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

News related to our sistering relationships – September 2019

In Guatemala, the conservative former head of the prison system, Alejandro Giammatei, was elected president in an August run-off election.  He will be inaugurated in January 2020. The United Nations-sponsored International Commission against Impunity (CICIG) gave their final report before their mandate runs out this September.  On September 4, the government declared a State of Siege in 22 eastern municipalities following a security incident during an anti-narcotics operation.  The State of Siege has many implications for social movements in the area, as it severely limits the rights to assembly and protest, among others.

In El Salvador, the new president faces pressure from both the right and the left.  NACLA published an interview with social movement leaders about his first 100 days in office. One recent study found that El Salvador will run out of water in 80 years, unless drastic actions are taken. This is not surprising to the many communities living without access to adequate water, nor to the social movement in El Salvador that has been demanding action on water and climate change for years now.  In July, a judge expanded the charges in the case of the 1981 El Mozote massacre to include torture, forced displacement, and forced disappearance.

United States government officials continue to negotiate agreements with Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to address migration rates.  Trump used harsh threats recently, including higher taxes on remittances and a travel ban on Guatemalans, to pressure the government to sign an agreement establishing Guatemala as a “safe third country” for asylum seekers.  Both his threats and the “safe third country” agreement were widely criticized in Guatemala.  The U.S. is sending more Border Patrol agents and Department of Homeland Security personnel to Guatemala and they will be trained and deployed “side-by-side” with Guatemalan security officers.

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

St Francis visits Las Margaritas 2 in Guatemala

The Catholic Community of St Francis of Assisi in Raleigh, North Carolina visited their sister community, Las Margaritas 2 in Guatemala, in July of 2019.

Art project with the children in Las Margaritas 2.

Accompanied everywhere we go by the children of Las Margaritas 2.

Learning at the Sotz’il Cultural Center.

Presentation at the Sotz’il Cultural Center.

Learning how to make tortillas.

Learning about traditional beekeeping.

Kayaking on Lake Atitlan.

Delicious watermelon in Las Margaritas 2.

Art project with the children in Las Margaritas 2.

Posted in Delegations, General, Guatemala, North to South | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Downers Grove FUMC visits UPAVIM in Guatemala

Originally published in DGFUMC’s The Tower Bell newsletter.

In the middle of July, a delegation of eight people from Downers Grove First United Methodist Church went to Guatemala to build relationships with the women of UPAVIM (Unidas Para Vivir Mejor/United for a Better Life), and learn about Guatemala’s history and culture. [The delegates] spent a week building connections. For over a decade, DGFUMC has celebrated our hermanamiento (sisterhood) with UPAVIM (Unidas Para Vivir Mejor United for a Better Life), a Christian co-op in La Esperanza, Guatemala. Every two years, a delegation from DGFUMC visits Guatemala or a delegation from UPAVIM visits the United States. These visits and the time spent in prayer with, and for, each other are all about building solidarity.The delegation is grateful for the DGFUMC’s Guatemala Connections task force and all who made it possible for them to go! Throughout the next few months there will be opportunities to hear about their experiences and learn more about this beautiful relationship that we share with UPAVIM. A special family meal featuring a Guatemalan dinner is planned for Wednesday, October 9.

Visiting Chichicastenango together.

Visiting UPAVIM’s amazing children’s library.

Visiting UPAVIM’s amazing children’s library.

Playing UNO with homestay family.

Learning how to make UPAVIM crafts – and learning how hard it is!

Learning how to make delicious champurradas (cookies) in UPAVIM’s bakery.

Visiting Pop Wuj art gallery and learning about Mayan spirituality and art.

Posted in Delegations, General, Guatemala, North to South | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on our Journey to Tierra Nueva 1, Guatemala

Five people from numerous churches in the Fargo-Moorhead area visited Guatemala July 21-29, 2019 for a delegation with Sister Parish.  One delegate shares his reflections about the exchange.

