Happy Thanksgiving (Seasons)
At times, Nicaragua seems even farther away than it is from the United States. I think part of this has to do with the fact that even nature has different rhythms here.
Quinn, who just turned six, was anticipating with great delight that “Summer starts on my birthday!” In this tropical climate, winter is the rainy season, which starts in mid-May and summer, the dry season, typically begins in mid-November. (Of course it rained really hard yesterday, apparently winter is lingering this year.) Also, being in the tropics, sunrise and sunset times don’t vary much between solstice and equinox, so there’s no need for Daylight Savings Time. This means that our time zone relative to folks in most parts of the U.S. changes twice a year, making coordinating timing that little bit more complicated.
I think I was subconsciously yearning for the rhythms we’re accustomed on a recent trip to a store that has a lot of imported foods. I chuckled to myself as I unpacked and realized I had come home with apples, pecans, cranberries, none of which grow here in the tropics, and all of which represent for me the flavors of fall (and indeed, of Thanksgiving!).
We’re looking forward in so many ways to our return to the States in the (U.S.) spring (the end of summer here). I’m also aware that just as it is still strange at times to be out of step in small and large ways with our family and friends back home, it will be strange also to move from the rhythm of our life here back into: four seasons, planning things further in advance and with less flexibility, firmer boundaries between “work time” and “family time”… and probably other rhythms of life that we don’t anticipate.
La Misión Cristiana, too, is in a time of transition and finding a new rhythm. The sudden death of president Rolando Boniche in July meant that the new president, Rev. Enrique Rugama, had to move from his farm (270 km and a 10 hour journey by bus away) to Managua, and the national leadership has had to deal with their grief as well as the bureaucratic processes required to effect the transition… and in just 4 months, will hold elections at their annual General Assembly at the end of March. Many churches will receive new pastors at this time, too.
Although there is much to prepare for coming transitions in our lives and the life of the church, I am also trying to be present in this season, rather than spend all my time and energy thinking about what’s ahead.
In September, La Misión Cristiana received a new mission volunteer, sent by Global Ministries and the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC), Magyolene Rodriguez. She is a lovely person, a trained agronomist, an advocate for creation care and has a heart for service and for children and youth. She stayed with us for a few weeks when she first arrived, and quickly became one of our girls’ very favorite people (and ours as well!). I felt so strongly when we arrived here that God’s Spirit was at work matching the needs of the church and our interests and gifts… and I have that same sense again, that Magyolene has arrived in just the right moment for the church, which has been working on agricultural projects, food security, and environmental protection and restoration, but will be able to do even more with a person who has time and professional training to dedicate to these areas.
In October, Elena Huegel, the Global Ministries missionary currently serving in Chile with IPC, a good friend of Magyolene, came to visit Nicaragua and gave a training on Conflict Transformation to pastors and leaders of La Misión Cristiana. The training was greatly appreciated by the participants, and we enjoyed the chance to meet and get to know Elena (and she had lots of good advice for us as we approach our transition back to the U.S. — not only as a missionary, but as a child of missionaries as well!).
Overlapping one day with Elena’s visit, UENIC-MLK (the Martin Luther King, Jr. Evangelical University of Nicaragua), the university where we teach in the theological faculty, hosted a regional encuentro (meeting) bringing together leaders from Central America who are working on theological education that is committed to improving the lives of people in their countries. We got to connect with some Disciples “neighbors” from Costa Rica and, all the way from Indianapolis, Rev. Felix Ortiz (our boss) and Rev. Shernell Edney, the program associate for Advocacy and Education.
In November, 91 students from 3 regions graduated from our two-year program of Ministerial Formation. I’ll write more about this soon, we had a beautiful celebration full of joy for seeing the fruits of so much hard work by so many people (in learning, teaching, organizing, administrating, marshaling financial support, and always, travel for both teachers and students to make classes happen). This month, because the dry season has arrived in the hot Western region even though Managua is still getting rain, Tim and the team went back to work building another bio-digester last week.
In December, we’ll be helping with preparations for the Regional Assemblies in January and the General Assembly in March. We’ll also be working with colleagues to make plans for the future, both
the three months of 2014 that we’ll be here, and what our projects (theological education (me) and sustainable development/ food security (Tim)) will look like after we return to the U.S. And, we’re very excited that (a good portion of) our family is coming down to spend Christmas with us! We’re looking forward to relaxing, enjoying their company, and showing them a bit of the many things we’ve come to love about Nicaragua. We’re hoping they’ll enjoy the tropical break from a northern winter!
Laura Jean Torgerson and Timothy Donaghy serve with the Christian Mission Church in Nicaragua. Laura Jean serves as consultant to the Education and Theology Department of the National Board of the Christian Mission Church of Nicaragua and assists in the development of new congregations that reflect the liberating theology of the church. Timothy works in the social justice program of the Christian Mission Church and has been assigned to teach physics at the Martin Luther King University in Managua.