Have you ever been locked in a room or locked out of a building with no key? Imagine being locked in a tiny toilet facility in a strange place where you don’t really speak the language, and you are not sure anyone hears you knocking at the door because everyone you travelled with is already on the bus that is ready to go. Yes, that is what happened to me during my recent trip to Nicaragua. I went with a group of elders, deacons and our pastor from Immanuel CRC in Hamilton, Ontario. The goal of our trip was to strengthen our friendships with five churches in Leon as well as learn more about their efforts in communities to overcome poverty and injustice.
Let’s go back to the experience in the wooden toilet stall. I tried my best to fiddle with the handle of the door, only to hear the disconcerting noise of a spring breaking in the lock. I started knocking and asking loudly if someone could please open the door. For about five minutes, it seemed like no one was hearing me or maybe they just did not understand my English. Eventually one of the managers of the café restaurant came to help. He first tried shaking the door. Then he tried the key for the lock but to no avail. Next, he resorted to large tools that eventually released me from confinement to the wide open world again. This wonderful man with his tools was my liberator! In contrast, my travelling companions from Immanuel became my paparazzi, flashing cameras of my release from a toilet prison. It was a memorable experience which generated quite a bit of laughter whenever the matter was brought up again.
Later during our trip, we had the wonderful experience of attending worship services led by church leaders in Nicaragua. As we sang the song “El es mi Libertador” with the message that God is my Liberator, I could not help but recall the experience of being locked in a toilet room. The song also reminded me of what we do every day in World Renew. By the grace of God as our Liberator, we too are able to free people from being locked in by forces of power and injustice. By His strength and wisdom together with their assets in church and community, we are able to change the story of their lives to hope and reconciliation.
One example of how we do this in Nicaragua was explained during a visit to a local partner organization, CCDH – Centro Cristiano de Derechos Humanos (the Christian Center forHuman Rights). World Renew has provided support for justice initiatives undertaken by this group of Christian lawyers and legal advisors. They dedicate their time pro bono to deal with cases of wrongful imprisonment, land grabbing, domestic violence, child abuse, and systemic oppression of vulnerable people, especially those with very little education who are living in the rural area of Chinandaga. Henry, the coordinator for CCDH, narrated a story about one of the most serious cases that involved some police and leaders of the courts who were bribed by a rich business owner. He intended to grab property from low-income families. Three people were killed when they tried to assert the rights of these families. With the tools of the law and the courageous spirit of God’s love in their hearts, these Christian lawyers from CCDH were able to ensure justice was done and those who committed murder were imprisoned. Praise God for brave lawyers who work with World Renew to open doors for people locked in a prison of oppression! As they educate people about their rights and advocate for people who are unjustly imprisoned, they show God’s love that unlocks doors to freedom and His saving grace. They are the agents of God as the Liberator.
Our work in Nicaragua is incredibly effective not only in releasing people from the physical aspects of poverty and injustice, but also revealing new doors of opportunity for local churches to be more effective.