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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Assembly of PIGS: Grief

Today is All Saints Day, and Day of the Dead in Mexico. Tomorrow, Nicaragua will celebrate Day of the Dead. No matter which or neither of these days you celebrate, it is a good time to remember the dead and those left behind.

In Mexico, or wherever Mexicans may have settled, families go to the cemeteries to have picnics, light candles, and celebrate their loved ones who have gone before them. On Monday, Nicaraguans will go to the cemeteries to clean the grave plots and place flowers on the graves. Becca and her daughters, Eibhlín and Orla, will help us establish our own “shrine”, or “memory table”, of the dead from our families and community.

In many Protestant churches, people will worship and sing “For All the Saints” which is one of my favorite hymns. They will remember those who died in the year before, because it is good and right  to remember those whom we have lost.  This year the numbers will be greater than before because of the many deaths from COVID-19.

With this virus our world has lost artists, song writers, authors, activists, scientists, and our dear Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We have lost family members, teachers, friends and our sweet Jessenia Castillo. We have lost thinkers, leaders, visionaries and our dear John Lewis. As a society we have lost so many that we love and admire…so many whose music we enjoy...so many who have left their mark on our lives. And we grieve our loss. At this point, who among us has not lost someone dear to them because of COVID?

Grief must be released. When we see the marches over Black Lives Matter, we need to remember these are mostly marches of grief, because of all the lives lost to senseless brutality. Most in the Black communities know the loss of someone either dead or in prison due to the lunacy of the criminal justice system.

When we see marches demanding change to gun laws, again these are motivated from grief…from the loss of children, parents, friends that have been cruelly shot in homes, schools, cinemas and other public places. 

So often we see only anger and not the grief that births the anger.

Here in Nicaragua, grief is treated a bit more humanely, I think. When there is not the social distancing demanded in a pandemic and there is a death, then the family cleans and dresses the body, places it in a simple coffin, and holds a vela (or wake) until the body begins to break down and needs to be buried. People walk to the cemetery with the family in support, to where friends have dug the hole for the body.

Nine days later, a mass or some kind of observance is held, because the grief is still there.

A month after the death, another mass or observance is held, because again the grief is still there.

Three months later and then a year later, the same happens. Most Nicaraguans realize that grief stays with the loved ones for a long time. Sometimes a yearly observance is held until the family is ready to let go of their sadness.

One might think that the dead here have great power… but it is not that, it is more a recognition of the loss of a loved one. A recognition of grief.

With the rise in the evangelical movement here, people are told to celebrate the resurrection and the fact that their loved one is in a better place. But the grief is still there…the loss…the hole left by your child or parent or dearest friend dying.

With the pandemic, these rituals are not being observed as much and the families and friends are left more alone in their grief. We cannot deny the grief…the mourning…the lamenting of all that is now lost.

Grief feels like losing a part of yourself. Your heart is broken and the more you have loved, the more broken the heart is. Grief is first like a gashing wound spurting blood all over the place no matter how much you try to shut it off, and then grief moves to a slow bleed oozing the life out of you. The more you ignore the grief, the more packed down and festering the wound becomes.

We must as a society figure out how to help those who grieve. We cannot shut their pain off or try to make it go away. That is hard, because it’s difficult for us to address the pain. Their pain brings up our past grief and our future grief. 

Mike, Jessica, Tiff, T Earl gathering around Joan 

When Mike’s mother, Joan, was dying with cancer, I went to be with Mike who was helping, and see his parents. Joan was in so much physical pain from the cancer, and Thomas Earl, Mike’s dad, and Mike were in pain watching the withering away of their beloved and mother. I sat with Joan one afternoon and asked her point blank how she felt about dying and who was talking to her about it.

“I’m angry, Been. I’m really angry.”

“Tell me what you are angry about?”

