Friday, April 25, 2014
We are writing from El Salvador: When we returned home from 2 ½ years living in Usulután we were ready for resuming a more comfortable life style and leave what we accomplished or what we didn’t accomplish in the hands of God. The unfinished business is in the community of Piedra Azul and other smaller communities in the eastern volcanic range. In 2010, at our first meeting in Piedra Azul, we were a little nervous as there was no agenda to guide our conversation. The church could hold 100 North Americans comfortably; 200 Salvadorans attended the meeting. It was packed as the community was very curious. It was a day of many conversations, all of which needed to be translated. We also walked the community and had the opportunity to be one-on-one with a community member who said “we need scholarships to send our children to school”. We said, “why don’t we create some jobs so you can send your children to school?” At this time, Ana Rosa, a pastor and coordinator of the micro-region, was preparing to move to the USA so her time and interest wasn’t in new projects. Our community work would have been impossible but a visiting pastor from Germany introduced us to Oikos Solidaridad and its Executive Director, Benjamin Alas. Oikos works in Community Development in Piedra Azul and other communities in the eastern zone. Benjamin insisted we visit all our new surroundings so that we were aware of our environment. He took us to visit the communities and people displaced by the 2009 flooding of Rio Grande. He also took us to join his work visits to many sites. In Piedra Azul Benjamin took us to the Mother’s Day festivities for the celebration of the organization of the women’s cooperative and a chicken project. We attended the annual Christmas Eve soccer tournament by the church in Piedra Azul. Bishop Gomez officiates at the Christmas worship service that includes confirmations, baptisms and first communions. Before the Bishop leaves the community, he receives gifts of jicama, corn and beans. Seeing the work of Oikos first hand, our West Bend church, Our Savior’s, was willing to fund two projects of food security in the volcanic zone but we felt called to do more as the need is so great. We returned to El Salvador twice in 2013. Each time we spoke with Benjamin about a possible Rotary project for food security. To this end we have attended Rotary meetings in San Miguel, Neenah, South Milwaukee and District Conferences to find a Rotary partner for the purpose of writing a global grant. This process has not developed so we no longer pursue it. We had run out of options to benefit these people. We believed our mission work in the east was over. Then unexpectedly a funding source was announced by the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We struggled with the opportunity; is our time over or should we write a grant? With the approval our church leaders, we wrote a grant considering the needs of the people that remain so fresh in our minds from our first visits and also the additional needs we learned of with the help of Oikos. To our amazement and joy, our grant is approved. We are now in El Salvador to begin implementation of the grant through meetings with church leaders to develop together a vision, goals and a list of participants who will benefit from this grant. It’s another testimony that God answers prayer. He hears the cries of the people living in danger, hunger and poverty and uses our hands for his work. What an Easter blessing!
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Genesis 8 22 - “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” We share a lot of this verse with our brothers and sisters in El Salvador. We are nearing planting season both here in the upper Midwest and also in El Salvador. Our April rains have started and in a couple of weeks, the rains will begin in Central America as well. The cold and heat are not to the same degree or to the extremes we experience in North America, but El Salvador can experience cold in the higher elevations. Our summer and winter are opposite of each other, but we share the same planting and harvest times. We also share this truth with our brothers and sisters in El Salvador: Luke 8:11 – “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.” From the word of God comes the garden of humanity. He places us with millions of others in this garden; some help us grow in faith and others stretch our abilities to serve them and Him in ways we never expected. And we know that as we plant, water, weed and tend the crops, it is always God who gives the growth. In our spiritual lives as individuals and the body of Christ together as families, friends and churches, we go through cycles of growth and dormancy, drought and abundance. But God’s promise is sure that He is the giver of life and creation. God gave us Oscar Romero who planted the word of God in the hearts and minds of the Salvadoran poor. People risked their lives to listen to his Sunday afternoon radio sermon and in turn he risked his life to be close to the people. He visited them to hear about their oppression, injustice and the names of those who disappeared. Romero tended the garden of humanity by offering them his presence, cultivating their faith and listening to their fears and needs. He became despised by the authorities and was a marked man. A high ranking military officer came to Romero to warn him repeatedly to tone down his message to protect his life. The officer was in the inner circle and learned of the date of Romero’s assassination and warned him again. Romero had one more seed to plant; he remained faithful to God’s word and expressed God’s command to stop the killings. For promoting peace, he was murdered in church while preparing for the Eucharist on March 24, 1980. His legacy is alive in our hearts and minds but that’s not enough. We think Romero would be disappointed if we just remembered his legacy. The call is: can we be as bold as Romero in proclaiming the word of truth in God’s message to love, to serve and to free the poor wherever God sends us. Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter celebration. David y Nancy