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.

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Advent and New Year messages from Sister Parish / Mensajes de Adviento y el Año Nuevo de Iglesias Hermanas

Español abajo

From Guatemala

Eluvia Morales from Tierra Nueva 2 shares this message on the meaning of Advent.

Advent calls us to reflect on life, peace, and justice for the whole world. Advent represents faith and hope, and above all, love for our family and love for our neighbor.

During Advent, we reflect on our struggle in adversity. Advent reminds of our past and it revives our present and our future. Advent is the coming of the redeemer, a sprititual preparation in a liturgical year where there are no distinct religions, no divided churches. For me, the crown of Advent symbolizes family, community, countries without borders, one heart, and the birth of Jesus the Savior of the world. The candles are penitence, joy, light, forgiveness, and unity. Everything has a reason for being.

A prayer – We want to be awake because you bring the brighest light, the deepest peace, and the truest joy. Come, Jesus, come.

Greetings and a big hug to all my brothers and sisters for this Christmas holiday.

From El Salvador

Carlos Quintanilla de Guarjila comparte este video mensaje sobre la esperanza y la lucha en este momento.

Carlos Quintanilla from Guarjila shares this message of hope for this time of Advent and the new year.

From United States

Danville Congregational Church shared the following reflection and service for the First Sunday of Advent this year.

As we prepare to begin a new liturgical year this Sunday, we shift our noticing into deep awareness, naming hope as the hallmark of that awareness—of keeping ourselves awake, as Jesus urged in the gospel text for this week.

Hope is an essential element of our faith; yet if we pay attention to the world around us, we find that for many, hope—often clung to in the midst of trying times or great suffering—remains elusive…forlorn…even goes unrealized.

So as people of hope, what is it we are to “be awake” to? To whose stories do we pay attention and what is our role in challenging systems of oppression, inequity, and dehumanization that chip away at the hopes of those long denied justice, of those who long for, as Jesus prayed, “God’s kingdom come.” Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity writes, “Advent is a season of trusting that God’s deep wisdom will guide us from disorientation (the mini apocalypse found in Mark 13) toward wonder, awe, and praise (Mary’s Magnificat).

As we journey together this season, I pray that we will not only dream of a better world, but bring it forth through our choices and actions, our rituals and practices.” Friends, let us pay attention to the realities of the world around us and with an active hope, dwell in that space where God’s dreams for change and new life are emerging. Let us be alert, ever hopeful, as we wait for God to draw near.

ESPAÑOL

Guatemala

Eluvia Morales de Tierra Nueva 2 comparte este mensaje sobre el significado del Adviento.

El Adviento es un llamado de reflexión a la vida, paz y justicia para todo el mundo.
El Adviento representa fe y esperanza y sobre todo el amor en la familia, amor a nuestro prójimo.

Durante el Adviento, se esfuerza para las adversidades que se presentan. Nos hace recordar el pasado y nos revive el presente y futuro. Es la venida del redentor y preparación espiritual de un año litúrgico donde no hay religiones Iglesias divididas. La corona de Adviento es para mi la familia,la comunidad, los países sin fronteras un solo corazón,el nacimiento de Jesús el Salvador del mundo. Las velas son penitencia alegría, luz, perdón, unión. Todo tiene razón de ser.

En oración queremos estar despiertos porque tu traes la luz más brillante la paz más profunda y la alegría más verdadera. Ven, Jesús, ven.

Un saludo y un ABRAZO a todos mis hermanos en estas fiestas navideñas que la pasen bien en nombre de Jesús.

El Salvador

Carlos Quintanilla comparte su mensaje de esperanza y lucha para el momento que vivimos.

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Sister Parish Virtual Delegation

Our first ever Virtual Delegation was a huge success. From November 15-21, we had 8 live calls to reflect spiritually, share holiday traditions and favorite recipes, and even learn zumba. Every day, we shared written reflections, music videos, and “community visit” videos from Sister Parish members.

Thank you to everyone who participated and made this event possible! We were blown away by the participation and the positive energy at every event. Despite the pandemic and the difficulties of this year, we gathered people from Guatemala, El Salvador and the United States to share our faith, our cultures, and our struggles for justice.

We look forward to more mini virtual delegations with our partner communities next year. Contact staff to learn more and start planning your mini virtual delegation.