“What I am going to miss,” at this point tears pouring down her face. “I won’t get to see my grandchildren grow up. I won’t even get to meet the grandchild there,” pointing to my swollen belly. “I am going to miss so much.”

My tears now flowing, “I know. I will miss all that, too. I’m mad too.”

We sat and cried. But then she decided that she wanted her hair cut, a perm put in, a meal from Red Lobster, a wine cooler, and she would finally take her morphine in the doses she'd been instructed to take. She had a couple of good days, one bad day, and at the end of that died, she died.

Grief comes in waves. Rage can pour down on us at the loss of someone dear and the injustice we feel. It can stop us in our tracks and make it hard to breathe when we look for our child and the child is no longer there. It can make us curl up in a ball and try to will the hurt away. It can make us crazy as we try to fill that hole that is left.

But grief can and will ease over time and with the love of others. And that is where we who are not in tremendous grief at the moment have to help, we must - however possible in these pandemic times - be there. We may not know what to say or how to say it, but the love and support will be felt and is desperately needed.

The dead are resting from their labors, illnesses, and pain. It’s the living who need us now.


-Kathleen

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Future Fridays: Are You Feeling Anxious?

This week, The Guardian published an article about scientists discovering pockets of methane gas being released as the ice shelf off the east coast of Siberia melts. As this happens, it will speed up global warming. Our daughter, Jessica, was telling me Wednesday morning that she had read this. She followed it up with something like, “Even the middle class are getting anxious and afraid.”

Anxiety, fear, and depression can be useful feelings.  They are frequently legitimate feelings in reaction to bad things happening and are not always an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. 
Risher in Nicaragua


I remember a visit with the late Risher Brabham, who led many delegations down here with joy. I had written him to coordinate his trip and was late in responding to his questions. I told him that I was feeling depressed. He brought me scotch for “my depression” and then as we were sitting on the porch laughing and catching up, our sons – at those ages - one-by-one came onto the porch fussing about each other or something or other. Risher said, “Well, I know why you’re depressed!”

Sometimes it is natural to feel depressed, scared, and anxious. And sometimes whole groups of people can feel depressed, scared, and anxious.

While visiting Nicaragua in the 1980s right after the revolution, people here were hopeful and even though the U.S. was waging a war, there was a determination in their voices and strength and pride in their posture. When we moved here in 1994, after the U.S. basically* said “elect Violeta Chamorro or the trade embargo continues”…after the Contra war where 30,000 Nicaraguans had died, many more were wounded, and the economy was wrecked…the country was in a pit of depression. They had cried “uncle.” 

With climate change happening as rapidly as it is and disasters hitting people worldwide, people are scared and angry.  As government leaders continue to not address Climate Change with urgency, young people are scared and anxious…and rightly so.

The question we have to ask ourselves is: can we act using the fear and anxiety to motivate us to move, or will the depression wrap around us like a straight jacket and we quit? 

Photo Shutterstock licensed



A scene in L.A. Law years ago involved one of the lawyers during labor. At one point she started to get up from the bed and leave. Her husband asked her where she was going. She said, “I'm going home to rest. Then I’ll come back tomorrow and finish this”... then a contraction came.

I laughed so hard, because I remembered with my long labor delivering Coury, that I just wanted to stop and rest. The midwife kept saying, “when the baby comes, you can stop.” With labor though, your body goes into auto-drive and even though rest is what you crave, you can’t...until the baby comes.

This is true in medical crises: when people with injuries end up in the ER, doctors and nurses work tirelessly until the patient is stable.  In war, people have to keep staying safe, taking care of wounded, and fighting until the battle stops. In disasters, people keep moving and helping until the disaster is over or contained. 

Climate Change is this sort of crisis. We can only stop when the crisis is over, but unlike labor we can occasionally take R and R…like soldiers...so we can reboot. We, the Jubilee House Community, are doing so next week starting on Wednesday**. We are taking three days to laugh, visit with each other, enjoy the young ones…maybe the depression blanket will loosen enough to give us new energy.

