I stand on the front step of our home and sweep my eyes along the road from left to right.  It is nearly midnight, but the darkness is punctured by the bonfires that litter the street.  It sounds like a war zone: The staccato popping of firecrackers interrupt the hissing flames as youngsters scream and dash from shadow to shadow.  Acrid smoke tainted with tobacco washes over rooftops and into the valley below.

I cannot help but smile as I consider that this apocalyptic scene is not borne of tragedy and death, but of celebration and renewal.  This is New Year’s Eve in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

Our neighbors have created straw men, some nearly life size, just for the occasion.  Each in turn has been stuffed with combustibles: straw, paper, leaves, wood.  Then various vices (such as cigarettes and alcohol) are added to the guts as tribute to resolutions.  Any unfilled space is packed with firecrackers.  Come nightfall, he is dragged into the street, lit, and burned; An effigy to sins and regrets of the past year.

My pastor recently said, “How you end one season is how you begin the next.”  We often look to the new year to start our resolutions.  We make commitments to our bodies, our families, and ourselves.  But there is no magic in January 1st.  There is no great leap to results, no overnight success, no instant solution.  Instead, it is the act of making a new commitment each day that moves us toward our goals.  And those daily commitments – or dare I say “personal disciplines” – must be rooted in deeply held values or we will succumb to the inertia of old habits.

Go For Hope exists to see people transformed.  Step by step, little by little, we can make changes in ourselves and the world we live in.  We invite you to join us as we make this year a NEW Year!