During my first two visits to Costa Rica, both of which were way too brief, I became really curious about Costa Rica’s neighbor to the north, Nicaragua. The two countries share a big border, and since CR is comparatively wealthy and Nicaragua is comparatively poor, this creates a bit of tension between the two, as you can imagine (not that we in the US know anything about tensions with a poor neighboring country).
So when I went back to Costa Rica last year to spend two months with my friends at the Association for Development through Education, I was sure to schedule a bus trip to Nicaragua. I lined up visits and interviews for three potential magazine story ideas, not sure which, if any, would ever be published.
One was a visit to La Chureca in the capital city of Managua, the largest garbage dump in Central America. There, a pastor who was a friend of a friend of a friend walked me through a labyrinth of plastic and sheet metal and introduced me to men and women who were part of a church he pastored until recently.
On another day I caught a minibus to the nearby town of Diriamba, where some friends of a friend had started that town’s first public library to nurture an appreciation for learning and reading and to provide young people with a safe place to grow up. The visits to both La Chureca and Diriamba were humbling and encouraging, as I witnessed Christians serving those in need and doing so faithfully, without a whole lot of fanfare.
But for various reasons the magazine idea that in fact came to fruition was a visit to Hogar Belén, a home for disabled and abandoned children just outside Managua, and part of a nonprofit called Mustard Seed Communities. It has been published in the May/June edition of PRISM, and the PDF is available here.
I’m glad this story came together because I think it demonstrates a striking contrast between prevailing views of what is considered success — even in church and ministry among the poor — and what Jesus has to say about serving “the least of these” with mustard seed-like faith.
The disabled, abandoned children of Hogar Belén don’t need any more of the CEO-type leaders that our evangelical culture is intent on churning out. And they certainly don’t need any more egotistical political leaders who put up year-round Christmas Trees to remind citizens of all they have to celebrate because of him. My hunch (or hypothesis) is that what the children of Hogar Belén have found is in fact what Christ calls each of us uniquely and all of us collectively to be. But you’ll need to read the article to see what that is. Then I’d really love to hear your thoughts.