We cannot stay in the alternative reality of resting, or ignoring the fight against extinction.   After the rest and relaxation or re-creation, we all must come back to the crisis, ready to do our part.
-Kathleen 
**And we just learned Nicaragua will be experiencing a tropical storm or hurricane during the days we will be gone.  Isn't that sweet?

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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

U.S. elections, Nicaragua, Poverty... What will you do?

I was discussing with a family member about how the world perceived the United States when Pres. Bush was in office…which was a pretty bad perception then, except for the work Bush did in Africa addressing the AIDS pandemic. My family member said, “I don’t care about how the rest of the world perceived the U.S.”

The comment shocked me, because how we all get along as nations is as important or more important than how we get along with our neighbors.

In a world of nuclear bombs and climate change threatening to kill off much of life and the human race,* it is critical to think globally and elect leaders that will work globally.

Despite the coups in Central America and the horrors in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador…Nicaragua’s government works with its neighbors in trying to address issues in the isthmus - especially COVID-19 and drug trafficking. Little Nicaragua participated in the Paris Climate Accords…first by not signing to encourage nations to go further in their commitment of making real change, and then by signing.

Fighting poverty every way it can, the Nicaraguan government works with anyone who will help…but maintains its own sovereignty, which is one of the reasons many countries will not work with it. The Nicaraguan government will not be a puppet of any nation.

I can never understand the “threat” this little nation supposedly is to large nations like the United States. Or why U.S. conservatives who vote only on issues of abortion and keeping Christianity in the forefront have such a burr in their saddles when it comes to Nicaragua; where abortion is illegal and Christian observances, such as prayer in schools, are commonplace, as is seeing the Crucified Christ on a cross hanging in government buildings.




But with the U.S. elections in one week…we want to ask all of you who live up there to consider these thoughts as you vote: 



People tend to vote their own pockets and their own family needs, but we are asking you to look at the world.  Remember “God so loved the WORLD,”  how can we do less when we cast our ballots? 

-Kathleen

*We U.S. citizens have all voted absentee. Mike, Sarah, Daniel and I even spent $44 to rush our sealed ballots to California by DHL. This is how important this is to us.



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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Assembly of PIGS: Spectators

I’m so tired and old.  We were gathered together watching the Presidential Debate on Thursday…two old men trying to win the election.  I watched Pres. Trump explain and blame away the treatment of the immigrant children and not being able to find over 500 children’s parents.  I felt exhausted. 


Our two-year old granddaughter, Samantha, came up to me - bored out of her mind - and said, “Time to eat, Nana,” which means we go and pretend to cook and pretend to chomp on Legos.  I left the debate, too weary to even be mad.

Samantha

Mike and I occasionally watch The Crown.  The episode that we saw last night was about some business people trying to foster a coup of the British government in the 60s.  At the end, their spokesperson and a royal family member was talking with his sister, both of them old.  His sister, Princess Alice, said, “Now we are just spectators.”


I thought “Is that what I am now?  A spectator?”


So many of us are spectators…watching the horrors happening in our world and thinking "I can do nothing.”


I remember talking to delegations of college students and saying to them in my late 50s and early 60s, “I’m old.  I’m tired.  When are you, the young people, going to take up the baton?”


And now young people ARE taking up the baton and hitting the streets demanding justice for all people no matter their race.  Even older people are in the streets…one old peace activist was even shoved down by police and broke his head…but mostly when you look at tapes, it is young people.


Maybe the young people will be our hope for a much, much better future?  I hope so. The question is: as they age, will they get caught up in their lives, careers, and become only spectators?  Will they be like the protestors of the Vietnam War?


Marching and demonstrating can be exhilarating.  I know.  I remember the peace marches.  Going to jail as a statement can bind one with others.  I know.  I remember the zip ties, paddy wagons, and jail cells.  As one mass of people with one goal, participants can be energized.  I know.  I remember praying in the Capital Rotunda to call for aid for the homeless.


