Wednesday, August 30, 2006

seeds of hope

I remember someone saying in my pre-field training, “The story of man began in a garden and ends in a city.” The speaker was trying to make a point about the way God created a world for us to discover, investigate, cultivate, and develop. With all due respect to my trainer, I think perhaps gardens have been vastly underrated. At least based on my experience in El Limonal yesterday.

El Limonal is a small community (in Chinandega) of transplanted people who lost their homes in the mudslide of 1998 caused by the rains of Hurricane Mitch. The community's homes are mostly made out of black plastic, scraps of wood and corrugated metal. The roads in and out of the community are all dirt (as are the floors of the homes), and flood with even a small amount of rain. As if this wasn't enough to deal with, the community is located between a dump and a cemetery (a location chosen for them by the government). What would the spirit of these people be like, I wondered.

I got a glimpse into that very question by attending a meeting of women in El Limonal who have been meeting for months as part of APECS, a women's health support group, but are also now participating in a 3-month class led by 2 of my fellow FHI staff focused on developing a community garden. Instead of skepticism, I found enthusiasm in these women for the potential of the natural environment around them. For while they lack the amenities of the “developed” world, they are rich in natural resources (trees, fruit, plants, etc.), and several of them already use the small amount of land they have to grow fruit or herbs to treat common medical problems.

The class met in the shady “backyard” of a community leader's house (Fatima) and provided an excellent example of how to integrate spiritual principles with physical needs. We spent the first part of the class studying Genesis 1 and discovering that God has created the world with order, beauty, and the intention for humankind to maintain loving stewardship over all of His creation. We heard the story of George Washington Carver, who lived out this principle, and discovered hundreds of uses for the peanut, among other things. And we heard presentations from several of the women themselves in the community on different plants and fruits available in the area and what uses they have.

Like seeds in the ground that have yet to sprout are the signs of transformation growing in Limonal. One day soon the sparkle of hope I saw in these women's eyes will be as bright as the stars in the night sky.

No comments: