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Trees and Leadership: Hope for Nicaragua

By Dot Chupp, co-director of Rosedale Business Group

Nicaragua has erupted in mass demonstrations against the country’s administration in response to a social security reform announced in April. While the president has rescinded this reform, the protests against his leadership continue. As I look at these issues, I’m struck with the thought that Rosedale Business Group’s projects in the country seem especially significant.

First of all, a project that has been in process for a while, and seems to have met considerable obstacles, is to get the Spanish translation of the book, The Serving Leader (El Líder que Sirve) finished and ready for print. From the first mention of this project to translate the book into Spanish, our desire has been to find a way for this powerful teaching to reach the hearts of our dear friends in Latin America and especially Nicaragua. So, we ask ourselves, “Where do we go from here? How do we actually get this teaching to them and help them find a way to implement it?” In conversation with John Stahl-Wert (co-author of the book with Ken Jennings) about the delay and our deep sadness about not getting it done, his encouraging words were that he’s not worried about the timing – because God is in control. While this is comforting to us, the delay still feels overwhelming and unacceptable.

“Seeing the disillusionment with the current leadership there, it seems apparent the whole country is ripe for a new style of leadership.”Recently, Carla Wanty, a native Spanish-speaker, agreed to help us bring this project to completion. We are so grateful for her assistance and are confident it is in good hands. Within a few days of our conversation with Carla, Nicaragua erupted in mass demonstrations against the leadership in the country. Seeing the disillusionment with the current leadership there, it seems apparent the whole country is ripe for a new style of leadership.

A second interesting twist is a tree project in Nicaragua. On a youth trip in June 2015, a group from Shiloh Mennonite Church in Plain City, Ohio, purchased and planted hybrid fruit trees for families in a community. These trees were to be given as gifts from the local church. The homeowners or residents receiving the tree would then help plant it. The tree-planting team consisted of someone from the local church, several from Shiloh, and one or several from the home. The group dug a hole, planted the tree, then encircled the tree and prayed that it would be fruitful as it was tended and cared for. They prayed that this tree would be a blessing to the household in the same way that members of this home would bless the community. Planting was an ideal time to pray for the tree to grow, families to thrive, and for the message of Jesus to go forth! This project has long-range implications because the tree will continue to provide for the families if they care for it. One result of this project was that $4500 was raised by Shiloh during a Christmas project last year for planting more fruit trees using the same model.

Planting more of these trees feels particularly relevant because another “sore spot” for the people in Nicaragua has been the large metal “Trees of Life” placed around the city by Rosario Murillo, the wife (and vice president) of President Daniel Ortega. It is well known that these trees cost thousands of dollars and there is a strong sentiment that the money was spent unwisely. When the country received the recent announcement to increase taxes on pensions, increase the social security contributions of employees by 22.25 percent, and raise the age of retirement for Nicaraguan citizens from 60 to 65 (plus other new measures that hit the pockets of the citizens hard), it was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” Many of these metal trees became the target of destruction by those who saw them as symbols of oppression. The “fruit” produced by the metal trees was discontent and dissatisfaction. One notice I read said a metal tree was removed and a live tree was planted in its place.

I believe Nicaragua is “ripe” for both of these projects and I hope that RBG can help bring God’s redemptive message of new life to this country.

Please pray for Nicaragua today. Pray for the safety of those who feel endangered and that God’s peace would be sought through the turmoil.