The Gift of Hosting
Receiving groups from Disciples and UCC churches is one of the most enjoyable aspects of our job as missionaries. For us personally, church visits give us an opportunity to share what we love best about Nicaragua, the friends we’ve made and our work here. Helping a new group navigate their way through new situations reminds …
Receiving groups from Disciples and UCC churches is one of the most enjoyable aspects of our job as missionaries. For us personally, church visits give us an opportunity to share what we love best about Nicaragua, the friends we’ve made and our work here. Helping a new group navigate their way through new situations reminds us of the path we’ve traveled in the nearly three years since we first stepped out of the air-conditioned blast of the airport into the damp Managua night, fumbling over the most basic tasks and gawking at the newness and strangeness of this country we were about to call home. Visiting groups also bring a splash of home, talking about TV shows, sports, church gossip — a taste of our birth culture that now sometimes seems like a foreign country itself.
For our Nicaraguan partner church, La Misión Cristiana, the hosting of visiting groups fulfills an important part of their mission and identity. La Misión has always been a church that forges friendships and alliances with other churches, both in Nicaragua and internationally. Last year La Misión hosted 9 church delegations and is gearing up to host several more this year.
Each group, often in different places or moments, saw the face of Christ and felt the presence of God’s Spirit — in the vibrant worship services of La Misión Cristiana, in children served by the churches in after-school programs, in the glory of God’s creation in the cloud forest atop a volcano, in leaders who have dedicated their lives to serving God and others. The members of La Misión are blessed by the time together as well.
The pastor of one of the last year’s groups was asked to preach at a local church, with Laura Jean translating the sermon into Spanish. Now you might think that such a set-up is a recipe for miscommunication or puzzlement, but the sermon touched a universal nerve, preaching how God calls us to do the uncomfortable and the difficult even when we think we are not up to the task. God asks us to go out into the “deep water.” As it happened, the denominational president, Rolando Boniche, was in attendance for that service and he later told the group that the message of the sermon reached him just at the moment when he needed the uplift.
Inevitably, the experience of visiting another culture raises up questions, discussions and conversations among the group participants. Every group who came closed each day with a spiritual reflection and a group discussion. Some of the questions that arise are uncomfortable. It is humbling to realize that the cost of a plane ticket to the U.S. is more than some Nicaraguans will see in a year. So what then is the church’s mission? How should the church act in the face of poverty and injustice? How widely can we extend the circle of solidarity? These are heavy questions with no one single answer readily available.
But crucially, we can’t even start to think about how the church should do mission if we do not go, do not visit, do not talk, eat, walk, worship, sing, and laugh together with our brothers and sisters in other countries. From these shared moments grow relationships that have the power to transform lives in Nicaragua and the United States.