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

Open Delegation stories shared in Duluth

In mid-March, three delegates from the Sister Parish 2019 Open Delegation traveled to  First Lutheran Church in Duluth to share their experiences from the delegation.  Nancy Wiens told us, “We shared our open delegation experiences, talked about the push/pull factors of migration, and told about the resilience and positive efforts of several communities including San Antonio Los Ranchos. It was a good weekend!”

The delegates shared updates about the impressive community projects in Los Ranchos like the day care center and the library – both rare resources in rural Central America.  The delegation was also guided through a historical memory tour by Ingrid, one of the scholarship students supported by First Lutheran Church.  The community has put up beautiful murals and monuments in the central park.

In terms of what the delegation learned about migration, when we met with people in Guatemala last November, the specific requests for people in the U.S. were 1) to help reunite families affected by the zero tolerance and family separation policies, 2) to support immigration reform that acknowledges the transnational reality of Central American communities, and 3) to address the root causes of migration.  These are big goals, but you can connect to local efforts in your community, educate others, and stay tuned for action alerts from organizations like the Latin America Working Group and Opening Borders.

Posted in Education and Advocacy, United States | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wallingford and Guarjila celebrate 20-year anniversary

In February, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the relationship between Wallingford United Methodist Church and the community of Guarjila. During our delegation, we joined in festivities for the community’s patron saint, we worshiped, we learned about the history and resistance of the community, and we saw the important community work being carried out today. Even more importantly, we strengthened the bonds of friendship and solidarity between the two communities.

Thank you to everyone who did their part to make sure this was such a wonderful experience. May this relationship celebrate many more anniversaries in the future!

Celebrando los 20 años del hermanamiento entre la Iglesia Metodista Unida Wallingford y la comunidad de Gurajila. Durante esta delegación, compartimos en la fiesta patronal, aprendimos sobre la historia y la resistencia de la comunidad, y vimos el trabajo comunitario que se hace hoy en día. Aún más importante, profundizamos los lazos de amistad y solidaridad entre las dos comunidades.

Muchas gracias a todxs que pusieron su granito de arena para que esta experiencia fuera tan bonita. Que cumpla muchos años más el hermanamiento!!

Sharing hugs and greetings after mass. / Abrazos y saludos después de la misa.

Gathering with the elders group. / Encuentro con el grupo de adultos mayores.

Speaking to the community on the local Radio Sumpul. / Saludando a la comunidad en la Radio Sumpul.

Enjoying the local playground. / Disfrutando los juegos en el parque.

Celebrating the 20th “birthday” of the relationship. / Celebrando los 20 años del hermanamiento.

Party time! / Pura fiesta.

Daily reflection at the Jon Cortina museum. / Reflexión diaria en la Casa Museo Jon Cortina.

Visiting Divina Providencia and Saint Romero’s house. / Visitando a Divina Providencia y la casa de San Romero.

“Hope is revolutionary” – Father Jon Cortina / “La esperanza es revolucionaria.” – Padre Jon Cortina

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

Video from our Open Delegation 2019

Thank you to Memo Lab Productions for this video about our delegation to El Salvador and Guatemala in 2019.  Our delegation focused on fellowship with Sister Parish communities in Central America and also looked about the push-pull factors of migration.

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Prolonged drought in Guatemala

In this video, Sister Parish staff member Brian visits the community of San Andres Itzapa and talks to farmers about how the 2019 drought affected them.  The farmers in the region have now weathered 3 years of unpredictable rainy seasons.  For many years, farmers in Guatemala could plan on planting mid-May and harvesting in October or November due to a very predictable pattern of rainfall.  In 2019, the rainy season did not really begin until September in certain areas of Guatemala.  In San Andres Itzapa, this led to the loss of about 70% of their crops.

In Guatemala, subsistence farmers rely on their annual crops, particularly corn, beans and squash, to feed their families.

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Tierra Nueva 1 and 2 celebrate Women’s Day

In Guatemala, about 30 women from the women’s groups from Tierra Nueva 1 and Tierra Nueva 2 participated in a march organized at the municipal level this year for International Women’s Day.  Three women who work in the clinic in Tierra Nueva 1 also joined the march representing the Multi-Sector Group that has met with our delegations in the past. Some of the recurring themes were about calling for greater access to reproductive health and for an end to violence against women in all its forms.  Another sign they made said, “Generacion Igualdad” or “Generation Equality” and it was explained to me that this one specifically called on women to see each other as equals and to support each other.

