Letter from Nicaragua: Cal-Nev UMVIM Coordinator gives potential travelers there a preview

March 27, 2008

Dr. Sue King, Coordinator of the California-Nevada Conference United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, spent a week in Nicaragua earlier this month learning from and working with United Methodist missionaries and pastors of the Nicaraguan Methodist Church. In the following letter she shares highlights of the experience with us.


Hi, Everyone.


I want to let you know that we arrived safely and I have been enjoying the company of my companions, Dr. Roger Boe and Lloyd Elliot. We have spent two days immersing ourselves in the understanding of the socio-political realities of the Church in Nicaragua, hosted by the UM missionaries here and the pastors of the Nicaraguan Methodist Church (which is essentially in its infancy), under the leadership of Rev. Elmer Zavala. I wanted to email before, but the Google glitch was impacting my own laptop on the local wireless here and also the hotel's Internet. But all is good now.


I hope that you will come to Nicaragua with me next time. It is truly a lovely place and you would enjoy the culture as well as the nice accommodations here. 


The people struggle with high unemployment and many of the difficulties related to poverty. I am amazed at the love of the people for anything political and the numerous discussions and analyses of what could, should, and would be done.


The churches are doing important work in helping to combat violence in the society by addressing it first within family relationships and also advocating reconciliation between the leaders and the people who have been on opposite sides of political fences. 


The mainline churches (Methodist, American Baptist, Presbyterian) are offering a social gospel by feeding hungry children, developing preschool programs, and practicing evangelism through genuine, practical acts of love. This sets them apart from the Evangelical Protestant churches that preach a gospel of prosperity: that if you follow God and give your money to the church, you will become rich. A few courageous pastors have spoken out against this, but the signs of the flourishing of the Prosperity Gospel are evident on the streets of Managua and throughout other towns we have passed on our way to the 13 Methodist churches in Nicaragua.


As always I am so impressed with the United Methodist missionaries and other leaders in the church. Nan McCurdy (shown here with Rev. Elmer Zalvala, left, and Rev. Miguel Lopez) and Miguel Mierana and their 17-year-old daughter, Nora, have been here doing amazing work here for most of their lives. In Nora's case, all her life! It is unfortunate that we will not have the opportunity to meet Belinda Forbes, a UM missionary dentist, this time because her busy schedule doesn't permit. Hurricane Felix damaged much in the communities on the Atlantic side of Nicaragua where she is stationed, so she is busy hosting a rebuilding effort by UMVIM teams in addition to her community medical and dental work. Next time, I hope....


Leaving the airport a visitor might see a brand new car traveling down the street alongside a cart drawn by a burro – which is so startling when you first see it! Today I saw a cart drawn by two white oxen as we drove across newly paved country roads. We passed banana and pineapple groves, shade-grown coffee, and terraced fields on hillsides, all slowly sloping up to the big volcanic mountain, wafting its white vapor into the hazy, blue skies. Even though it is the dry season, there have been a few rains to wash the dust off the trees and shrubs and freshen the grass. The exotic flowers and lush greens are restful to the computer-weary eye and I wake each morning to the trilling of exotic birds nesting in the courtyard outside my hotel room. The room is small, not posh, but is certainly comfortable and secure. 


The pastors here would like to have volunteers of all ages come to Nicaragua. Personally, I can see no reason why that couldn't be possible.


I think volunteers will enjoy Nicaragua – because of the new sights and sounds and excellent food – but above all because of the willingness of the people to greet you with friendly hospitality. 


Hope you are all very well. Please know that I miss each one of you and thoughts of loved ones back home are never too far away even when I am far away.


In Mission together,