From Practical Theory to Actual Reality

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Previously, I referred to the difference practical and tangible hope can make in a seemingly hopeless situation. While it sounds good, the old saying “talk is cheap” comes to mind. At an early I was taught that “your word is your bond”. While I think this applies to personal actions, I also believe it applies to theories and ideas. Theories without actionable evidence are dead, or maybe never existed beyond someone’s mind. In other words, what something looks like in practice or “in action” will tell you whether or not it is useful.

In the spirit of “talk is cheap” and theories being only as valuable as their real-life effectiveness, I want to share a few stories that make this “nice” idea of practical hope a powerful tool for change.

Shortly after moving to Nicaragua in 2012, I had an experience that would forever change the way I saw the world. Over my first few weeks living in Nicaragua, after years of just visiting, much of what I understood about life was challenged. From experiencing life as a minority for the first time, to feeling unsure about my purpose for being in Nicaragua and my ability to make a difference, to realizing that I was in even less control of the future than I had already accepted, I was in a “baptism by fire” classroom called Managua, Nicaragua. Then came Albellanas.

Albellanas is a small, rural village in the northern mountain region of Nicaragua. If I had thought life was challenging in Managua, Albellanas would show me an entirely new reality. No running (or even potable) water, no electricity, little educational opportunities, and no access to healthcare were just a few of the issues the people of Albellanas lived with on a daily basis. Extreme poverty was well and good in Albellanas and it showed no signs of changing.

Interestingly enough, my introduction to this remote and mostly forgotten village came from a former resident of Albellanas who had been given the opportunity to move to the United States for college. Roger, who ended up falling in love with and marrying a girl from Virginia, was an inspiration to his village as he was one of the few people to ever escape their extreme poverty reality. Understanding his significance to his hometown, Roger did and continues to invest in Albellanas, providing assistance to those who did not have the chance to escape. Roger is a great picture himself of what practical hope can mean to someone stuck in the cycle of extreme poverty, but that is another story. It was on one of Roger’s trips to Alebellanas that I traveled to this place that would significantly impact my worldview.

In addition to Roger, eight or so other men from Virginia came to Nicaragua to make a difference in Alebellanas. “Off the beaten path” does not do justice to the road into the community. In fact, the “road” to Alebellanas did not appear to have been “beaten” for quite some time. After the hour and a half, ten kilometer drive from the paved road, we finally arrived in the village.

Over the next two days we had the opportunity to share our faith and serve with the people of Albellanas. Many great things happened on this trip, but none of them stick out in my mind quite like Brenda.

More on Brenda’s story and my eye-opening experience next time.

– James Belt

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