by Bruce Sherman
Chilly Weather greeted the Northern Board of Sister Parish when we met for our November meeting. In spite of the weather, we received a warm welcome from the members of the People of Hope church in Rochester, Minnesota.
I’m a member of Wallingford United Methodist Church in Seattle. Our sister relationship for the last 19 years is with Guarjila, El Salvador. I am starting my second year on the board, and so the mission and work of the board is becoming more clear.
We met in a meeting room at People of Hope Church on Friday morning, beginning with prayer and reflection from Pastor Dan. Nancy Wiens lead us through our planned agenda and we approved minutes from the last meeting before turning our attention to Carrie Stengel. Carrie, our Executive Director, lives in Guatemala and is the beating heart of our organization.
Carrie shares with us the state of the organization. She talks about how Sister Parish has done, and how she expects it to do over the next year and beyond. We also hear about our wonderful local representatives. While we converse throughout the year, our in-person board meetings are our best opportunity to understand the organization.
After Carrie we hear from board President Maria Van Der Maaten. Maria has taken over the board president position from Nancy, and is doing a great job of leading us, finishing her PhD, and having a baby, all since she joined the board. The rest of us check in with our various areas of responsibility. Development, Finances, Human Resources, and Strategic Planning. There were others too, even on just the first day of our meeting.
We took a break for a tasty hot lunch prepared by members of People of Hope Church, and joined a regular Friday lunch fellowship. A highlight for all of us is meeting members of the local churches who belong to Sister Parish. Their support of their own linkage, and Sister Parish overall, is impressive, but we also get to have a look at the more local missions of the church. I really enjoy this aspect of being on the board, and I think it’s important for all of us.
Friday afternoon continues with committee report, and discussion of our future travel plans and the Special Fundraiser that is just concluding. We have scheduled Skype appointments with both of our staff members, which were informative and went well. The days meeting was closed with prayer, and we adjourned to dinner at the People’s Food Cooperative followed by an invigorating walk in downtown Rochester.
Saturday’s business was more focused on future planning. Luis has led us through a Strategic Planning process over the last year as we focus our energy and grow our organization.
People of Hope Lutheran is located on a sizable plot of land, which includes a stretch of wooded hills behind the church. We gingerly climbed the hill through the snow and got a tour of the church’s work in restoring the hillside to a more natural flora. Such a pretty place and knowing more about it made it even better.
We spent more time in afternoon in calls to Southern Directiva representatives. Skype does make it easier to say in touch. Saturday evening was capped by a fabulous dinner out in the countryside at the home of church members. Their huge dining room accommodated 20 or so people from both Sister Parish and the church. The food was delicious and plentiful. Once again, the fellowship with People of People of Hope was a highlight of the weekend.
While the temperature dipped below zero overnight on Saturday, the warmth of our welcome melted any possibility of cold. We met in fellowship, doing the work of Sister Parish.
We worked with SP staff and volunteers, and worshiped with the People of Hope on Sunday morning before going our separate ways. Once again, Sister Parish promotes harmony between North and South, but even more, Sister Parish focuses us in our missions right here at home by bringing us together.