We just recently revised our vision statement. It now boldly envisions “Communities that are continually, permanently, and progressively transforming within the intentions of God.” Without a doubt this is taking place in Nicaragua as we see God working, and ourselves humbly coming alongside. This vison statement is put to the test, however, when circumstances abruptly change and the idea of transformation being “continual, permanent, and progressive” are less obvious. This is especially true for the rural communities where we work along the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. They have experienced prolonged periods of drought over the past two years. Three cropping seasons have been lost by thousands of small landholder farmers that depend on rain-fed agriculture for subsistence.
A farmer named Mario Lopez summed it up this way: “Only three of the 20 shallow wells had water and the rest were dried up in my community of Aguas Calientes. The creeks are nothing more than stones and dust. Since there was no rain for the past nine months, there wasn’t a harvest from the first growing season. Everyone lost their entire crops and harvested nothing. Farmers planted the seed, the crop sprouted, but then it wilted and dried up. Families were left without seed and without food. They don’t have many options.”
By necessity, the families affected are naturally resilient. They have learned to live simply and within their means. But time does wear them down. When yet another crop was lost this year and the rains for the second planting season were already late, there was a mass migration of able-bodied men headed to find work in neighboring countries. They wanted to find some kind of work which would allow them to send back badly needed cash to their families. Meanwhile at home, families are being decapitalized, which means that the remaining family members survive by selling things they do not immediately need. Unfortunately, the things they sell are things they will need later. It’s not uncommon that the family cow and chickens are converted into cash, but at the same time they lose both the income and food streams from these assets. In August when it should have been raining, in pure faith, we made a plan that if the rains did come, we would be ready to distribute seed and supplemental food to about 900 farmers. When the traditional planting dates came and went, it looked like another crop failure was looming. Water sources dried up, parched land, scarcity of food, no seed for planting, families divided, and loss of hope. This didn’t exactly look like “continual, permanent and progressive” transformation.
Then the heavens opened up! The last week of September and into October, steady rains fell. We all recognized that the season would be short, so seed for short duration crops, mainly beans, were distributed. Farmers planted with fervor to take advantage of every possible day left in the growing season.
If all goes well, there should be a harvest in December. It won’t be big – for most families it will be just enough to get through until the next harvest in July. In the meanwhile we are doing some food distribution to the most vulnerable families. What do we learn from this? Perhaps how we understand “continual, permanent and progressive” transformation is different than God’s plans. Our job is to humbly walk alongside our God.