But doing the day-to-day struggle for social justice and peace is exhausting, especially if you work year-end and year-out.


I sometimes say, “Jesus wasn’t on earth for the long-haul.  He died early in life.”


Don’t shoot me, I’m tired.


But then I have the Nicaraguan granddaughter wanting to “cook” and I look at her beautiful brown skin and dark eyes and I think of those Central American children locked in cages away from their mommies and daddies and I know then, being a spectator is not what I was called to be, and though I’m an old woman now and weary to my bones…I need to act.


Our dear late friend, Maggie was a sister of the Nazarene order.  After leaving Nicaragua in her 80s, she wrote to me, "I can't see or hear very well any more.  I guess I'll just stay here and pray for the world.  That is all I can do now."


We can all act.  Social justice, peace, goodness, love are not spectator sports.

- Kathleen


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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Future Fridays: the Gift of Trees

 A letter came this week, by neighbors around the Nueva Vida Clinic, via the Mayor's office of Ciudad Sandino, asking that we trim our trees!  Wow!

In 1998, when Hurricane Mitch wiped out Nicaragua, thousands of flood victims were resettled just down the dirt road from us onto what was then rough pasture land... blocks and streets delineated by bulldozers... no water... no electricity... AND no shade from the tropical sun.  Black plastic lean-tos simply acted as solar cookers.


That neighborhood, Nueva Vida, became the focus of our Ciudad Sandino disaster relief work, and hundreds of international volunteers and local community workers helped to construct temporary housing (which gradually turned into tiny cinderblock houses), dig latrines, and construct the Nueva Vida Clinic while providing health services out of suitcases.  But ALSO, we planted TREES... thousands and thousands of trees.  



Every household received four trees when holes were dug and they were ready to plant... three for shade and one for fruit.  And because nurseries were thrilled with large bulk purchases, "Tree Sarah" our forestry volunteer, was able to get hundreds of "extras" while shopping.  So we planted at schools, and on the Nueva Vida Clinic property as well... anywhere folk wanted more trees.

Nueva Vida Clinic Monday AM patient line & trees - 2015

Today, in spite of the poverty and the obvious need for a sewage system and all the other needs of our Nueva Vida neighbors, I marvel at the trees every time I enter Nueva Vida... tall trees offering shade and producing oxygen, green against the sky.  So why the clinic neighbors' letter?


The Nueva Vida Clinic trees have gotten so large that their enormous branches reach out over the property line... over the street and the neighbors' homes and tiny yards.  Dropping leaves, if left unattended, will erode the zinc roofing of their small houses, and in windy thunderstorms, there is fear of branches falling.


So our maintenance folk, Rogelio, Pedro, and Lucas, trimmed trees this week.  No city maintenance truck with a high bucket on it to use... nope... they constructed a combination of movable scaffolding, ladders, rope guidelines, and using a chainsaw and machete, trimmed back the overhanging branches, working their way around the clinic property line.

Trimming trees - setting up scaffolding, ladders, and guide ropes - 2020


While I hate cutting any branches, I understand the need to trim.  But isn't it marvelous that those trees are there and so large that they even need to be trimmed?   What a difference 20 years can make.  What a difference all those volunteer helping hours years ago made to breathable air for us all today.  What a difference one woman made as Tree Sarah took off day after day to procure truckload after truckload of tiny seedlings for planting.


I am grateful!  Breathe!

- Sarah


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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Will the U.S. let Bolivians choose?

