Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another World IS Possible

2014 is coming up on us fast.  This week we are closed and enjoying our friends and family, but never fear, we want to be sure to put our two cents in one last time for 2013!  

As we move into 2014, we want to invite you to join us in a hope that we will be able to bring change to this world. 

Often times we feel powerless to change the world, and yet, the world is always changed by people like you and me…the “insignificant” people calling for change and working diligently to affect that change.  It is people like you and me that can begin to stop the harm and begin to heal.

We are not mindful of what we do day in and day out….

Because we are not mindful of what and how much we consume, clean air to breathe is becoming a worldwide problem. 

Because we are not careful of what we consume, the mostly poor nations in the tropics are suffering more and more from severe storms with no safety nets for their people. 

Because we are not careful of what we consume, droughts are bigger issues and people are starving in a world of plenty.

We have worldwide issues that have to be addressed:
•    Poverty
•    Disease
•    Slavery
•    Weapons that are extremely dangerous
•    Lack of care of our environment
•    Lack of privacy
•    Lack of individual voices
•    And always …racism, sexism, classism, etc.

We believe another world IS possible…
•    a world lush, green, and fertile
•    a world with no hunger
•    a world working together to fight disease
•    a world with no terror of weapons
•    a world with goodness, generosity, and kindness
•    a world where you are cherished the moment you are born…no matter what your gender, skin color, sexual preference, creed, or class may be

Join us in 2014 to make this world possible.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fourth Candle: Love

Love in the gospels is not a warm, fuzzy feeling…it is action.  All peoples can DO love…People of all faiths and no faiths…atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, pagans, Christians, Jews, etc.…if you are human and have a healthy mind…you can love.
Jesus said the two greatest commandments were:  “Love your God with all your heart…” and “love your neighbors as yourself.”[1]   

In a letter to an early church, we find “How can we say we love God when we do not love our brother [and sister]?”[2]

Love is action.

Love is forgiving those who hurt us, praying for our enemies, giving freely, feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, welcoming the stranger, and even giving your life for others…actions.
Love is NOT taking revenge on those who hurt us, bombing our enemies, taking from others so we have more, slurring the poor and those different from us, disenfranchising others, putting more and more people in jail, building border walls, and taking others’ lives to protect our own… 

“If you say you love God but hate your brothers and sisters you are a liar.”[3]

Some say tolerance is what we need, and tolerance is definitely a step forward.  But doing love…doing what is right for the least of these, for others…well, we all can do that.   
If we did, our world would grow and flourish.  All would have hope.  Nations would be at peace.  And just imagine the joy that would abound.

Doing love is what we need as a species to survive…as humanity.

[1] Matt. 22: 37a and 39b

[2] I John 4:20b

[3] I John 4:20a

Monday, December 16, 2013

Third Candle: Joy

Our third Advent banner went up yesterday.  The last two banners I just love.  Each banner has the word of the week: hope, peace, joy and love in English, and at least in one other language.  Joy has a dragon and the word in Chinese…it also has bells on it.  And if you are not a small tot what could symbolize joy more than Chinese fireworks and a dancing dragon?

Being the cynical woman I am, there are a couple of things that people who come to Nicaragua for the first time say that grate on me, and one is “The poor are just so happy.”

I think it grates on me so much because I come from the South and that is something that whites would say when they wanted to excuse the fact that they owned people like farm animals.  "Why, the darkies are happy…listen to them…they sing, laugh and dance,” without once understanding the pain and loss the slaves experienced.  It was an absolute miracle that they could find any reason to sing and dance.

The Chinese Dragon dance symbolizes many things…one being the Sacred Dragon who symbolizes dignity.

Joy is found in dignity.  When we worked in the States with the poor, it was difficult because the poor in the States identify themselves as failures, takers, and losers.  (If you wonder why, just listen to the news.)  

Here in Nicaragua being poor is just one aspect of life.  Poor people are doctors, poets, car mechanics, mothers, grandfathers, children of the Divine…people of worth in their own right…and because of that, they can laugh, sing, and dance.

Joy is something we all seek.  We cannot experience joy if we feel like failures or losers or takers, but more importantly: how can we feel joy if we take dignity away from others through our words and actions?     -Kathleen   

Monday, December 9, 2013

Second Candle: Peace

On November 15th my son Coury played Mercutio in a Spanish version of Romeo and Juliet.  Another of my sons, Joseph, had a walk-on role in the musical…yes, it was a musical.

As the proud mama I watched Coury sing, dance, act, sword fight, and then die.  I knew Mercutio dies.  I know the story, but I was not prepared for my response.  Coury was no longer Mercutio…he was my son, and I watched him die.  Then my other son came on stage and was part of a crew that lifted him on their shoulders and carried him in procession.

I had flashes of all those photos and videos from wars and riots of brothers carrying their dead brothers in processions…their brothers’ bodies bloodied; their brothers’ bodies wrapped; their brothers’ coffins.  And I cried.  In that moment I began to understand on a real emotional level the absolute grief of mothers around the world. I began to empathize. 

How do we stop the violence?  In this version of the play both mothers sing songs of pain and grief and then the fathers agree to reconcile their houses, their families…end the feud…but only after both of their own children lay dead.  

