During a 1986 visit to a farming cooperative in the mountains near Jinotega, I met with a small group of Nicaraguan peasant farmers (campesinos). As part of the Agrarian Reform, these campesinos had been given small plots of land to farm and had decided to join together and create a cooperative — sharing the work, the costs, and, as they proudly displayed for us –– a greater harvest than any of them could have produced alone: carrots as big as forearms, squash and onions and corn. Most of them had worked their whole lives on someone else’s land for someone else’s benefit, barely able to feed their families, with little or no hope of escaping the desperate poverty that defines the lives of most of Nicaragua’s citizens. 'We always hoped for land of our own,' one of the campesinos told us, 'but it was hope with no legs.' 'Now,' he continued, 'our hope has the strong legs of justice.' That story and his words have lived inside me for the past twenty years. That is what I want JustHope to be about: 'Giving hope the strong legs of justice.'
Rev. Leslie Penrose has served as an ordained minister in both the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ, for 22 years as a local church pastor. During that time, she created and nurtured global partnerships in Nicaragua. In 2007, she completed a fourteen-year ministry as the founding pastor of Community of Hope UCC — the first mainline open and affirming congregation in Tulsa — and moved into global partnership work full time as the founder and Executive Director of JustHope.
Leslie, a graduate of Leadership Tulsa, is the Director of Ministerial Formation for UCC students at Phillips Theological Seminary; and has been a presenter for the Jesus Seminar, NCCJ (National Conference on Community and Justice), Regional AIDS Interfaith Network, and Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry. She is trained as a dispute resolution facilitator, and as a Mission and Ministry Interpreter for the UCC/DOC Global Ministries Board. She serves on the Boards of Directors for the national Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, the Executive Council of the United Church of Christ, and the United Church AIDS Network Board of Directors. Locally she serves on the Board of Directors for Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, and on the Conference Council of the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference of the UCC.