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Hurricanes Eta and Iota – Update and Relief Funds

Hurricanes Eta and Iota have devastated Central America with both immediate and long-term consequences, as hundreds of thousands of people lost homes and/or crops they would have relied on to eat in 2021. In Sister Parish, there were at least four communities affected and we are working with them on community aid efforts.

In the absence of government aid, rural communities and humanitarian organizations are stepping up to help out their neighbors that have been most impacted. It is inspiring and heart-warming.

This video has pictures and video from three affected Sister Parish communities in Guatemala after Hurricane Eta. The same communities were also affected by Hurricane Iota only two weeks later.

For more information

Migrants Flee Climate Change Ravaged Central America as Record-Breaking Hurricanes Hit

Indigenous people in Guatemala lead their own Hurricane Eta response

Relief funds

Below, there are links to organizations raising funds specifically for hurricane relief in Central America.  Our Sister Parish emergency fund is still up and running. Our fundraiser is for all Sister Parish communities for a variety of emergencies, including but not limited to the hurricanes.

Thanks to the Latin American Working Group (LAWG) for the original list.

REDGUA – Red de Guatemaltecos Unidos en Acción
Relief for ETA Storm Evacuees in Guatemala

Alianza Americas: 
Central America Relief Fund 

Florida Immigrant Coalition: 
Central America Hurricane Relief Fund

Honduras Solidarity Network:
Hurricane ETA Emergency Response Fund

Recommended by NISGUA: 
Festival Abrazarte

Maya Communities Need Help

Support for Eta Storm Evacuees in Ixcán, Guatemala 

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Sister Parish on current events in the U.S.

Ecclesiastes 3
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh…

The US elections have given people in the US and around the world the opportunity to think how our politics are intertwined with our daily realities.

The elections have demonstrated that we care about our future. More than 150 million of us exercised our right to vote in a process where the character of the United States and its relationship with the global community was on the ballot.

The results of this election have not changed systemic injustices that lie at the heart of recent mass mobilizations in our country, including racism, poverty, inequality, immigration policies, and a pandemic that exacerbates all of the above.

We now, however, have an opportunity to bring a new attitude to our work for social justice in the US and to our relationships with our neighbors in Central and South America. The new narrative can be centered around values of sanctuary, security, and freedom from violence and oppression. This new narrative will center on work that benefits the US and Central America. Our task will be to continue to help people understand this work.

Now is the time to rejoice. We will have opportunities and challenges. We must keep vigilant and demand actions and new policies to fulfill the promises made during the campaign. We must continue to work toward that more just world we wish to see: one in which we all have access to basic human rights like safety, housing, education, water, and healthcare; one in which we have a more just US foreign policy toward Central America; one in which our immigration policies respect the dignity and rights of migrants; one in which we care for our planet and the people most impacted by climate change; one in which we finally end the historic ongoing oppression of Black people, Indigenous people and all people of color in the US and the world. We will keep dreaming and struggling to make that dream a reality.

This is a time to celebrate the democratic process, but never to forget that the seasons, as in Ecclesiastes, have to be recognized in order to support the dignity of all people here in the United States, in Central America and in all the corners of our planet.

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Christ Church – Sister Parish Annual Report 2020

Christ Church in Blacksburg, VA shared this annual report with their congregation in a newsletter. View original PDF with photos.

The Christ Church Guatemala Sister Parish Committee continues to join in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ in San Andrés Itzapa, Guatemala as part of the international ecumenical organization Sister Parish/Iglesias Hermanas. You will recognize the name San Andrés Itzapa from our weekly prayer list; Christ Church Blacksburg is always on the prayer list of the San Andrés Itzapa Episcopal Community as well.

At left: San Andrés Itzapa provides food aid for families impacted by the pandemic restrictions in Guatemala.
At right: Map of area in Mesoamerica affected by years of drought (including San Andrés Itzapa).

Sister Parish “promotes intercultural and ecumenical understanding by establishing linkages between churches in the United States and faith-based communities in Central America. The linkages are based on direct person-to-person contact, with delegates living in each other’s homes and sharing each other’s realities” (https://sisterparish.org/).

Several changes have occurred in 2020. First, our sister parish regional coordinator, Brian Tyler, has left his position to attend law school in Chicago, and Carrie Stengel, the Sister Parish executive director, is filling that gap for the moment. We wish Brian, his wife Ana Lucia, and their daughter Luna well in their new journey and thank him for
his service as a bridge between the two communities, an indispensable role supported by our linkage fee. Second, due to the pandemic, all planned delegations, from North to South and South to North, have been cancelled. These trips also help to support the bridge-building work of Sister Parish. We have fond memories of hosting our Sister Parish friends in Blacksburg in 2018.

