John Lantigua's article on Ben Linder and the pieces on the other Americans in Nicaragua were excellent {Magazine, May 31}.

A Sunday newspaper magazine that is actually enjoyable to read? What a novel idea.

DAVID SHERIDAN

Chevy Chase

John Lantigua's story about Benjamin Linder and other Americans living in Nicaragua highlights people who refuse to succumb to the notion that charitable work simply involves throwing money at a problem. America's debilitating obsession with materialism has made these altruists an increasingly rare breed. The fact that these people feel it necessary to give their abilities to people abroad is a sad statement about America's own commitment to helping its own homeless and disadvantaged.

A national youth volunteer program would be a terrific boost to altruism in the United States. Valuable services such as day-care could give parents, particularly single mothers, a chance to acquire job training or education. Clean-up campaigns, especially in the inner-cities, could strengthen civic pride. The volunteers themselves could develop invaluable experience by working with peers from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.

People like Linder, Ellsberg and Rev. Feltz are to be commended for helping the people of a war-torn nation survive. Meanwhile, those of us who stayed far from the front lines can take a valuable lesson from their actions.

JAMES R. ZOOK

Little Rock, Ark.

The magazine article on Americans in Nicaragua was the most biased, one-sided piece of left-wing propaganda ever printed by The Post, which seems to be a left-wing propaganda organ to begin with!

No mention of the 11,000 Cubans in Nicaragua. No mention of the Soviet advisers in Nicaragua. No mention of the East Germans in Nicaragua. And certainly no mention of the PLO and Libyans in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua is the second Cuba in this hemisphere. Americans working there for the Sandinistas are either naive or stupid -- or they are, themselves, outright communists.

The least your paper could have done was to have included something from the other side.

JOE M. BAKER, JR.

Davidsonville, Md.

Joan Morgan, wife of Nicaragua's best-known Baptist pastor, says straight out that there is no communism in her country {Magazine, May 31}. Those who tune in to the select committee hearings on the Iran-contra affair do not have to fear such candor. They may savor the treacle dripping from the honeyed lip of Orrin Hatch or Henry Hyde, or find diversion in endless questions about Swiss bank accounts. What they will not hear is any honest questioning of the political reality in Nicaragua or U.S. policies promoted by a Gen. Secord, Lt. Col. North or Assistant Secretary of State Abrams.

It passes as gospel that Nicaragua is a Marxist-Leninist state, a Soviet beachhead. No congressman seems free to ask how a country with such a large private business sector can be labeled Marxist-Leninist. None has yet asked for some evidence that Nicaragua is a threat to the peace of the region. What bellicose gestures have the Sandinistas ever made toward neighboring Honduras or Costa Rica? Neither counsel nor committees have asked by what criteria the contras deserve to be called a democratic resistance, inasmuch as they have never agreed on or issued a program of democratic goals and processes, nor shown the least regard for the most basic rights of the Nicaraguan people.

Do we attribute this sublime congressional silence to political cowardice or ignorance, or both? Sad to say, such evasion of real questions is not victimless. While our elected leaders wrap themselves in flags or strain gnats, a brave little nation is being destroyed by policies they choose not to question.

NICHOLAS J. CARROLL

Bowie