Friday, November 11, 2011

Living the Kingdom of God, Now

By Valerie Hurwitz

Pat and Kathy Floerke, from the Central for Development in Central America in Nicaragua, visited ESR and spoke at Common Meal on Tuesday, November 8th, 2011. They brought with them crafts and clothing from Nicaragua to sell. I had the chance to speak with Kathy a bit at lunch, and she explained that she and her sister moved down to Nicaragua 17 years ago to work on economic development, but return to the US about two months a year to travel to churches, colleges, and peace groups. They share news of the CDCA, ask for donations, and sell crafts made by the Nicaraguans. The main point of Pat’s presentation was that we need to ask ourselves “when will God’s kingdom be here?” Pat and Kathy ask us what we are doing to bring about God’s realm here and now.

Nicaragua is a country of 5.6 million people. Like the US, it has been hit hard by the economic recession in recent years, but the situation there is much more dire. 80% of adults are unemployed or underemployed, and families survive on an average of $2.00 a day and more than a third of children are chronically malnourished. This is a good reminder to keep things in perspective. In the US, average household wealth has fallen (largely as a result of home prices falling) and unemployment remains stubbornly high, but the reality is that the side-effects of the global economic crisis have fallen even harder on countries where people already struggle to feed and house their families. This perspective should not keep us from seeking out the policies, societal customs, and regulations that led to the this recession and changing them, but rather remind us that we still have plenty to give to others.

The CDCA is based in Ciudad Sandino, which is a 1960s refugee camp that grew into a permanent settlement. Their work focuses on sustainable agriculture, appropriate use of technology, sustainable economic development, health care, and education. Their projects grow out of listening to communities and asking what their needs are, and letting communities take initiative. Right now the CDCA is working on getting the Genesis Co-operative, a spinning plant, up and running. Their farmer’s co-op, El Porvenir, has grown to 2,000 members and the CDCA provides loans to grow organic coffee and organic sesame seeds. El Porvenir, with the help of the CDCA, gets better than fair trade prices for their crops. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch swept through Honduras and Nicaragua, leaving more than 2 million people homeless. Many of the homeless in Nicaragua were settled in a camp called Nueva Vida near Ciudad Sandino. The refugees only exacerbated the already high local unemployment rate. The CDCA established a permanent health clinic in Nueva Vida in 2001. After the Nicaragua government started to provide free health in 2006 the CDCA has focused on dentistry, pediatric care, and preventative health education.

For Nicaraguans, the question of when God’s realm will be here is an immediate one. Pat told us that the people there have so much hope, despite living through US-supported dictators and poverty. Their question about God’s realm is not an eschatological one, but rather related to the here-and-now. “When will I be able to earn a living wage for my work?” “When will health care be available?” “When will it be possible to get a fair price for my crops?” Nicaraguans want to work towards God’s kingdom in their own cities, and our prayers, donations, and willingness to pay a little extra for their food and crafts can go a long ways towards helping that happen.

Valerie Hurwitz is Director of Recruitment and Admissions at Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Richmond, Indiana and serves as choir director at West Richmond Friends Meeting.

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