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HNGR Interns on the Field

Posted March 1, 2018 by HNGR
Tags: Agriculture Economics Nicaragua

There’s something divinely human when you find your feet resting against the foot of another person lying in the hospital bed across from you. In the passing hysteria and weakness, you realize that the only liquid passing through your body in the last twelve hours is from the IV hanging over your head. You feel the heat and irritation of the needle in your vein as you clench at the sore ache in the emptiness of your stomach and your throat is parched, lacking enough saliva to swallow. You think the feeling at your toes is the reassuring touch of a friend by your side, but on a glance, you see it’s the man in the neck brace whose toes are sticking through the thin curtain, a subliminal sign of solidarity as we lay in our comatose state of pain. Sitting naked in a room, watching every liquid of my body pass out of me, losing my last ounce of energy, I realized that without the resources for the small irritating needle pumping fluids in my arm that I would be in a much graver state. A recognition of my own humanness and need.

I used to think that HNGR was about learning from the poor, while experiencing a material form of poverty, but after suffering and tasting the fear of death, I see a better glimpse of what poverty is like. As a newly accepted sophomore I imagined my internship as a wild journey, experiencing the majority world, learning from the poor, in a new cultural context. These things may still be true about the program, but before I could understand the multiple dimensions of poverty experienced by my friends in Nicaragua, I first had to recognize my own humanness and need. I realize that the world no longer feels so small as I brush toes in a hospital in Matagalpa. To me this is HNGR.

My incident of suffering is merely microscopic compared to the psychological, physical and emotional trauma experienced in extreme poverty across the globe. My experience is incomparable. As I’ve continued this journey in the land abounding in mangos, coffee and tropical sun, I’ve found that HNGR also requires a step outside of my own shoes. It’s waking up with a blistering rash on my arm and discovering that mangos and poison ivy are part of the same family. It’s listening to stories of producers of coffee and cacao in the mountains of Nicaragua and sharing a meal with a new friend in Matagalpa. It’s sitting on the front porch sharing the gospel with my host brother while listening to our favorite hip-hop and stumbling over my words as I learn from my coworkers. It’s my host dad who stayed by my bed as I dry heaved until the early hours of dawn, the church that celebrated with me when I was well, and the God who said over and over that “I’m with you,” as I realize that life has no certainty beyond the promises of Christ.

Suffering is not necessary to do HNGR, but it is necessary to understand the finiteness of being human. Understanding your humanness and need allows you to see the suffering of the world. Without it you can never fully step out of your shoes. Whether you’ve learned this lesson before HNGR or learn it while on the field, experiencing poverty, and in part suffering, requires you to see yourself as a human and recognize your needs.

May God bless you wherever you go, as you recognize your Humanness and Needs, working across the Globe, while using your Resources for the life of all people.

--Brandon Welch (HNGR 2017)