Archive for January 2013

How to Heal?

January 21, 2013

Nicaraguan psychologist, Martha Cabrera, writes that Nicaragua is a “multiply wounded country.” Indeed, anyone over the age of 40 has experienced both man-made and natural disasters; harsh dictatorship, revolutionary and civil war, devastating earthquakes and hurricanes. The majority of the population suffers from economic poverty and recent rates of violence against women led congress to pass a law against Femicide last year. On a local level people are seeing an increase in illegal drugs, an increase in gang activity and organized crime, and a loss of the social cohesion and family values that have for so long held their communities together.

So, in the midst of all this suffering, what is the role of the church? How can the church be salt and light in a context of trauma and violence? These questions and challenges are ones that the Anabaptist Peace and Justice Commission, my (Adam’s) MCC partner organization, has been posing to local Mennonite and Brethren in Christ congregations during “Reflections for Peace” seminars over the past year. These reflection times are designed to encourage churches to respond to the Biblical call to be peace makers and work for social justice following the example and teachings of Jesus.

Two new churches have responded to this call and spent over 2o hours in training workshops in 2012 acquiring new knowledge and skills to be able to transform conflict non-violently and educate others on violence prevention. In addition to this, the Peace and Justice Commission has continued to support and offer our expertise to two churches that received training in past years and have putting their skills to use through projects directed toward marginalized members of their community.

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The Brethren in Christ Church in Reparto Shick, Managua has been working over the past 3 years with at-risk youth in their neighborhood, some of which have been involved in gang activity. The church holds monthly meetings with the youth where they talk about a variety of issues such as improving family relationships, self-esteem, a healthy view of masculinity, healthy sexual behaviors, etc. They also visit the youth’s families on a regular basis and this year began organizing soccer games to provide a healthy past time for the kids and a way to talk about important values such as teamwork and cooperation.

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The Brethren in Christ church in Villa Libertad works to keep kids in their community healthy both physically and socially by providing children lunch and a peace education lesson twice a week.

How does a “multiply wounded society” begin to heal? Obviously there are no easy answers and the process is a long a difficult one, but churches getting out of their comfort zones to show love and care to the most vulnerable members of their communities seems to be a good first step.

Seeing Light in the Midst of Darkness

January 15, 2013

This post was inspired by our friend and former MCCer, Elizabeth Claassen Thrush, who posted on Facebook a very thoughtful reflection on 10 ways that Light is stronger than darkness in 2012. After reading the post, we got together with some friends and everyone shared how they had experienced light in the midst of darkness over the past year. It was a very moving time of sharing and I wanted to post the reflections that Marisa and I had here on our blog. It’s easy to name all the things that caused us fear in 2012, but as we start a new year, it’s important to also remember the places we saw hope, the light of Christ, even in the midst of darkness. It’s good to remind ourselves that this world isn’t as scary and its inhabitants aren’t quite as bad as sometimes we believe them to be. Here is a combination of our lists, more or less in chronological order:

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Ways in which we saw Light in 2012:

1. Generosity of Nicaraguan friends and co-workers who have shared abundantly with us over the past year.

2. The unconditional love of Hermana Margarita towards the children of her neighborhood. The care with which she runs the children’s program at her church shows God’s love to many children who might not experience a lot of love in their homes.

3. Participating in the Central American Mennonite Youth Conference and experiencing the communion between 85 young people from Central America, Mexico, the United States, and Puerto Rico.

4. Continuing to meet with Anabaptist youth from Nicaragua forming an intimate group of friends who have shared, laughed and cried together throughout the year.

5. Sitting in the middle of an expansive beach and watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

6. In service to each other, when one of us does some chore around the house that neither of us feels like doing.

7. In reading good books that have made us reflect on our lives and our faith. (Naked Anabaptist, Contracorriente, Basta de Religion, The Politics of Jesus, and more!)

8. Hearing the laughter of Juana’s and Marcos and Pamela’s children as the run and play around our house. Children make friends so easily and enjoy each other’s company so much!

9. Seeing the passion and joy a friend who, even after many years of being a Christian, told us he finally feels sure that God loves him.

10. In the hugs of family and friends in the U.S. and the time they spent listening to our stories.

11. In the incredible singing during the Christmas Eve service at Park View Mennonite Church that brought us to tears.

12. Meeting the girlfriends and boyfriends of our brothers and sisters. We are so proud of them!

13. In the examples of good marriages and families where love is apparent and service is mutual.

14. Returning to Nicaragua after a trip to the U.S. and not knowing exactly how we would feel after three weeks of vacation and great time with friends and family only to find our friends Marcos and Pamela waiting for us on the front steps of our house at 2 in the morning to welcome us home! They immediately reminded us that we have people who love us here and a community where we belong.

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Returning Home

January 4, 2013

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We just returned to Nicaragua after 3 weeks in the United States visiting family and friends over the holidays. We had so much fun reconnecting with people, playing games, eating lots of delicious food, and seeing snow again! We’ll share more thoughts and pictures from our visit in a future post.

Having not even been back to Nicaragua for 12 hours yet, I’m struck with how “at home” I feel here. Putting on my chacos again felt like putting on a second skin. Hearing the street vendors outside quickly got us up to speed with what vegetables are in season (avocados!) and what ice cream is on sale (sundae cup). The neighborhood grocery store aisles felt familiar and easy to navigate. I missed the slight glow from perspiration (weird, I know!), the beautiful blue sky and BRIGHT tropical sun.

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I think leaving Nicaragua and coming back again gave us both fresh perspectives on life here. We are realizing how awesome it is that we have the opportunity to live in a tropical paradise for 3 years. Even more than that, what a blessing it is to be surrounded by friends that have become like family here. When we hopped out of the MCC truck at 1:30am, our friends Marcos and Pamela were sitting on our front steps waiting anxiously for us.

The rest of our time here will be spent with one foot here in Nicaragua and one foot back in the U.S. I am so grateful we had over 2 years of full immersion in Nicaraguan life before we went back to the States. My challenge to myself is to remain as present as possible in every moment, because I know our last 8 months here will fly by!