The careful students of my blog will remember a statistic I cited earlier - that Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The minimum wage (which very few people actually make as much) is $150 USD/month ($4-$5 per day). Few people outside of the main cities have running water. Even less own a car.
When everything is cheap (a big ol’ pile of bananas, a liter of gas, a huge sack of beans or rice each usually cost less than $1), everything is expensive. What I mean by that is, it doesn’t matter how much or little something costs if you don’t have the cash to cover it either way and don’t have a steady way to earn money. The point I’m trying to make here is that life in Nicaragua (and in the rest of the Third World) can be hard.
So, when I put the question: “What is your biggest challenge in ministry” to some CEPAD leaders, I was humbled by the answers I received. What I expected to hear was a line about how funding and and financial worries would be a barrier to ministry success. My stuff-driven mind anticipated a sad, sad story about lack of resources, etc.
What they said was completely different.
Dámaris Albuquerque, Executive Director of CEPAD (in the photo, she's 2nd from the left, in the turquoise shirt), answered this way: [the biggest challenge] “will ultimately be the invasion, so to speak, of theology that preaches individuality and doesn’t preach the good of the community… All the time, there are fewer people that believe the Gospel in the same manner as CEPAD is preaching and practicing. They believe that ‘if everything is good between me and God, all is good. My neighbor isn’t important’”.
To CEPAD, it isn’t about bringing in money; it isn’t about star-studded connections to the West. It is about genuine transformation in communities and individuals. What Dámaris said so eloquently is that for the Gospel to be lived out, we must have Christ-following individuals leading transformation in their neighborhoods, communities, and cities.
I asked the same question of Alan, a CEPAD-trained pastor in the little community of Jiquelite (pictured below). His answer was short and to the point. The biggest challenge he sees in his community is not the lack of running water or ability to communicate to the outside world, it is that “nobody would be lost. That everybody would be repentant. This is the purpose of Jesus,” he said.
In our lives, so often filled to the brim with busyness and STUFF, we can forget about how James defines pure and faultless religion. In addition to being generally action-oriented (see 1:22) it is also “...to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (vs. 27).”
As we are now back stateside, this is my prayer for CEPAD and all the ministries we saw in Nicaragua. To keep doing the good work of the Kingdom and to remain true to their calling as preachers of a Gospel of Transformation.