Their happiness is our happiness, their sorrow is our sorrow
by Julieta Borja
I would like to share a story that speaks to why Sister Parish relationships are so important. Our relationships help people on both sides grow together in solidarity. One example of this is accompaniment through long-term illness and grief.
This is the story of Marta de Monge, Beto Monge and their son Gilberto. They live in Potrerillos, El Salvador. Marta and Beto have been community leaders and both have been very active on the Sister Parish committee that partners with the First United Methodist Church of Decorah, Iowa. Throughout their lives, this family has given themselves to others to improve their community and to show people how to help others.
Marta was diagnosed with cancer a number of years ago and passed away on March 22 this year. Marta was a loving wife, a loving mother, a community leader, a woman of faith, an incredible advocate, and a great example of how to live for everyone who knew her.
Throughout her illness, Marta received prayers and messages of support from the Sister Parish group in Decorah. I know this meant a lot to her and was of great help to her as she battled cancer. Sometimes people ask themselves why these relationships are important because they think that they have nothing to offer. They think that if they don’t offer a material gift or money, they are not supporting people in a valuable way. But in reality when we say, “We are praying for you,” or “We are holding you in our thoughts and prayers,” we are giving the best gift we can offer to people we consider friends.
This is why Marta, Beto and their son Gilberto expressed their gratitude. They felt accompanied by the Decorah community throughout Marta’s illness and in their grief after she passed away. They expressed this many times when I visited Marta the week before she passed away and again when I attended her funeral and prayer services.
For Marta and her family, their brothers and sisters in Decorah are not just people they met once. Over the years, they have become friends. This is the way that other people in Potrerillos see them too and we hope it is the same for people in Decorah. We don’t need to be close physically – we are close because we know that there are people who care for us, who pray for us, who feel the same way about us that we feel for them. We learn from each other. We love each other. Their problems are our problems, their happiness is our happiness, and their sorrow is our sorrow. This is true friendship.
This is what Sister Parish is about, coming to the realization that we are not alone in the world, that we are one big family. This is a movement that should be expanded so that more people know about it and, in this way, can contribute to positive change in the world. Please let us continue praying and working together to keep our sistering relationships alive. Let us share all of the gifts we have been given.