‘Til all the jails are empty and all the bellies filled;
’til no one hurts or steals or lies, and no more blood is spilled:
God has work for us to do,
God has work for us to do,
‘Til God’s will is done and all things are made new,
God has work for us to do.
‘Til age and race and gender no longer separate;
’til pulpit, press, and politics are free of greed and hate:
God has work for us to do,
God has work for us to do,
Our first day in the field was spent traveling to Fila Grande, a relatively remote mountain community situated in the middle of a mountain range that shares the same name. Fila Grande translates to “Big Line,” which refers to the line of mountains in central Nicaragua. To several in our group, the name seemed fitting for the community as it avoids the normal grid-like city plan we are accustomed to, consisting instead of houses are interspersed along several kilometers of the main gravel road that traverses the mountain range. The town is a linear stretch of small farms, houses and stores for simple provisions.
The journey from the AMOS compound in Najapa to Fila Grande was long and slow in our large semi-open truck. We arrived at the small clinic where we would be setting up camp close to sunset, thoroughly covered in a thick layer of dust from the road. We were met by a crowd of elders from the village, led by Don Petronilo Gaitan who has served as the community’s health promoter since 1988. A larger crowd had been assembled to greet us earlier in the day, but we were delayed by rough roads and a brief detour to make a donation of supplies from AMOS to the regional hospital in Matiguas. The faithful few had remained to wait.
It’s been nine years since my first experience worshiping in a place where I didn’t speak the language. At that time, when I was in the village of Kediri, Indonesia, my host encouarged me to spend the service in prayer for the community and people around me as a way to participate in worship with the sisters and brothers I had gathered with, but couldn’t understand.
In the years since then, I’ve joined a variety of communities and participated in worship services that run the gamut from low-key Emergent Church gatherings that bring children and adults together around the table, to high church Episcopal services with a thousand people in a cavernous cathedral equipped with multiple pipe organs, to passionate Pentecostal worship with impromptu calls to prayer and glossolalia. Joining brothers and sisters from different streams of the Christian tradition is a healthy task that reveals my own cultural blinders and reminds me that worship is not just about me and my community, but about the God who knits our lives together.
Our first full day in Nicaragua gave us some space to adjust to “Nica Time” as our host, Felicia, calls it. Managua is two hours behind the East Coast of the United States, but minor jet lag isn’t what Felicia was speaking of. “Nica Time” refers more to the change in pace and priorities that accompanies Latin American culture, as compared to the often frenzied, schedule driven mindset that is the default worldview for most citizens of the United States. In Nicaragua, schedules are always tentative. Being present with the people in front of you is more important than keeping an appointment elsewhere. We have a detailed itinerary prepared for each day, and this morning at 9:00 AM we were to meet a local optometrist to demonstrate our mobile system for conducting vision screenings and fitting patients with glasses. We had our equipment setup at the AMOS compound by 8:30 AM. At 9:00 AM, we began wondering when the optometrist might arrive. At 10:30 AM, when we were planning to leave our guest house and move on to the next item in our itinerary for the day, we got word that the optometrist wouldn’t be coming after all — not today, or any time during the week. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
One of the things that intrigued me about Pullen Memorial Baptist Church from the get-go was the congregation’s approach to international missions. Pullen supports five international partners through long-term relationships that involve diverse groups within the congregation. One partnership goes back to the 1970s. Another to the mid 80s. Taking on a new partnership isn’t done on a whim, because the church sees value in being able to commit to offer support to the work of partners through money, volunteers and prayers for an extended period of time.
This afternoon I was able to get a personal taste of one of these partnerships when I arrived in Managua, Nicaragua, with six other friends from Pullen. We are here for 11 days to visit and work alongside AMOS Health & Hope. Drs. David and Laura Parajón are the driving force behind AMOS — which stands for A Ministry of Sharing Health and Hope. The Parajóns are top-knotch physicians and public health experts who have poured their skills and passion out for the people of rural Nicaragua.
So, I won! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out my last post. I started this blog with hopes of adding reflections on ministry, life and faith at least once a week. That hasn’t happened yet, but, I found a bit of motivation with a new, free designer theme by Brian Gardner. Of course, the free theme means I had to setup my own self hosted WordPress installation, which cost a little bit, which should, in turn, give me more motivation to stick to writing — sort of like how paying $50 a month to walk on the treadmill at the gym is supposed to get in you better shape than walking on the sidewalk for free. I think. I’m not big on exercise.
Anyways, so check out my new blog at http://davidthepirate.com. If you’ve subscribed to this blog on wordpress.com, then your subscription will be moved over automatically.
Thanks for reading.
I was able to get out of the office yesterday and attend a special meeting of the Law and Public Safety Committee of Raleigh’s City Council. The meeting was called in response to the firestorm that erupted Saturday when Hugh Hollowell of Love Wins Ministries was prohibited from sharing biscuits and coffee with hungry people in downtown Raleigh. The meeting was well attended. After a brief report from Raleigh’s police chief and an overview of the city’s efforts to connect with some of the Christian groups1 that routinely take food to people living outside, the floor was open to public comments. Speakers included many homeless and formerly homeless citizens of Raleigh, a few downtown business owners, directors of a multitude of large and small social service agencies, and several clergy. Nearly all of the speakers came to give support to Love Wins and other organizations that serve the hungry and unhoused in Raleigh. If nothing else, at least this unfortunate episode has spurred some conversation about how we care for the most vulnerable among us. People are asking questions that often get glossed over and shuffled past, and that’s a good thing, in my opinion.
One person’s comments before the council left me with a question that I think is worth sharing. Who is this really about?
Sermon preached at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church
August 25, 2013.
Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10
The prophet Jeremiah lived at an interesting time in history. Following several generations of relative prosperity and comfort, he found himself in the midst of a society being pulled apart by competing political factions, controversial religious reforms, and debates about how best to respond to what seemed to be inevitable, ongoing conflict across the Near East, from Egypt to Babylon. Jeremiah rallied the people in the streets and market places, marched out to the far-flung rural quarters on the borders of his country, and occasionally had an audience with the rulers in the halls of power. With precious few exceptions, his message of justice for the poor and his unwavering convictions on the complete futility of war were ignored.
Perhaps you can relate?
Or perhaps not. The prophet Jeremiah was an odd fellow, to be sure. The kind we would, I’m certain, welcome into fellowship at Pullen, but probably wouldn’t nominate to the deacon board or Coordinating Council. And Jeremiah’s time, while it can speak powerfully into our own lives if we listen hard, was unlike anything most, if any, of us have experienced.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because God has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
I’m not big on souvenirs. Trinkets just don’t have much draw any more. This has been the case ever since my trip to Disney World following high school graduation. The gold-plated paperweight of Mickey Mouse riding the Rock’n Rollercoaster sure seemed like a must-have item when I stepped off the ride, adrenaline still pumping from my head down to my Visa. At home, though, after the excitement of the moment has passed, it can be hard to find a place on the shelf for all those paperweights that tend to get picked up along the way.
Earlier this month, Kristen, Samuel and I took a short trek west to the Wild Goose Festival. Actually, a five-hour car ride with a 3-year-old doesn’t feel like a short trip, but we certainly had an easy route compared to the people I met who came from Chicago, Toronto, California, the UK or Hawaii. This was the first year we were able to make it to the festival, though I have been following the vision and progress of Wild Goose since the first festival in 2011 was announced publicly. Expectations for awesomeness were pretty high as we pulled into Hot Springs. I’m happy to report that the Wild Goose lived up to it’s reputation. Aside from the muddy campsite and occasional downpour, it couldn’t have been better.