Monday, August 11, 2014

Goodbye El Salvador

This afternoon we will board a flight back to the US and say goodbye to this country and all the friends we have here. Last night we had some deep conversation trying to discern what we can do to help those detained in the US as well as those who have been returned to El Salvador. We discussed our gifts as a synod and what we gifts and talents we can bring to the sister-synod relationship with El Salvador.
We will post our plans in an update next week and include ways you can support our friends here in El Salvador!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

And We Ate Chicken

It was about a 30 minute van ride from our hotel in Nuevo Concepcion to the village of Chacalcoyo. We arrived and the church had already gathered, waiting for us for who knows how long.

They were seated on plastic chairs in the hot sun. As we moved towards the seats near them, they redirected us to another spot where there were chairs under the roof of the porch so we would be in the shade.

After a time of worship together, we moved our chairs into a big circle for introductions. Everyone introduced themselves by name and by the role they had in the church - and everyone had a role.

After we introduced ourselves, we were each individually called forward to receive a gift, a hug and a round of applause. (A round of applause not for doing anything but simply for being.)

It was lunchtime then, and I was a bit surprised given the hospitality we'd received thus far, that the community was serving themselves first - a plate with a dollop of noodles and a scoop of rice and a tortilla, with juice to drink.

But after they had all received their food, we were ushered under the roof again to sit at tables set with tablecloths. We then received our plates - no noodles for us, but a plate loaded with roasted chicken, broccoli, and rice. We each were given a can of Coca-Cola to drink.

Time and time again we have been given the absolute best our fellow Lutherans in El Salvador have had to offer - the best seats and the best food. We have been showered with gifts and embraced with warmth.

It has been humbling. 
-Pastor Jeanette

Last Days in El Salvador

Yesterday afternoon we made it to the beach and played in the surf last night. We had a lovely church service this morning led by Pastor Jeanette with a sermon by Pastor Gerry. We are discussing what we plan on doing once we get back to the US tomorrow night.
Check back tonight for updates and maybe some pictures!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Old Friends and New Connections

Today we visited the community of Nueva Esperanza in Chacalcoyo, Chalatenango. It was wonderful to see how much the community has grown in the past few years. Unfortunately, the church community had to be moved recently due to the violence in the region. In the area the church was located, the violence has been growing and driving families away. The final straw for the last family and the church community was the murder of two young men from the community. The police are still investigating their murders, however, the current theory is that they were gang related killings. In the neighboring region of El Paisnal, there has been a roundup of gang members and many people in the community are concerned that some of the gang members are moving to Chacalcoyo and Nueva Esperanza from Paisnal. Many community members are very concerned that this previously safe area will become dangerous. There are two cases of community members fleeing to the US recently specifically because of extortion and threats coming from gang members in this area. We are all very concerned for this community because of the violence they are facing and the dangers they are trying to flee. We discussed this with the community and are keeping them in our prayers.
After worshiping together and talking to the community, we ate lunch and then went with community members to a water park where we played soccer and "sharks and minnows". Everyone really enjoyed this time to unwind and connect with the community. We appreciated the time to make new friends and see old ones.
Check back again tomorrow for more updates!

Food for thought

Two articles have been brought to our attention this morning, one from NPR:
http://www.npr.org/2014/08/08/338606412/trauma-plagues-many-immigrant-kids-in-u-s-illegally
and one new poll from CBS:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/07/undocumented-immigration_n_5657565.html
What we found most troubling in this article is that "45 percent of people in the poll, carried out between July 15-22, [who] said the number of immigrants legally allowed to enter the country should be reduced."
These numbers are something to think about and we need to address this once we get back to the US. 

Good Morning from Nueva Concepcion

Last night we arrived at our hotel in Nueva Concepcion. Unfortunately it began to storm and we were unable to visit the community last night but we are going to visit them all this morning. We will be traveling to Chacalcoyo this morning.
Yesterday morning we had a meeting with Bishop Gomez and we spoke a lot about hope in the community and the growth of the Lutheran Church in El Salvador.
Once we got to Nueva Concepcion we watched the local youth play a soccer game in the town square and we had a typical dinner at a local restaurant.
Check back tonight for more updates!

Looking for Hope

Looking for Hope

Last night was a difficult night for me here in El Salvador. We had moved north to one of the rural communities and it was so pleasant. We walked the couple of blocks from our hotel to the town square without fear.

We stopped to watch a boys' soccer game and admired the beauty of the Roman Catholic church in the square. There were a number of heavily armed security police walking around too, but they seemed friendly.

We had a marvelous dinner of a variety of pupusas and burritos and plaintains. And after dinner we went to the courtyard behind the restaurant where we sat for evening reflection time. It was all so peaceful.

But then, Pastor Guadeloupe Cortez, who was accompanying us said that she wanted to share something about the village where we are headed today, about a 40 minute drive even farther north.

She said that recently two youth from this small community of 200 families were killed near the church she serves. Since most of the members walk to church down the same path where the boys were walking, they are afraid to come to church. They have decided to worship temporarily on the porch of another member closer to where the families live .

Two young women from the community have left for the United States in the past month. One has her two year old daughter with her and the community was glad to hear that she had made it to New York. They haven't heard anything at all from the other teen, a fifteen year old.

It was so easy to imagine that the violence has not reached this beautiful part of the country surrounded by mountains. But the truth is that the violence is even here. As gang members feel pressure in other areas, they move . These same rural villages experienced some of the worst violence in the civil war in the 1980's as well.

It doesn't seem fair. Where is there hope?

And then I awoke this morning to the sound of a familiar song in Spanish:

Vamos todos al banquete, Let us go now to the banquet a la mesa de la creación; to the feast of the universe cada cual con su taburete the table’s set and a place is waiting. tiene un puesto y una misión. come, everyone, with your gifts to share. (Refrain)

Hoy me levanto muy temprano; ya me espera la communidad; Voy subiendo alegre la cuesta, voy en busca de tu amistad.

I will rise in the early morning; the community’s waiting for me. With a spring in my step I’m walking with my friends and my family.

God invites all the poor and hungry to the banquet of justice and good where the harvest will not be hoarded so that no one will lack for food.

May we build such a place among us where all people are equal in love. God has called us to work together and to share everything we have.

There is hope when we can sing together such a vision of God's community.
-Pastor Jeanette