Bolivia had their elections on Sunday and as RD Hale posted on Twitter, his summary makes the last few of Bolivia's years fairly clear:

1.  Bolivia democratically elected socialists
2. U.S. wanted Bolivia’s lithium
3. Socialists said “no”
4. U.S. claimed fraudulent elections
5. U.S. overthrew socialists
6. Evidence showed U.S. lied
7. Socialist won GE [general elections] again
8. Imperialism lost

Aymara women - photo Shutterstock licensed

We in Nicaragua are watching Bolivia carefully, because the current Nicaraguan government calls itself democratic, Christian socialists.  The U.S. has actively been trying to overthrow Nicaragua’s democratically elected government.  And in 2021 when Nicaragua will have its general elections, the U.S. State Department has a plan to intervene in the elections, and if that does not work, foster a social coup using gangs. 


But let me go back to Bolivia. Evo Morales was one of the few indigenous people (identifying with the Aymara peoples) to ever become a head of state in modern times.  He was president for 14 years until 2019.  When he speaks, he is soft spoken but passionate regarding the poor and Bolivia…and he is indeed a socialist.  Bolivia’s indigenous population makes up 68% of the whole, while the wealthy and powerful white population only makes up 20%.  The indigenous population has been extremely oppressed even to the point of being called “savages” and kept poor.  38.6% of the population of Bolivia lives on lessthan $2/day.


Evo Morales - former Bolivian President - photo Shutterstock licensed

In November 2019, Pres. Morales resigned and left Bolivia after a coup sponsored by the U.S.  He went to Mexico because he said that there was a $50,000 price put on his head by “coup plotters” and he left so “there would be no more bloodshed.”


 Jeanine Áñez, interim president and an evangelical, took over and called the Aymara peoples “satanic” and called their worship “satanic rites” in tweets that she then deleted.  This is in a nation of 76.8% Catholics, 8.1% evangelical and Pentecostal, 7.9% protestant.  Strange.


On Sunday, Bolivia had another election, Luis Arce won with no need for a run-off.  He is with the Movement for Socialism, the party of Pres. Morales.  Obviously, the majority of the nation wants socialism…the question is “Will the United States allow them to have what they want?”


Luis Arce - Bolivian President Elect - photo Shutterstock licensed

Which is a HUGE concern for Nicaragua, if Pres. Ortega wins again…will the U.S. allow the will of the people to stand?  With the State Dept. leaked paper describing a plan, probably not.


At some point the U.S. will have to allow Latin Americans to have the right to their own determinations.  They will have to respect national sovereignty of other nations. 


AND the US government is going to have to look at socialism…or something…because the way things are going is bad for our own citizens.  Public Citizen posted a tweet: 

Federal Minimum wage:

2009 $7.29

2010 $7.29 
2011 $7.29 
2012 $7.29 
2013 $7.29 
2014 $7.29 
2015 $7.29 
2016 $7.29 
2017 $7.29 
2018 $7.29 
2019 $7.29 
2020 $7.29 

WHILE the 400 richest Americans have made: 

2009    $1,270,000,000,000 
2020    $3,200,000,000,000 

[Mic drop]

-Kathleen


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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Assembly of PIGS: POP!

We all have people that we do not know, but admire immensely.  One of mine is Paul Farmer who is a medical physician in the fields of internal medicine and infectious diseases from Harvard.  He has a PhD from Harvard in medical anthropology. He is chair of the Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard’s Medical School.  He is brilliant and has a deep commitment to the poor of the world.  He started and continues to work in Partners in Health. 


We were given a book about Paul Farmer, Mountains Beyond Mountains (author Tracy Kidder) by a dear friend, Al Jenkins.  After reading it I felt so guilty because I had not done in Nicaragua what he had done in Haiti. 


By the way, Mike helped me get over that guilt. 


I realized I have not the brains nor the resources that he does, but I do have his writings and books.  His writings help me focus the vision of the clinic on what is important.


One of the core principles of Farmer’s life is POP! as he calls the Preferential Option for the Poor.    Farmer was a lapsed Catholic who began reading the teachings of Father Gustavo Gutierrez regarding liberation theology which stresses liberation from economic, social and political oppression as a way to bring ultimate salvation to all.  From this theology Farmer started implementing liberation and POP! into his medicine and work.


