Showing posts from 2015

My Little Donkey

We were sitting around a bunch of tables which had been shoved together to make a giant rectangle.  Pastors, lay leaders, and a little group of three young people with their pastor from El Salvador.  It was a meeting - in the Salvadoran Lutheran Church it would be called a micro-region meeting; in our city it is called a cluster meeting.  It is just a few weeks before Christmas.  We share a warm lunch of ham, herbed rice, greens, and roasted vegetables from an unusual December harvest from our church gardens. We go around the table doing introductions.  "Say your name and the first line of your favorite Christmas song."  A few groans emerge when we suggest we sing the first lines...but once the first strain of "Silent Night" is sung, we are all in.  This is fun. The young man from El Salvador is 15.  He is pretty shy.  It is his turn.  Without hesitation, he busts out a lively rendition of a song we do not recognize.  " Con mi burrito sabanero voy camino de


From Encuentro IV - a gathering of international partners of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church in November, 2015... The Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes. Most folks with a bit of biblical knowledge probably know the basic story:  5000 hungry men plus families listening to Jesus preaching and teaching.  All these people need to eat.  A boy offers up his 2 loaves of bread and his 5 fish.  Jesus tells his disciples to pass the bread and fish to everyone, and some kind of great multiplication miracle occurs.  Everyone is fed and there are 12 baskets full of leftovers. The devotion for the day focused on this lesson.  Pastor Gloria wore a white sheet and played the part of Jesus.  Another pastor, like the boy, brought some bread.  Then as "Jesus" blessed the bread and started to share it, another person brought some snack foods, and then another brought some fruit.  The message from Pastor Gloria was simple:  We all have something to give, and when we all give something,

The Lesson of the Bees

Just outside the door to the church, on the sheltered wall of a small portico, a small family of bees began to construct their nest - not on the stuccoed cement wall as one might expect, but on top of a poster which is securely taped to the wall. If this happened outside of your church door or on the porch of your home, what would you do?  I probably would have spritzed the little mud daubs with a bit of vinegar (thus ruining the poster) or perhaps would have pulled the poster off of the wall to discourage the bees from building in that spot (thus ruining the poster).  After all, no one wishes to have bees buzzing about near a well-used entry way.  Right? Daniel never considered impeding the work of the bees.  Instead, each Sunday morning before worship he snaps a few photos to capture the progress of the construction project.  As he has observed the progress, Daniel noticed something quite remarkable. The poster on which the bees are building their home is the theme poster for t

Columbus Day - Our Destiny Changed Forever

Today is Columbus Day ... in El Salvador. Bishop Gomez concluded today's weekly devotion, and he said this:   "Gracias a Dios por este dia - el 12 de octubre, el dia de Cristobal Colon." Thanks be to God for Columbus Day.  This statement was a little bit unexpected.  Back in the United States, Christopher Columbus has fallen out of fashion, or at least slipped off of the pedestal on which he stood back when I was a kid learning history. "On this day," the Bishop continued, "the destiny of our country was changed...forever.  People ask, 'Why is our country so violent?'  Some say that the Indians were violent.  Some say that the Spaniards were violent.  The reality is that some people are violent.  It is an illness.  Something is wrong in the minds of people who commit terrible acts of violence.  To kill, one must be ill, and to chop up a body and dishonor another human by scattering the parts after killing - that act can only be carried out by

Accompaniment and Mountains

Grief.  Anger.  Frustration. These are not the words we would choose to have enter our sister church relationships, yet there they are, in the midst of our US sister church meetings and conversations. Grief, anger and frustration.  You might expect a writing about violence.  Invasions.  Gun shots.  Blood flowing across tile floors and dirt paths.  Promising lives of girls and boys and now even old men senselessly lost.  Certainly grief, anger, and frustration are rightly expressed in the current context of violence in El Salvador. But gang violence is not the subject of today's writing.  Today I write about a beloved pastor who died.  She died.  We don't even like to say it out loud:  she died.  As a bunch of brothers and sisters from a bunch of sister churches who knew and love this pastor and her family, we do not want to accept the reality that she died. She was a mother with three children.  She died. She was a creative, lively, leading, successful pastor.  She die

Images of Romero

Wearing Romero T-Shirts and selling bracelets During the May 23rd beatification ceremony, we captured a few photos which illustrate the creative entrepreneurship of Salvadoran fans of Monseñor Oscar Romero. The stylish Romero cloth bag - very popular with the clergy crowd Romero balloon, especially fun to float over a nearby Romero statue I am guessing Romero himself would wonder about these  St. Romero of the Americas Nuns looking good in Romero caps A variety of Romero head gear Posters large and small Romero Umbrellas! New definition of "holy water"?

