BFJN’s next guest blogger is Bronwyn Sheppard. Shelives in Boston, considers herself a Turk-at-heart (she grew up in Turkey) and is a new-ish friend of BFJN. She and her husband have two beautiful kids that they adore. Bronwyn loves to learn about practical but radical social changes that people are making around the world. She’s recently been trained asLazarus at the Gateleader.BFJN is excited about sharing new stories of Christ’s love to a broken world through humble people willing to be used in creative ways. We hope you enjoy Bronwyn’s post!
My friends Stephanie and Luke Pekrul and their work withNuevas Esperanzasin western Nicaragua provide a fantastic example of what I’m talking about. My husband and I got to know the Pekruls when Luke and I were studying in a Masters program together. During that time, Luke and Steph joined my husband and me for a weekly Bible study where we engaged in enthralling conversations about faith, development, gender, imperialism, and otherlight topics. Stephanie and Luke continuously challenged us by their commitment to live simply, give generously, and bring about the Kingdom of God through everyday lifestyle choices, especially those regarding consumption.*
After graduation, the Pekruls and their beautiful son (I am also a birth doula and his was the first birth I attended!) moved to Leon, Nicaragua to join theNuevas Esperanzasteam. Let me give you a brief overview of their incredible work. [Please know that I use much of their own language and descriptions of what they do].
The Nuevas Esperanzas (NE) team is a group of professionals from Nicaragua, the United Kingdom and the United States providing practical and technical assistance in support of long-term sustainable development for poor communities in Nicaragua. Nuevas Esperanzas means “new hope.” I can’t begin to describe the full scope of their work in this post, but here are a few of my favorite things:
- NE is committed tolong-term investment. They know that development is a process and there are no quick-fix solutions.Example: NE works with a community of displaced coffee workers in La Palmerita, and have been involved in helping this community with emergency food supplies, water, sanitation, temporary housing, agricultural projects, medical attention and education. In 2005, NE started to develop detailed designs for the housing, water supply and sanitation, including site investigation and survey work. By 2007, a combined effort of advocacy for land rights and construction assistance resulted in 112 permanent houses.
- NE recognizescomplexity. They know that poverty is a product of economic, environmental and social issues.Example: In one community they built rainwater tanks to relieve the burden of traveling 4 hours a day for water (they have hydro-geologists on the team), taught women gardening skills to give them confidence and the ability to provide additional food for their families, and created opportunities for open dialogue about new ways for community members to love and serve one another.
- NE valuesecumenism. In a land marked by religious division they still believe that the gospel transforms.Example: In the community of San Jacinto, NE met with leaders from four churches (Assemblies of God, Roman Catholic, Baptist, and Church of God of Prophecy). The churches worked together to create new sources of clean water by using their own church buildings to house the large rainwater harvesting tanks. This project provided an unprecedented opportunity to challenge sectarianism and to help heal the effects of religious conflict within the community.
Nicaraguans are directly affected by the United State’sconsuming, votingandinvesting. Much of the coffee, shrimp, beef, lobster, sugar and bananas we buy come from Nicaragua or are produced by Nicaraguan workers in Costa Rica. Farmers working with NE would benefit from the ability to export their avocados, honey and coffee through Fair Trade agreements. In fact, Luke recently reminded me that U.S. trade and immigration policies directly affect Nicaraguans and many publicly traded U.S.-owned-businesses have enormous impact in Nicaragua without a lot of corporate responsibility. As BFJN’s Lazarus at the Gate program encourages Christians to collectively give what we save through small lifestyle changes, it is important to bediscerning giverswho take into account the impact charities have.
I love Stephanie and Luke, I love Nicaragua and Nuevas Esperanzas, and since moving to Boston, I love BFJN. It’s a real joy to introduce you to one another so we can better understand how we are building the Kingdom of God – together.
* While I have this opportunity, I want to shamelessly plug two really cool things Luke and Stephanie introduced me to: 1.The Better World Shopping Guide, a consumer guide that ranks most products and stores according to human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement and social justice. (I especially love their exposes ofCorporate Villains). 2.The Story of Stuff: a 20-minute animation of our consumerist society, highlighting where our stuff comes from and where it goes when we throw it away. You might never go to W—t again.