Driving through the mountains of Nicaragua and looking out over the valleys, I don’t feel all that far away from the pine-filled mountains and valleys of western North Carolina that I once called home. In Nicaragua, unfortunately, deforestation is affecting the beautiful pine trees and harming small-scale farmers. Fortunately, many of those small-scale farmers are helping to reverse the deforestation by planting organic shade-grown coffee, revitalizing God’s good creation in this region.
Along with ten students from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., I’ve traveled from the town of El Castillo along the Río San Juan, to the higher elevations of Jinotega, and then down to San Ramon to meet LWR’s partners and see their work. Every step along the way we are greeted with a depth of hospitality that also reminds me of home.
The Hospitality of Food and Information
In order to reach the cocoa farm of Ruben Dario, we were greeted with a rope swing across the river. After all had safely landed, we traversed through cocoa and banana trees with more fruit than any of us could eat as. Ruben showed us how he has learned to diversify his crops so that he can produce higher quality cocoa. As a member of a farmer’s cooperative, COOPROCAFUC (LWR’s partner), Ruben has strengthened the income for his family and created a more sustainable farm to leave behind for his son, a point he made to our group often and with pride.
“At Ruben’s farm we knew that he wanted to answer any question we had for him,” said Concordia student Torie Jones, explaining how welcoming Ruben was. “He told us, ‘If you have any questions I will work to find an answer for you.’ ”
The Hospitality of Latrines
When we reached to home of Maria Catalina we had been traveling on bumpy roads for a while. Many in our group needed to use the little girl’s and boy’s room. This might not be the initial thing you want to ask the first time you arrive at someone’s house. But showing off their latrine was a source of pride for Maria’s family. Constructed during an LWR project their latrine provides safe sanitation and is connected to a biodigestion container that converts the waste into energy for the home.
“The welcome we received at Maria’s was physical,” said Tori Hansen. “From the bathroom, to the oatmeal drink she provided us all, to the bananas.”
The Hospitality of Students
Anyone’s first day at a new school can feel intimidating. So the loud “¡Bienvenidos!” was a welcome sound as our group arrived at La Corona School. These students participated in a Safe School project funded by LWR, where they learned to recognize environmental dangers like flooding rivers and earthquakes, and how to react safely. High school students who make up the school’s new first aid brigade put on a demonstration with the Concordia students as their test subjects. Not only did we feel welcome at La Corona, but we felt safe as well.
Hanna Loeffler-Kemp reflected that “the students’ desire to have us be part of their presentation gave us a more hands-on way of understanding the safe schools project. Their professionalism and pride was awesome to see!”
As our time in Nicaragua begins to wrap up we still have a few more communities to visit. I know this outpouring of hospitality will continue to meet us wherever we are. But I am most excited about the fact that these Concordia College students will bring this hospitality back to the United States, to their families, friends and campus. They will bring back stories, pictures and a vision for lasting solutions to poverty and sustainable development. This vision includes cocoa and coffee farmers. This vision includes school children. This vision includes communities with improved access to water. This vision all of the ways God is calling them. This vision includes you. I invite you enjoy their hospitality and hear the vision they have to share.
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