Showing posts from 2018

Junk for Jesus

I am not sure who coined the phrase "Junk for Jesus," but it came into my lexicon a few years back.  Already, many of you are nodding and chuckling at the mention of this short phrase because without any explanation needed, folks who work in churches or organizations that solicit and welcome in-kind donations know exactly what "Junk for Jesus" is.  For the good-hearted donors among you who would appreciate a definition of the phrase "Junk for Jesus," let me enlighten you:  "Junk for Jesus" is cast-off stuff, sometimes neatly tied into recycled plastic bags, often labeled, and happily placed into donation bins.  It is the stuff that is "too good" to throw out.  It is the stuff leftover from rummage sales (usually with price stickers still affixed).  It is clothing and shoes that children have worn well or which have been stashed for a few decades in an attic or a basement.  Junk for Jesus sometimes has sentimental value. Sentiment is


The sound of fireworks echoes through the cool night air.  It is late.  For some reason the stink of sewer gases is strong tonight.  We closed the windows but can still hear the pops and booms and barking dogs. Several hours ago, we walked to the UCA (Central American University) to see the colorful carpets and walk in the annual pilgrimage in honor of the Jesuit martyrs.  Flocks of small green parrots accompanied us on the walk, migrating from their daytime roosts near where we live and their nests in the trees on campus.  Their calls were loud enough to compete with the noise of the city traffic. We arrived on campus just in time to view the colorful sand and salt carpets before the sun set.  The themes are consistent from year to year, calling for peace, justice and love for one another and all of creation.  Following his recent canonization, Saint Oscar Romero was featured prominently this year, not only in the carpets, but throughout the reflections which were broadcast before

We Wish You a Merry Souls Day

About two weeks ago, I walked into Dollar City to pick up some paint for a church project.  It was All Souls Day - the day on which Salvadoran families remember their beloved ones who have died.  I was caught off guard by the sound of organ music filling the air.  Within a moment, I turned to my husband and asked, "Is that Christmas music?" Creepy Halloween appendages give way to boxes of blue, red and silver ornaments in Aisle 1 at Dollar City on All Souls Day Beyond the orange, black and purple remnants of Halloween in Aisle 1, Dollar City had been converted to Christmas Town.  Salvadorans do have a love of Christmas chachkies - especially snowmen.  I asked a pastor friend today if El Salvador has a different tradition than Santa Claus (we happened to be grocery shopping together and paused to check out a row of Christmas stuff).  "Oh no," he said, "we have always had the tradition of the Santa of the United States.  It wouldn't make sense to have a

All Saints on a Plane

Most flights to El Salvador include announcements spoken in Spanish.  This one did not. Most flights to El Salvador do not involve much turbulence.  This one did. When the seatbelt sign is illuminated, the instruction is to remain seated.  This seems obvious to passengers who fly frequently.  However, if you are an old guy and you really need something from your bag in the overhead compartment and you do not understand the instruction given only in English, even though the airplane is about to take off, you might pop up out of your seat, pop open that overhead door and start digging around.  "Sir," the attendant barked over the intercom, "You must be seated!"  A kindly seat-neighbor pulled the elderly man down into his seat.  The attendant ran down the aisle and closed the compartment door.  We took off.  The guy next to me shook his head. "This is your captain speaking.  We expect a smooth ride into San Salvador." Not.  We skipped along the tops o

Saint Romero of the Americas

In honor of the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero as a recognized Saint in the Roman Catholic faith, I would like to share a few photos from my collection.  Romero's words, actions and faith inspire Christians and advocates of social justice across boundaries of country, culture and denomination.  Our very first visit with our Lutheran sister church in El Salvador.  Note the poster of Archbishop Romero on the front wall.  The community is named Heroes in the Faith.  The first street in the community is named for MonseƱor Romero. A simple painting of Romero in a community named for Rutilio Grande Lutheran women from a small rural community visiting Romero's home Rutilio Grande poster, Fernando Llort boxes, "Flat Martin" (Martin Luther) in a handmade clay cup commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and a Romero candle. Can you identify these 4 men? Palm Sunday 2018 at our Lutheran Church in El Salvador - Don't kill Prop

Tales of The Grandfather: God Sends Angels

It was during the war.  The Grandfather had been detained several times by the military, but thankfully he had always been released.  The military conducted their operations in the zone, and The Grandfather conducted his operations as well.  His work was the work of the church - to accompany the people and defend their human rights. One day, The Grandfather went to a small town to check on his people.  A military squad had arrived early, while it was still dark.  The soldiers conducted their "operation" of knocking on doors, pulling people out of their homes, rummaging through people's belongings, tossing belongings into the street, and supposedly looking for weapons.  It was "pure harassment," according to The Grandfather.  When The Grandfather arrived, soldiers detained him at the edge of town.  The Grandfather tried to convince the soldiers that he had a right to be with the people because he was their pastor.  The soldiers refused to let him pass.  Sudde

Just Click: Flags of September Give Way to Winds of October

There were many sights this past month that did not get captured for posterity.  The reality is that sometimes it is a little too dangerous to pull out a phone to snap a pic.  More often, however, it simply seems too rude to take a photo.  I frequently identify something as odd or funny or extraordinary because it is culturally different from things I identify as "normal" in my native country.  And, there are plenty of times when something stands out as photo-worthy to me and my Salvadoran friends as we travel the roads together... These little chicken trucks have suddenly appeared on the streets of San Salvador.  The box part is built on the back of one of those 3-wheel taxis.  When it turns a corner it looks like it will just topple over. The bridge on the longitudinal highway is still under construction, a year after a flash flood wiped it out.  So, that means... You have to drive on a dirt path through the river, unless it's raining.  Then  you just can&

Creativity, Technology, Opportunity and Alligators

As the school year begins in the US, students in El Salvador are into their last 6 weeks of classes.  September brings a focus on history and patriotism.  October is the month of the child.  November is graduation month.  For older students, these last months of school are filled with many special celebrations which makes it even more challenging to complete group projects, present graduation projects and theses, pass examinations and secure good evaluations. The parades and cultural events are super fun.  The students are nervous but love seeing the photos of themselves and their friends in costumes, dancing, making music and marching.  Sometimes I am frustrated by the amount of time these events take away from coursework (at all levels).  As a former teacher, for me, it is a greater honor to receive an invitation to share in special, end-of-school-year scholastic events with Salvadoran families.  Proud parents are truly joyful when guests from their sister church can see first-han