Soon I’ll be leaving for a mission trip to Nicaragua. My first trip was in 1988 during the Contra War. This trip will be my sixth. It has been interesting to see what has changed and what remains the same over these twenty-four years.
What has changed is that Nicaragua is no longer a nation at war with the United States and its proxy fighters. There are now casino’s on seemingly every corner in downtown Managua, offering the few with much the chance for more and offering those with little the fantasy of escape.
What remains the same is that my country, the defender of its own business interest, continues to have its fingerprints all over this poor nation. What remains the same is that the few with much are more conspicuous in their consumption and the many with little, continue to live in grinding poverty. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, second only to Haiti.
What also remains constant is that extraordinary people, often rooted in their faith, continue to persevere for the cause of justice. I once asked Dr. Gustavo Parajon, a heroic Nicaraguan advocate for justice and peace, how he continued to persevere in the midst of overwhelming obstacles. He simply said:
“We Christians are people of the resurrection, how an we not have hope?”
Dr. Parajon was a pastor and physician who died this past March at age 75. He is credited with playing a major role in brokering peace in 1990 between the Contra guerilla’s fighting in the mountains (funded by the U.S.A) and those in the Nicaraguan (Sandinista) Army. It seems that Gustavo, rooted in the way of Jesus, had the trust of the two warring factions. Through his efforts a path to reconciliation was found.
Soon I’ll journey with several friends from the church I serve and some local college students, to participate in a health program founded by Gustavo’s son and daughter-in-law, Drs. David and Laura Parajon. In the midst of overwhelming need and grinding poverty Drs. David and Laura lead a medical program called AMOS www.amoshealthandhope.org
AMOS is based on empowering local communities to take responsibility for their own health. I encourage all to check out the AMOS web site to learn more and consider how you can be involved.
For the past twenty-four years I’ve returned to Nicaragua for primarily selfish reasons. Yes, I go to help a little. But in truth, I go down to remember what it means to walk in the way of Jesus. I go to be reoriented in my faith, by humble servants like Gustavo Parajon and those who persevere for the cause of justice, healing and hope.
As we approach Holy Week and Easter, I/we need to hear Gustavo’s words once more:
“We Christians are people of the resurrection, how can we not have hope?”