July 24, 2013

Orientation and a Cultural Experience

Just 4 Teachers HANDS Team:

It is a cool evening after a hot day. After a delicious dinner, the team has returned to the guest house anxious to share with their loved ones their experiences of the day and hopefully turn in early.  The orientation this morning included some time to get to know the team members and the facilitators, presentations on the history and culture of Managua, and an introduction to the Nehemiah Center and its partners.  Mid-morning we had a break in a beautifully constructed thatched pavilion.  The kitchen of the Nehemiah Center provided a lovely bowl of seasonal, local fruits.  I had no idea how large papaya could grow!

When we had arrived from the airport last night and proceeded through the city to our accommodations,  we were all struck by how desolate the neighborhoods were at night. It was hard to tell whether the each building was a home, a storefront, an abandoned warehouse, or just rubble from the 1972 earthquake.  This city is home to more than 1.3 million people? 

But today, we got to see the city alive and humming!  The most striking experience was the drive through some of the more disadvantaged neighborhoods of Managua.  It was about 5:30 in the afternoon, and many folks were headed home from work by bus or motorcycle.  Front doors were wide open and children were playing in neatly kept yards fenced in with rusty sheet-metal and discarded signboards.  Moms congregated in doorways holding the littlest of Managua's citizens as neighbors sat down for a visit or a cool beverage.  Each street corner had groups of young men gathered around shiny motorcycles (many not so shiny actually), teen girls lined up at a roadside shop, or groups of elderly Managuans sharing the news of the day after the bus had dropped them off.  It is abundantly clear to those of us speeding by that these folks share a common community geographically, but also a community of relationships that runs deeply to the heart of their daily experience.  As we drive these neighborhoods, I reflect on community and what the Bible has told us about how to treat our neighbour...

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Though the lens of wealth, many Managuans are certainly what we would call disadvantaged.  After all, from my observation tonight, many had more chairs in FRONT of their home than IN their home.   But, you know what?  Many of those seats were gathered in circles.  And many of those seats had people sitting in them.  I don't know about your neighborhoods back home, but mine has plenty of homes with chairs out front...and they are all empty.  

As I consider my daily routine, 
...  I drive my car home never spotting a neighbor much less waving to one, 
...  I climb my porch steps and open my front door ever so quickly before closing it again to keep the inside cool, 
...  I would never dream of dropping in unexpectedly on a friend without notice 

I cannot help but wonder, in spite of my privileged life at home, might I be oblivious to the degree of my own disadvantage?

Submitted by Jennifer Shoniker


Jul 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Beautiful blog! I can picture everything as I remember it so clearly! I can see that you are feeling the way I did...they THEY have it right - they know how to truly be happy, despite what we refer to as their poverty. Stay safe!

the Dickisons
Jul 27, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Thanks for taking us with you on this incredible journey, Jennifer! May God's blessings and protection be with you and your companions.

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