Friday, December 24, 2010

Four Month Check-In

On Sunday we're heading home to the U.S. to spend a week with my parents in California.  The plan is to spend Christmas here with the church, and then fly on the 26th to see family.  At any rate, we've been in Nicaragua for four months and it seems to us that we've reached the end of the beginning.  Our plan was to concentrate on language learning for the first few months and when we return in January our official jobs will swing to motion.

So now seems like a pretty good time to take stock of our situation (ps I stole this post idea from Kristine).
  • We've all improved radically in our ability to speak and understand Spanish.  But of course no matter how much we've improved it is a little daunting to think of how much more there is to learn.  It's like we've climbed a long way up the side of a mountain and can see a beautiful view, but the top of the mountain is still lost in the clouds.  One thing about me is that I tend to be a hard on myself when I make a mistake (even though making mistakes is how you learn), so in addition to Spanish I am learning a little bit of patience and resiliency.
  • I have entirely lost any squeamishness I once had about smashing giant cockroaches.
  • We have traveled around a big chunk of the country, visited dozens of churches and met some really amazing people.  The hospitality and friendliness of the church members has been tremendous and humbling.  We still feel a little overmuch like 'honored guests' when we visit churches and we're looking forward to actually beginning the work and being a little bit more useful.
  • The culture shock we felt for the first few weeks has gradually faded into normalcy.  Different foods, different furniture, different music, different modes of interaction, the constant stream of street vendors by our door, trash dumped in the streets and later burned, broken sewage pipes, the lack of hot water, crazy taxi drivers, the churn and chaos of Managua -- these are all little things by themselves, but when we first arrived they added up to a lot.  Little by little all these things have come to seem (sort of) normal.  (Although I'm still amazed when I see an entire family of 4 or 5 perched on a motorcycle, often with a small infant wedged in there somehow.)

    It also helps that our house is now mostly set up.  We have tables and stuff to sit on and bookshelves and a TV that gets 3 fuzzy channels and reliable internet.  We have a car (a tremendous privilege in a poor country, and hence also a responsibility) so we don't have to rely on taxis for all our chores.  Supposedly a big burst of reverse culture shock is awaiting us when we get back to the states... we shall see!
  • Fresh tortillas brought daily to our door are pretty awesome.  Also fresh produce, fireworks, pirated videos, shoe and electronics repairmen, and almost anything you might want seems to pass by at least weekly.
  • We are very thankful that Quinn seems to be thriving and happy and well-adjusted.  Just this week she seemed to take a big jump forward in her Spanish skills which is exciting to watch take hold.
  • Nicaragua is a beautiful country -- the land of lakes and volcanoes -- and we've been lucky enough to see some of it.  We've visited at least part of the neo-tropical rain forests of the north and east, as well as the dryer parts of the west (which reminded me strongly of central California).  We've driven to the lip of an active volcano and hung out in the colonial cities of Granada and León.  And we've hit the beach!
All in all, it has been an amazing 4 months.  Some parts have been difficult, but they have been more than made up for by everything else that has been beautiful, enlightening, exciting, surprising.  We're looking forward to a relaxing time in California and also to coming back for more in the new year.  ¡Que tengan una Feliz Navidad y un prospero año nuevo!


El domingo vamos a los EE.UU para pasar una semana con mis padres en California.  El plan es celebrar la Navidad aqui con la Misión y luego volar el 26 a visitar la familia.  De todas maneras, hemos estado en Nicaragua por cuatro meses y nos parece llegamos el final del principio.  Nuestro plan era concentrarnos en aprender la lengua por los primeros meses y cuando regresemos en Enero nuestros trabajos oficiales van a comenzar.