The Vision

I wasn't asleep.  Maybe it was the medications, I don't know.  But early in the morning I had a vision. I was lying here in my bed.  There were two angels standing just behind me, over my head.  I knew they were my guardian angels.  They were so close.  I could feel their wings just touching my shoulders.  I couldn't feel their hands, but somehow their hands were below me.  I was lifted up, like I was floating, with a white blanket, floating up out of my bed. Pastor Norma knew that God was with her.  She shared this vision with us, knowing she would be healed, expecting to be raised up out of her bed, grateful for the comfort of God's angels. We believed she would rise up.  We believed she would walk.  We believed she would mother her children,  accompany her husband, shepherd her congregation, and laugh with her friends.  We prayed for a miracle, and we expected one. We do not doubt that today, as Norma's body is committed to the earth, she has experienced th

Más Cuentos del Abuelo - More Tales from The Grandfather

We reached the outskirts of Suchitoto and turned up the road to Cinquera.  Cinquera was our destination:  a tiny town which suffered great loss and destruction at the start of the war and which was resettled by surviving families ten years later. "Have you ever been to Cinquera?" I asked The Grandfather.  Beautiful views of Lake Suchitlán passed by outside of our vehicle's window.  Maybe some of our delegation members took photos.  I listened to The Grandfather. "Oh...yes," he paused, "I came up here in 1991 or '92 accompanying a group of [Salvadoran] families coming from Honduras who were re-populating their lands after seven years of exile.  They traveled from the refuge in Honduras to San Salvador, and then came to the shore of Lake Suchitlán.  We lived in this forest for 10 days because we had to transport the people to their community by boat.  We only had small wooden boats, and it took 10 days to move the people.  The most difficult part of t

Cuentos del Abuelo - Tales from The Grandfather

"My grandmother was a very beautiful woman.  No one could understand why she was with my grandfather.  Hehehehehe," he chuckled.  Well, these are the mysteries of love. We were driving along the road between Aguilares and Suchitoto.  The Grandfather sat beside me as we bumped along the way.  The Grandfather's face shines as he spins his tales, remembering moments of his life as they come to mind, often repeating phrases and smiling broadly when I understand.  He talks with his hands, and sometimes gives my shoulder or arm a little whack when he wants to be sure I agree with him on the significant points of his stories. "Grandmother was Honduran.  A tall woman with blond hair.  She traveled to the festivals in Chalatenango and there she met a short man with very dark skin.  It was unusual, a tall, beautiful woman with a short, dark man.  He was my grandfather.  They built a life together and settled over there in Suchitoto.  There are no papers, no records for the

July 30 - A Legacy of Marching for Justice

Students worked feverishly during the final days in preparation for the march.  The wooden frame had been transformed into a paper mache military plane.  Tanks and other replica military vehicles were surrounded by students dressed in military gear.  The purpose:  giving honor to the university students who were killed in a massacre on July 30, 1975. The students at the University of El Salvador in San Salvador retell the story which they have heard from survivors of the horrific event.  Forty years ago, university students marched to protest repressive military actions which had taken place at the national university in Santa Ana.  As the student march reached 25th Street, the military arrived with tanks and other vehicles.  Tear gas was fired into the student group, and shots were fired.  The tanks rolled over the wounded, pushing the student marchers onto an overpass where they were surrounded by military vehicles on both sides.  Students scrambled to escape, many jumping over the

Just Look At Him Shine!

