Thursday, January 19, 2012

This I believe

I had to write a This I believe statement for a class...

Words, Beliefs, Action

I believe that faith and theology are obligated to result in making decisions that are rooted in justice.

The world is full of injustice. People exploit each other, those who work hard to produce the products the rich eat cannot put food on the table for their children at night, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The world continues to press forward; people make decisions in order to put themselves in a situation where they can advance in their business, social status, or fame.

I have spent a lot of time listening to people who are constantly experiencing injustice in their lives. Those who are abused, exploited, looked down on by the rest of the world, and those who are never given a chance to show who they are and what they can do. I have spent time hearing their struggles, their hopes, their dreams, and I have seen them work hard to make those hopes and dreams come true.

I recently went on a trip to Nicaragua with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). On this trip we met coffee farmers who are part of a fair trade cooperative, artisans who work in a pottery coop, and men and women who work in a sewing cooperative. All of the men and women I met in Nicaragua were part of what is known as fair trade, they work for wages that are “fair” and they produce goods that are better quality than what we receive when paying unfair prices. These men and women live in a third world country where many of their neighbors are working in sweatshops or begging on the street, most people in Nicaragua live on less than $1 a day.

Their poverty is a result of a faulty government and the exploitation of their people and resources over many years. As a person of faith, one who purchases many of the goods I witnessed being produced, I never knew just how unjust the situation is for these people. I as person of faith, one driven by the teachings of Jesus Christ have now seen the effects of both justice for people and injustice done to people. I know what justice can do and I am obligated to share the stories I have so that others may be informed.

Why is it that my faith drives me to believe I have this obligation? If I take seriously the teachings of Jesus I have to see that Jesus was one who exploited not people but injustice. He stood up for those who were cast out by society and helped those who were being oppressed by even their own government. If I am to be Christ like and faith driven, I too must be committed to just living. My actions reflect my words, my words reflect my beliefs.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What does the Lord require of you?

Micah 6:8
What does the Lord require of you? To seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.

To seek justice...
Websters defines the word seek in many different ways,
1: to resort to : go to
2:to go in search of or look for or to try to discover
3: to ask for
4: to try to acquire or gain or aim at
5: to make an attempt

What does the Lord require? To resort to justice, to go to justice, to go in search of justice, to look for justice, to try to discover justice, to ask for justice, to acquire justice, to make an attempt at justice. What exactly is justice? Justice is defined as:
The principle or ideal of just dealing or right action: conformity to this principle or ideal- righteousness

The breakdown of words could go on and on, but if we look at just dealing, right action, and righteousness and assume for a moment that these things all point towards living in a loving relation with all people and the earth around us, that we take care of one another and the earth, that we live as people who care about future generations then we can understand just why it is important to seek justice. Seeking justice is not for ourselves, it is for those who are experiencing injustice around every corner they turn. Those who are not making fair wages, those who are being exploited so others can lift themselves up, those who are cast aside and thought of as no good or useless in society. God doesn't give up on people and neither should we, instead we should be seeking justice. Looking to do right by those experiencing injustice and therefore walking in righteousness before God.

What does the Lord require of me this day? To keep pressing on, to keep seeking justice and being informed, informing others, and challenging this world to seek to do what is right, to seek to do what is just, not only when it is convenient to do so...but in all circumstances.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Adjusting to being home

I have been back "home" for 3 days now. I have done a bit of debriefing and a lot of sharing since I returned home. I am faced with a pile of reading and more emotions than my body can handle. I have slept a lot, cried a lot, and find myself with one foot planted in Nica and the other walking through life back here in Southern Indiana.

And so I begin to process the experience. In our closing worship a member of the group read from Matthew 25:31-46
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

As she read the passage and reflected on it I began to think that as an American I am so accustomed to reading that passage in a way where I am the one doing for the least of these...however, in Nica I was the least of these. Sylvia, Alexandra, and Maria were feeding me, giving me shelter, giving me something to drink, they were loving me when I was in a very different place out of my comfort zone and at times wondering why in the world I was in Nicaragua.
Riding around in Managua I saw a huge statue of Jesus, and when I saw it I turned to another person in the group and said "Look, I found Jesus, he is in Nicaragua!" I was joking when I said it, but the more I reflect on my experiences in Nicaragua the more I realize I was face to face with Jesus every time a person welcomed me into their home or business. I saw Jesus in the way the people of Nicaragua were taking care of one another and even us strangers from a country that has done a lot of harm.
I saw in Nicaragua the outcome of Christians living as a people set apart, people who put others before themselves and who humbly serve as Christ served.
This experience was not just an eye opening experience to the world of Fair Trade, but it was an eye opening experience to what it means to live ones faith in a way that is loving and just and right in this world. It can be done, it is being done, we just have to look in places we least expect it and be open to receiving it.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Nicaragua Experience in photos...

Communion at our closing worship...

The first use of my new communion set
T-Shirts from the Sewing Cooperative
This and the one below it are of the communion set I purchased at the pottery cooperative in Ducuali

The pottery from the cooperative
beautiful work the women do

Gallery of Heroes and Martyrs
A church in Esteli
Coffee beans drying
Chili peppers being grown...Tabasco
The first step of the coffee process is picking these cherries off the tree
my hands after picking the coffee for a few hours

The pulp from the coffee bean being used as an organic fertilizer
The beautiful scenery
A house on the road in Boaco
In Boaco
Look at the size of those carrots!
A market outside of a Free Trade Zone (NOT the same as Fair Trade)
Trash burning on the street in Managua

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Nica 2012

Adjusting from Nica time to normal US fast paced be on time society is a bit challenging. I realized that this morning when my alarm went off and I turned it off and went back to sleep, missing church for the first time in ages. I spent the week in community with people I could barely communicate with. I spent a week living on "Nica time" what we Americans would call consistently being late to everything. I spent the week being served by people we view as poor, people who make in a year what I make in a month. And now I am home, home in the US trying to readjust. Trying to process my experience, trying to get back to living and doing so in a way that brings justice to all people.

I realize the impact my decisions have on the lives of people who have had a rough life, those who live in poverty, those who want to live and live well for themselves and their children. I have been a supporter of fair trade goods for a long time now, and this week has shown me how much of an impact this way of just living can have on a community. I can make a difference in the life of children and families in Nicaragua and I can influence my communities to do the same.

It is not just a gift that I was able to have this experience, but it is an obligation to me as well, an obligation to share the story of those I came into contact and relationship with in the past week. I have an obligation to continue sharing the stories of Christ in relation to the people who provide luxury items for us (coffee, chocolate, clothing, art). I have an obligation to the people I have come to love in Nicaragua and the rest of the world around me, to share the love of Christ in the most tangible seeking and doing justice.
Those are my thoughts so far...more to come as I continue to process...
Peace be within you,