This year has also brought changes in the world that have greatly affected our Sister Parish in Guatemala, including the pandemic, a continuation of the long-lasting drought, and devastating hurricanes with their rains and flooding. We thank those individual members of Christ Church who responded to the call for donations for food and health supplies (still current at https://www.mightycause.com/story/Coronaviruscentralamerica), and members of the SAI committee who helped with the distribution in their community (see photo). San Andrés Itzapa is in the Central American Dry Corridor (see map), and drought has created serious problems for many families in SAI who depend on growing their own corn, a basic stable, served up as delicious tortillas (see a screen shot of a personal report from SAI; Jorge Luis is pictured and his words translated). Then Hurricanes Eta and Iota brought torrential rains and flooding (see map).

At left: Luis from San Andrés Itzapa talks about the impact of the pandemic.
At right: Map showing area affected by hurricanes this fall (includes San Andrés Itzapa)

Of course, schools in Guatemala, like schools throughout the world, have faced changes in 2020, but, amid these changes, our ongoing project with San Andrés Itzapa continues to offer 30 scholarships to enable poorer children who have completed the second grade to continue in the third through sixth grades, completing elementary school. When we made our visit to San Andrés in 2015, the delegation met with some of these students and their families. We were touched by their love of learning and their desire to tell us about their lives and families.

About $135 a year can supply registration and fees, school supplies, a school uniform, and a pair of shoes to make an enormous difference in the life of a young student and his or her family. The Christ Church Outreach Committee has been supportive of this ministry for a number of years. The money received through the parish grant process and the remaining amount raised during the Season of Giving from Christ Church families and individuals allows these children to continue the schooling that we take for granted in our country. Our partners in San Andrés Itzapa, an indigenous (Maya) community, work with the bilingual (Kaqchikel/Spanish) elementary school, Chay Balam, to identify the students and work with Padre Miguel Salanic, the students, and their parents throughout the year to keep things on track. The SAI new school year begins in January.

We always welcome parishioners to join with the Guatemala Sister Parish Committee as we find ways to affirm our solidarity with our neighbors to the South. Perhaps you would like to volunteer as a prayer partner for one of our scholarship students in 2021. Or perhaps you would like to be a part of an occasional Zoom conversation (Spanish not required because a translator will be with us). Or perhaps you are ready to think about being a part of our next North to South delegation when it is safe to resume travel. Please let us know how YOU are ready to connect to our brothers and sisters in Christ in San Andrés Itzapa.

Muchas gracias for your continued support of our committee and our Sister Parish.
Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Maureen Perry, Sharon Harrell

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Sister Parish October Update – with Maria

Sister Parish Board President, Maria Van Der Maaten, shares an update about our work in this brief video.

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St Joan of Arc Sister Parish Sunday – November 15, 2020

St Joan of Arc organized a Sister Parish Sunday mass for November 15, 2020. Watch the video of the service below and/or read the reflection below by Rita and Jeff Nohner that was shared during the service. Thank you to everyone who made this beautiful service possible.

Rita Nohner

This time of year, St. Joan of Arc is typically buzzing with activity. Walk into the Welcome Center on any given Sunday, and you’ll see people tabling for all kinds of ministries. On one of those Sundays – right about now –  you would see the Sister Parish committee hosting our annual craft fair, offering up items like ornaments, advent candles and various textiles made by the members of our craft committee in Tierra Nueva Dos, Guatemala. 

But this isn’t a typical year, so there is no craft fair. And that really bums me out. Because the Craft Fair is our chance to chat with you as you browse… about this incredible 25 year relationship of mutuality and prayer, of learning to live the beatitudes. You know, Matthew says “Blessed are the poor of spirit.” Luke says “Blessed are the poor.” What our Sister Parish relationship has taught us is that the poor of spirit have much to learn from those whose lives are different from ours. 

Of course, what you see at our annual Craft Fair is just the tip of the iceberg. The true heart of this relationship is delegation travel when we really hear the stories and see the reality of one another’s lives. In doing so, we learn more deeply what it means to be human.

