Arriba, the spanish word for up.

The kid pictured is someone that taught me more about faith and the love of Jesus than most will ever do. This is Luis. He is a vivacious 5-year old from Esteli, Nicaragua that has mild autism. He drools a lot, can’t speak very many words, he is OBSESSED with Mickey Mouse in fact the only English words he knew were Mickey Mouse but he said “Mickey Mou”, but he has the sweetest heart and I miss him more than anyone that I got to meet in Nicaragua. He taught me so much just by his actions. And he may have thought they were small but they impacted me in a way that it has taken weeks to process and fully understand.

I met Luis on the first day that we arrived in Esteli. There tons of kids in the church and we walked in to a rockstar welcome. But I am not a rockstar by any means. I am just humbled that I was able to be there and love on kids. But I digress, Most of the kids were sitting around the church in chairs. And Luis was running around. i immediately started chasing him and making funny faces while he just squealed and laughed. His joy was evident around the whole room and within the team. (He is the little guy that in on the stage in the picture below while I am acting like a Gorilla.)


But Luis didn’t just love to squeal and laugh. But for most of the morning we played and had fun. He gave me hugs and I loved every second I got with him. Well we went to lunch and all the kids went home to eat lunch as well. When we went back to the church in the afternoon, our bus pulled up and parked. Kids started flowing out of the church like a stream and there was immediate play with them. But I was looking for a certain tiny human. There he was,Luis, coming out of the church with his arms out like an airplane. He ran straight up to me and said Arriba! I picked him up and my heart was melted immediately in that moment.

Later that night we had a movie night for the church with snacks and drinks. We watched the Incredibles and there was chaos but amidst the chaos I sat in a chair in the middle of the kids and was watching the movie. When Luis shuffles his way over to me and without breaking eye contact with the movie just crawled into my lap and snuggled in. I was so humbled that a little five year old who I barely knew would just come up to me and sit in my lap. I was a puddle of happiness at that point.

But as I was reflecting on that time, and yes its taken me a few weeks to do all of that. God spoke to me and said “I want you to be like Luis.” I didn’t understand what that meant. I can’t become a five year old, Nicaraguan boy with mild autism. But God continued to press into my heart and say “Be like Luis.” And then it all clicked together. God not only wants us to love him but he wants us to excitedly run to him and say Arriba! (Up). He wants to to throw our arms toward him and want to be held. Our God is not a God that won’t hold his kids. But rather he loves to hold us close and love on us. He wants us to come to him and snuggle up to him.

This is what he means when Jesus, in Matthew 18:3-4, says “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” I have heard the phrase have childlike faith but I never fully understood it until a sweet little guy, in a country that means so much to my heart, showed me. 

So thank you Luis for showing me what it means to have a childlike faith. For loving the tall goofy white kid with glasses from the United States. For showing me what God wants from me every day, an excited longing for his word. I will see you soon hermanito, little brother. I love you Mickey Mou.

hand in the air don't care holding MM Luis enriqueunnamed (1) unnamed (2)

Thad Ernst



  1. Vera Janzen · August 3, 2015

    Thad,enjoy reading your blog so very much. Will look forward to getting the next one.


  2. Liz Roberts · August 4, 2015

    Thad, your mom shared your blog and I have to say your testimony is a blessing. I have learned from you already.
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.


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