Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Soul Journal of El Salvador: Introducing the Sojourners

For 10 years now, the community of Heartland Presbyterian Church have had a deliberate and lovely "sister parish" relationship with the community of El Tablon, a poor canton in the mountainside near the city of Berlin in the Usulutan district of El Salvador. El Tablon has 2 parts- the upper and larger part is called El Tablon Centro; the smaller part has just recently attained the official status of a canton and is called El Tablon Cerna. (Hereafter Centro and Cerna). Therefore, by virtue of their own developing community, Heartland Presbyterian Church now has 2 sister parish relationships, which overlap and cooperate quite often as one.

This year's delegation consisted of a very fluid group. From Heartland's membership were me, my son Luke, Lisa and Matt, Scott, Trisha, and Joyce. I could write volumes about each person on this delegation, but initially the most intriguing story here is that Joyce was returning to El Salvador for her second trip. Her initial trip was 10 years ago when she and a man named Bill (see below) went to El Salvador on our very first delegation, mostly to see if we even ought to step into a sister parish relationship with a community there. More about that later...

Also on our delegation were a friend named Mike from our neighboring Central Presbyterian Church in Des Moines, and a friend named Meghan, from Omaha, whom we know through spending a week together each summer at Synod School. Meghan, Matt, and Luke are teenagers, while the rest of us are from 5 to 25 years older than they.

Another member of our delegation- sort of- was Kathy, who lives in Berlin, El Salvador now. Kathy is a member of Heartland Church and has recently been commissioned as a mission co-worker in El Salvador by the Presbytery of Des Moines. That means that she works as part of a "Pastoral Team" (or "Equipo Pastoral" as they call themselves) in Berlin. The Pastoral Team is a group of women and men who began their work in the city of Berlin and its surrounding Cantons as part of the work of the Parroquia de San Jose (Saint Joseph Parish), a catholic church in Berlin. Much of their work (but not all, by any means) centers around empowering sister parish relationships between congregations in the Des Moines area and cantons in the Berlin area. They are marvelous witnesses to grace and very hard workers. Kathy is the one who leads delegations from the US that come to Berlin. Her Spanish is getting better and better and she is a delightful person who demonstrates the kind of servant's heart and flexibility that this kind of relationship requires.

And, finally, our delegation doubled for a short time, because we met up with some other members of Heartland Presbyterian Church and their friends/families for a special occasion. I'll tell more about that later, but for now there was Bill and Joie, Larry, Eddie and Tara, Erica and Nikki, Regina, Alvaro, and another couple whose names I'll recall by the time I get around to telling that story.

So, for today, I will leave it at that: We traveled and the number of our group was fluid and each of us brought something special to the trip that I will share in bits and pieces over the next week or so. I may even tie it all together along the way with the story of the book of Revelation!

Until then ...

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