Bienvendios! Many of you reading this likely know me well, but for those who stumbled upon this, you’re welcome to join el camino. I somewhat stumbled upon Nicaragua as well, after discovering this position on my alma mater’s Career Services page in April. A rare discovery, I believe.
The job description was for two volunteers for a two-year program at a cultural center in Managua, Nicaragua. El Centro Cultural Batahola Norte (the Cultural Center of Batahola Norte) advertised itself as an oasis in the middle of a poor neighborhood and country; a vibrant refuge offering technical training for primarily youth and women, along with classes in the arts. What were they looking for? People with decent Spanish-speaking capacities, interest in community-living, spirituality, an attitude of accompniament, and social justice. Other desired qualities included interest in art, gender issues and prevention of violence. It seemed to be a bit too perfect of a fit for me.
I applied and interviewed via Skype with the current two volunteers, Amanda and Greta, and was accepted into the program. Next, came waiting to see who my compañero in my work would be. A few months later, I met my new partner for the next two years, Sam Estes. About this time, I also learned that I was being supported under the umbrella of VMM- USA (Volunteer Missionary Movement), a small, ecumenical Christian mission organization, with branches in Europe and the U.S.
I’ve been a Mennonite since before my birth, seeing I was born into a Mennonite family and nurtured as such. Discovering that VMM mostly consists of people from Catholic background delighted me. I enjoy learning from people of other faith traditions, and am attracted to liturgy. Upon my first day of orientation in Milwaukee, I realized I was among brothers and sisters. They share a passion for liberation theology and believe in God’s preferential option for the poor. They express the concept of “mission” as a way of accompanying people in their lives. Rather than just prosthelityzing, being a missionary is about living out my faith in all my actions and words, listening more than speaking. So, under VMM, I am not simply a volunteer, and not a stereotypical “missionary” but perhaps, a third-way hybrid.
Community is an integral part of living a fulfilled life, and I never sense this more than in my faith. Community supports me, challenges me to grow, and holds me accountable. I’m blessed to now be a part of multiple communities—Prairie Street Mennonite Church (my home congregation in Elkhart, IN), the community of other VMM “missioners” as we are called, the community of Batahola Norte, and a community of two with Sam.
I feel that I’ve been called to this community here in Nicaragua, a camino that will continue for two years. I also feel dedicated to maintating ties with my other communities around the world, and I hope via this blog, to open a door to share my experiences with many.
Asi que, les damo una prueba de Nicaragua—and so, I give you a Taste of Nicaragua. I hope to give a glimpse of the culture, food, smells, and people I encounter. Photos, stories, poems, cultural/historical notes, joys and struggles to follow…