On a Journey
When we decided to title our blog, “On a Journey,” (http://laurajeanandtim.blogspot.com) we may not have known how appropriate it would be.
When we decided to title our blog, “On a Journey,” (http://laurajeanandtim.blogspot.com) we may not have known how appropriate it would be. We have certainly come a long way since we packed up our home in Washington, DC at the end of July 2010. Not just the distance traveled to Managua, but also the amount of Spanish we’ve learned, the relationships we’ve begun building with the leaders and the people of La Misión Cristiana (The Christian Mission Church of Nicaragua), and the extent to which Nicaragua now feels like home, is amazing to look back on.
We also have a long way to go, both in terms of the time frame of our three-year commitment, how much Spanish there still remains to learn, and all the things we hope to accomplish together with our partners here. We also realize how much our walk with the church here is a brief stint on their much longer trajectory — their journey began with a mission to inmates in Nicaraguan jails in the ‘60s, before Tim or I were born, and it will continue long after we leave, worshipping God, working for justice, and serving the neediest in ways that we might not even be able to imagine today. For now, we are privileged to share this leg of the journey with La Misión Cristiana.
We’ve taken quite a few literal journeys with the church, often transporting sizable groups of people to remote villages in our SUV. The majority of the churches of La Misión are rural (like much of Nicaragua’s population), spread out over the country, connected by dirt roads if there are roads at all. Part of the work of the national leadership is staying connected with all regions of the church, and helping those regions to stay connected with one another. Although the churches in Managua provide a great deal of the national leadership, the heart of the church is in the country, “el campo.” This is the part of Nicaragua where the half of the population living on $2 a day resides. Even in the capital many of the neighborhoods where the churches are located have a feel of “el campo.” The asphalt roads give way to dirt, and not only chickens and horses, but also goats and pigs can often be seen and heard.
Even though Nicaragua has had peace for 20 years, prosperity has not yet followed. Nicaraguans seem relieved not to have the problems with violence of some of their Central American neighbors, but they continue to be the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (after Haiti). La Misión responds to this reality in a variety of creative ways. One is through supporting education — most Nicaraguans are incredibly committed to education and see it as the way forward for their families. Many local churches have their own schools or afterschool programs to serve the children in their neighborhoods. These projects are run on shoestring budgets and prayer, with incredible dedication from the churches. Tim is teaching English to first through sixth graders in one of the schools. The banner they put up on the front of the church to advertise matriculation proudly proclaims: “English classes given by a North American teacher.” The church also supports higher education. They collaborated with many other Protestant denominations that share a commitment to social justice in founding the Martin Luther King, Jr. Evangelical University of Nicaragua, and are lending both of us to the institution for part of our time. In 2011, Laura Jean is teaching New Testament to theology undergraduates, and Tim will give a series of presentations to faculty to support their year-long focus on climate change. Laura Jean is also working with the church’s Department of Theology and Education to develop and teach a systematic program of popular theological education for pastors and leaders.
Even though La Misión is a church made up of people with little financial resources, they are always working to find ways to improve life for people who have even less. The combined resources of the national church are put to use in two farms that provide income to support the ministries of the churches in the north, the country’s poorest regions. The church also has a cow project, that gives a cow to rural families, giving them access to fresh milk to improve their nutrition, or even sell some milk. In exchange, they give the first cow that is born to another family. (Laura Jean got to witness the gifting of young cows to two families one afternoon after a Bible study and training in the eastern region.) In several regions, the church has or is developing food security projects, such as using church land for plots for growing basic necessities or seed banks (which people who receive seeds also “pay back” into, making them eventually self-sustaining). They are trying to develop both the farms and the food security projects in environmentally sensitive ways, and Tim did his first climate change presentation for a group of rural pastors planning new food security projects.
We continue to be impressed and inspired by the church the more we learn. The people of the church are so full of love, and have welcomed us and our three-year-old daughter Quinn with such kindness and excitement that we can’t help but look forward to the rest of our Nicaraguan journey with anticipation and joy.
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.