Helping those in need: Missionary work in Nicaragua
BY MIGUEL MAIRENA
To be a missionary today means to recognize that we are called to serve in the example of Jesus, who was always willing to extend his hand to those in need, never asking who they were or what were their beliefs.
Elvin Huembes is a young 21-year-old man from the Madronioto village of San Francisco Libre. When he was fifteen a tumor began to grow on his right cheek bone. His face became more and more deformed every year and at that time the doctors did not respond appropriately, probably because he was from a very poor family – at that point in time you could only get health care in Nicaragua if you could pay. Elvin has three brothers and sisters and his parents barely earn enough to feed the family. What Elvin suffered was the norm in those years of neoliberal governments (1990 to 2007), when health care and education were privatized; and that is why he didn’t received the attention he needed.
Our work as missionaries is to follow Jesus’ call to help those with the greatest need; to be in solidarity with all those who suffer, without asking if they are Christian or not. As Christians we are required to show the grace that God has shown us through Jesus Christ, working for everyone’s wellbeing so that people have a better life – a life in abundance.
In Elvin’s case, we began by organizing television news coverage about him, looking for the solidarity of others. The news program hadn’t finished when we received one of many calls – this one from a doctor who offered to see Elvin. He was a specialist in a public hospital. That’s how we were able to help Elvin get evaluated by a team of doctors in a public hospital and ultimately an initial operation on the tumor. Elvin’s face is still deformed but it is better and his life has changed. He still needs at least one other operation. We continue supporting him by accompanying him and helping cover costs to get him from his village to the hospital every month, and by purchasing medicines. Various people from churches in our conference helped with these costs.
During these years of accompanying Elvin we have gotten to know his family. His dad died when he was little and his mom married again – his siblings are from the new marriage. They attend a Baptist church in the village where they live and his stepfather is a lay leader in the church. Elvin’s situation is one of needing special health care – it’s just one example of the different people we encounter in our work as missionaries and accompany in their time of need. We do a lot of work with women who are survivors of violence and poor women trying to get a little bit of child support from an ex-spouse. We also work in other areas of human rights, education, gender equity, small loans for women’s economic initiatives, integral health with women and various programs with youth and children.
Christians and non-Christians around the world need our solidarity and accompaniment. As missionaries in these times we are called to follow Christ’s example and not make a distinction between people, but work so that all people might have life in abundance and in this way achieve the Reign of God and his justice here on earth.
Elvin had an operation to reduce the tumor on his cheek in November 2009. Miguel goes to the hospital with Elvin every month. The doctors are studying his situation to see if it is possible to take more of the tumor off of his cheek in another operation.
Miguel Mairena is a Global Ministries United Methodist missionary in Nicaragua with the Women and Community Association, San Francisco Libre, an ecumenical organization of rural women.