What’s in my suitcase? Hope!

Photo: Jed Owen, Unsplash.

The first time I traveled to -Colombia (in 2020, before borders closed because of the pandemic), I was not excited about it. I needed to go to a regional orientation there in my role as Connecting People coordinator with Mennonite Central Committee. 

I usually love to travel and see new places. Maybe my reluctance was due to my difficulty, as a Nicaraguan, to get a visa for Colombia. But, as a lover of Gabo (the novelist Gabriel García Márquez), I was carried away with curiosity to visit his country.

In the immigration line, the officials were apprehensive when they learned I was Nicaraguan. But I had no further problems. 

I realized that when you travel, you don’t go alone. Your country’s conflicts and tensions go with you.

Though Colombians know a lot about Nicaragua, few Nicaraguans live or travel there. To Colombians, my accent sounded out of the ordinary. 

I realized this as we toured -Bogotá’s street graffiti and a guide said to me: “What a cool accent! I’ve never heard one like that.” 

Proud of my roots, I replied, “Of course, I’m Nicaraguan.”

“Wow, I’ve never met a Nicaraguan,” she responded.

Up to this point I was like a peacock, until my admirer dumped a bucket of cold water: “You talk just like the lemur king in [the movie] Madagascar, the one that sings ‘I like to move it, move it!’ ” 

I was a bit offended but burst out laughing and praised her wit.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that Colombia and Nicaragua have more in common than one might think. Both are living through the tension, fear and pain caused by violence that is tearing them apart. 

The week I was there, a car bomb -exploded, killing 20 people at the police academy in Bogotá only a few minutes from the hotel where we were staying. 

Colombia’s trauma became even clearer to me when -Colombian women opened their hearts to tell about the anguish, grief and pain they felt — much like Nicaraguans also feel. We realized that this pain and yearning for peace is not exclusive to our countries. Our whole South/Central/North American region experiences it. 

Are we living in a time when violence, hate, wars and nationalism have triumphed?

I think the answer is no, not yet. 

One reason I believe this is because of the stories of hope I heard in Colombia. 

In the Mennonite church where we gathered during my time there, a sister requested prayers for a Venezuelan sister who had recently arrived in Colombia. Pregnant, she needed a place to stay, and the sister asked the church to support her. 

This led me to think of the condition of a pregnant, migrant woman. How could I not grieve at this? 

My heart overflowed even more during the time of sharing thanks in worship. A young woman who had served with MCC in Nicaragua told the congregation of how Nicaraguans had welcomed her. 

In crisis moments of violence, this made her feel at home in Nicaragua. She told me that this, too, was my country — a place of welcome. 

Those words echoed in my heart not only for their warmth but also because of the truth they showed me: Only when you are a foreigner do you realize the importance of hospitality. 

In that moment, I cried and prayed that all those who have to leave their homes — leaving behind the world they know — will find people who encourage them. 

As an Anabaptist community, how can we help our brothers and sisters who are fleeing their countries?

Maybe our nations’ problems will take years to fix. But when we come together as a community of faith, accompany one another and see our shared humanity, there will always be hope.  

Wendy Vado

Wendy Vado (34) Nicaragüense. Estudió filología y comunicación social en la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua. Le gusta escribir y Read More

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