By Charlie Jordan

After two months of rest and thought, I very much would like to share some reflections of our Fargo-Moorhead North to South Delegation to Tierra Nueva 1, Guatemala this past July.  Linda Graf and I from St. Mark’s, as well as Vicki Schmidt and two senior students from UND, made our way to Guatemala City in order to participate in a “friendship exchange of goodwill” with a Sister Parish congregation called San Marcos.  A West Fargo church had previously been the North American “sister parish” to San Marcos for many years.  This relationship between churches in North America and Central American congregations began in the early 1980’s as a way to show friendship and solidarity with people living in poverty and suffering political persecution in different ways.  Our experience focused on making new friends, exchanging cultural ideas and customs and living with folks from San Marcos for 4-5 days.  We had numerous cultural excursions as well, but by far, our greatest gift to give as well as to receive, was listening to the many stories of violence and family disruption due to an ongoing civil war in Guatemala.  This has led to the creation of new towns, starting as settlements with no public services of any kind, no roads, no water or sewer or electricity.  One such area, now 40 years old, is called “Tierra Nueva 1” or “New Land 1.”  Here we stayed with wonderful host families who cooked for us and welcomed us into their very modest homes.  It is a similar experience I have had several times in Spain and Mexico, but unique in Guatemala as it was my first visit to this country.  It was definitely the most rewarding aspect of our trip, in my opinion.

We first stayed in a religious retreat center in Guatemala City where we became oriented to the history, customs, food and climate of Guatemala.  They were modest but very comfortable conditions.  Our hosts were a religious order of women who cooked wonderful and plentiful meals for the guests of this retreat center.  We also spent our last two nights here on our way back from Tierra Nueva 1.  We saw government buildings, the main square, and a wonderful museum called the “House of Memories.”  There we briefly learned of Guatemala’s history, its colonization by the Spanish (and the atrocities they committed), human rights violations, the many missing souls due to kidnappings and war.  We also learned of the many heroes and heroines of this time, who spoke out against government actions against indigenous people and the (ab)use of land.  It was a lot of information to process and comprehend, but we had excellent guides provided by Sister Parish.  They live in work in Guatemala, hosting other church delegations.  One is from Minneapolis and another from Nashville.  Our third guide was from El Salvador—who happened to be free during our delegation, so she added much to our tour as well.

We made our way to Tierra Nueva 1 in a rented van and arrived about an hour later.  Guatemala City is very large with perhaps 2-3 million people, and where we were headed was about 40,000.  We visited families, widows and widowers, and people who have family in the USA, unable to leave to visit family in Guatemala for fear of deportation.  Many, many folks had tales to tell of friends and family who had gone north, some who have stayed and some who have returned.  We were made aware of the awful drug and gang violence present in the country, and consequently we were accompanied at all times.  We heard such sad stories of pain and suffering that caused many emotions for all of us.  I, being very emotional and hearing these stories twice in two languages, was very moved by their personal testimonies.  The photos we saw on people’s walls of departed ones, the religious icons and deep faith of these people, going through more than just hard times, speaks to their strength and will to continue on.  To see how little they had and how much they shared with us, was extremely humbling.  We were guests in their homes and in their country—making us feel like more than just new friends, but family members from far away, now reunited after many years.  The feelings of genuine concern for us and ours for them was very touching.  As my language skills warmed up from many years of not much use, I became more in touch with the current situation that seems to cause cyclical poverty and despair, from a government that has forgotten its people in some ways.  Especially those in Tierra Nueva 1.

Another excursion took us to the site of a recent volcanic eruption and the devastation that occurred in June 2018.  We visited a church where the priest had worked with volunteers from around the world to help provide temporary housing for families who survived, but lost everything.  Everything.  It was like walking on sacred ground, knowing many souls had been lost in the lava flow, as well as homes and businesses.  The remains of a church, believed to be full of worshipers, was almost too much to think about.  I was deeply moved by this visit; even more so by our visiting with a young man, collecting firewood for his mother, who survived the eruption and disaster.  Listening to his story of that day and  all of its details was simply a gift that coincided with our visit that morning. We greeted him and said “God bless you and your family,” then quickly collected some Quetzales ($$) to give him.  He was grateful and proud.  We all gave him a hug and moved on to visit Antigua, Guatemala’s old capital city and touristy town.  However, I didn’t move on that quickly.  The morning’s experience had me emotionally devastated, thinking of all that we have here and how little others have in this world.

Back in Tierra Nueva 1, we shared mass at San Marcos and were warmly greeted by their Filipino priest.  We sang in their choir that morning and heard wonderful songs of praise and thanks to God.  We had rehearsed that song with my host family’s father, Carlos Aguilar, who is a very accomplished singer and guitarist.  The previous evening we cooked a pork casserole dinner with potatoes and carrots for 120 of San Marcos’ members.  We served the people this dinner in the church’s fellowship space and cooked it in the priests’ quarters.  It was a great experience of collaboration, work and fellowship, led by Vicki Schmidt.  I think the people were fairly impressed and enjoyed themselves.  Dinner was followed by music and dance, provided by Carlos and Julieta, our El Salvadoran guide, serving as DJ.

