Its January, which means J-term, and travel seminars away from the Gettysburg Seminary campus. Here is a series, we hope, of posts from Seminary President Michael Cooper-White, who has a group of seminarians in central America for ten days. Here is his first post:
After a journey of nearly 12 hours, which began with a 2:00 a.m. departure from the LTSG campus, our group of eight arrived at the Hotel of Fat Maria (the actual name) in Nicaragua´s capital city of Managua. Following a short time of room check-in and rest, our local hosts offered a fascinating ¨coyuntura¨or orientation session on realities of Nicaraguan society and the work carried out by local Lutherans. Our primary guide and traveling companion for the next ten days is Ms. Annie Bjerke, an ELCA missionary from Minnesota stationed here, who regularly hosts groups like that made up of our J-term study tour pilgrims. Offering a comprehensive assessment of the current state of affairs in this poorest Central American country was Mr. Edgar Sanchez, staff person for the Lutheran World Federation, who works primarily in economic development and relief projects throughout the northwestern portion of the country.
According to Sanchez, following inconclusive election results some months ago, accompanied by post-voting widespread allegations of corruption and irregularities in the contest, the Nicaraguan government is paralyzed--unable to move ahead in filling many key posts until the matter of who will actually govern gets resolved. Due to the current instability, plus the present Sandinista regime´s cozying up to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, many governments, international commercial enterprises and lending agencies have put a freeze on funds flowing into Nicaragua. As always occurs in times of such dire circumstances (with currently upwards of half the working age population either unemployed or hustiling to make a few Cordobas as street vendors and the like), it is the poorest of the poor who suffer most. Tomorrow afternoon, we head north to the town of Somoto, where our visits and ¨homestays¨will be among some of those most on the margins in this suffering land. But even as
Nicaraguans themselves struggle to keep hope alive of a brighter future, in this land that has itself been devastated by earthquake and Hurricane Mitch some years ago, there is a special measure of solidarity with and prayers for the huddled hurting, grieving masses in Latin America´s poorest country of Haiti.
One of the student pilgrims serves each day as group chaplain. In his end-of-a-long-day devotions tonight, LTSG seminarian Tormod Svensson read from Matthew 25, reminding us that it indeed in those who suffer most among us that we are most likely to catch glimpses of Jesus.
From Managua . . .