Many years ago, we sat together as a community and talked about what we believed.  The Preferential Option for the Poor was a belief that we all held.  We believed that we are called to address the needs of the poor way before addressing the desires of the rich.  We believed that the Divine has a special love for the poor and the oppressed.  We believed that the Bible is filled with passages calling for social justice for the vulnerable.




I have heard Christians say, “God takes care of His own.”  Are the poor not God’s children as well?


Liberation theology and the Preferential Option for the Poor stand at a juxtaposition with Prosperity Christianity or the idea that God blesses His own with riches.


I have heard Christians say, “I believe that God loves us all the same.   He does not love the poor more.”


If you are a parent, you know you love your children the same.  But if you are a parent and one child is suffering and the other siblings are not relieving the suffering then you will advocate and help the suffering child more than the others… because the need is greater.  And the siblings not helping the one suffering will break a parent’s heart.


Again, are not the poor God’s children as well?


Whether you are an atheist or theist of any kind, there is a common blood in all of us that makes us one family.  And in healthy families or clans we stand with each other and help each other.  Dysfunctional families hurt, harm, and shut out their members.


Having the Preferential Option for the Poor… addressing the needs of the poor as a priority of faith or a priority of society, economy, and politics will heal our world.  It is a belief that anyone can take.


In the Assembly of People Into Giving a Sh*t, we hold firmly to the belief and creed that the poor have to take priority.  We work for a world where the poor are cared for, because we are part of that world.


We do this because if our own children… say our son, Daniel and his family, were poor - and we could not help - we would want people to make the world right for them to live with their needs met.  If our son, Coury and his family, were hungry we would want others to give them food.  If our son, Joseph and his love, were homeless we would want someone to provide them a place to live.  If our daughter, Jessica and her children, were taken captive, we would want the world to move heaven and earth to free them.  If our son, Tiff and his wife, were sick, we would want society to provide them with health care. If our Community’s daughters, Eibhlín, Orla, and Samantha, were limited in their options because of their sex and/or race, we would want marches and demonstrations of millions to make the laws that will protect them.


In the Assembly of PIGS, all people are ONE family and POP! is a creed to live by.


-Kathleen


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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Future Fridays: But Do You Understand?

The last blog that we published on climate change was after the presidential debate when Chris Wallace asking if Pres. Trump could now believe in the science of climate change.  I saw a quote from Bill Moyers, a Christian and journalist, who said that we should not be asking if people believe in the science of climate change but rather “do you understand the science of climate change?”*


I heard Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, explore the whole notion of believing in science on Real Time with Bill Maher.  His basic idea is that science is not a belief system.  It is facts.  And when the facts change science does as well. 


Neil deGrasse Tyson on Real Time with Bill Maher


Science is theories, facts, and a few laws that have been thoroughly examined and scientifically shown to be true.  The method of science is speculation, then research, data collected, trials tested, and conclusions formatted. 


Faith or belief is in things not seen.  I believe - as well as many scientists - in the Divine.


There is much in science that I do not understand.  I remember asking Sarah’s brother, a nuclear physicist, about electricity because it just seemed like magic to me.  He patiently took the time to explain it to me and I understood.   Bill is one of those scientists who also believes in the Divine.  I would say that he finds science as a way to see the Divine in “the things not seen.”  His faith is deep and his love of science is also deep.


I think one of the modern-day problems of science research is the money being poured into the laboratories.  Too many labs and scientists are funded in order to get results.   "Companies that sponsor research have an interest in producing research results that can support the development and marketing of their products or services. "


For example: a coffee company funding research tends to find results showing the benefits of coffee.  A tea company funded-research tells us how good tea - not coffee - is for us.  And an independent medical research team says both are horrible in excess, but a little of either is okay.


And this is the argument around climate change research… there have been scientists and labs funded by oil companies… so their research is the research that so-call climate change deniers use to continue to confuse people.


