The joy of connecting: San Andres Itzapa visits Christ Church

This post was written by members of Christ Episcopal Church in Blacksburg, Virginia, for publication in their church newsletter to share the delegation with the wider congregation and invite more people to join Sister Parish.

A great big thank you to everyone that made this delegation possible! Thanks to the members of this congregation that participated in welcoming our guests to Blacksburg in so many ways. Our guests enjoyed meeting, praying and celebrating with so many of you at worship, forum and the delightful Sunday fiesta. Thanks to those that said “Yes” to hosting delegates as overnight guests in their homes, offering amazing hospitality. Thank you to those who hosted evening meals and fellowship for the delegation. Thanks to those that allowed us to visit their farms and show off the agriculture of our area.

Preparation began over a year before our delegation traveled to Blacksburg. An invitation was sent to our sister parish, identifying dates and number of guests we were prepared to host. The committee San Andres Itzapa needed to identify travelers. We needed to raise sufficient funds in addition to our annual scholarship funds and linkage fees. The fund raising included money from the Outreach committee’s grant process and other activities during that year. Letters of support needed to be requested. Thank to Elizabeth Malbon for organizing this! We sent letters from our Rector Scott West, as well as from Senator Kaine, Senator Warner, Representative Griffith, Mayor Hager-Smith and Virginia delegate Chris Hurst to the US Embassy as part of the Visa application process.

Abbreviated agenda follows, each day included reflection time with Sister Parish guide, Brian Tyler.

Wednesday- arrive Washington, DC, pick up at airport (thanks to our van driver John Perry), transport to lodging at Epiphany mission center

Thursday- Tour of National Cathedral with Latino Missioner, Rev. Sara Beth Goodwin and docent, Dora Currea, followed by visit to National Museum of the American Indian.

Friday- Drive to Blacksburg with stops for lunch and at the Roanoke Star. Arrive at Christ Church for welcome by Rector Scott West and Vice Mayor Susan Anderson. Meet and go home with their host families (and translators for 1st night) Hosts: Ini & Bob Beckman (Libby Calvera), Peggy Layne& Ed Champion, Helen McCarty & Stephen Eubank (Lynn Talbot) *North-South delegation member Lissa Grunert comes home to Blacksburg from Colorado!

Saturday- “Farm Day” visit and enjoy the hospitality of Phil& Torsten Sponenberg’ goat farm, Bill Sembello & Irene Lamb’s 3 Birds Berry Farm, Native at VT Indigenous Garden(Mae Hay & Sam Cook) Evening meal and hospitality at Carrie & Gary Kirk’s home

Sunday- 9:30 Forum presented by delegates from San Andres Itzapa & Christ Church Sister Parish Committee members past and present, 10:30 Eucharist including use of some gifts from SanAndresItzapa, 12- All parish potluck with music by Kat Mills and dance provided by delegates 2pm International street fair , Evening meal and hospitality at home of Kimberley Homer

Monday/ Tuesday- day and overnight stay at Phoebe Needles center includes hike, bilingual prayer (thanks Sharon), reflection and conversation about future of our Sister Parish relationship (guided by Brian Tyler). Amazing camp food organized by Sharon Harrell. Closing prayers at St. Peter’s Callaway. Visit to the Valley Interfaith Child Care Center (thanks to Jeanne Roper) and Blacksburg Public Library Evening meal, reflections, memories of past delegations at home of Dave and Jeanne Roper.

Wednesday/Thursday- Tour of church and ringing of bell with Rev Scott West. Delicious Spring fling luncheon (thanks to Judy Kirwan and Carol Fox for extending the invitation for this final blessing!) Drive back to DC and stay at Epiphany Mission Center overnight. Up and out by 5am for early Thursday flight.

Reflections on this delegation were very positive; this one is from Ini and Bob Beckman:
“The wonderful memory of seeing a Guatemalan couple step out of the car that dropped them off at our home I will never forget! … It was like a picture out of a picture book.  And we were responsible for the earthly needs of these two people for the few days they were our guest. And more than earthly needs alone. They enjoyed every plate of food that was set before them. They also heartily ate the breakfasts and the evening snacks. He had fire in his eyes which twinkled. Even his hands took the words from his mouth and his heart and presented them to the world. The second morning at breakfast time she stood up spontaneously and asked if she could say the blessing. It became a long blessing…! It was said in Spanish of course, which neither Bob or I understand. The connectedness we felt was straightforward and brought me joy: we are all children of the One Heavenly Father. Twice at night we made a fire. We drank a small glass of kefir that especially Otto enjoyed very much. He cleaned it out with his finger– something I would do, too–.Husband Bob’s few Spanish words which he had picked up over fifty years ago in Mexico saved the day, and toward the end of the five days made a simple conversation possible. Thank you, Otto and Basilia, for a lovely time of friendship!”

Please consider joining in this exciting ministry. We will be looking for members of the congregation to write letters to our sister parish, to act as prayer partners and to add their energy to this committee.

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Building community across borders.
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