A year ago, I was far away from home. I was living in a little room in Managua with a tin roof and a hole in the wall large enough for stray cats to leave foot prints on my bed. As part of my job, I often went to communities hidden deep in the mountains and jungles of Nicaragua. The organization I was with did theological and agricultural development throughout the country — reasoning that well trained pastors are important regardless of where you live and as stewards of the land, well trained farmers are equally important.
While I was there, we started a new project with a community, Villa Nueva, near the Honduran border. Even though we had a general idea of the improvements we wanted to help the community with (clean water and stable food sources), we held a town hall style meeting with everyone in the community, men, women and children, to learn what their resources and needs were.
The group met in the only room in Villa Nueva large enough to hold us all and while we talked, toddlers, dogs and chicks (dyed pink in preparation for Easter), wandered through the open doors. Three women worked in the outdoor kitchen making corn tortillas and rice over an open fire for lunch.
By the end of our two days there, relationships had been formed and we had a good understanding of where the community wanted to go and the areas that they needed help. The community had come together to work out a plan for their future.
I spent last weekend thinking about community while I helped on my parent’s farm north of Fulda. After losing a tug-of-war with a tractor, my dad found himself wearing a boot and under strict orders to stay off his right leg as much as possible. For a farmer, this was close to the worst news he could receive right before planting season.
Fortunately, my sister, brother-in-law and I live close and we all went to the farm on Saturday to help Mom check some of the spring chores off the list — a new fence in the pasture, clean up the fallen branches, get the garden ready and whatever else we had time for — while Dad supervised from the porch.
The day passed quickly and we only stopped for lunch and cookie breaks. By the end of the day, we had finished everything we wanted to —and then some. We never would have gotten everything done without the help of neighbors and friends that kept popping by to see if we could use a hand.
Nancy helped sort the bulls from the rest of the cattle while her young son, Jake, helped fix a bird house and later watched all the activity from the hay mound (which he called the hay mountain). Stan handed parts for the planter to his son, Kole, to get everything ready for planting and Dennis came with a whole crew of second cousins to trim limbs from the trees in the front yard. I’ve never seen so many little groups of people working on different projects on the farm before.
And that was just one day. In the past couple weeks, so many friends and neighbors have stopped to lend a hand where ever they could.
While the community I saw in Nicaragua and the one I saw on my parents farm are vastly different, their foundations are built on friendship and caring and both made me glad to be a part of that community, if only during the time I spent there. Villa Nueva and the family farm are very little dots on the map, but they both show communities that make life a little richer and a little better.