Our Blog

This blog is a place for our staff, members and supporters to share news and reflections about Sister Parish.  You can sign up for our e-news to receive updates or contact us to submit a piece of your own.  See blog archives.

Blog en español.

Posted in Español, General

On the importance of accompaniment

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 and Beto – a picture from the early years of the relationship with Decorah.

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.

Posted in El Salvador, United States | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Congratulations to LM2 on their new church

Congratulations to Las Margaritas 2! The community is more than 80% done with the construction of their new church. The project began several years ago, a long-time dream of the Catholic Community in LM2.

For years, all of the church members have worked extra hours to harvest and sell corn beyond what was needed for their family to raise funds for the new church. The community also received support from their Sister Parish partners at the Catholic Community of St Francis in Raleigh.

January 2020 is currently set for the inauguration of the new church.

LM2 community with members of St Francis delegation in 2018.

 

Posted in Guatemala | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meet one of the scholarship students from San Jose la Montaña

Trinity Episcopal Church and their partner community San Jose la Montaña started a scholarship program for university students in 2018.  Diana is one of five students in the program. The small projects proposed by southern communities in Sister Parish and supported financially by the churches in the U.S. have a big impact on individual’s lives and help grow the relationship as well.

by Diana Carolina Casco López

I was born on March 9, 1998 in the municipality of Las Vueltas, in the state of Chalatenango in El Salvador at 2:24 p.m.  My parents are Rosa Miriam López and Víctor Manuel Casco.  My mother and my father are very hardworking and honest people.  I am an only child.

I have lived my entire life in the community of San José de la Montaña.   For pre-school and elementary school, I went to the public school here in the community. I went to middle school and high school in the town of Las Vueltas.

Middle schools and high school were difficult because of the distance. Las Vueltas is 2km from San José (and that can be a long ways away given transportation).  My parents have always had a difficult economic situation, like many families in our community.  My mom has worked with numerous community organizations but her work has not been paid.

In high school, I participated in plays, dance, speech, special events, youth groups, and our locally elected community council (the ADESCO).

In 2015 I started at the University of El Salvador in a degree program that was not my first choice.  I wanted to start studying and thought I would just switch degrees later.  I decided, however, to transfer to a university closer to home in Chalatenango for both economic reasons and safety considerations.  I am now studying Legal Sciences, which fascinates me.  I would like to defend and help people who need legal services.

I am in my first semester of the Legal Sciences degree at the University of Doctor Andres Bello in Chalatenango.  Sometimes it is hard; sometimes I barely have enough money for a meal and bus fare.  But I am very happy that I have started and I have good grades so far.  I hope I will be able to graduate.  I know it will not be easy but my hope to become a professional and my attitude will help me succeed.

I am also a member of the Network of Defenders of Sexual Rights and Reproductive Rights.  I am working to reduce pregnancies at an early age.

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St Thomas organizes community breakfast fundraiser for Sister Parish

The Sister Parish committee at St Thomas Lutheran Church in Bloomington, Indiana is fundraising for the next South to North delegation. They hope to invite members from Chichipate, Guatemala to visit in 2020.

The group has found successful ways to combine fundraising, raising awareness, and fun.  In March, the group organized a breakfast fundraiser at the church.  They provided language-matching game sheets, an arts and crafts activity for children, and a display table about the relationship with Chichipate.

The committee regularly includes updates in their church newsletter, including an update about this breakfast event.

Thank you St Thomas for your creativity and dedication!

Typical Guatemalan breakfast, with labels in Maya Q’eqchi’, the language spoken in Chichipate.

Arts and crafts activity for children and youth – make you own quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala.

Breakfast fundraiser at St Thomas.

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FUMC Downers Grove hosts Sister Parish Board

First United Methodist Church of Downers Grove, IL  hosts Sister Parish Board

by Bruce Sherman

The Sister Parish Board members each found their own way to Downers Grove for a 3 day weekend of meetings. We meet in person twice each year because we strongly believe in face to face, and interpersonal relationships. In a way, that face to face dynamic of our board matches the mission of our organization; that establishing long-term friendships between faith communities is very important.

On Thursday evening, Ina and Ray Osborn hosted the group at their house. I wasn’t there yet but spent a lot of time over the weekend as Ina and Ray were actively supporting our schedule and activities. Thank you so much to the two of you, as well as the other congregation members who hosted us as guests.

Gathering with Sister Parish board and members in Downers Grove.

