the progress would not have been possible without the Nicaraguan church members who helped build and cook food for the workers.
“It was a really positive experience to see how our guys interacted and became friends with them. It was half us, half them,” Mills said. “Within the church, we consider them our brothers and sisters ... even though we may never see them again.”
Ryan O’Donnell, 34, decided to go on his first-ever mission trip with the group and was not disappointed. O’Donnell said while he always hears about the struggles of other countries, it is impossible to fully understand without a firsthand experience.
Despite the difficult situation, O’Donnell said the Nicaraguan church members were always positive and their perseverance was evident as it took them 14 years to save only several thousand dollars to purchase the land.
“Everybody down there is just happy and joyful for what they have even though they don’t have a whole lot,” O’Donnell said. “We were all there for the same purpose and same kind of spiritual purpose.”
With the trip over, Mills said his congregation is in the early planning stages of identifying a new home. He said the congregation has outgrown the existing building on 131 W. Elm St.
But even as he has his eye on his church’s future, he said it would be important to embark on more mission trips for the youth and adults. The plan would be to rotate which group serves on a designated trip every couple years.
The financial, material and spiritual support from the Bethel congregation during the Nicaragua trip showed Mills more missionaries were possible.
“Preaching is the presentation of information, but it’s not doing much if you don’t take it and do something with it,” he said. “God is not some white, European God. He is everywhere. It’s important to get outside that bubble.”