Así que, ahora es un buen momento para reflexionar en nuestra situación (ps le robé esta idea de Kristine).
  • Todos de nosotros hemos mejorado mucho en nuestra habilidad de hablar y entender Español.  Por supuesto la cantidad de Español que todavía tenemos que aprender es inmensa.  Es como hemos subido un gran distancia hacia el pico de la montaña y podemos mirar una vista linda, pero el pico todavía esta arriba en las nubes.  Una cosa sobre yo es que estoy duro a mi mismo cuando cometa un error (aunque cometiendo errores es la manera de aprender), así ademas de aprender Español estoy aprendiendo un poco de paciencia y resistencia.
  • He perdido cualquier remilgo que tuve sobre aplastar cucarachas gigantes
  • Hemos viajado por gran parte del país, visitado docenas de iglesias y conocido mucha gente maravillosa.  La hospitalidad y amistad de la gente ha sido enorme y humillante.  Todavía nos sentimos un poco demasiado como "invitados de honor" y esperamos a empezar el trabajo y estar un poco más útil.
  • El "choque cultural" que sentíamos durante las primeras semanas se ha desvanecido, poco a poco, a la normalidad.  Comidas diferentes, muebles diferentes, música diferente, diferentes modos de interacción, el flujo constante de vendedores por la puerta, la basura botada en la calle y luego quemada, rotos tubos de aguas residuales, la falta de agua caliente, taxistas locos, la circulación y el caos de Managua -- en isolación cada uno era pequeño, pero cuando llegamos aqui, estas cosas sumaron a mucho.  Poco a poco todo de estas cosas han llegado a parecer (casi) normal.  (Aunque, todavía me sorprende cuando vea una familia entera de 4 o 5 encima de una motocicleta, a veces con un bebe pequeña.)

    También es bueno que nuestra casa está preparada ahora.  Contamos con mesas y sillas y libreros y un TV que recibe 3 canales borrosos y internet confiable.  Tenemos un carro por lo no tenemos usar taxis por todo de los quehaceres.  Supuestadamente, un "choque cultural inverso" nos espera cuando vayamos a los Estados... vamos a ver!
  • Las tortillas frescas que pasan diariamente frente de nuestra puerta son asombrosos. También los vegetales frescos, fuegos artificiales, videos piratas, reparadores de calzado y electrónica, y casi cualquier cosa es posible que desee va a pasar por lo menos una vez por semana.
  • Agradecemos mucho que Quinn parece ser prospera, feliz y bien ajustado.  Esta semana ella adelantó en su nivel de español, cual es emociante a ver.
  • Nicaragua es un país hermoso -- la tierra de lagos y volcánes -- y hemos tenido suerte de ver algo de ella.  Hemos visitado un poquito de los bosques humedos del norte y este, y también los partes secos del oeste (que me recordaba del centro de California).  Hemos manejado a la orilla de un volcán activo y pasado tiempo en las ciudades coloniales de Granada y León.  ¡Y también visitamos a la playa!
En todo, los cuatro meses eran maravilloso.  Algunos partes han sido dificiles, pero las cosas hermosos, emociantes sorprendentes han compensado.  Esperamos a descansar en California y también regresar por más en el año que viene.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Favorite "New" Christmas Song

As you might imagine, the most popular Christmas songs on the radio here in Nicaragua are not exactly the English language classics I'm accustomed to. Actually, a lot of them *are*, which is pretty funny. But, there's one with a super catchy tune that I finally looked up on the Internet, called Campanas de Belén, Bells of Bethlehem. It seems to be one of the songs that's always playing on the radio.

It really caught my notice when a group of kids started singing it at the end of a mini-presentation in church on Sunday -- I think before that, I hadn't paid any attention to what the words were. The lyrics are here if you read Spanish (there's one more verse in the lyrics than in the version I posted above). I'm not actually 100% sure of the translation, but there are some nice lines.

The refrain means "Bethlehem, bells of Bethlehem, which the angels ring, what news do you bring us?"

The first verse says "Little shepherd, herding your flock, where are you going?" And the response is "I'm going to bring cheese, butter, and wine (to Jesus)." The closing verse (rough translation) says "walking at midnight the path that the little shepherd walked to bring [gifts] to the child, just like I bring my heart to God." The original is more poetic, but you get the idea.

