Exactly four weeks after having major surgery to remove a cyst from my heart I returned to a community that in so many ways has become like family, the community of Santa Martha de Loma Azul. Why did I travel to Santa Martha so soon after my surgery? I was invited to celebrate the inauguration of the completed water and sanitation project, something I couldn’t miss, something we have worked so long to achieve. Over 900 people and 70 homes so far now have access to crystal clear mineral-filled drinking water. Every home is now equipped with a latrine or composting toilet; in addition, everyone has received much education on caring for their water, nutrients, and the disposal and return of those things. What is really amazing about the water project is that the community members themselves did all the physical labor to make their dream of water in every home a reality!
This is not something that happened quickly, but it is a process that has taken place over three years with so many people and a few organizations involved (you can learn about them on our website), all stemming from my very first visit to Santa Martha almost six years ago. You see, there is a difference between a project and people. Relationships and trust take time, especially in an area torn by civil war in the 1980’s. At the heart of the amazing things that have happened in Santa Martha are the relationships that have been built and solid trust from friends who pray and long for our return.
Can you imagine a community torn by civil war, isolated in the mountains of Nicaragua? A community where most inhabitants have never learned to read or write, with no electricity nor running water? Little warring tribes within the community, living in distrust of any other person? A place of poverty, especially poverty of the mind and self-worth? Now imagine this same place, these same people, rising up and coming together to build their own water system all dug by hand, maintained by them alone! Two gravity-fed high-mountain springs (donated by a few individual spring owners) are now flowing with pristine water and piped to many downslope.
Santa Martha has become a place of familiarity, connection, and safety. It has become a home away from home. On my 8th or 9th trip to Santa Martha, my friend Placido spoke and prayed Psalm 121 over me. Of the many themes Placido spoke over me that day from this passage, he emphasized the last verse, “The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in, from this time forth and forever.” Placido was telling me that I am always welcome in Santa Martha and that his place is my place.
This is exactly how I felt in Santa Martha this past trip. Not only was I greeted with “welcome home!”, I also felt it to be true. Eating in the sloped 15’ X 12’ home of Don Julio, sitting at his handmade table on the dirt floor, being served freshly harvested and prepared wild hen and vegetable soup, talking about community, family and Nicaraguan politics with my friends Jorge, Pedro and Juan - my brothers, my extended family -, is a memory I will not soon forget.
To be “welcomed home” is central not only to gospel, but to our Keipos mission. To leave my home and be welcomed home in another’s is life breathed in by God’s own
Santa Martha is a place where much love has been given and received by many, a reciprocity of gifts into and for the other. The completion of the water and sanitation project is a huge milestone not only Santa Martha, but in me. However, in this place, one of the most beautiful places on earth, our work is not over; it is only the beginning of this resilient, perennial, and regenerative participatory adventure of people and place.