On Sunday evening we returned to Guatemala City and then on Monday we visited UPAVIM, a community center for women and children, started with a woman from Texas in the early 1980’s.  Her husband at the time founded Sister Parish, which continues today all around the country and Central America.  UPAVIM employs women to make Guatemalan crafts, provides a day care and Montessori school, as well as schooling for children grades K-6.  Its name reflects its goal: Women United Together for a Better Life.  They have a US website where anyone can purchase crafts online in order to support this important center.  It also was a great highlight of our trip, an uplifting experience to know it exists for women who may find themselves as single parents or widows, without much family or government support.

Please remember that while we may call this a “mission trip,” our primary mission was that of greeting and living among our sisters and brothers in Christ.  We are all the same humanity, after all.  As a very popular Latin American song says, “Todos son iguales en los ojos de Dios,” or “Everyone is the same in the eyes of God.”  Sister Parish links churches together to share trips, experiences, family, friendship and culture with those in impoverished countries.  It builds bridges of understanding through faith and love, mutual respect for one another and commitment to improvement of basic needs.  Our current Sister Parish Committee is looking for a new church home, and St. Mark’s of Fargo may just well be that new home.  The committee just authorized financial aid to San Marcos of Tierra Nueva 1 to create an overnight trip/excursion for its youth to a cultural site in Guatemala.  Good things are happening there because of the support of folks in Fargo-Moorhead.  It was an honor and a privilege to travel there this summer.  It was a cultural exchange I will always remember.  As I told many, many students in my Spanish classes, even if you don’t use the language you’ve studied, it has opened a new door into new cultures, new experiences and a new awareness of others that no one can take from you.  As Americans, we should all strive to travel outside of our borders in order to realize what the world offers.  We enjoy many freedoms in this country and traveling abroad makes you aware of them and helps us understand where others come from.  Thank you to the members of St. Mark’s who have supported us through attendance at the Guatemalan Getaway Fundraiser and individual donations.  It is a very worthy cause to support.

 

Posted in Delegations, Guatemala, North to South | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nuestra relación es como un anillo al dedo” – TN2 visita Santa Juana de Arco

Dos representantes de Tierra Nueva 2, Guatemala compartieron sus reflexiones sobre el hermanamiento durante la visita a Santa Juana de Arco. Se puede leer sobre las actividades de cada dia en el blog de Santa Juana de Arco.

English

Participantes en el retiro de cierre.

Alba Rivera:
Este año, celebramos 25 años de la relación entre Santa Juana de Arco y Tierra Nueva 2 en Guatemala.

Cuando llegaron las primeras delegaciones de Santa Juana de Arco nos visitaron en nuestras casas. Nunca habíamos tenido esta experiencia de recibir a alguien que no fuera familia. Creció nuestra amistad, hablamos sobre lo que podríamos hacer juntos y nos enamoramos.  Incluso hicimos anillos de compromiso.

Recordamos cuando venimos aquí, vimos cómo las mujeres de Santa Juana eran líderes activas en la iglesia. Vimos cómo hablaban en público y nos inspiraron. Recuerdo que Auri me dijo: “Necesitamos aprender a hacer eso”.  Tuvimos la oportunidad de que Mindy de Santa Juana fuera nuestro público en la preparación de un tema.  Con el tiempo, nuestra relación se profundizó y empezamos el proyecto de las mujeres para capacitar y formar a las mujeres en nuestra comunidad. Mujeres que estaban deprimidas, algunas que no salían de su casa, ahora vienen al grupo de mujeres. Las que recibían los talleres hace años ahora son las lideresas del grupo. Ahora vemos a las mujeres de nuestra comunidad sirviendo en la iglesia y hablando en público como yo.

Presentación durante la misa.

El hermanamiento nos ha ayudado a crecer en nuestra fe. Tenemos los compañeros en oración y la reflexión compartida. Sentimos alivio al saber que ustedes oran por nosotros y que nosotros oramos por ustedes, estamos conectados a través de la oración y la presencia de Jesús en nuestras vidas. Esta semana cuando fuimos a la misa en la mañana, era tan íntima.  Nos sentimos muy cerca de Dios y de todos ustedes. No entendimos todo lo que dijo el Padre Jim, pero la misa fue como tomar un café bien rico, o comer un plato de tortillas con frijoles y crema: no es mucho (no era muy larga la misa), pero es delicioso y justo lo que necesitábamos.

