By Carolyn Woo
Ernesto, a farmer in Nicaragua, would panic when he heard the motorcycle approaching his small farm; the bank administrator was coming to collect on the loan that Ernesto had no way of repaying. The money invested in his crops exceeded what he could get for them.
Each year, the debt piled up. Ernesto's farm would be foreclosed. He would lose the little plot of land which came to him from his forefathers; he would be a day laborer without a home to his name.
He did not know what else he could do in life. He had followed the planting practices of those who came before and lived around him. His only asset had become his worst liability.
Worse than suffering is suffering alone: abandonment. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane felt utterly alone and on the cross cried out to his Father asking why he had been abandoned.
Each of us has that moment of feeling completely on our own, dealing with disappointment, regrets, worries or shame so much bigger than ourselves.
Some face pain as it grips, sometimes via a vice from which there is no release. A college student runs out of funds for tuition, a parent has been downsized from a job, a father witnesses his daughter plunging into addiction, a spouse suffers at the deterioration of a loved one, a business owner cannot make payroll.
Claiming each other
Christ took on the most human experience and shared our deepest vulnerability when he, too, gave in to the feeling of being forsaken.
Easter is the triumph over abandonment. God comes back from unspeakable agony to join us in life again, from having been at the right hand of God and at the gate of hell to proclaim mercy and hope to everyone, no one excluded. Indeed, neither Christ nor we are abandoned, despite what it feels like. Christ comes back to claim us.
As God has claimed us, so we claim each other.
Ernesto was recruited to join a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Catholic Relief Services to take farmers out of continuous crisis. Ernesto received free papaya seeds, a cash crop with strong market demand.
The grant of seeds was accompanied by training on planting, growing and irrigation methods. Technical advisers held regular sessions and made field visits to solve problems.
Ernesto's first harvest enabled him to purchase seeds for the second round, pay interest on his loans and support his family. His second crop freed him from the debt he owed.
Ernesto made successive improvements, including starting two greenhouses that allow seedlings to flourish in healthy soil without weeds and bacteria, protected from the natural elements in the open field. The supply of premium soil became a microenterprise for women who collected cow dung to feed earthworms, which fertilized the soil.
Once he became interested in learning, Ernesto could not stop. He received certification for soil testing, determining the right type and amount of pesticides and fertilizers.
Ernesto's son just graduated from the university as an agricultural engineer, and his daughter is about to obtain her degree as an agronomist.
When he tells his story, every sentence Ernesto speaks is punctuated with a thank you to God. As he has been blessed, he now blesses others by teaching farmers in groups of 25 to partake in God's abundance.
God does not leave us on our own. Easter is not just an event or a season but a love fest that envelops us particularly in the darkest hours.
Posted April 11, 2013