Returning from Nicaragua – What a difference!

One Minister’s Musings

March 30, 2011

Returning from Nicaragua – What a difference!

Seven people from St. Andrew’s Lutheran Campus Center returned from Nicaragua this week after spending eight days with the community of Santa Emilia, a small village next to a coffee farm in the mountains of the country. As we returned, many have asked me, “How was the mission trip?” Yet, as travelers to Nicaragua, I realize that our experience was very different than what many would recognize as a “mission trip.”

I experienced the difference on the trip from Houston to Managua. On our plane were several young adult groups, dressed in matching t-shirts, Bibles in hand, wearing words proclaiming a desire to spread the gospel to all nations.

Yet, dressed in our own iworship@St. Andrew’s shirts, we knew we were going with a different purpose. We were traveling to witness the work of God already present in a country far away.  We were traveling to witness this gospel from a community already filled with hope, gathered in partnership, seeking economic justice, moving beyond simply charity to changed systems. We were going as brothers and sisters in Christ’s name for non-colonial global partnerships. These are partnerships that work to increase self-determination rather than imposing beliefs, values, and/or expectations of one group onto another. What a difference!

One of the stories that changed us was a growing understanding of the importance of micro-credit. We learned about the empowerment of women, whom from their own determination and dreams, borrowed and repaid loans as small as $100 so they could feed and support their families with a small business. These women used the credit to buy corn seed for their small plot of land, to purchase a few pigs or a sheep/goat, to buy a box of used clothes to wash and resell, or obtain food products to start a corner convenience store. Each woman told her story with pride and commitment. Each woman stated how much she borrowed and how she paid it back. One hundred percent of the women repaid the loans in the designated time. Each woman told her story beginning with the words “Thanks to God”. And then, “Thanks to my sisters.” “Thanks to the help of the micro-credit bank.” What a difference it made in their lives!

The gratitude poured through their smiles and commitment. And we, those who bore witness, were changed. What a difference! For we became the ones who were blessed by the witness of another. We became the ones changed through the stories of grace, hope, resources, and dignity revealed to us by these amazing people.

I was reminded over and over on the trip that the closer we get to others, the closer we experience God. And the more we experience God, the closer our relationships are with others.  This was one of the experiences of this trip. This is what made all the difference!

For in walking alongside another, to accompany these people for just a few days, to listen, really listen to their stories, and be taught by them, I realized yet again, that God was there among us.  God’s grace was transforming all of us and life was abundant. What a difference! And I join the women and say, “Thanks be to God.”

Gently,

Pr. Elaine

P.S.   More stories to follow…….