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Partnering During A Pandemic: Catching Up on Hope in the Midst of a Mess

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As we in North America are emerging from summer into fall in an era of pandemic, in a season of planetary rebellion against climate change marked by epic fires and floods, in a new scholastic year in which children, parents and teachers are greatly stressed, and in a time of societal convulsion fevered by political strife, we are grateful for the faithful prayers and accompaniment of our brothers and sisters in El Salvador.  Our prayer chains are connected. Photos are sent this way and that.  Birthday greetings show up on Facebook walls. Little pieces of news about our children, our elders, and our churches travel via social media while people cannot travel at all. In our messy, messy world, this quiet, mutual accompaniment is beautiful, faithful, and encouraging.  Beautiful, beautiful.  My heart is jumping with joy.  I feel so happy that we are a great communion of partnership.  For so many years of partnership, with all the details that we have shared in our lives, this prayer was a…

Interrupted

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The month of March is a special month for women in the Salvadoran Lutheran Church.  Women take the lead in bringing issues such as oppression, discrimination, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, and abuse during childbirth to study groups and the pulpit.  Not only do the women speak plainly and honestly about their own experiences in El Salvador, but they use the World Council of Churches materials for International Women's Day and the World Day of Prayer to highlight women's issues across the globe.  This year's theme, inspired by Jesus healing the paralyzed man as recorded in John 5: 2-9, calls for women (and all) to rise up for oneself and for others, to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, improve situations and celebrate achievements. This annual, intentional opening of a space of freedom and leadership for women is like a jolt of energy which helps to sustain the spirits of women in the Salvadoran Lutheran Church as they work and live in everyday realities which include patr…

Spicy Smoke, A Cat and A Farewell Hug

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We received some sad news.  Gonzalo died.
Gonzalo and his wife Lucia were among the founding families in the community.  They were among the first to meet us, among the first to host us in their home, among the first whose names and smiles were etched into our hearts.
We haven't seen Gonzalo for a while.  It has been hard to visit homes in the community since 2013 when the gangs made some strict rules about that.  Gonzalo and Luci lost a son to gang violence.  Every now and then I see Lucia selling food from a little table out in the street.  Her face lights up the moment she recognizes a friend from the hermandad (sister church).  Lucia has always been a good cook.  One time, almost 20 years ago, my friend and I spent a week walking from home to home in the community, visiting with families, and I wrote about a particular visit with Luci... Lucia invited us in.  She gestured for us to sit down on the sofa, near to the fire so we could chat while she continued her cooking.  I remembe…

Cancelled Trips does not mean Cancelled Ministry

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As we discuss some of the challenges we are facing in partnering during a pandemic, travel seems like perhaps one of the lesser worries on our minds.  After all, most of us are still trying to figure out safe ways to see our kids or grandkids or parents who are across town.  Packing up, getting on a plane, and traveling to El Salvador is pretty far down the planning list.
In the Salvadoran Lutheran Church solidarity network, the US summer is prime time for travel.  Many delegations visit during late July and early August to celebrate partnership anniversaries and to participate in the annual August festivities.  Of course, in 2020, these visits are all cancelled or postponed. 
Throughout the year, delegations visit in coordination with different ministry programs which focus on Sunday School teacher training, health education, health and wellness in communities, sewing projects, potable water advocacy and projects, agricultural projects, community sanitation, recreation activities for f…

Partnering During a Pandemic: What's Happening in Home School?

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The conversation about how best to re-open schools is currently filling our social media feeds and news outlets, locally, nationally and internationally.  In the US, July and August bring "back-to-school" sales in the stores, and even though families seem less than excited about shopping right now, good-hearted, generous, smart shoppers are starting to ask if education ministries "need anything."  
Whether sparked by the arrival of back-to-school sales or the general angsty conversation about re-opening schools, those who support education initiatives and ministries in El Salvador, are asking about the current situation in El Salvador and how the solidarity network can be most supportive, not only for 2020, but with a look forward to 2021.
In El Salvador, during the end of June and beginning of July, students are completing their current grading cycle in advance of the August week of vacation.  Since March, students have been studying at home. During the lockdown (wh…

Partnering During A Pandemic: Work and Pray, Pray and Work

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There is a song in the Salvadoran hymnal entitled "En la Viña del Señor" (In the Vineyard of the Lord).  I am sure I have talked about this song in previous stories, and now I have probably created an ear worm for many of you who have worshiped in El Salvador.  It is one of our Salvadoran church pastor's favorite songs and the first one he taught his sister churches in the US.

Yo quiero trabajar por el Señor, (I want to work for the Lord)
Confiando en su palabra y en su amor, (Trusting in His Word and His love)
Quiero yo cantar y orar, (I want to sing and pray)
Y ocupado siempre estar (And always be busy)
En la viña del Señor. (In the vineyard of the Lord)

Coro:
Trabajar y orar,  (Work and pray)
En la viña, en la viña del Señor; (In the vineyard, in the vineyard of the Lord)
Sí, mi anhelo es orar, (Yes, my longing is to pray)
Y ocupado siempre estar, (And always be busy)
En la viña del Señor. (In the vineyard of the Lord)
El Salvador was under very strict quarantine for 80 days.  Fo…

Partnering During A Pandemic and A Natural Disaster: Highlighting the Helpers

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The little group of women who sew Days for Girls washable menstruation kits in our Salvadoran community started the year strong.  They relocated from a women's center outside of the community to the community's Lutheran Church.  This was possible because they had compiled sufficient resources, through their own sales efforts and donations, to purchase a proper table for cutting fabric.  They set up a hygienic storage room in which they can safely keep their completed kits, supplies and equipment.  The new location makes it easier for several of the women to work while their little ones are in the church's preschool.  They can also more easily work from home part of the time.  The women diversified their product line to include baby shower kits with nursing pads made from scraps left over after cutting out the Days for Girls kit pieces.


Prior to the enforcement of strict quarantine rules across El Salvador due to the corona virus pandemic, the women in the group took resourc…