Esta semana vimos como a las personas aquí les interesa lo que sucede en el mundo. La gente levanta su voz por todos nosotros en la marcha por la paz en el puente.  Nos reunimos con la pastoral Bienvenido al Extraño y salimos en el camión de Panes Móviles. Escuchamos más historias de lo que pasa en la frontera entre EEUU-México. Queremos concientizar a los jóvenes sobre la migración y queremos dar pan a los hambrientos en nuestra comunidad también, y ahora tenemos más herramientas e ideas.  Nuestras experiencias aquí nos dan fuerza para trabajar más en nuestra comunidad.

Miriam Vasquez:
Quiero compartir que, en este viaje, lo que más nos ha impactado son nuestros momentos de compartir oraciones y compartir nuestras vidas. Junto con nosotros, ustedes entran en nuestro dolor y nuestra alegría. El esposo de Alba, Juan Carlos, falleció hace 3 meses y aquí hemos llorado juntos. Así es cuando alguien muere en nuestra comunidad, sienten el mismo dolor, y nosotros igual. Recordamos con mucho cariño a Padre George Wertin, Bob Heberle y Efrain Juarez y los otros que ya no están.

Con nuestras familias hospedadoras, sentimos una cálida bienvenida. Querían darnos lo mejor. En las familias siempre hay dificultades, pero podríamos ver cuánto amor tienen el uno por el otro y sentimos su amor también. No nos sentíamos extraños, sino personas que se habían conocido antes, que se conocían desde hace mucho tiempo. No sentíamos que estábamos lejos de nuestras familias.

Miriam con su familia hospedadora, Daymond y Valerie.

Miriam y Alba con Jeff.

Nuestra relación es como un anillo al dedo. Nos hemos adaptado con nuestras debilidades y vulnerabilidades, con mucho respeto. Como en todas las relaciones, hay desacuerdos, pero siempre hemos sabido cómo manejarlos. Así es como el hermanamiento ha durado 25 años. SJA nunca dijo, son pobres, solo haremos lo que queramos. En cambio, nos enseñaron que podemos tomar nuestras propias decisiones y que tenemos el derecho a hacerlo como seres humanos. El hermanamiento no se trata de servirnos. No es que uno sea mejor que el otro. Nos complementamos. Lo que uno no tiene, el otro dará con mucho amor, como un matrimonio.

Creemos que esto es lo que Dios quiere de cada uno de sus hijos, que nos amemos y que este amor nos acerca a Dios. Dios nos da un toque a cada uno de nosotros hacia la acción. Tal vez no siempre lo hacemos, pero él nos toca nuevamente para que volvamos a vivir como él quiere. Dios quiere que cambiemos el mundo en que vivimos ahora, un mundo con tanta impunidad, violencia y pobreza. Ustedes están haciendo su parte aquí y nosotros hacemos nuestra parte en Guatemala. La esperanza para un mundo más justo está en cada uno de nosotros. A través del hermanamiento nos damos cuenta de que no somos pobres. No estamos solos. Somos uno. Somos parte de un todo.

Gracias por estos 25 años de compartir.

Sirviendo comida con la pastoral “Panes Moviles”.

Reconociendo a las cuatro personas de TN2 que no recibieron una visa para participar.

Retiro espiritual al final de la delegación.

Juegos y diversión son parte de cualquier delegación.

“No más violencia en contra de las mujeres indigenas.” – Mural en Minneapolis.

Somos uno.

Posted in Aniversarios, Delegaciones, Español, General, Guatemala, sur al norte, United States | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

“Our relationship fits like a ring on a finger”: TN2 visits St Joan of Arc

The following was shared during mass at St Joan of Arc church in Minneapolis, MN on the last day of the South to North delegation visiting from Tierra Nueva 2, Guatemala. Read the St Joan of Arc blog for a day-by-day account.

Español

Retreat participants at the end of the delegation.

Rita Nohner:
Good morning.

My name is Rita Nohner and I am a long time parishioner at St. Joan of Arc. Since my husband Jeff and I first traveled on delegation to Guatemala in 2006, we have been actively involved in this very powerful ministry, which is grounded in solidarity.