Traffic was at a standstill.  Workers could not get to their jobs.  Students could not get to their schools.  The buses were not running.   We had a car.  We didn't really know why the traffic was so heavy because the buses along our street were actually operating.  When we got to Casa Concordia my husband dropped me off and continued on to his meetings for the day.  Pretty soon I heard the news that the buses running north of San Salvador and into the city were not running due to a strike.  Then someone heard about a couple of buses being burned and 7 or 8 drivers being killed.  Everyone was talking about the gangs.     The story of the gang order for buses to stop transporting people in certain areas and of deadly consequences for drivers who were not complying with the gang order describes the terrible circumstances  which set the stage for another story which took place on Monday.  On a day when most people could not get to where they needed to be, one young man and his

Off the Beaten Path: Shaw's

One fine afternoon, my friend and I decided to check out a small coffee shop in the neighborhood where we were staying.  It seemed like there were always cars parked out front, and from our investigations walking by a few times, it looked like a nice little coffee shop.  Coffee shop:  for sure!  But beyond coffee, this place has bakery, fantastic desserts, delicious gelato, and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!! Folks from San Francisco, California might recognize the Shaw's name, and back in the day the chocolates were imported from San Francisco.  When the government of El Salvador passed a law regulating the importation of chocolate, the owners of the Salvadoran Shaw's had no choice but to learn how to make chocolate for themselves.  The chocolates and desserts might be described as European in style, but they are made locally at the Shaw's production kitchen.  The cacao is purchased from a Central American cooperative. The menu at Shaw's offers breakfast, s

After the Ceremony

This is a continuation of the story,  Beato Romero  ... We walked up the street toward San Jose de La Montaña Church, happy to have been in the throng, and happy to emerge from it.  Our mission:  to find a place to eat lunch, preferably a spot with some seating.  We made up the hill, glad to see a few sidewalk cafés opportunistically set up just beyond the church.  The delicious scent of carne asada  and an empty table with a few chairs were all the encouragement we needed to hustle ourselves over to that table.  We peeked over at the grill, and the meat looked as appetizing as it smelled.  We scooted our chairs to the table to the sound of shrieks and laughter.  To our great surprise, friends from Rutilio Grande  were eating lunch at the table beside us!  We jumped up and shared hugs and kisses, marveling at the coincidence.  Weeks before the Romero beatification ceremony, we had communicated with these same friends and figured it would be nearly impossible to connect with one anot

Beato Romero

We woke to the sound of music in the air.  Soon a military helicopter buzzed closely overhead,  drowning out the singing.  The day had arrived:  on this day Archbishop Oscar Romero would be officially beatified by the Roman Catholic Church.  For those who receive inspiration from Romero's walk of faith, this day would serve as a celebration and recognition of the life and sacrifice of the man who is already known as Saint Romero of the Americas. We began walking down Paseo General Escalon toward the El Salvador del Mundo plaza a few hours before the beatification mass would begin, allowing plenty of time to navigate the 3 km journey and predicated large crowds.  The road was closed to traffic.  Up ahead we could see teams assembling a big screen in the middle of the road.  It seemed a bit last-minute to be doing that work so close to start time, but given the deluge of rain that fell the night before, maybe it was wise to procrastinate.  As we descended the hill, we noticed a

Look, Listen and Learn: Learning Lessons from Dad

The team carrying record bags and the vaccine cooler We walked to a ridge on the side of the volcano, where there was a welcome breeze "It's not about the numbers, but the person." The list of visits for the day included the names of 74 children.  Of the 891 persons living in the neighborhood, 74 were under 5 years of age, and their vaccination records needed to be checked.  In communities with health promoters, the vaccination rate is 100%.  Each family receives 8 visits per year, for vaccinations, holistic education, and water monitoring. Keeping track of water storage and disposal is critical in the fight against dengue and chikungunya . Vaccination records are kept by the promoters in plastic-covered notebooks.  These log books are meticulously scrutinized by the clinic directors, and by the bosses of the clinic directors.  Each child or adult keeps his or her personal book of vaccination and medical records at home.  Children have green books.  Pregnant

Look, Listen and Learn: A Little Farther Up the Volcano Road

  We hiked back up the rocky trail to the highway, back to our vehicle.  We drove a bit further up the road to our next location.  Not too far off of the highway, we found the 3-year-old girl who was the next one to be weighed and measured by the health promoter.  Before we could attend to the little one, the child’s mother and her sister began to tell us of their own health issues.  One of the young women complained of extreme stomach pain and had a leg injury.  We could tell that she was very swollen around the middle, and the dressing on the leg looked pretty scary.  Promoter Yani was very patient, listened, gave the sisters the speech about HIV and the need for yearly pelvic exams, and helped the sister with the injury to make an appointment at the hospital for the next day.  Yani looked around the large yard and identified a few plants which the family could harvest to improve their nutrition.  Overall though, there were not many fruits or vegetables in sight, though there were