Friday, February 23, 2007

of stories & open doors

Stories are powerful. As Darrow Miller says, in development work there are 3 stories that intertwine—our story, the community’s story, and God’s story. It is in the intersections and weaving of all of these stories that the messy work of development happens. God is long at work in communities and in our individual lives before we ever enter a community—and He has been at work in the world since its creation.

Having visitors from the FHUS office this week meant that I heard a lot of stories—some for the first time, some in much more detail; many I heard with fresh ears as I translated, listened, observed, and answered Rez and Mary’s questions.

After one particularly moving interview with a pastor, Rez commented, “You seemed really impacted by what you heard. Their story is part of you now. You carry it with you.”

It’s true. I was. You see, G. grew up on the streets, sleeping in the park, and perhaps might have been forgotten by the entire world had a police officer not taken notice of him, cared enough for him to ask him to shine his shoes, and eventually offer him a job. After some years in the increasingly corrupt police force he became involved with the church and was sent to pastor a church plant in an area with no running water or latrines. During 18 months he had no contact with the sending church. His wife was pregnant. They had no money. G says “it was hard”—as if that phrase can in any way communicate the desperate situation his family was in.

This same man eventually came to become the pastor of a small church in one of the roughest neighborhoods in northwest Nicaragua. High indexes of gang and drug activity. Houses made of plastic and cardboard. Dirt roads. Malnourished children. And a growing problem with AIDS.

Pastor G says, “Love is the most horrible thing.” In other words, once you care, you cannot let people suffer when you have the power to do good. And that is what this man does every day. Even though he and his wife and their 4 children struggle to make ends meet, G feels compelled to give of his limited resources to help neighbors he knows with AIDS, to bring them soup, to regularly donate a night’s worth of income to their needs. Hearing this story as I observed the love in this pastor’s face stirred my conscience and the tears behind my eyes, just waiting to fall.

He says his vision of the church’s purpose has been changed by the Nehemiah Center. And he has put his expanded vision into practice—not only in his own personal life, but in the way his ministry works. It’s not about him, or the number of people in his church. It’s about serving the community. Sometimes he says, 100 come, sometimes 50. “The important thing,” he says, “is that people come. And that our doors are open.”

The same thing goes for the door of our hearts. And, all I can say is, mine is opened much wider this week thanks to hearing this humble, strong, and compassionate man’s story. It is a part of me now. May I always carry it with me.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

a noche buena

Okay, so I know I have sounded down in the dumps lately. So, tonight I took my happiness into my own hands and decided to go out for the evening. First, I had a delicious burger (only my 2nd here in Nicaragua) and frappaccino at a local coffee hotspot (I know that sounds weird, but Casa de Cafe, in addition to all its great coffee drinks, smoothies, and desserts, also serves up some unique and hearty hamburguesas.)

Then, I walked off my dinner in the blissfully cool late afternoon shade, and got half lost trying to find the house where there was going to be an outdoor viewing of Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. (It's easy to get lost when the directions are: from Channel 23, 1/2 block toward the lake, 30 yards to the right, where Radio Pirata used to be). Once I got there, I was glad, because the viewing location was on top of this hill where there was a gorgeous view of the southern side of Managua and a strong breeze blowing. [Yes, I have been really hot lately. And yes, I am jealous of any and all of you reading this who have experienced any temperature below 50 in the last week. Be grateful.]

But I digress. So, this film, while compelling, doesn't exactly inspire happiness (I actually was very moved and cried at the end thinking about the devastating environmental realities facing our generation), but it was fun to get out of the house and be around some people who are part of the culturally and socially active crowd here in Managua. In 10 months, I can count the instances on one hand when I have gone out alone at night. But I think I have decided I should do so more often.

Then, on the ride home, my taxi driver (an avid boxing fan, in case you were interested) asked me if I was of Spanish descent. I'll take that as a compliment, I think, and call it a buena noche.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

lagrimas y amistad

i shed a lot of lagrimas yesterday, most of which was a result of a situation that i have been asked not to disclose on this blog. what i will share is how one of my best friends in nicaragua responded to my sadness and tears. after a conversation with h. yesterday, i received this (translated) note from him this morning:

"Nicaragua is not easy, Pamela. I congratulate you for accepting the challenge of coming here and continuing to be here. I really admire your spirit of service. Thank you for sharing your tears; it is good to give space for our cries. For God, they are like poems or perfume. Just be sure that nothing that is not worth it makes you cry. A pastor I know says something I often remember: "let's not keep crying new tears for old pain" Many blessings!"

where would I be without this beautiful amistad?

Monday, February 12, 2007

lyrics that resonate

"Keep on building prisons, gonna fill them all
Keep building bombs, gonna drop them all
Working young fingers bear to the bone
Breaking your back make you sell your soul
Like a lung its filled with cold, suffocating slow
The wind blows wild and I may move
The politicians lie and i am not fooled
you don't need no reason or a three piece suit
To argue the truth
The air on my skin and the world under my toes
Labor is stitched into the fabric of my clothes
Chaos and commotion wherever I go

Love I try to follow/Love will come set me free
Love will come set me free, I do believe
Love will come set me free, I know it will
There ain't no reason things are this way
Its how its always been and it tends to stay
I can't explain why we live this way
We do it everyday" -brett dennen (recent itunes find)

hard to swallow

This is a week of questions, homesickness, tears, and frustration.

If you missed the original version of this post, email me for an explanation.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

katrina revisited

Over a year ago I wrote my very first blog post in which I mentioned a sweet old woman I had met and helped take care of at a Katrina church shelter.

Incredibly, Helen's story of finally being found and going home was told on NPR yesterday.

Thank God for the persistence of her cousin and the loving care of so many strangers.

Finally, she can rest.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

on the road again

While the world's eyes are fixed on the surge, the upcoming Oscars, the recent Colts victory, and Clinton v. Obama, these eyes took note of a few different things on the road yesterday...

...a clinic in Santa Maria where the doctor never comes to attend to community members
... a community leader in El Limonal who is fighting for their right to water
...a pastor whose wife has opened a clothing store for the community to support their family
... a young woman who spends her day visiting families and helping in the church supported clinic
... a mother whose eyes light up when visitors come to town
... a young man passionate about construction and ministry to youth

Every set of eyes with a story to tell, every community with a quiet or outrageous tragedy, every heart a mixture of joyful perserverance and weariness.

O Buen Pastor, que seas todo para todos esta noche y siempre..

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


"How much longer am I going to think about my hair longer than
about things in the world that matter?"
Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies
(After my previous post, this seemed quite the salient quote of the day)

Friday, February 02, 2007


This is going to take some getting used to...