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy much more than a love story.  It is a tragedy of perpetual hate and violence that pollutes and destroys.

MalalaYousafzai, the 16-year-old Afghanistani girl who was shot because she spoke out for the education of girls, met with Pres. Obama…a high honor.  Not reported very widely is what she said to Pres. Obama…“I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.

The only way to stop the violence is to stop…just stop.  We have to.  

Brothers should not have to carry bloodied bodies of their brothers due hatred.  Mothers should not have to bury the bodies of their children due to stupid intolerance and revenge.  There is no reason.  We just have to stop.  Stop.  

Someone has to start the process of peace…why not you and me?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Joyful Noise

Nicaragua sounds like a war zone.  Bang bang bang pop pop pop POW!  Fireworks are going off all day and's December, and we are celebrating! 

It all officially starts with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, called Purísima, this Saturday, and it's the biggest holiday in the country.  Families show their gratitude for miracles that the Virgin Mary has granted them by setting up altars to the Virgin in front of their houses. These altars always have an image of the Virgin Mary, and usually have white baby’s breath flowers arranged with candles, tinsel, lights, and the whole altar is framed in palm fronds.

On Saturday the Griteria starts -- literally called "The Shouting." At 6 PM on the dot, homemade mortar launchers are lit and fireworks pierce the air at once, all over the country. Neighbors come to the altars, sing traditional songs to the Virgin, and then are given gifts – it's like Trick-or-Treating with Christmas Carols.  People go from altar to altar "shouting," filling sacks with their bounty: refresco-filled bags, fresh nacatamales and fruit, sugar cane, soap, matches, tupperware and bowls.

This year, Managua has been entirely transformed: government ministries and offices have sponsored giant altars lining the main boulevard downtown, and when lit up (together with our new iconic yellow trees) make a spectacular sight. The Managua airport's altar has a beautiful mosaic of Mary in the center, the national Port company's has an actual boat in it, and the altar for the government energy company reads "ENATREL with Mary, joyfully extending Nicaragua's electrical grid!"

Some people question why a country as poor as Nicaragua would spend so much time, money and electricity on a religious celebration. In the book Poor Economics, authors say that Third World countries spend more on festivals and celebrations than First World countries, and the reason once again it boils down to something I've mentioned before: poverty is really boring.

So imagine! Now, for the price of a bus ticket, Managuans can take their families out to see this spectacle. If you were down there tonight, you would find crowds of very different Nicaraguans enjoying the show, their faces utterly lit up with joy as they pose for pictures with their favorite altars. This festival allows people to forget for a little while the drudgery of the every day, to lose themselves in a little beauty and joy.

And it's stimulating the economy -- an entire boulevard full of street vendors is grateful to be doing a booming business all the way through January.

This Saturday, as groups of families weave through the streets carrying sacks, stopping at each altar to shout “¿Quién causa tanta alegría? ¡La concepción de María!” “Who causes so much joy? The conception of Mary!” You can be sure that there will indeed be a lot of (very loud) joy. ¡Que viva María! ¡Que viva!  -- Becca

Monday, December 2, 2013

First Candle: Hope

Advent is the season of the Church Year in which Christians celebrate the coming of Christ.  Instead of nine candles in the Menorah, there are five candles in an Advent wreath and each candle stands for some idea, person, or event that differs among the churches. 

Jubilee House Community Advent celebrations 1980s
We hang banners we made in the 1980s with Community members who lived with us then.  They are worn and tattered…and loved.  We try in the wind to light our wax covered Advent wreath and we sing…all sorts of songs at all sorts of tones and volumes. 

Our first banner and candle stand for HOPE.  This works well with Hanukkah…Light is a symbol of hope.  The light at the end of the tunnel.  The candle in the darkness.  The first rays of the sun in the darkest hours of the night. 

Yet…Real Hope is not always found in the light.
Real hope comes not from seeing that there is a light at the end of the comes in the darkest of night…it comes in the times of most despair. 

 In the early days of our work with the poor, Mike and I had a seminary professor, Don Coffey, who gave me a piece of advice: “God will accomplish what He wants…just remember it will only be in His time…for example God will say, ‘I am going to break this boulder,’ and then will send a drip.  Drip.  Drip.  Drip.  In time that boulder will break…it will…but just not in my time or your time.”

And so for ten years we worked with the battered, raped, and homeless in the States.  Drip.  Drip. Drip.  And not a dent in the rock of poverty. 

Photo by Paul Dix
When we moved to Nicaragua in 1994 we desperately needed the hope we had found in the Nicaragua we had visited in the 1980s…they seemed to have taken a sledge hammer to poverty…But in 1994 in the aftermath of the Contra War, we found a whole country of battered and raped people.  Hope was in short supply. 

 But Hope did reside in at least one man, César Fajardo, who despite fighting in the insurrection against Somoza in his teens, investigating human rights violations by his own people in his twenties, and losing his chance of overcoming poverty with the end of the Sandinista Revolution, he still had Hope…enough to believe in our work and become our Director of Projects. 

We work with people who have Hope, who believe that good will win in the end.  And for us when we see real Hope…well we too can only believe… 

The boulder will break.  It will indeed. Hope.