As we all know, and many of us have seen first hand, El Porvenir does vital work bringing clean water and hygiene facilities to communities in rural Nicaragua. The little video we have to share this Sunday tells you more than any of us can describe.
But I can tell you something about why I work with and serve on the board of El Porvenir. When Liz got Rebecca and me involved, El Porvenir was a natural fit and my involvement has only confirmed that.
Back in the dim, dark days of the 1970s and 80s, Nicaragua felt very close to the Mission. Nicaraguans traveled back and forth frequently, some fleeing violence and dictatorship or later supporting the projects of a new Nicaraguan government. The graffiti on the walls in those days proclaimed this struggle and it wasn’t coming from white enthusiasts — it was the work of Nicaraguans here. Nicaraguans ran a sort of people-to-people community center on 24th Street at Folsom.
As well as Nicaraguans traveling home, the Mission also sent thousands of U.S. supporters to Central America to build schools, provide medical facilities, and learn what Nicaraguans were building despite the violent opposition of the U.S. government. Rebecca lived for six months with Witness for Peace in Nicaragua in 1984. Later in that decade, when hurricanes battered Nicaragua, Mission groups helped desperate families learn what had happened to loved ones — this was before the internet and we could help.
When that phase passed in the early 1990s, Nicaragua remained very close to the Mission. Again, family ties and economic relationships kept us close. And in that decade, Liz Specht and Carole Harper’s dream of a project to assist rural Nicaraguans acquire access to clean water matured. As soon as we came to St. John’s and were exposed to Liz, Rebecca and I became supporters of El Porvenir. We traveled in Nicaragua with the founders, visiting water projects and also a few of the wonders of the country including Fr. Ernesto Cardenal’s island retreat on Solentiname Island in Lake Nicaragua.
In 2015, I joined El Porvenir’s board. I do something very unglamorous: I’m the secretary. What that mostly means is keeping us legal in two countries by providing the proper paper work. Like all Central American countries, Nicaragua can be very bureaucratic. I have to get fancy attestations that documents I’ve signed are really legal. So I go to my local Mission notary at a bank — she’s Nicaraguan-American. We talk about her childhood in Managua and how her family came to the U.S. I drive up to the California Secretary of State’s office in Sacramento and the man who signs the paper work for us there is Nicaraguan-American also.
If we’ll just look around, Nicaragua and the Mission are very closely intertwined. And that makes me all the more committed to working with El Porvenir.