A Camping Trip Without End
How many of you have ever been on a camping trip? I'm not talking about a trip to Lakewood Campground in Myrtle Beach with golf carts, permanent camp sites and all those crazy activity directors. I'm not even talking about a KOA campground where you set-up a pull-behind with electricity and bath houses. I'm talking about a "rustic" camping trip that takes you out into the wilderness where you set-up a tent, build a fire and go to the bathroom behind a bush. The first thing you do is put up your tent, which is made out of fiberglass poles and some nylon. It's a very basic shelter that serves the purpose unless it starts raining. You had better zip it up tight though, you don't want the creepy-crawlers in your tent. Then for cooking you pull some large stones together and set out to find firewood. Hopefully you'll find some dry wood that's ready to burn, but that depends on if it's rained lately. Next you find a place with privacy and dig a latrine away from the campsite so that everybody can have a place to use the bathroom. I hope you have enough food and drinking water with you. You will need all three, food, shelter and water to survive in the wilderness.
When I was younger I did a lot of this type of camping. I enjoyed being in God's creation, camping on the riverbank and catching lots of trout. But there were some things I didn't like so much. Like being smelly and dirty all the time. Being on guard for snakes and the mosquitos. And waking up every morning and everything is damp and wet. Trying to keep a cooking fire going all the time was difficult as well, especially when it was raining. And going to the bathroom in the woods, especially when you run out of toilet paper; I don't even want to talk about it. After 3 or 4 days I'm always ready to come home to my comfortable bed, a hot shower and a refrigerator full of food. The wilderness is a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.
Unfortunately, about 860,000 Nicaraguans do live there and live in much worse conditions than I described in my camping trip. They live in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 per day. They can't leave and go home. There is no warm bed, hot shower or refrigerator full of groceries waiting for them. They live in homes made out of black plastic and tree limbs. During rainy season, the dirt floors in their homes become saturated. When they get out of bed in the morning, they put their feet down in mud puddles. Many don't have clean water, access to healthcare, or education for their children. They go to the bathroom in holes in the ground, without so much as a curtain for privacy. When the rains come their latrines fill up and flow out into the pathways where their children walk and play barefooted. Skin diseases, parasites and respiratory illnesses are a way of life for these people. Many of the families only eat one meal per day, some not even that. Severe malnutrition plagues their children. They usually live in very rural areas where there aren't any job opportunities so they end up in the municipal landfills scrounging through trash for anything of worth. This is a hard life, and there faces and bodies tell the story.
In 2009 we began a ministry through our Relief and Development Alliance to a community of people just like this. It's called Cristo Rey, which translates "Christ the King". As of October 2010, around 3000 families are living there, many of them refugees from communities in and around the landfill in Managua. Since January we've established a feeding program for 150 of the most needy children and built about 26 new houses from the ground up. We are also buying beds so that the children don't have to sleep on the ground. This will go a long way toward keeping the children healthy and keep them from being bitten by field rats at night. We've posted some good pictures on the Flickr website. You can also watch videos on Vimeo and YouTube.