So, it's lovely in content and not only in style, it turns out. Hooray for new Christmas songs.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baby Santas

Yesterday was the Pastorela at Quinn's school. We didn't know exactly what this would entail, but it turns out it's basically a traditional Christmas pageant. With some extra things. The older kids did the pageant roles (Mary, Joseph, 3 Kings, shepherds, angels, etc.), but the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes combined forces to sing a Spanish version of "Jingle Bells" (same tune, but as far as I could tell the words did not involve bells). And they did this all wearing teeny tiny Santa suits. It was overwhelmingly cute!

Here's our girl backstage -- she was very interested in the shepherds in the row behind.

And the grand moment when she took the stage:

Yeah, she's in the front row, on the left, with her face obscured by the microphone.

I went around the side to get a better angle.

I know she looks tiny here, but they had her standing next to a kindergartener. Some of the other front row kids are almost as small (but she is the youngest student in the school).

She was pretty pleased with herself.

The more traditional Christmas pageant was next.

And I think the name "Pastorela" comes from the tradition of having little kids dress up as shepherds (pastores in Spanish). This is also really cute, it turns out. The pageant had a few unexpected twists, including a troupe of belly dancers in Pharaoh's court.

There was a singing number and a dance after the pageant finished. I think these were 3rd or 4th graders.

I thought this was so cute, because the first half of the dance, the girls were on one side, and the boys on the other, and they were all groovin', pretty confident in their moves. But then when the part came where they couple up, they all hesitated -- they knew what they had to do but were pretty embarrassed to actually take the hands of the child of the opposite gender.

It was a very fun cultural experience -- we heard a lot of nice Nicaraguan Christmas music and it definitely helped us get in the Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Advent to US!

Today brought two awesome packages in the mail: one was an "Advent Calendar" from our awesome friend Elise. It is in parentheses because in her family, an Advent Calendar is not some silly little thing with chocolate or ornaments behind tiny doors. No, it is a little wrapped present for each of the days from December 1 to December 24! SO fun. :) And our family is fortunate enough to be a recipient of her creativity and generosity. The wrapped presents, in my experience (seeing it at her house as kids, and having in for our house in the last couple years), always contain segments of a puzzle -- a contiguous section of the puzzle, but not the whole thing, would be the wrapped gift for many of the days.

Anyway, international shipping being what it is (and my brain being a little slow, also, and our lives being busy, also), even though we were sent this package before Thanksgiving, we got it on day 14 of Advent. Quinn is super excited about the Advent Presents, and so are we all. Amy and Tim vetoed my plan to open 14 of the presents, but we did open at least 5 this evening. Quinn had a knack for selecting the ones that were puzzle pieces, and Amy and I got so excited that we now have 4/5 of a beautiful penguin puzzle on our coffee table. Fitting, since Elise is currently on an Antarctica cruise, where she works as a scientist studying penguins.

The second package was a sweet box full of stars from University Christian Church in Fort Worth, TX -- a Disciples congregation that supports us in many ways. The worshipers at The Source, their Sunday evening (emergent, I think) service decorated/ created stars at a prayer station, and sent them to us as an expression of connection and encouragement. Great to feel the love from friends and church family.

All in all, a good day. Tune in tomorrow for photos from Quinn's first school performance. Is it Santa, Baby? No, it's Baby Santa!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cristo Rey

This photo is of one of the most striking scenes in Managua.

The statue is of Jesus Christ standing atop the world and although the Rotonda (traffic circle) that contains it is officially called Santo Domingo most everyone refers to it as Cristo Rey (Christ the King).  Towering behind the statue is one of the numerous re-election advertisements for Daniel Ortega's Sandinista government (elections will be next year).  ¡Viva la Revolución!  The billboard is four-sided and one of the other sides gives the FSLN re-election motto: Cristiana, Socialista, Solidaria -- Christian, Socialist, in Solidarity.