Jeff and I have traveled on delegation to Guatemala multiple times. During those visits, host families have opened their homes to us, sharing their meals and worship with us. We spend time as members of their families, playing Uno with Olga’s kids, making music with Leonel’s family, carrying on deep conversations via Google translate with Estela’s teenagers. It has been so fun to watch those kids grow up. We have learned first-hand the challenges of their daily lives and the resilience and tenacity they bring to bear against them. In short, they become our family and we become theirs.

The South to North delegation visits to Minneapolis are equally important. Jeff & I have been blessed to have delegates stay with us in our home. In hosting, we have had the experience of seeing our lives through their eyes. We have felt the disquiet that comes from confronting our own privilege and considering the costs of our comfort. 

Our guests see our world as well. I remember so clearly a visit to the Northside Achievement Zone when we met with a group of young men who had left gang life and dedicated themselves to creating peace in their community. One of our delegates, a mother who had lost her son to gang violence in Guatemala, reached out to them with such tenderness and love. These young men from North Minneapolis connected with these mothers from Guatemala in such a profound way, with such a deep sense of shared loss. As a witness to it, I knew I was outside of it. But it was like watching a ball of light glowing and filling the room. To be there was a gift.

So, as you can see, much of our delegation time is spent “being” rather than “doing.” We listen to one another and share ideas for confronting the injustice that keeps all of us in poverty of one form or another. We share our hopes and dreams and celebrate the successes of our joint projects. But our time together reminds us that these joint projects, while important, are hollow without this sense of shared community. 

Stepping into solidarity often means stepping into pain. But it also means stepping into great joy. Living one another’s realities moves the concept of justice from the head to the heart. And so, it is when we return home from our delegations, that our call to action truly begins. A call to advocacy and outreach. Sister Parish offers us the opportunity to become instruments of God’s peace, a need as vital here and now in Minneapolis as it is in Guatemala.

Jeff Nohner

Rita and I are involved in a lot of things at SJA. Why Sister Parish? 

Like much of Minnesota, Guatemala is agricultural. The people there make their livelihood off the land. But hey face a lot more challenges that we do. They have a corrupt government with foreign powers bribing their  way in to strip the hillsides just to find some gold. They kick people off their land so that they can profit. 10,000 or more people were displaced recently when a volcano erupted, and many people were killed. Just last week, Hurricane Eta made landfall there and killed another 200 people and ravaged the landscape. They suffer from earthquakes, drought, and floods. They live with the daily impact of Global Climate Change.

There’s a Mayan saying someone told us about: Sometimes Mother Earth is like a dog and humans are like fleas. When there are too many, or they are digging too deep, or they’re biting too hard, the dog shakes itself, rolls on the ground and jumps in the river to get rid of us. 

Despite the adversity, or maybe because of it, our Guatemalan family is joyful. They have a deep appreciation for what they have. They focus on what’s important. They know that faith and family and community are the most important thing. And that’s what touches us, because that’s what so many of us long for. We’re in a country that feels like a lot of division, and what they have is a lot of connectedness and community. 

Many of you have been to the potlucks and gatherings and delegations and have visited with the people who have come here, but not many of you have had a chance to go to Guatemala or be a part of that part of Sister parish. 

Well, there are ways you can get involved now. Because the pandemic has cancelled all travel, for the first time anyone can travel on delegation. This weekend, Sister Parish is starting the first virtual delegation where you can meet with and visit with people and organizations in Central America without traveling. 

There’s also been a lot of activity in the SP monthly meetings, which are held every first Wed of the month. You’re invited to join in that. You can join the SP bible study, there’s prayer partners, and other programs. Or you can even support SP financially through the Give to the Max Day which just happens to be coming up next week. 

If you’d like more information on any of these things, you can look for the Sister Parish page on the website and contact us.

We invite all parishioners to become a partner in this relationship. Bring your talents – of an open heart, a loving spirit and a desire to be a pilgrim. 

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Tierra Nueva 2 distributes third round of food aid / Tierra Nueva 2 distribuye tercera ronda de apoyo alimentario

(Click on the photos to enlarge / Haga clic en las fotos para verlas en grande)

Texto en español después del texto en ingles.

In Chinautla, the Sister Parish committee is continuing to organize and deliver food aid in their community. The committee has prioritized people with special needs, elders, and single mothers, as well as families living in more precarious conditions deep in the steep ravines of the community. Many families in the community lived in poverty and uncertainty before the pandemic emergency, which has only exacerbated those conditions.