In El Salvador, members of the Chalatenango Sister Parish communities participated in a national march organized in San Salvador with the CCR – The Community Association for the Development of Chalatenango.  Their banners read, “Juntas luchamos, juntas resistimos, juntas avanzamos” – “Together we struggle, together we resist, together we move forward.”

It is always an honor to accompany the women on this day. ¡Adelante compañeras!

March organized for International Women’s Day in San Salvador with the participation of Chalatenango communities. Photo credit: Miriam

The following pictures are all from the march in Chinautla, Guatemala. Full photo album.

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Join us by serving on the Board of Directors

Sister Parish board of directors and other members meet with University Del Valle faculty about migration and the impact of U.S. policy.

Dear friends,

On behalf of the Sister Parish Board of Directors I want to thank you for your support in 2019. We had an amazing year continuing to develop relationships and cross-cultural understanding between communities in the U.S. and Central America, a successful special fundraiser, and closed out the year with an amazing open delegation that focused on the impetus and impacts of immigration from the perspective of Sister Parish communities in El Salvador and Guatemala. I also want to encourage you to think about what Sister Parish has meant for you in 2019 and how you could continue to support in 2020.

As you consider where you want to invest your time, talents, and resources to best reflect your values, I want to invite you to join the Sister Parish Board of Directors. Our board members currently represent only two of our thirteen North-South partnerships. We would love to have more representation from our partners to know that our decisions reflect the interests and needs of the Sister Parish partnerships. Perhaps, you are like me, and no longer living near a Sister Parish community. Personally, serving as a board member has been a way for me to stay involved and continue to support the Sister Parish mission and vision. Maybe, you have not experienced a delegation or a Sister Parish partnership but have some professional experience that could support the work of Sister Parish, Inc. All are invited. We are committed to inclusion, diversity, and equity, both as an organization and on the board.

Our next in-person board meeting will be May 1-3, 2020 at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview, Minnesota. If you are interested in joining the board or simply want to attend part or all of the meeting to get a feel for what the board does, you are more than welcome to attend. Let me know and I will work with you to make arrangements to join us.

I know that there is never a “good time” to make a commitment like this, but personally I have found my participation on the board to be very fulfilling. Board members are committed to the Sister Parish model, mission, and vision, so our board meetings are a lot of fun. (Seriously, how often can you say you look forward to a three-day meeting?) Beyond business, we share Sister Parish delegation stories, get updates from community members, and share with one another as our own type of delegation that meets twice a year at different Sister Parish communities in the U.S. In lieu of an in-person meeting this fall, we (the board) decided to participate in the open delegation. I was privileged to travel with board and non-board members to introduce my son, Luca, to the Sister Parish family in El Salvador and Guatemala. I hope you will consider joining us, we would love to have your input, expertise, and energy.

We wish you the best in 2020 and thank you for your continued support and commitment to consciousness-raising, solidarity, reconciliation, ecumenism, and peace with justice.

In the good struggle/En la buena lucha,
Maria Van Der Maaten, President
Sister Parish, Inc. Board of Directors

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Open Delegation Stories 7: Learning more about migration

by Cathy Burrell

We began our day visiting Antigua, a beautiful colonial city. There we had free time to explore and walk along the cobblestone streets. Some of us explored museums or art galleries. Others looked at jade stores, walked through markets or stopped for coffee. We ended our time by having lunch in the gardens of the Saberico restaurant.


Central Park in Antigua.

A beautiful street in Antigua. The colonial-style is characteristic of the city.

After lunch, we visited the University del Valle in Guatemala City, the number one private university in Central America. There we met with Andres Alvarez, Dean of Social Sciences and Dr. Aracely Martinez Rodas, the Director of the Master in Development Program in Social Sciences. She wrote her dissertation on Guatemalan migrants who have been organizing in the United States. They talked with us about migration, its causes and and effects on the migrants. They discussed the three causes of migration. First are the structural factors including poverty, inequality, violence and domestic violence. Secondly, by international law, people have the right to migrate and Guatemalans are already a transnational community that used to enjoy more opportunities to travel more fluidly. Guatemalans have been migrating since the 1940s. There are currently 2 million Guatemalans in the United States, 2% of the immigrant population.  Many people want to reunite with family or feel the pull of migrating from the stories that they hear. Lastly, climate change is causing people to migrate. People are fleeing famine. This effects the poorest people.

Our group with presenters at the Universidad del Valle in Guatemala.

Learning more about migration at the Universidad del Valle.

There are organizations that are helping migrants and working to influence decision makers in Washington D.C. Latin American Working Group and Pastoral Maya are two of these groups.