Except for the snow that fell Saturday afternoon and evening, the weather was quite nice, and the folks at the First United Methodist Church made us feel very welcome. We had a nice meeting room with large windows and a good setup for our meeting.

Our SP Board supervises Executive Director Carrie Stengel, and we sure are fortunate to have Carrie with us at Sister Parish. We always look forward to hearing from her as she talks about the health and running of the organization. Past boards have done an amazing job of setting up the structure of Sister Parish, and that makes it easier for everyone to properly track both our financial and human business.

My previous post after our November meeting last year details the work of the board so I won’t repeat that again here.

Twice a year, we meet at churches that have a Sister Parish linkage. I’m beginning to realize that this is more than just a convenience but is essential to the ongoing Sister Parish mission. An SP board meeting is like a three day delegation visit for we board members. We stay in your homes and meet your kids and pets. We reminisce about past delegations and share pictures of our homes and families. We tell stories to each other. We pray together and cry together.

Discussion of documentary “500 Years”.

While we were in Downers Grove, the recent decision by the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church was announced. Most hearing the announcement on Sunday morning were disappointed by the ruling, which likely spells the end of the United part of the Methodist Church. We are disappointed that so many in the United Methodist Church are voting to exclude rather than include. They fight for the old ways and the old rules, rather than embrace a more complete understanding of gender and sexuality.

Doesn’t this turn out to be the Sister Parish Mission as well? We fight to include, not to exclude. We fight the ways of genocide, slavery, and subjugation, and work for humans rights, dignity, and honest well-paid work for those who can. We take care of the sick and the elderly, and fight for justice in all its forms.

After each Sister Parish Board Meeting, I feel like I’ve come back from a delegation. We renew our mission and renew our energy to help Sister Parish grow and thrive. I wish each of you reading this could experience some of that energy in your own lives.

Actually, I do have an idea for one way you can experience this for yourselves. From November 14-23 2019, Sister Parish will host an open delegation to El Salvador and Guatemala.

This will be a great opportunity to see several of the Sister Parish Communities in Central America and help to support Sister Parish as well. The open delegations are set up to be different than a regular delegation visit. I’ll be going this November, and any of you reading this are welcome to join us if you can. For details, visit this link Open Delegation.

Sister and brothers in both the North and the South, I hope we meet on a future delegation, whether a formal one, or simply a warm gathering of Sister Parish folks.

Posted in General, United States | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Week in Sister Parish communities

Sister Parish communities celebrated Holy Week this year with processions, decorative carpets (alfombras), and time with community and family.  Here, we share pictures from a number of our member communities.

Chichipate, Guatemala

Procession through the center of Chichipate community.

Procession through the center of Chichipate community.

Procession over a sawdust carpet in Chichiapte.

Tierra Nueva I and II, Guatemala

Stations of the cross in Tierra Nueva I.

Dying the sawdust for the traditional carpets in Tierra Nueva II.

Carpets for the processions in Tierra Nueva II.

Carpets for the processions in Tierra Nueva I.

Zaragoza (ACOMUJERZA), El Salvador

Procession in Zaragoza.

Carpet in Zaragoza.

St Joan of Arc, Minneapolis, U.S.

Easter carpet in front of St Joan of Arc. “Let’s build bridges, not walls.”

Carpet crew at St Joan of Arc.

Las Margaritas 2, Guatemala

Easter vigil in Las Margaritas 2.

Easter vigil in the new church in Las Margaritas 2.

Fryeburg, Maine, U.S.

Easter carpet designed by church youth.

Posted in El Salvador, Guatemala, United States | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

2019 Women’s Day in Guatemala

On March 8, International Women’s Day, members from women’s group in Tierra Nueva I and Tierra Nueva II participated in the annual march in Guatemala City (see picture album).

The march provides a space to advocate for women’s rights and demand an end to violence against women.  Groups participating in the march in Guatemala cover many issues, including labor rights, ending domestic violence and femicide, LGBTQIA rights, denouncing state violence against women, and the link between environmental justice and women’s rights.

This year, March 8 also marked the 2-year anniversary of a fire in a state-run shelter in which 41 young women burned to death, and 15 others were injured, while locked in a room.

Early in the morning on March 8, the offices of the well-known women’s organization Sector de Mujeres were raided, in what the organization has denounced as a clear act of intimidation.  The march changed routes to pass in front of the office as an act of solidarity.

In addition to participating in the march, the members of the women’s group in Tierra Nueva I and Tierra Nueva II look for ways to reach people in their community directly.  This year, they read this poem at mass (Note: the poem contains intense language and images of violence against women).

