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, God multiplies it into a miracle, and everyone is satisfied.

After the devotion, we moved into business.  Conversations about sustainability, financial transparency, and clear communications are challenging for every church.  Among folks with different cultural norms and different languages, the challenges in talking about church sustainability can be a little bit greater.  The Salvadoran Lutheran Church presented a long strategic plan.  At its center burned the light and hope for a church that can continue its mission of  speaking with a prophetic voice and working for justice and peace.  "I have a vision," said Pastor Vilma, "that one day my church will be self-sustaining.  We are a really poor church in a poor community, but we can do it.  We all have something to give.  We can do it."

After the meetings, our little group shared some time with our sister church pastor.  "The church is no different from a family," he said.  "The parents add up the costs for the month:  food, rent, medicine, transportation, etc. and then add up their sources of income.  Of course, the amount needed to live is much more than the amount which is coming in.  So, how does the family survive?  Arañando"  The pastor made a little wiggling motion with his fingers as he moved his hands up through the air.

Araña means spider, and the pastor's hand motions looked like the actions for "Itsy, Bitsy Spider" so I asked, "Like a spider?  Catching food like a spider?"

"Siiiiiii," said the pastor, "Arañando."   Spidering.

When a family has no more corn but the neighbor brings over some beans: spidering.  When the young person learns a new skill and starts a small little business to help the family:  spidering.  When someone needs a little medicine and a neighbor has some:  spidering.  Somehow with faith in God and the community working together, even though the costs to survive seem so much more than what can be earned, in the end there is enough, through faith and through spidering.

On a relaxing afternoon after the Encuentro had ended, we found ourselves wandering in a greenhouse on the side of a volcano.  "Look at these little spiders!" Their webs were fantastic and complex, and when opportunity struck, the spiders ran fast, worked fast and captured their food.

Maybe "spidering" isn't exactly the right translation for arañando (the dictionary translates it as "scratching"), but I think it captures the creative, dedicated and hard work that the Salvadoran families and the Salvadoran Lutheran Church do in order to survive.


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