It is interesting to me that the Sandinista campaign explicitly connects socialism and Christianity and love and revolution -- and of course it probably hasn't been lost on anyone that they made the sign taller than the statue.  To add to the mix, the signs that can be glimpsed at the bottom of the photo are anti-Halloween protests (the photo is from October).  The push and pull of politics and religion on display here could fill up 3 or 4 graduate theses (or sermons).  (Of course, we have a similar push and pull in the U.S., but it is interesting to see it play out in a different culture.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

3:52 down, 11:08 to go

Well, here's a little bit of our allotted "15 minutes of fame." It's up on the Global Ministries website.

Laura Jean Torgerson and Timothy Donaghy - Nicaragua from United Church of Christ on Vimeo.

It's interesting to get this glimpse of ourselves from June, when we only knew Nicaragua and La Misión Cristiana second-hand. I don't really enjoy seeing myself on video, but I'm glad nothing we said or thought then has turned out to be blatantly untrue. I remain incredibly grateful for the gifts of the churches that are supporting our work here.

Friday, December 10, 2010


On Wednesday (a national holiday), we got the chance to visit the beach with some of our friends from the church, and verify for ourselves that Nicaragua does indeed have a Pacific coast.

It was a beautiful day, and we went pretty early in the morning, when it was not yet too hot.
Quinn and her pals (ages 3 and 5) spent most of their time digging and playing in the sand.

But Quinn eventually decided she wanted to "swim," so off they ventured.

It turns out that "swmming" meant sitting on Daddy's lap in very shallow water.

Sadly, even this was not enough caution to prevent the ocean from attacking her-- this one is after the Big Wave that very rudely got water and sand up her nose.

We hung out in a sweet little restaurant with shade and bathrooms. Tim caught the elusive Laura Jean on camera.

There were a number of beach-side restaurants to choose from. All in all, it was an idyllic day.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Día del Pastor / Pastor Appreciation Day

So, my last post was about the big Nicaraguan celebration of the Catholic feast day on December 8 celebrating the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Since it's (a) a Catholic celebration of (b) a doctrinal point in which most (all?) Protestants differ from Catholics, the Protestant churches here eschew the holiday. La Misión Cristiana celebrates Día del Pastor (I think that is best translated Pastor Appreciation Day) on December 8th. We heard from the pastors at the regional lunch on Monday that different congregations celebrate according to whatever they have on their schedule.

This evening we were invited to the Seventh Church to share in their celebration of their five pastors. As always in this church, the music was phenomenal. It's encouraging to have been to enough services by now to recognize tunes and at least some of the words. I also seemed to have improved in my Spanish enough to get more words (still not all...) in the praying and preaching. The service was much like any other, with praise music, an offering, and a sermon. The extra bits were: a time where all five pastors stood up front and were greeted (mostly with hugs and words of gratitude) by everyone present, presentation of gifts (they looked like a nice supply of basic food, wrapped with cellophane and pretty bows, in a large sturdy plastic container of a very useful size), and having the pastors stand at the front holding hands in a circle while the congregation held hands in rows and prayed for them. A layperson preached, which is very common in the churches of La Misión Cristiana (the senior pastor of this church estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the members preach). She had the pastors come up and sit in the front row, and had a wide variety of reflections from various Biblical passages and words of encouragement about the role of pastors, as well as the ministry of all believers.

Another really cool thing about this evening was that we had visited this church before, shortly after arriving in Nicaragua. It was our first church visit, about 3 and a half months ago. They recently put in a new tile floor and expanded the sanctuary. It was just lovely to see such a tangible sign of their growth. They have also been through many stages of planning and then building more space ever since they started their after-school program for neighborhood kids years ago. They just can't keep their expansion up with the demand -- I think they have close to 300 kids (divided into two groups on opposite schedules), and would have more if they had room for them.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

La Griteria

Spanish for "the yelling." This is the night before what might be Catholic Nicaragua's most favorite holiday, La Purísima, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. There have been fireworks going off in the streets for the last nine days, but tonight is the big night.