Reading at mass in Tierra Nueva II.

The women’s group in Tierra Nueva II is supported by their sister church St. Joan of Arc Catholic Community.

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Guatemala members gather for fellowship and learning

In February, Sister Parish members in Guatemala met in Tierra Nueva I and II for the bi-annual representatives meeting. See all photos from the meeting.

Guatemala representatives and staff who participated in the meeting.

During the weekend, representatives learned about the dream of a new land that the founders of Tierra Nueva I and II  had and also about how they have faced recent challenges like violence and a 2015 landslide that destroyed many homes.

Site of the 2015 landslide in the Loma Linda community in Tierra Nueva I.

We also had the chance to worship together, stay with families, and talk about ways to improve our sistering relationships.  Conversations focused on how to improve communication with U.S. churches, as well as communication between the different Guatemala communities who are geographically spread out all over Guatemala.

Walking tour of the communities.

The representatives meetings are a central aspect of Sister Parish, providing learning and travel opportunities for southern members and ensuring that southern members play an active role in the Sister Parish organization as a whole.

Posted in General, Guatemala | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Re-thinking mission

Within Sister Parish, we are often looking for resources that help explain our model to new people.  As we try to recruit for delegations or share our experiences with friends and family, it can be hard to explain.  Sometimes we do not know how to respond to the questions, “How was your trip?” or “But what do you do on a Sister Parish delegation?” when people are expecting to hear about a more traditional mission model.

Below are a number of articles about re-thinking mission trips and delegations.  The articles challenge our thinking and invite us to further reflection.  The authors encourage us to place relationships at the center, to receive as well as to give, to acknowledge our privilege and responsibility to others, and to learn from and support movements for justice in the countries we visit and at home, while recognizing how interconnected we are.

Long-term relationships are the heart of Sister Parish.  We also believe that reflection before, during and after a delegation is an essential part of the transformative experience. We hope these articles will be helpful in bringing in new people, as well as in supporting a process of further reflection for those already involved.

Things No One Tells You About Going on Short-Term Mission Trips
“Developing countries do not need short-term heroes. They need long-term partners….Please don’t stop taking short-term missing trips, but do consider helping your team understand that how we do short-term mission trips may, in fact, matter more than what we do.”

American Rabbis Visit Guatemala to Support Human Rights Advocates
“I am bringing back a sense that what happens here matters at home—and what happens at home matters here,” said Rabbi Michael Knopf of Temple Beth El in Richmond, Virginia. “We’re intertwined on levels we don’t fully appreciate or understand. And because we’re interconnected, we have a deep responsibility to one another.”

Rethinking that mission trip to Guatemala
“Let’s not merely offer our thoughts and prayers. Let’s offer solidarity and advocacy that give feet to our prayers. Let’s rethink that mission trip.”

The Cost of Short-Term Mission
“Short – term missions are expensive…But short – term missions can be worth every penny if they mark the beginning of a long-term relationship. Money invested in learning about the causes of poverty in developing nations – and what can be done – is money well spent.”

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Encuentro del Sur y Caminata de Solidaridad en El Salvador

English

En diciembre, miembros de las comunidades centroamericanas de Iglesias Hermanas se reunieron para compartir sus experiencias, recibir capacitación y hacer planificación para el futuro.

Los miembros se reunieron en San Salvador para visitar los sitios históricos, incluyendo la catedral y el Hospital La Divina Providencia, donde San Romero vivió y fue asesinado mientras celebraba la misa.

Después del recorrido, las comunidades de Guarjila y Los Ranchos recibieron al grupo para un fin de semana de talleres sobre migración, gestión de proyectos y estrategias para fortalecer nuestros hermanamientos.

Les agradecemos a todos los que hicieron posible este Encuentro del Sur. Los encuentros son una parte importante de nuestro trabajo de fortalecer los hermanamientos y asegurar que son de beneficio mutuo. Los encuentros brindan oportunidades de aprendizaje y de viaje a los miembros del sur, crean una comunidad más allá de las fronteras y aseguran que las comunidades del sur participen en las decisiones sobre el futuro de la organización. Estamos especialmente agradecidos a las comunidades anfitrionas Guarjila y Los Ranchos, a los donantes individuales y a International Partners in Mission (IPM) por sus aportes al encuentro de este año.

Posted in caminata de solidaridad, El Salvador, Encuentro Sur, Español, Guatemala | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment