We spent much of our time in Nicaragua being hosted and transported by a volunteer missionary from Western Pennsylvania. Richard Mzorka is a retired coal miner who accepted an invitation to join a work team in Nicaragua. After a number of mission trips, he felt called to move to Nicaragua and work with the Methodist church there. He has been here full time since June after selling his house, car and Harley! When we visited Richard still did not speak Spanish, but that did not seem to interfere with his ability to communicate with the Nicaraguan people. Richard has friends all over Managua-from the tiendas and roadside stands to church members and pastors. He is a very generous person with a quick smile and a backpack full of cookies and crackers which he freely distributes. Street performers, guards, and street people are all recipients of the coins he collects in his pockets and car. The people obviously enjoy Richard and any failure in verbal communication is compensated by laughter and hugs.
The Nicaragua Methodist church is a young church with a growning ministry. President Francisco Guzman is a leader with a strong desire to instill the Methodist identity within his church. His priority is related to that process, even if it slows immediate church growth. Important is him is the knowledge and understanding of what it indeed means to be a Methodist. We met with the 14 pastors, a vibrant and enthusiastic gathering who enjoyed the open discussion that followed an introduction to our work and travels. Their response included a discussion of the challenge of pastoral education and possible supplements to the 16 hour trip to Ahuachapan, El Salvador, to participate in the bi-annual, one week courses provided there. It can be a difficult and tiring journey for these dedicated pastors, most of whom have second jobs and thus, are not free to devote long periods of time for theological education.
Before leaving Nicaragua, we visited the capital and saw evidence of the 1972 earthquake devastation as well as memorials to Sandinistas who fought for the right to land ownership by laborers and farm workers. Between a history of natural disasters and war, this country has has to contend with a lot of challenges and strife. Reports seem to indicate that Daniel Ortega is maintaining a degree of Sandino spirit, but government seems to revert to a less pure form of leadership once it discovers its power. Where does the Wesleyan spirit fit into this context? How does the Holy Spirit dance with these proud and independent people?