Tomorrow morning around 7:00 a.m. a group of people from St. Barnabas UMC will leave for Nicaragua to participate in the Rainbow Network's transformational ministry. I will be among them. This is not my first rodeo or trip to Central America. I went to El Salvador with a group of people from Perkins School of Theology just a few years ago. I've been to Africa. As a matter of fact, I've been to the United States.
My first experience with guns was when I was a very small child. I remember finding my Daddy's hand gun in the bed-side table. I always knew he had some kind of a long gun in the closet. Because my parent taught me where they were, and to absolutely not touch them because they were dangerous, I grew up with a pretty healthy respect for guns.
As a "middle-age" adult, guns are now a part of my life. I say that with some significant trepidation because the time I first posted a picture of a buck Ken shot I was verbally blasted on Facebook by a church member. But I might as well admit it. I hunt deer, I own both a shot gun and a rifle. I've shot snakes, skunks, and other varmints, I've also killed deer and turkey. All of that is to say, I am not opposed to the ownership or use of guns. I am, however, opposed to gun violence.
My mission trip to Africa was the first time I was exposed to being surrounded by guns. There were green guys with guns and blue guys with guns. One to protect us, one to make sure we never got out of line. We didn't know which was which. I remember passing through customs coming back into the U.S. I leaned against the wall and cried. There were no guns! I had not realized the tension was so extreme. Now, having been to Central America as well, I'm not even reasonably frightened about going on this trip to Nicaragua - partly because the work they do - and we have done through them - is transforming the capacity of entire communities to make a living wage. But also because... well maybe because I've been a bit desensitized.
Maybe that is what has happened to parents in the U.S. who allow their kids to play video games filled with hate and violence. Or perhaps they don't care, or care to notice. What happens on the other side of that game participation is not just desensitizing, but an actual formation of kids toward thinking that violence is a resolution to anger. The anger is passed on from one generation to the next, and next....
Yup. I know Nicaragua has guns. I anticipate seeing them frequently. I anticipate there will be good guys and bad guys, and not being able to tell the difference. I also anticipate coming back a little different than what I am leaving. More focused on God; more focused on the needs of humanity; and more aware of the guns and gun violence which should, and does, shock us to the core.
In the mean-time, I'll spend time in self-reflection, contemplation and prayer. What is MY responsibility? Where is God calling ME to intervene? What is the opportunity God is putting right in front of me?
I'll try to write each day while we are traveling. The delete key is easy to find.