But when the vast majority of actively publishing climate scientists – 97 percent – agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change,” then it is long past time for us to understand the science and start working on a solution.

photo - https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/


As Desmond Tutu, South African bishop, said, "Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse."


-Kathleen

*I have tried to find this quote again, but cannot.  I apologize.


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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Did the WHO backtrack?

The World Health Organization has not backtracked its advice on lockdowns as some people think.  What was said on Monday is this:

"We really do appeal to all world leaders, stop using lockdown as your primary method of control," Dr. David Nabarro said.

"Lockdowns have just one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer."

"The only time we believe a lockdown in justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources; protect your health workers who are exhausted," Dr Nabarro added. "But by and large, we'd rather not do it."


We have learned a great deal over the last year regarding COVID-19 and what works and what doesn't.  The countries that have had the greatest success at lock-downs are those that did complete lock-downs for short periods of time.  COMPLETE.  In that the government brought food and medicines to people’s doors and NO ONE left their home except those needing hospitalizations or working in the providing and transporting of food and medicines or working in health, like in China and New Zealand.


I remember a conversation with our son Coury who studied medicine and whose wife, Cassie, is a doctor and has a public health master’s degree.  He was so angry at the way that California and the United States as a whole was shutting down… because they really weren’t.  Grocery stores, pharmacies, COSCOs, etc. were all open.  “We are doing this half a**!  If we shut down, we should SHUT DOWN and hire people to safely bring necessities to people’s doors.”


Nicaragua, like Sweden, has not shut down and we have the lowest confirmed infection rates in Central America.  A Nicaraguan friend has a relative who works in a Nicaraguan cemetery and who said that the normal burial rate for that particular cemetery is two a day.  The 2020 spring burials were up to sixteen a day, but are now back to two burials/day.


The CDCA closed in June and I’m glad that we did, because it gave our infirmed staff time to recover fully from COVID-19 and gave others time to care for sick family members, but as of July the first we are back open, with heightened disinfectant and protection policies in place both in the clinic and in our other work spaces, including mandating the policy of mask wearing.


Through the pandemic, Nicaragua is doing better than most Latin American countries economically,  but it  has suffered from the loss of tourism.  Given that Nicaragua is still the second poorest nation in the Americas… can you imagine the rate of poverty if Nicaragua had shut down?  Or in the words of our son, “Half a**ed shut down”? 




Nicaraguan public schools stayed open, but those who wanted to learn from home could… on-line or with television and radio as one channel on each was dedicated to teaching classes.  Now the schools are open and even with all of that, students have still fallen behind, but not as much as if the schools had closed completely.  Public schools here provide education and food.  Can you imagine the increase of hungry children with no school meals provided in a nation as poor as this?


Other nations like Nicaragua that depend on tourism are suffering terribly… Caribbean and Pacific Island nations are experiencing tremendous increases in poverty and hunger.


The U.N.’s World Food Program won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in feeding the world.  Today with the pandemic and climate change, their main concern is the rapid increase in starvation, not just malnutrition.


The World Health Organization pleads with leaders to open up unless the hospitals are becoming overwhelmed and health care staff need rest.  When a society shuts down…then shut all the way down and for a short period while the leaders reorganize, regroup, and MAKE A PLAN.   Make sure health protection is available for hospitals, health care staff, and then the rest of the population.  Those who have money and resources need to reprioritize for hospitals, health care, supporting the economy, public health education, safe schooling... not funding and using bombs, guns, and ammo.


And for heaven’s sake... mask up, social distance when you can, and wash your hands.  These are proven to work.  Look to the WHO and CDC for guidance.




COVID-19 will be with us for a long, long time.  There is no herd immunity because the virus is mutating.  A vaccine, if developed, may help with the severity of the virus, but a mask is more valuable.   Presently a cure has not been developed and when a cure or vaccine are developed both have to be available globally and need to be cheap or for free… or more serious mutations of the virus will occur.


