God Has Work For Us To Do

‘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,
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Fila Grande

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.

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Sunday in Nicaragua: Worship without Words

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.

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Market Day in Nicaragua

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.

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Nicaragua, Day 1

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.

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