Back in June I had the opportunity to go down to Nicaragua as a representative of the Board of Directors for Rise Up International (you can find them here). The trip was urgent and very last minute (had my ticket in hand about one week prior to departure) because there was a team of Americans (loosely affiliated with Rise Up) moving down to Nica for the summer to work with the same adolescent boys we were working with in the city of Masaya.
We have been working with the boys of Masaya for well over a year now- most of tem are addicted to glue, sleep on the streets, and are orphaned. The city, the churches, and people view these boys as a lost cause- a plight on their society.
The team felt "called by God" to work with these boys for the summer. As the week progressed and conversations ensued, it became clear that the team could care less about partnering with Rise Up- they were more concerned with saving these kid's souls. After all, as they put it- "you can feed a child food, but what they really need is Jesus."
Rise Up is not a Christian organization, we are a social service organization looking to empower local Nicaraguans to help these boys find hope. Hope for a better life, hope for a future, and hope for a world without addiction.
For the first time on an international scale, I saw two different philosophies (and really theologies) put into praxis. I experienced a whole lot of frustration that week- once again with Christians. But the frustrations were consistently usurped by the experiences I had that week- seeing first hand the programs and places Rise Up is working with, hearing the stories and hearts of Beatriz and Javier (two of our employees), meeting and hanging with the boys of Masaya and the families of La Chureca (the waste facility in the capital city- a huge community lives there), as well as hearing the stories of local Nicarguans who have had their own social conversions...revelations that the marginalized, the addicted, the hungry are THEIR problem to face as a community.
I saw this power in community consistently over the summer as I watched people come together for social change in Los Angeles, Nicaragua, and Bend. I am convinced that communities have the power to force local change...ultimately spreading to national, and then global change. This power will always be stunted by outside groups with their own agendas like the one I spoke of earlier (how American), but it will never be stopped because of these groups. We cannot let it.
There is always a lot at stake when working for social change....an imminence, and urgency, and hope...there is always hope.