We are really ONE world.  Remember, even if you don't care about the poor the reality is if the poor get sick, we all get sick.


And again, mask up, keep your distance and wash your hands… frequently.

-Kathleen


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Saturday, October 10, 2020

Assembly of PIGS: Who Do You Trust?

Last Sunday we published our first Assembly of PIGS homily/sermon/thought for the week… 


Last week I mentioned a Presbyterian Peace Conference and I will again this week. 


One of the keynote speakers was Dr. Rev. Will Campbell, a civil rights activist, Southern Baptist minister and so, so much more.  He related a story between his daughter and him regarding seeing a bumper sticker that said, “Honk if you love Jesus”.  His daughter said something like, “It should be ‘Honk if you love Hitler’ because everyone loves Jesus.  He is easy to love.”  It was a shocking statement, but it is true. Jesus is easy to love especially the Jesus that is recounted in documents 2,000 years or so ago.  The hard love is one’s enemies or the despicable.  Those who have hurt so many. 


Will went on to talk about the easy love we have for Jesus, but the question needed to be not “do we love Jesus?” but rather “do we TRUST Jesus?” 


Who or what do we trust? 


The United States currency says “In God We Trust”, but do we?  Really? 




Where do we spend our money as a nation?  Who do we give the most support to?  What economic system reigns?  Why do so many of us keep guns to protect ourselves?  Who do we trust?  Or where do we place our trust? 


We have insurance policies for everything…cars, homes, houses, apartments, health, death, hands, feet, careers, etc. Is it here that we think we'll be kept safe from the climate, pandemics, fire, storms, and accidents? 


Is the enormous military budget going to keep us safe from war, nuclear bombs, or foreign attacks? 


And I can hear most of you saying, “Well, will Jesus? If we trust him?  Will God keep us safe?” 


And my answer is I don’t think so.  Trust is deeper than keeping one safe and well-fed.  “Trust starts with truth and ends with truth,” wrote Santosh Kalwar, a Nepalese author.  And in the gospels, we learn that “the truth will set you free.” 


On my better days, I hold close Martin Luther King, Jr.’s comment, “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  I believe that is true.  I trust in that moral arc and that someday we will arrive at justice. 


Mike and I had a seminary professor and dear friend, Don Coffey, who told me once, “God will accomplish what he intends.  If he says, ‘I will break that boulder’, then the way he may choose to do it is not by an earthquake but a slow drip, drip, drip of single drops of water.  In time, the boulder WILL break.” 


I trust in the drip, drip, drip of water… on my better days. 


I’m not the kind of believer who thinks that the Divine extends a special hand to shelter from harm only those who trust in the Divine, because who do I see that truly put their trust in the Divine more than any other?  Poor people.  They HAVE to trust in something that is not human because humans abuse them, keep them oppressed and hidden.  Who is more at risk from wars, storms, fires, pandemics, and all the horrors of life than any other population?  Poor people. 


There is a reason Jesus said “that is where you will find me.”  With the hungry, the naked, the imprisoned, the sick, the poor.  That is where we find Jesus for those of us who are Christians.  In the broken, in the hopeless, in the dumps looking for food, in the alley ways shot up on heroine…we, Christians, find our Lord there.  And as we work for those suffering…as we trust in the Divine to reside in these people…we can see Jesus and we can trust that the poor will be lifted up, the imprisoned will be set free, songs will be sung in the houses of death, and we can love… 


As we trust in the moral arc of the universe and the drip, drip, drip of water…we can love and act, because without trust we cannot truly love. 


-Kathleen


NOTE: If you are reading this blog using the mobile version,click on "web version" to see the full blog with all the features including "subscribe to blog by email".  

Please join us and also share on your social media.

Donate here to the ongoing work of the CDCA with the poor in Nicaragua: