In 1995, a few months before Jon graduated from seminary, we had to sit down and decide where we would be open to be called. The whole class was picking the areas of the United States where they might like to live and work. In the process, we learned that no one in any of the ELCA seminaries was considering a call overseas. This news took us by surprise and propelled us to change our thinking and prayers from national to international call possibilities. Through the Division for Global Missions we were called to the Lutheran Church of Nicaragua.
Many of our friends and family asked us why. Why go overseas? Why Nicaragua? Our answer usually had three parts. 1. I come from a family of missionaries with my parents having spent 11 years in Japan, and a brother and family serving 10 years in Madagascar. It seemed wrong that no one was planning on going overseas from the seminaries. 2. We spent 1 ½ years in Liberia with the Peace Corps, and knew what it was like to live and work in a different culture. We felt like we could do it. 3. When we asked God, God told us to go. In the end, that last reason trumped everything else.
Now we have asked the people of Shepherd of the Hill to consider going to Nicaragua in January. Besides the obvious reason of leaving behind winter for 8 days, you might be wondering why one would want to go to a capital city in Central America. After all, there are other warm places to hang out until Spring. Let me tell you that out of all of the stories we could tell and cool things that we did, the most lasting and important were the relationships that we made while living and working alongside our Nicaraguan friends. We had a window into how people in extreme poverty survived day to day. We saw people sharing what little they had with those who had even less. We found out what it means to laugh because if you didn’t you would cry, and we learned that God is strong and compassionate and at work in the barrios of Nicaragua.
We wanted to give the opportunity for people of SOTH to experience a little bit of that too; to live in a barrio for a few days, to work at the health clinic that serves some very hurting people, to see how farmers grow coffee, and to get more than a glimpse into another culture. We were changed by our five years in Nicaragua. Travel changes us - especially when we travel in a way that goes beyond tourism and relies on the hospitality of others. Please hold the nine of us in prayer for these next eight days. We will do our best to share a little of our experiences each day (hopefully) until we return. This is a way that we can take you along as well.