by Amanda Kerr–
In the beginning of 2018, I had the privilege of travelling to Nicaragua with the Wake Forest University School of Divinity to partner with and learn from an organization called AMOS Health and Hope. The dream for AMOS stretches back to 1967 when Dr. Gustavo Parajón saw the great need for basic healthcare in Nicaragua’s rural communities. Dr. Gustavo’s work focused on community empowerment as he educated the local people to meet their community’s health needs. Dr. Gustavo was known for saying, “In Nicaragua, a doctor shouldn’t just be a doctor, a doctor must be a teacher.” In 2007, Dr. Gustavo’s son and daughter-in-law, Drs. David & Laura Parajón, established AMOS Health and Hope to remain committed to this vision “to improve the health of impoverished communities by working alongside them in health, education and development.” If you want to learn more about the work of AMOS, click here to watch their 10 year anniversary video.
While we were in Nicaragua, we spent several days at AMOS’ headquarters in the capital city of Managua, learning about AMOS’ model of community-based health care and preparing for our trip to the rural community of Nacascolo. We spent four days in the rural community, where we had the tremendous honor of delivering water filters that AMOS had uniquely engineered for rural communities. For months these communities had been conducting community research on local water quality, participating in training classes and investing financially in their community health fund in preparation for this moment. While our team was there we were able to install 53 water filters in over half of the homes in this community. During the afternoons, our group coordinated a youth sports camp for the children who were still on winter break, as well as a leadership training for local leaders, clergy and young adults. I spent most of my time with the youth sports camp (no surprise here) and made it my personal mission to empower each of the young girls who came to participate. We even made up a cheer that we would chant at least 10 times a day: “Mujeres somos fuertes, mujeres somos ganadoras!” (“Women are strong, women are winners!”)
As you can tell, I had a great time in Nicaragua and I am deeply thankful to have been a part of a “missions model” that is committed to the values of empowerment, education, solidarity and accompaniment. If I am honest, I still wrestle with the best approach to short-term missions. I have seen first-hand how these trips can hurt more than they help, especially when we arrive thinking we have all of the answers (religious, social, political, etc.) If it hadn’t been for this trip to Nicaragua, I would have been tempted to remain bitter and angry regarding my own participation in these unjust practices. Thankfully, AMOS Health and Hope is a grace-filled community whose goal is to also educate ME and other individuals who seek to work alongside them. Their commitment to working WITH local communities instead of for or on them gives me great hope for the future of medical and short-term missions.