Come, sit down, and let me tell you a little bit about what is happening in my tiny corner of the world here in Nicaragua. Because, you see, sometimes things are so hard, so confusing, a bit scary, and overwhelming that we find we cannot even speak of them. So I have barely spoken about what is happening here, because even as a writer, I cannot find the words. The following is simply my heart, sharing with yours. As if we were sitting across from each other. Face to face. And you have asked me, as many of you have now, how is Nicaragua? What is going on there? I’ve skirted around the question, unsure what to say or how much to divulge. But my heart is burning in my chest. The world around me, in this tiny country in Central America, is literally falling apart and there is hardly a peep about it in the news. So, here goes. Disclaimer: If you’re looking for just straight news on the situation, then move along. For just the facts, for pure journalism, this is not the right place. Because this is one woman’s opinion, a slanted, biased viewpoint, and I apologize if I sound on edge, heartbroken, confused, mad, and weepy- because, well, I am all those things these days. So come, with your ears and your heart, and let me tell what isn’t on the news. (And also, I beg you, please do not comment and tell me and family to leave, for my dear friend, even though you might mean well in that comment, my heart cannot bear to hear it.)
On April 18th, everything changed here. It didn’t feel like a huge change on that day per say, but it was a day when the Nicaraguan people decided to protest/march, something that isn’t tolerated here. The did so peacefully, and the government, well, the government over reacted. We’ve all been there, right? We might yell at our kids, smack our dog, or throw some choice words at the person who cut us off. But the end result, here, wasn’t that mild.People were killed. Killed for protesting peacefully. So naturally, Nicaraguans were outraged. I’d say most human beings were outraged, those that knew anyway. And somehow, when the government was confronted about it on national television, they said not a peep. No apology, no nod, no words to offer solace or to find those responsible and bring justice. And people were shocked. And then it happened again, and again, and again. The death toll is up to 200. Peaceful protest were at first met with rubber bullets, then real bullets, then snipers, and the death toll keeps climbing. And the people have demanded talks, consequences, and ultimately they want the removal of the current president. A president who claims Nicaragua is place of democracy, when his actions, words, rules, mannerisms all whisper and scream, dictator.
And here we are today.
Things have escalated. People who once were fighting with words are now using slingshots and home made mortars/bombs. They have built road blocks all over the country, they hoped to slow the economy and bring the president to the table to talk. He’s circled the table, and left, and circled, and left. And people are pissed. They have demanded his departure, and it sure feels like he doesn’t wanna go.
Meanwhile, every single person who lives in this country is holding their breath. Waiting.
And as we wait, we all do different things. A lot of us pray. Everyone is crying. Many are weepy. Mothers can’t sleep. Universities (the heart of the movement) have shut down. People are taking to the streets. There is fighting. Families are fleeing the country. Road blocks are getting worse, locking people inside or outside of towns. Businesses are shutting down either due to fear of being vandalized or lack of patrons and they can’t afford to stay open. Tourists have left. Factories are facing closure because they can’t meet their deadlines when supply chains are compromised. Stores and gas stations are being robbed or looted because there is no police around (they are only out fighting in neighborhoods). The famous and beautiful Leon, the place our first child was born, looks like a war zone. We have employees stuck inside the town, because of road blocks they cannot leave the city. Just today they walked, blocks and blocks, of a strangely deserted town to catch the bus on the outskirts of town to come into the office. Friends who live inside the city hear gunshots all day long.
I am not entirely sure how to process all of this. Partially that’s because I am a foreigner here. This is not my country. It is a country I call home, one that I have come to love deeply. We live here. I am raising my children here. We have a business here. But we also have passports. We have a way out if it really gets that bad. A fact that makes me feel both sick to stomach and thankful at the exact same moment. And that admission, well, it makes my heart sick. Because that means so many cannot leave. So many don’t want to leave. (my hand is raised in this category as well). And we all wait, we wait to see what is going to happen.
In just two months this has become the new normal, so I can usually talk about the facts without crying these days. But, I pause to take a breathe and you ask me, but how are you doing?
I look down.
I’m sad. I’m heartbroken. I’m angry. Some days I’m scared. Some nights I cannot sleep. My stomach is in knots. Most days I’m proud of Nicaraguans for standing up to a dictator, come what may. And come what may, is overwhelming. It’s meant death for children, students, adults. It’s been beatings and people going missing. It’s meant loss of income, loss of jobs, loss of businesses, loss, loss, loss. Last weekend, it was a fire that killed an entire family, a family who refused to let a sniper plant himself on their roof, and so they set fire to their home out of retaliation. Four adults, and two innocent, beautiful children burned alive. A five month old, and a 2 year old. And when I saw that on the news, as a mother and a human being with a heart, I could.not.get.my.shit.together. Unimaginable loss.
But, but. Despite all this, dare I whisper, there is beauty.
Beauty in chains of oppression being broken. Beauty of watching people stand up for what is right, for democracy, for basic human rights. Beauty is occurring around me in new friendships, beauty in neighbors checking on neighbors. Beauty in striking up conversations with strangers since everyone is unsure, confused, scared, and questioning. Beauty in branching out and making new friends, because so many foreigners have left.
And beauty in Jesus.
Because, as I heard one woman so vulnerably admit something it dawned on me. She asked, “but if I can’t cross town, to continue the ministry I am doing, then why am I here, or rather why should I stay here?” I understand her question, but aren’t we missing the point? It’s one thing to stay in the midst of such hard times when you feel your task, job, business, mission is still happening. But when that is in question, when the future is uncertain, when each day brings more uncertainty, then what can we do? Well, that’s a dang good question. We can live life showing the love of Jesus, as we’re supposed to be doing anyway. We can be with, pray for, take food to, anyone who is scared, or anxious, or stressed out. Because every single person is feeling those emotions these days. We can circle our wagons so to speak, and come together shoulder to shoulder, as we figure out how to exist in this new norm. We can loudly and boldly proclaim the gospel because we are in the trenches together. And it’s happening. I see it. I’ve met brave souls doing it. The love of Jesus is real, thick, authentic and coming from hearts that are scared, strong, determined, brave, and trusting in Jesus through this.
One particular friend had memorized Psalm 91, before all this began, and I find it fascinating how God can prepare our hearts even when, or especially when we have no idea what is coming our way. So I think I’m going to do the same, because I cannot stop thinking about and meditating on these words,
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust”.
So let that ring true in my heart, Lord. Let me trust in YOU, and not what surrounds me. Let me be reminded that you are my refuge, and my fortress. Because those words are not any more true than they were two months ago, but when circumstances have changed and life is hard, the Bible has a funny way of coming alive in new and different ways. I guess add that to the list of beautiful things happening despite what is happening around us.
Here are a few photos. Credit is listed below them, some I took screen shots of our local news and am not entirely sure who to give credit to…