In conjunction with my January visit to Nicaragua, I also accompanied a delegation from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, the parent organization for The Center for Global Education (CGE). The delegation included Augsburg’s President, Paul Pribbenow, five members of the college’s Board of Regents (of which I am one), and a number of Augsburg faculty and staff members and spouses. This occasion marked the first time that a Regents’ delegation had traveled to any of the CGE sites around the world and thus served as an important moment for that governing body. After all, it’s more difficult to adequately consider strategic direction and investment for an organization like CGE without having any direct knowledge of its work, and the only way to really attain that is by going to where they are. The visit proved to be invaluable to the Regents as an act of asset evaluation, of prudent stewardship.
The visit also proved to be a special one for the staff members of CGE, affording them the opportunity to demonstrate the transformative nature of their work as they carefully immerse delegates into the difficult realities of Nicaraguan life. Their work is not to spoon-feed answers, but to cultivate questions for our own deliberation and conclusions. Our collective reactions over the four days of traveling together suggest that the staff performed their work beautifully. Within a week, the Regents convened at their winter meeting, in part to share their experiences and feelings about the journey. Their reflections served as strong testimony to the personal impacts that such experiences often provide, and affirmed the importance of their first-hand observations on behalf of the Board: in other words, good stewardship.
I remained in Nicaragua for another week after the Regents departed, visiting our current and prospective partners, trying to understand how and where Winds of Peace might make a difference, and even participating in a workshop on cooperatives which the Foundation sponsored. It struck me that I was performing the same sort of work as the Regents: assessing the work being done and, in the process, being a good steward of the resources being employed. I noted to myself the similarities of purpose between the two weeks, the first on behalf of Augsburg College and the second on behalf of WPF. And it dawned on me that there is likely a third stewardship at play during any of the visits made to Nicaragua, the stewardship of hope.
Just as Augsburg Regents are the keepers of the CGE asset and WPF staff are the keepers of Foundation resources, anyone who has the chance to travel to a land like Nicaragua and discern the realities there is a keeper of something valuable: the notion that somewhere in the world there are people who care about what happens in such a place. For Nicaraguans, knowing that someone else has witnessed the struggles of their lives is a comfort. To those who daily face the uncertainty of how to survive an oftentimes friendless circumstance, the commodity of caring is priceless. It is a gift to be given by those of us who can, a wealth which conscious stewardship calls us to share. It is an accompaniment which transcends material aid, a development not of economy but of the spirit.
I’m pleased that Augsburg Regents are looking after the “jewel” that is CGE. I’m privileged to be watching out for the use of Foundation resources for sustainable impact. But likely the more important work for each of us is being a good steward of optimism and good faith, which our neighbors in Nicaragua so desperately need….