We ended our day with our final reflection. During our time here we have been reunited with old friends we have made new friends. We have learned about the history of El Salvador and Guatemala and the reasons that its people migrate. We have been touched and inspired by the people of Central America.

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Open Delegation Stories 6: Visiting the U.S. Embassy and Tierra Nueva 1,2

by Nancy Wiens

This morning we met with Bryce Jordan from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala. His portfolio includes many human rights issues, including migration. He provided an interesting perspective as we learn more about the realities of life here.

Bryce Jordan with Rosario and Pedro.

Then we set out for a visit to Tierra Nueva I and II, two Sister Parish communities on the outskirts of Guatemala City. We were greeted warmly and offered a delicious lunch, and then heard a presentation about how these settlement communities were formed in the 1970s and 80s. Afterwards our group split up — the St. Joan of Arc contingent met with TNII folks to discuss several points for our specific partnership, and the rest went for a walk and tour of the neighborhood.  That night, we celebrated Rick’s birthday with cake, candles and birthday songs. Happy birthday, Rick!

Fellowship and delicious food in Tierra Nueva 2.

St Joan of Arc members leave messages for everyone in Tierra Nueva 2.

Our wonderful hosts in Tierra Nueva 2.

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Open Delegation Stories 5: Community development and U.S. foreign aid

by Maria Van Der Maaten

On Wednesday morning we met with Nicole Kast (head of programming) and Paul Townsend (country director) of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in the Guatemala office. Nicole shared about the structure of CRS and the work the organization does as a whole and in Guatemala. She then described CRS’ project foci on Agricultural Livelihoods, Childhood and Youth Development, and Emergency Response and Recovery and how these strategic areas direct their projects in Guatemala. CRS focuses on “promoting transformational change at scale” through the development of local institutions and through public-private alliances.

Meeting with CRS in Guatemala.

During the question and answer time, we saw how CRS’ efforts to promote transformation change has been hampered, as 80-90% of their funding comes from USAID and weeks before signing an $11 million contract for a project in the Dry Corridor, President Trump’s tweets resulted in the funding being pulled and the project collapsing. The project would have served more than 7,000 families who face or are at risk for hunger and malnutrition. U.S. policy is being made with sticks to keep people from migrating, but the carrots that might help people choose to stay are also disappearing. Trump tweets had immediate impacts and, surprisingly or unsurprisingly, no discussion about the implications of those impacts. [This we heard/saw repeated throughout the delegation when talking about U.S. foreign policy/immigration policy.] When we asked CRS what we could do to support them and their work, Paul Townsend replied that a concrete ask is to make it known that the issues are poverty and violence and that people should have the right to migrate AND the right to stay. However, he clarified, if we want people to stay, we need to support infrastructure for good and just policies, by continuing to support US foreign aid to projects (like the one they had to cancel).

In the afternoon we traveled to La Esperanza and had lunch with the UPAVIMAs who are partnered through Sister Parish with delegate Linda Main’s church, First United Methodist Church, in Downers Grove, Illinois. We had a delicious lunch of churrasco, Guatemalan potato salad, and fresh lemonade.

Crafts at UPAVIM.

Tour of the sewing workshop at UPAVIM.

Aldina and some of the other leaders gave us a tour of UPAVIM, showing us the Montessori I classroom, the nursery school, the bakery, and the artisan workshop, where many beautiful crafts are made. After a short break to do some shopping, we headed back to the San Benito hostel for a short break, a wonderful group reflection, and dinner.

Nap time at UPAVIM Montessori school.

Group reflection in the evening.

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Open Delegation Stories 4: Visiting Guarjila and Los Ranchos, a day of resilience

by Nancy Wiens

Today we toured both Guarjila and San Antonio Los Ranchos. We learned about the challenging history of these communities, which were completely destroyed in the 80’s during the armed conflict — and saw the results of their hard work to rebuild from scratch. Among our stops were a school, church, clinic, day care center and municipal building. The resilience and persistence of these communities are remarkable.

A small memorial and museum in Guarjila.

Nap time at the day care center in Los Ranchos.

Tour of Los Ranchos.

“Welcome Sister Parish visitors” – sign for our visit to the day care center in Los Ranchos.

Tour of the health clinic in Guarjila – and first hand experience of the quality care they provide.

That evening we rode in the back of a pick-up truck high up to El Alto for a picnic dinner and closing ceremony. We soaked in views of the river valley, mountains and all the stars in the sky. Tomorrow we say our goodbyes and leave El Salvador to cross the border into Guatemala.

Posted in Delegations, El Salvador, North to South, southern encounter | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment