Nicaragua, the country we chose to make our home for a two year commitment has become a place of great hope for us. Missionary life has not been what we thought that it would be when we first embarked 8 years ago. But this post is not about our expectations, I’ll write more about later, but it is about the place where we have tried to create a home for ourselves.
Almost one month ago, we heard about a major protest in Managua. Since then, there have been continual marches, every single day. Some of them have not been very peaceful. Here is a video that captures what has happened over the last few weeks. I’m sorry that it is all in Spanish but it gives a pretty clear picture of the unrest.
During this time Mark and I have had to consider leaving with our family. Sometimes, I was pretty nervous. But when I would think about it and talk with Mark, we would always come back to the fact that, although, the two towns closest to us have seen looting, burning and unrest our town always remains peaceful. More than likely we would not experience violence, so we did not have a good reason to leave.
Apart of the consequences of the protest, that have been peaceful marches being repressed by the paramilitary and National Police. Towns have begun to blockade themselves in so that they can control who comes in.
Despite the fact, that we had decided that we were going to wait things out until our regularly scheduled time in July, we spoke with our director on Monday afternoon and we decided that perhaps we should leave now. It took us the rest of the afternoon to process what that meant. Does that mean within a couple of days or perhaps within the week? Should we totally move out of our house, or keep it? We went to speak with some of our friends who are the ones we like to talk with when we need advice. We had to check on the prices of flights. We talked with people about which way would be the safest way with the least roadblocks. By the end of the evening, we decided that more than likely, conditions could really get bad if the National Dialogue did not go well, and that we should leave as soon as possible. We took one day to pack up our house so that we could get on a bus into Costa Rica. Today we had to reroute because of roadblocks a couple of times and wondered if we would make our bus departure. We chose the earliest bus possible thinking we would not encounter any blocks. We have a good friend who picks us up in Managua with his microbus as we come back and forth into the country from the states. We arrived at his house at 3:45 am with no problems. A half hour later, we had to reroute twice because the people were beginning to build the roadblocks again. It has been one thing to see pictures of the blockades with men and their faces covered so no one can recognize them, but it is another thing to see them for ourselves up close and real. But Thanks be to God we made it through the Nicaraguan border without problems.
We are now waiting in Costa Rica until tomorrow were we will fly back to Kansas City.
It may be futile and silly, but I am remaining more vague than I would like to because we know that the government here is trolling the internet for those who are opposed to them and if things go really south we don’t want to be barred from being able to come into the country when we leave this summer for our regularly scheduled time in the states.
On Wednesday, we saw another beautiful peaceful march of the people of Nicaragua. This is the third National March since April 18th, that has been called to demand justice, real democracy and a new government. Emotionally we have been on a roller coaster ride. Our hopes that change can happen peacefully after a march like that are very high. Surely this administration will bow to the will of the people and do the right thing. However, the silence is really speaking louder than words. The Vice-President, the spokesperson for the government, has belittled the marchers as minuscule vultures. With hopes soaring high, we all wait in anticipation of what the government response will be. And that is not always very hopeful. There have been attacks from the National Police in a few of the marches and we can feel tension of the people as their plea for justice is being ignored. We have to decide when we should take our seven children and leave. Thankfully, we haven’t felt like we are personally in threat of danger but we have come up with a plan with the children, that if things got bad quickly, we could get everything together and leave the country in five hours.
Yesterday, there were 10,000 taxis in Managua that were protesting against the increasing gas prices. Many people here do not have cars and taxis are very common to use. However, the peaceful day ended last night with the students at the UPOLI being attached. The students have barricaded themselves in the University for over 20 days now, and will continue until their demands are met and open dialogue with the government can happen. We know that one more student died last night and there have been many injured. Is the government just waiting the people out, thinking that they will get back to their lives? Or are they poking and prodding to ignite into violence this underlying unhappiness and anger towards the government so that they can declare Marshal Law and really squash this rebellion? Every day is a wait and see.
It is so easy to get caught up in politics, no matter where we are living, and having peaceful marches here in Nicaragua are making a huge statement to the world and seems like the way to make change, much like Gandhi or Martin Luther King. We can get caught up in left wing or right wings, because even here there are people who are very pro-government. Irreconcilable divisions, lack of charity towards the opposition, that is when real change is hindered and keeps us under dishonest rulers.
The apostles and the first disciples dreamed of throwing off the oppression and unjust government of the Romans, but Jesus did not get into politics. He paid His taxes and started a revolution of love. He didn’t crush a bruised reed or a smoldering wick, but called the hypocrite what they were. He built a kingdom of love, touching the leper and other untouchables, he forgave and had compassion. This is what we need to promote wherever we live. The real and lasting changes come when we make a difference for the Kingdom of God.
As we were driving to and from Managua yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice the increasing amount of blue and white painted poles alongside the road. Blue and white are the colors of the Nicaraguan flag and have become the symbol of the April 18 Movement. I don’t want to go into all that has happened in the previous weeks but here is a great blogpost that describes the events and what lead up to them as well as a follow up post here. We are not affiliated with them but they are another missionary family living here in Nicaragua.
Our small town has been very peaceful during this crisis. Life has gone on as normal as possible with increasing gas prices. We have felt very fortunate as neighboring towns have not been as peaceful. However, driving around and seeing the contrast of the neighboring towns with their blue and white colors painted everywhere, we noticed that in our town the amount of red and black, the colors of the Sandinista party, is still very prevalent and is a little unsettling.
While marches have continued all over Nicaragua, over that last three weeks and while it looked hopeful that they would continue peacefully and open dialogue would happen, I am feeling less certain. This country has been turned on its head and is struggling to get back on its feet. The people have been marching under their flag and demanding justice while the government has continued to not just turn a deaf ear but has been pointing blame of certain acts of violence back on the people. While the country continues to unite under their flag, even painting over the red and black, I am noticing which towns are blue and white and which are red and black shows us that the country really is divided.
We heard that there would be another planned march today in Managua, so that is why we made a quick trip into PriceSmart (the Costco of Central America) to stock up on some groceries and avoid Managua for the rest of the week. As we approached Managua, we saw a growing group of people around a statue of Our Lady of Cuapa (a Marian statue) that had been smashed. Then we heard the news that a new group, the May 8th Movement, had destroyed with glass and tar a memorial place for thirty of the over 45 people were killed during the initial march.
As of right now, we are going to continue to stay here. We are not in any danger in our town and we can continue to build the mission. Some things are being delayed but for right now we are living life as normal.