Posts Tagged ‘El Salvador’

Walking together, that’s what we’re doing with brothers and sisters in El Salvador. Our Broadway team is walking along side partners in the region of El Espino. Most important are the relationships we form, the way we stand in solidarity. Of secondary importance is the way we work alongside Salvadoran friends who have defined the priorities for their church and community. And ENLACE is the facilitator of this project.

Prayers, blessings and a full measure of solidarity with our team!

On the way in the airport

Dinner after Church

Gabby’s house – the completed project of last visit

Cinda Eichler herding cows!

We are back home from El Salvador now, feet on this soil and not that, but feet on the same planet, no other.

I share words from the late Archbishop Oscar Romero. True words ring with the clarity of their own truth:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

After working more on the little block casita we’re helping build for Gabby and her family, we headed to the church for a conversation with leaders about our different ministries to those with disabilities. The two congregations are tackling the same mission for the same reasons – to reach out to all people with God’s love – but in remarkably different contexts. Ours is to families who have a child with a disability, most usually involving the autistic spectrum. Our amigos in El Espina are reaching out to the profoundly disabled in both body and cognitive functioning. Together, juntos, we have committed to keep one another’s ministries in prayer. We are united in knowing this is God’s will for us.

After a worship service, in which I preached from Philippians, some of the same themes I have been sharing at Broadway all fall, but in a different form for a very different context, we had a fellowship dinner in the open air. Out back the women were cooking papoosasas over the open fire. I could have eaten a dozen.

At the close of the dinner, David McGee introduced me to Estrella (star!), a remarkable and courageous woman who, with her husband, has established a relationship with gang members in one of the most feared and gang-controlled areas. Her story of the gradual forming of a Christian relationship with those gang members – often unemployed and in dire poverty – was humbling. They now trust and protect Estrella, accompanying her throughout the district. A number of the gang members have become Christian, and though they cannot leave the gang or else be killed, they can change their focus and direction, building some kind of different future for their families. With projects designed with the church they have developed nine Tilapia ponds in the area as well as home gardens. The church of Pastor Santos is the only church in the area that welcomes gang members. But most importantly, with the help of Estrella, the church is reaching out beyond its own walls.

I asked Estrella, “How did you win their trust?” And she answered, “I told them that God loves them, and I do, too.”

I was very pleased, in our first day in El Salvador, to leave the capital city, drive to the village of El Espino, and work on completing a house for a very special person. The church we are partnering with has a mighty goal of reaching out to the shut away persons with disabilities in their community. We moved a lot of dirt today – in preparation for cementing the floors.  Gabby (and her mother and brother) will be so delighted to move out of their shanty. And it’s all because of the mission vision of this little church that has caught a vision for congregations helping to transform their communities.

We also spent time in the afternoon visiting the humble casas of these forgotten ones, the disabled, who have been kept in some custodial care at home with no other recourse. There are no agencies or governmental support. The disabilities are profound. Twenty year old adults with radical Cerebral Palsy and who weigh 50 pounds are cared for by exhausted parents, siblings, cousins. And the church is there saying, “You are not forgotten. God loves you. And we’re going to care for you.”

What prayer is said before such a bed, in such a home? A heart-felt one, desperate to receive God’s presence, healing, blessing and comfort. It’s a beginning that the door has been opened and it’s all because of this little church, the church that, when it calls the major for help, he now responds like never before. He’s seen what can happen.

Equip churches. Help them partner with communities in their transformation. Rejoice at what God does.

Tomorrow: Moving more dirt, mixing and pouring the cement, meeting with leaders to talk about the church’s ministry with “la gente con capacidades especiales.” (the people with special capacities) Then we worship. It will be long, because their worship always is. Just throw away your watches and forget about beating the Baptists to the restaurant. God’s shown up. You just can’t stay too long.

Lynelle Phillips recently shared a story about a rural village in Honduras, one which received visits from her own Masters of Public Health interns and Engineers Without Borders.

The Engineers were ready to fix things because that’s what they do and they can. In fact, they had some pretty good and ingenious solutions to their public water problems. But the villagers were passive, not responding to their recommendations. In a different kind of approach the Nurses Without Borders ( my name!) focused instead on building relationships, finding out what their real lives and needs were about. This helped create a relationship of trust, one in which all were listening and exploring, seeking the solution together. In time, villagers, nurses and engineers may find a way together.

As Lynelle reflected on our new relationship with brothers and sisters in El Salvador, she concluded:

Well-intentioned Americans have been traveling to impoverished communities with superior resources, knowledge and skills in attempts to “fix” them for decades. The reward of a mission trip may not lie in how many bricks are stacked and walls are built and wells are dug, but in the relationships that develop and the stories you collect and bring home.    It is these relationships that foster understanding, and blend us together in one overarching spectrum of humanity.

A Juntos, “together” team from Broadway Christian Church will be leaving to share faith and life with our Salvadoran brothers and sisters beginning October 22 and continuing to October 29.

We will be working in the area of El Espina with the church of San Piedro and its minister, Pastor Santos. Our partner organization is ENLACE, a Christ-centered ministry that equips local churches to transform their communities. Our time will be spent doing some practical work as we help create a block security wall around a school. But of equal or greater importance will be worshiping with new friends, sharing conversations about the work they are already doing and our own lives, and exploring the ways our two churches are attempting to reach out to those with disabilities – Los Especiales.

It has been unseasonably rainy in El Salvador, but not so much in the area in which we will be working.

We have created a new Facebook page for this mission pilgrimage that you can follow here:

Follow the work of ENLACE through their blog here:

So it seems that El Salvador’s Supreme Court has refused to order the detention of the military officers indicted for the 1989 slayings of the six Jesuit priests in San Salvador (AP Oct 7 2011). It is the latest indignity. On the night of November 18, 1989, an elite force of the Salvadoran military laid siege to the residence of the University of Central America. When they were done six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her young daughter were dead.

At the time of the slaying we in the United States were well on the way to becoming aware of the long history of atrocity generated by the civil war, a product of the cold war. El Salvador and its population were pawns in the geopolitical game. And the Salvadoran military and its paramilitaries – rampaging and slaughtering thousands – were equipped and trained by the United States. The School of the Americas was conspicuous in this regard. Romero, the Jesuits, the American sisters – all slaughtered. Thousands of peasants, slaughtered. There was no more covering it up; we were complicit in the atrocity. Pandora was out of her box. The military was eliminating all resistance – not only revolutionaries standing against their oppression – but the religious who stood beside the violated. The oligarchy, the powerful ruling families of El Salvador, those who had taken all the land from the peasants to establish their coffee plantations, were protected by military forces who eliminated any threat to their accustomed way of life.

A year after the slaughter of the Jesuits, a minister in the United Church of Canada, Robert Smith, traveled to El Salvador for a special commemoration of the slaughter of the Jesuits. I remember Smith telling his story in a clergy gathering just after his return:

A year later I was part of the ecumenical group who gathered in the Romero chapel to remember the death of the martyrs. The evening was long, the air close, and those of us who had traveled long miles to be present were beginning to flag when Jon Sobrino, the seventh Jesuit who, but for the fact he was out of the country that fateful night, would have also been assassinated, came to the microphone. He held in his hands a tray on which rested eight clay flower pots filled with earth. His hands shook as he solemnly planted a single frijole, the bean which is the staple food of the Salvadoran peasant, in each of the pots. He placed the tray before the tomb of the martyrs and turned and said softly the only words he could have said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.”