En Chinautla, el Comité de Hermanamiento continua organizando y distribuyendo apoyo alimentario en la comunidad. El comité ha priorizado a personas con necesidades especiales, madres solteras, y personas de la tercera edad, así como a familias que viven en condiciones más precarias en el fondo de los barrancos de la comunidad. Muchas familias de la comunidad vivían en la pobreza y la incertidumbre económica antes de la pandemia, hecho que ha agravado esas condiciones.

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St. Joan of Arc Solidarity Walk / Caminata Solidaria de Santa Juana del Arco

(Click on the photos to enlarge / Haga clic en las fotos para verlas en grande)

Texto en español después del texto en ingles.

On October 4, 2020, St. Joan of Arc Catholic Community church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, hosted a socially distanced Solidarity Walk to benefit the Sister Parish. It was a beautiful, sunny day for a walk. Over twenty people from St. Joan of Arc, all wearing masks, gathered at Minnehaha Park as a reflection on the bonds of love and solidarity that exist between St. Joan of Arc and our sister parish Tierra Nueva 2 in Chinaulta, Guatemala. The theme of the walk, “We are called”, was especially appropriate for these challenging times. The group started with a greeting circle, then several self-directed groups of 3 to 4 people separated in order to walk, read and reflect at three virtual “stations”. After the walk, the group came back together for a closing prayer and photo. Several people stayed to enjoy picnic lunches and fellowship. Even though we can’t be together with our sisters and brothers in Guatemala right now, this gathering helped fill our longing for community and hermanamiento -sisterhood and brotherhood.



El 4 de octubre del 2020 la iglesia de la Comunidad Católica de Santa Juana del Arco en Minneapolis, Minnesota organizó una Caminata Solidaria con cuidados de distanciamiento social en beneficio a Iglesias Hermanas. Fue un día hermoso y soleado para caminar. Más de veinte personas de Santa Juana del Arco, todas con mascarillas, se reunieron en el parque Minnehaha para reflexionar sobre los lazos de cariño y solidaridad que existen entre Santa Juana del Arco y nuestra iglesia hermana Tierra Nueva 2 en Chinaulta, Guatemala. El tema de la caminata “Somos llamados”, fue especialmente apropiado para estos tiempos que estamos viviendo. El grupo comenzó con una ronda de saludos y luego varios grupos autodirigidos de 3 a 4 personas se separaron para caminar, leer y reflexionar en tres “estaciones” virtuales. Después de la caminata el grupo volvió a reunirse para una oración final y una foto. Varias personas se quedaron para disfrutar de un almuerzo y compartir un poco. A pesar de que en este momento no podemos estar juntos con nuestras hermanas y hermanos en Guatemala, esta reunión ayudó con nuestro anhelo por el hermanamiento.

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Reflexión de un médico en El Salvador

por Carlos Orellana

Carlos es médico en una clínica rural en Chalatenango, El Salvador. También es un líder comunitario y un miembro muy activo en el hermanamiento que su comunidad Potrerillos mantiene con Decorah First United Methodist Church.


El último mes en cuarentena ha sido difícil. Como médico puedo decir que en un principio podríamos tomar el control,  y como médico pensé que a nosotros, en las comunidades rurales, no nos afectaría demasiado esta pandemia. En ese momento pensaba más como médico de cabecera de una clínica de salud rural comunitaria. Fue hasta que me trasladaron al hospital Regional de nivel secundario en Chalatenango, cuando vi más claramente esta realidad de la pandemia. Mi tarea inicial fue como médico en la atención primaria de pacientes con COVID. En este camino pude enfrentar el miedo, no solo mis propios miedos, por estar expuesto diariamente a la contaminación además del estrés por no tener mucho contacto con mi familia y más allá de eso, el temor a contaminarlos.

Algún tiempo después, me requirieron para apoyar al equipo de la morgue, allí experimenté el miedo a la muerte, dolor, pena, sufrimiento, vacío, deshumanización pero aun con todo eso, también experimenté el sentido más profundo de la humanidad en toda su extensión.

Carlos y su esposa Alba durante su visita al hermanamiento en Decorah.
Carlos hace una presentación con una delegación de Iglesias Hermanas en noviembre de 2019 sobre los esfuerzos comunitarios para garantizar el agua potable a la comunidad.
Campañas de sanitización en Potrerillos para desinfectar espacios públicos en el contexto de la pandemia.
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