Tim calls it the Supergroup of holidays, since we've noticed features of four major American holidays: Independence Day, Halloween, New Year's Eve, and Christmas. We spent a little time after dinner strolling around our neighborhood and observing the festivities. Before dinner we had noticed lines of people at the doorways of certain houses. It turns out that some houses have statues of Mary, often lit up or decorated -- one was in a really pretty flowering tree with a little spotlight shining on it. Groups of people (we saw a lot of what looked like extended families), some more organized than others, go from house to house. When they get to the house, they either go in or stand outside and sing songs addressed to Mary. The one we heard most often invoked "Sweet Mary" to "hear my voice" as the people in the house were handing out sweets. Some of the more organized groups had rhythm instruments, and lots of people had noisemakers.

In addition to the groups walking around singing (caroling), using noisemakers (a lot like NYE in the US), and getting sweets at houses (trick or treat, anyone?), there are also people, mostly boys and young men, setting off firecrackers and fireworks.

All in all, it's an exciting night. It seems that all Protestants avoid the holiday (or "are supposed to") because it's Catholic, and, well, centered on Mary, which remains a sticky doctrinal point. So, instead of the Immaculate Conception, the Protestant churches (at least, La Misión Cristiana) have Pastor's Appreciation Day tomorrow. I think I overheard two stories -- one of a man who was raised Protestant, whose Catholic cousins took pity on him when he was young and snuck him out for fireworks and sweets. The second was a pastor's wife who I assume was raised Catholic -- she was suggesting that the pastors' lunch we went to on Monday as part of the "Pastor's Day" celebrations should have a piñata next year. An older pastor jokingly responded that she was now feeling the cost of what it means to be a Protestant in this society.

Río San Juan

This past month a long simmering conflict between Costa Rica and Nicaragua over the San Juan river, which marks their mutual border, came to a mini-boil. The story seems to have been reported in the U.S. but mainly as a goofy (and incorrect) piece claiming that an error in Google Maps caused an accidental invasion of Costa Rica by Nicaragua. The actual story seems to be that both countries do, in fact, lay claim to the same tiny parcel of land.

Anyway, we were in Costa Rica during the peak of the controversy and have been back in Nicaragua since, so it has been interesting to watch the reactions. On the Nica side, the event seems to have at least briefly united all political factions -- from President Ortega to the opposition newspaper La Prensa. Bumper stickers claiming the Río es Nica have sprouted all over Managua. Others say this is just a bit of pre-election saber-rattling, both by Ortega and Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla. There is a large population of Nicaraguans who work in Costa Rica and some fear that the tensions could lead to anti-Nica sentiments across the border.

Thankfully, it seems unlikely that the situation will escalate too much further -- not least because Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948.

Anyway, if you're like me and interested in the geography-nerd details I recommend this post from Ogle Earth which has lots of maps and tentatively concludes that Costa Rica is in the right. Global Voices also has two interesting summaries here and here.


El mes pasado un conflicto entre Costa Rica y Nicaragua sobre el río San Juan, que marca su frontera común, llegó a un mini-hervir. La historia parece haber sido reportados en los EE.UU., pero principalmente como un tonto (y errónea) historis que alegue que un error en Google Maps causado una invasión accidental de Costa Rica con Nicaragua. La historia real parece ser que los dos países, de hecho, reclaman a la misma parcela pequeña de tierra.

Estábamos en Costa Rica durante el pico de la controversia y hemos estado en Nicaragua desde ese momento, y ha sido interesante ver las reacciones. Por el lado de Nica, el evento parece haber unidos a todas las facciones políticas - del presidente Ortega al diario opositor La Prensa. Otros dicen que esto es sólo un poco de ruido de sables
antes de las elecciones, tanto por Ortega y el presidente costarricense Laura Chinchilla. Hay una gran población de nicaragüenses que trabajan en Costa Rica y algunos temen que las tensiones podrían causar los sentimientos anti-Nica al otro lado de la frontera.

