David and Laura
José Preaching and Choir
“In the kingdom of God everyone can be great because the greatest are those who serve.” I think I first heard this from Coretta Scott King. I have been with some truly great people this week.
It all began when I was invited to do some training workshops in Nicaragua with the First Baptist Church of Managua and the staff of AMOS, the public health/community development program created by fellow missionaries, Drs. Laura and David Parajón. My plan was to take the all-day bus on Wednesday, give the workshops and return on Monday. But on the Sunday before, March 13, Gustavo Parajón, David’s father and my planned host, died of a massive heart attack. After a lot of confusion and miscommunication, it was decided that the workshops would continue, so I bought a plane ticket and flew in for the funeral on Tuesday.
Gustavo Parajón was a legend in his own time. The number of people whose lives he affected was so large that there were 6 funeral services before the final one on Tuesday, which was covered on the national news. Gustavo and Joan were missionaries with International Ministries. Joan had a renowned music ministry and “el Doctor” was a pastor, physician and peacemaker. Pastor of First Baptist Church of Managua for many years, he founded PROVADENIC, a ministry of rural health promoters that metamorphosed into AMOS. He helped mediate numerous conflicts, including the one between the Sandinistas and the Contras and the one within the Baptist Association of El Salvador. Many people spoke of his contributions and my boss, José Norat, preached. But the most moving testimony was an original poem by his 14 year old granddaughter (read the poem at http://www.internationalministries.org/missionaries/87) The service was an astonishing, spectacular celebration of his life, dominated by the 60-person choir with music so beautiful and joyous that I could imagine myself in the heavenly choir.
Thursday and Friday I offered a training on the teaching methodology of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire to the 17 staff at AMOS. These are people committed to helping the poorest of the poor in the most remote areas of Nicaragua. They are primarily Nicaraguans— doctors, engineers, drivers, nurses, health promoters. Laura Parajón was trained in public health using Freirian methodology, and was eager to have me reinforce what she has been teaching. Freire turned traditional teaching and community work upside down: rather than a top-down style dominated by experts, he developed a bottom-up style that empowers local communities to transform their situations. The ministry at AMOS is a new ministry and yet continues the same vision of Gustavo Parajón, to use our lives in service to others.
Some people say, “If there isn’t enough for everyone, at least there is enough for me,” while others say, “If there is enough for everyone, there will be enough for me.”
Together with you in service,