Friday, April 24, 2015

Going to Keep the Mud a While Longer
Last night I finally finished unpacking my bags from our mission trip to the community of El Socorro among the coffee plantations of Nicaragua.  I have my accumulated email count down to double digits, and most of the laundry is done.  My mud-covered boots still sit in the corner untouched.
 The challenges that the poor of Nicaragua face lend an immediacy to their lives.  Survival is a daily task.  Getting your children to adulthood is not an endeavor that always succeeds.  People suffer accidents while doing the rigorous work on coffee plantations, and the injuries often go without proper treatment.  There is no safety net insulating families from disaster. 
Everything is a struggle.  Children walk more than an hour up and down the sides of mountains to get to school.  Women arise at 4:00 am to begin preparing meals from basic foodstuffs cooked over wood fires.  There is no power or labor-saving devices.  Everything must be wrestled into usefulness by human effort.  The stakes are high for poor communities in Nicaragua. 
 During my tenure among them, this sense of urgency leavened my spirit.  We arose in the morning in a shelter with dirt floors and light coming through the walls.  We stepped out into the morning and ate in the open air. We bathed by pouring cold water over our bodies. It was all inconvenient in comparison to life in middle class North America.  There was an unmediated physicality to it all; you know you are alive.
My time there was quite brief.  I always knew I was just passing through.  My experience of life in that community was in no way comparable to the lives of the people who were born there, live there, and will someday die there.  I am not sentimentalizing poverty and a life of grinding physical labor.  I am saying that I learned something from the good people among whom I briefly lived.  They live interdependent lives; they rely upon and care for one another.  They enter into cooperative endeavors. They must; alone and isolated from one another, they would not survive.
It seems to me our churches could learn something from these communities about resourcefulness in the face of challenge.  Our churches become transformative places when we live into cooperative community, where we care for one another.  This not a bad image for our Region: a cooperative community of churches who know that together they are better equipped to embrace the opportunities and challenges that lie before them
I am not quite ready to knock the mud off my boots yet, to sever that physical connection with a place that taught some good lessons.
Jim Kelsey
Executive Minister ABC/NYS