MY LIFE HAS CHANGED FOREVER THROUGH MY INVOLVEMENT
IN OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH LAUREL GALAN, NICARAGUA

Arlene Reed, member of Peace

During the late 1980’s, I was part of a study group at Peace Lutheran Church learning about peace and justice issues and how they relate to our faith and spirituality.  As part of this, we learned about issues involving developed and underdeveloped countries (The 1st and 3rd worlds), particularly those in Central America.

In 1990 I went on my first delegation to see with my own eyes what the situation really was in Nicaragua.  Were the Contras really the good guys fighting for freedom against the Godless Sandanista Communists as our U.S. government and media reported?  Or was it the other way around as we were learning in our study group through various books such as Forging Peace, The Challenge of Central America and Reading the Gospel Through Third-World Eyes?  During that first trip we met with many different groups involved in education, health care, land reform, religion, government, farm agencies, people in squatter settlements, etc., etc., etc.  The facilitators of our trip were a Lutheran minister living in Guatemala and a bilingual U.S. couple employed as Methodist missionaries in Nicaragua.  (Some of us have equated missionaries to those sent to convert others to their religion and who, in fact, have enslaved the native people.)  However, missionaries I personally know are ones who respond to their faith by helping the poor become empowered and receive greater justice.

Even though I was somewhat prepared to experience a different reality in Nicaragua than what my government told me, I was “blown away” by the extent of the misinformation we received.  In fact, the Sandanistas were the ones who solicited grassroot support from the masses, included their input in the constitution they fashioned after our own, and provided education, health care, land reform, etc., for the poor.  We met with Christian lay leaders who were also Sandanistas and we grew in our understanding of what our

God calls us to be.  The Nicaraguans with whom we met had a deep faith and clearly related the teachings of Jesus to peace and justice issues of today.  Thus, I came home from my 1990 trip spiritually transformed and motivated to become more aware of global issues and how I, personally, could contribute to the creation of a more peaceful, just, and compassionate world community.  I realized that I needed to become so much more aware of the underlying causes of violence, injustice, and the disempowerment of the poor.

During the following 24 years, I grew in my understanding that the “charity model” (the giving of money, the financing of projects, etc.) is but a band-aid for the hemorrhaging caused by the underlying political and economic policies supported and often implemented by the United States, other developed countries, and their financial institutions.  I also came to understand how the charity model could further disempower the poor and teach them to have their hand out for charity rather than developing the consciousness and strength to confront their own problems.  This does not mean that projects and financial contributions are unimportant in improving the quality of life of the poor.  It means that something more is needed!  I believe that by connecting people and communities through such organizations as Sister Parish and Kairos and now Entre Culturas (Between Cultures), our hearts are touched in ways that change our thinking.  We realize that we in the first world and they in the third are all truly one family and that together we can learn from each other, bring out the best in each other, and create a world of greater love, solidarity, peace, justice, and dignity for all.

My Central American brothers and sisters have helped me understand the importance of simplifying my life, trusting in God, serving others, and living in community and solidarity.  Because of them, I have a deepened gratitude and awe for the multiple blessings of creation.  They, who have suffered so very much, always rely on God’s grace and mercy, and continue to believe that the Reign of God (which is what they call a world of love, peace, and justice) is possible.  I want to join with them and others in creating this Reign of God in the here and now.  I, too, believe that God’s Light is within each one of us and that as we become more aware of the interconnectedness of all people and life on earth, we will want to involve ourselves in ways to create a world of love, peace, justice, and mutual respect.

I have visited Laurel Galan, our very poor, rural community with whom we have had a relationship for all these years, seven or eight times since the early 1990’s.  I cannot fully express the depth of our love and appreciation for each other, and how much it means to them and us to be in this brother/sister, long-term relationship.

PRAYER PARTNERSHIP WITH MEMBERS OF OUR LAUREL GALAN PARTNERSHIP COMMUNITY AND RESPONSE TO THE SEVERE DROUGHT

During the last several years we have developed a prayer-partnership connecting 20 plus members of Peace with those in Laurel Galan.  Not only have we prayed for each other, but we have also exchanged individual messages translated by our staff there.  This beautiful ministry has deepened the love and connection we have for each other.  If you are interested in becoming a prayer partner, please let me know.

In 2014 our partnership community experienced a severe drought that many believe has been caused by climate change due to global warming.  The effects of the drought have been devastating to the community.  We have learned that the river has little water, several of the community pumps have dried up, and there is no grass growing for the animals to eat.  Many families have sold off their animals at rock bottom prices in order to buy food for their families or for their other animals.  The only food for some families are tortillas with salt.

Members of Peace have responded to this crisis with great compassion and generosity.  As of late August, we have raised about $900 to send to Entre Culturas to purchase and distribute food to our brothers and sisters in Laurel Galan.  We pray that the drought will be ended soon and that God’s Spirit will bring the people hope, strength, and peace.

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