2016 Year of Encounter

“When God comes, He always calls us out of our house. We are visited so that we can visit others; we are encountered so as to encounter others; we receive love in order to give love.”  – Pope Francis

Lately I have been pondering these words by Pope Francis.  I love the picture he paints of being called out of our house (and our comfort zone) to encounter others, to exchange love and to be in the presence of God.  It is a call to action, to give and take, and to being open to the mystery and joy of developing loving relationships with others.

Of course, this image of ‘encounter’ absolutely resonates with me — because what is it but the essence of Sister Parish? These are tenets that Sister Parish communities have lived by for 28 years.

P1020573Looking Back
For me, one of the highlights of 2015 was traveling to two Northern Sister Parish communities for the Board of Directors’ spring and fall meetings.  Both First Lutheran Church in Duluth, MN and Danville Congregational Church in Danville, CA welcomed us with open arms.  In addition to the usual Board duties (financial oversight, development, strategic planning), we shared fellowship, song and prayer with our host communities. We listened as former delegates told emotional stories of transformation and we marched and sang together on a Solidarity Walk. We Skyped with Southern representatives and Sister Parish staff members to hear their joys and challenges. And the communities came together to worship on Sunday mornings, sharing special music, prayers and fellowship focused on the work Sister Parish does. I am so grateful for these opportunities to deepen our relationships with our Sister Parish communities.

Another highlight was welcoming our newest Sister Parish linkage between Our People of Hope Lutheran Church in Rochester, MN and ACOMUJERZA in Zaragoza, La Libertad, El Salvador.  It is a joy to watch this new relationship form.

Last but not least, in 2015 we welcomed a new member to the Board of Directors — Maria Van Der Maaten. As a former participant on a Sister Parish delegation while in high school, she became “hooked” on Sister Parish and later worked as a staff member.  Now she has committed her time, energy and considerable skills as a Board member. Welcome, Maria!

Danville Walk2016 – The Year of Encounter
Sister Parish is entering into a busy year and the opportunities for encounters will be many and varied:

  • The Southern Encounter and Solidarity Walk. Representatives from southern Sister Parish communities come together every 3 years, and will do so in Guatemala in 2016.
  • 2016 Open delegation. Friends of Sister Parish are invited to travel to Guatemala and El Salvador this fall.
  • Delegations. An unusually large number of delegations are shaping up for 2016.
  • Innovative community interactions.  Skype calls, video exchanges, prayer partner programs and other activities are happening in many of our Sister Parish communities.
  • $16k in 2016. Additionally, we are planning a special ‘Year of Encounter’ fundraising campaign in 2016, to support targeted activities. Watch for more information this spring.

Let Us Journey Together
2016 will be a year of rewarding encounters for our Sister Parish family. We will have many opportunities to figuratively and literally be called out of our houses, to give and receive the gift of hospitality, to share our stories, and to grow in awareness, respect, faith and love.  Please join us as we continue on this journey together.