Afortunadamente, parece poco probable que la situación se intensificará mucho más - no menos importante, porque Costa Rica abolió su ejército en 1948.

De todos modos, si eres como yo y estás interesado en los detalles nerd-geografía, recomiendo este post de Ogle Earth que tiene un montón de mapas y tentativamente concluye que Costa Rica está en la derecha. Global Voices también cuenta con dos interesantes resúmenes aquí y aquí.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Heading Out

We're leaving Managua shortly for a trip to El Sauce, in "the West," near Leon. It's the fourth and final training on church governance that I am assisting the church's national Department of Theology with. We're driving there today before it gets dark, doing the day-long training tomorrow, visiting another church and project Monday morning, and should be back in Managua Monday afternoon. I'll have to post Sunday's thoughts on Monday.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Better Angels

One of the articles I read with my Spanish conversation teacher this week was about angels. It was a pretty strange article; I think it was trying to be balanced and provide a variety of perspectives, but the final effect (to me) was sort of incoherent and unresolved. The author talked with four of five people about angels. At least two of the interviewees (if my Spanish reading comprehension skills did not let me down) were "angelologists" (both ladies) They also interviewed a Catholic priest and an evangelical pastor (both men). So there were a variety of perspectives on what angels are like and to what extent people interact with them. At least one of the angelologists offers courses to help people connect with their own personal angels, and had opinions about the colors, odors, and types of music that can be used to help attract angels. It all sounded a bit loopy to me-- both the priest and the pastor seemed to be laughing at the ideas that the angelologists espoused.

My instructor did point out, when we were discussing the topic, that angels don't really show up in the New Testament, except around the birth of Jesus and the book of Revelation (and she did not seem to think too highly of the book of Revelation).

But I was thinking about the basic meaning of angel, a "messenger" (often, of God). And yes, some shiny, possibly winged, airborne, singing angels show up in the Christmas story. (And they sure do look pretty in the Christmas pageant.) But I finally got around to reading the lectionary readings for this coming Sunday. And it occurs to me that John the Baptist, with his message of repentance, like all the prophets, is also an angel. It's harder to hear the message "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (especially when John gets to shouting about the "brood of vipers") than "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy." But that is a message of God, as well. I like to talk about how repentance has as its root the idea of turning, changing direction. "Turn around, the kingdom of God has come near." Shift your attention. Look at what's important. See how God's kingdom has come near.

In my conversation class, we also talked about the very popular cartoon image of a miniature "good angel" and "bad angel" sitting on someone's shoulders and encouraging good or bad behavior. This is what we mean (I think) when we talk about "listening to our better angels." The world is so full of messages and messengers -- and it is up to us to discern which ones to listen to, to pay attention to.

So, here's a bit of confession. While I was "trying to think of something to write about" this evening, I spent a lot of time doing online window-shopping, thinking about Stuff for myself and my friends and family. I did say in my first Advent post that one of the reasons I wanted to blog through Advent was because I felt myself getting pulled in by the commercial, materialistic bits of Christmas. So, perhaps the buying-things websites are playing the role of the little red guy with horns in this moment. So I give thanks for my personal "better angels" on the internet: Fidelia's Sisters, the Vanderbilt Divinity Lectionary, and, lately, the Advent Blog Tour. And especially, a song I heard for the first time today from the people behind the SALT project.

And now I will take the advice of my interior "better angels" and get myself to bed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In a Nutshell

So, by way of further introduction to La Misión Cristiana, the church we are working with here in Nicaragua, here is their brief self-description. I first read this (in Spanish) a couple weeks after we arrived, as part of a project proposal for the theological education project for pastors I will be helping to lead over a two-year span (2011-2012). I almost fell out of my chair, I liked it so much.