This solidarity fosters mutual understanding and a commitment to peace and justice among people in the United States and Central America. Delegation travel to the North and South with home stays is an essential aspect in enhancing awareness and understanding, and nurturing closer relationships.

This week we have been experiencing a South to North delegation with the women you see before you. Miriam and Alba, our delegates, will share with us their experiences from this past week, and Carrie Stengel, our amazing Sister Parish director, who lives and works in Guatemala, will translate for them.

We are sure their story will inspire and move you.

Alba Rivera:
This year, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the relationship between St Joan of Arc and Tierra Nueva 2 in Guatemala.

When the first delegation from St Joan of Arc arrived, they visited us in our homes. We had never had this experience, having someone who was not family visit us. Our friendship grew, we talked about what we could do together and we fell in love. We even made engagement rings.

We remember when we came here; we saw how the women of St Joan of Arc were active leaders in the church. We saw how they spoke in public and they inspired us. I remember Auri telling me: “We need to learn how to do that.” At one point, Mindy from St Joan of Arc volunteered as our audience to prepare for a presentation. Over time, our relationship deepened, and we started the women’s project to train women in our community. Women who used to be depressed, some who did not often leave their home, they now come to the women’s group. Those who received the workshops years ago are now the leaders of the group. Now we see the women of our community serving in the church and speaking in public like I am today.

Delegates speak about their experiences during mass.

This relationship has helped us grow in our faith. We have prayer partners and our shared Bible study. We are comforted to know that you pray for us and that we pray for you, we are connected through prayer and the presence of Jesus in our lives. This week when we went to Mass in the morning, it was so intimate. We felt very close to God and all of you. We did not understand everything that Father Jim said, but the mass was like having a very good cup of coffee, or eating a plate of tortillas with beans and cream: it is not much (mass was not very long), but it is delicious and just what we needed.

This week we saw how people here care about what is happening in the world. People raise their voices for all of us at the peace march on the Lake Street bridge. We met with the Welcome the Stranger ministry and we served with the Mobile Loaves food truck. We heard more stories about what is happening on the US-Mexico border. We want to raise awareness with our youth about migration and we want to give bread to the hungry in our community too. Now we have more tools and ideas. Our experiences here give us strength to continue working even harder in our community.

Miriam Vasquez
I want to share that on this trip, the most powerful experiences have been our moments of sharing prayer and sharing our lives. Together with us, you enter into our pain and our joy. Alba’s husband, Juan Carlos, died 3 months ago and here we have cried together. When someone dies in our community, you feel the same pain, and we feel the same when someone here passes away. We fondly remember Father George Wertin, Bob Heberle and Efrain Juarez and the others who are no longer with us.

With our host families, we felt such a warm welcome. They wanted to give us their very best. In families there are always difficulties, but we could see how much love they have for each other and we felt their love. We didn’t feel like strangers, but like people who had met before, known each other for a long time. We didn’t feel like we were far away from our families.

Miriam with hosts, Valerie and Daymond.

Miriam and Alba with host, Jeff.

Our relationship fits like a ring on a finger. We have adapted to our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, with a lot of respect. As in all relationships, there are disagreements, but we have always known how to handle them. This is how our relationship has lasted 25 years. St Joan of Arc never said, “They are poor, we will just do what we want”. Instead, you taught us that we can make our own decisions and that we have the right to do so as human beings. The relationship is not about serving us. It is not that one of us is better than the other. We complement each other. What one lacks, the other will give with all our love, like a marriage.

We believe this is what God wants from each of his children. God wants us to love each other and to let this love bring us closer to God. God gives each of us a nudge towards action. We may not always do it immediately, but he nudges us again so that we go back to living as God wants. God wants us to change the world we live in now, a world with so much impunity, violence and poverty. You do your part here and we do our part in Guatemala. The hope for a more just world is inside each of us. Through our relationship we realize that we are not poor. We are not alone. We are one. We are all part of one whole.

Thank you for these 25 years of sharing.

Four people were denied visas to participate in the delegation. They were present in other ways throughout the week.

Delegates serve food with St Joan of Arcs Mobile Loaves ministry.

Closing retreat at the end of the delegation.

Fun and games are also part of any good delegation experience.

“End violence on indigenous women” – Mural in Minneapolis.

We are all part of one whole.

 

Posted in Anniversaries, Delegations, Guatemala, South to North, United States | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

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.

 

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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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