Today, I translated this "brief profile of the organization" as part of another project proposal, for starting a dairy operation on a church-owned farm. Since at least one of the groups of people who are helping with this project speak English but no Spanish, we were asked to translate the proposal. And, as a fringe benefit, I now get to share with you all these words that I found so inspiring.

"The Christian Mission Church of Nicaragua began in the 1960s as a movement of ministry to prisoners, calling itself in those years "The Christian Mission in the Jails." Its founders were Rev. Marcelino Dávila Castillo who was a pastor in the Assemblies of God, and Rev. Antonio Martinez who first belonged to the Church of the Nazarene. The first church was founded in the Acahualinca neighborhood in 1959. The second church was founded in Barrio José Dolores Estrada in 1972.

The Convention Association of Christian Mission Churches obtained its official recognition on October 19th, 1983. Currently, the Association consists of 51 churches organized at the national level. The churches that belong to the Association are part of the pentecostal movement. The Christian Mission Church has been marked since its beginning as a church committed to addressing social problems and very open to relationships with other churches. Throughout its history, the Association has participated in the founding of various Christian organizations at the national level, with the goal of strengthening ecumenical relationships and supporting the development of churches and their communities.

These organizations include: CEPAD (Evangelical Council for Aid and Development), CIEETS (Interchurch Center of Theological and Social Studies), and UENIC (Evangelical University of Nicaragua). The Christian Mission Church also is a member of CLAI (the Latin American Council of Churches), and has maintained relationships of exchange and sister/brotherhood with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), The Brethren, the United Church of Christ (especially the New York Conference), and with the Christian Pentecostal Church of Cuba.

The Christian Mission Church has as its mission the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God, proclaimed by Jesus and the first Christians in the power of the Holy Spirit. This preaching is done in words and deeds, so that the gospel may be seen and heard through the testimony of the church, and its commitments to the values of the Kingdom of God: justice, solidarity, equality and respect for diversity. The vision of the Christian Mission Church is to encourage and support social transformation, incarnating the gospel as good news for the most vulnerable sectors of society: the poor, the sick, women, children, and people excluded from our socio-economic systems."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Of Partnerships and Previews

Over a year ago, when we were starting to think and pray about working for Global Ministries, I did some Internet Research (yes, this is a theme in my life ;) ) looking for La Misión Cristiana, hoping to find any information about who the people of this church were and what they were about. They do not, you might not be surprised to find, have much in the way of a web presence. But I did find this video on the website of the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ.

The video is from a trip some of the staff from the New York Conference made in August 2007 to visit La Misión Cristiana and re-affirm their partnership. I watched this video quite a few times in the months leading up to our arrival, as I wondered what our experience here would be like. As things turned out, we arrived almost exactly three years after the trip in this slide show. Now that we've been here a little over 3 months, watching the video again to write this blog post was almost funny, because we now know many of the faces and places featured.

So, for those of you who are wishing for a tangible glimpse of our life and work here, this is a pretty good introduction. We have been to almost all of the churches and projects in the video, and even the Masaya Volcano! :) Doña Pilar, who was featured in the 7th Church portion of the video, is the current national president and one of my favorite people ever. Tim will be doing some teaching at the school run by the 2nd church, and I have already participated in a training at the Emmanuel Center, and that will be the location for what I currently think of as my main project -- a comprehensive series of workshops to enhance theological education of pastors. And we just realized today that Ruth, the young woman who is the current secretary in the national office, is the daughter of Raul Davila Castro, who was the president when this presentation was made. We discovered this today when she gave us an invitation to her wedding (which will be in the 7th church!).

I intend to post a fuller report of our trip to visit the cattle farm in Waslala, but we were also chuckling in recognition of his description of the roads, and when we realized that we stayed at the same hotel in Waslala.

This partnership with the New York Conference, and the video produced as a result, was helpful to us as we prepared to come here to serve, and I hope it will also be helpful to you, whether it might be a "preview" for a visit (personal, mission trip, or people-to-people pilgrimage -- we like them all!) or simply a chance to connect with us and La Misión Cristiana virtually.