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Feb 8, 2017
by Rita Nohner
Our final few hours in Tierra Nueva were spent in retreat with the SP Committee with a picnic lunch prepared by the women of TNI afterward. There were lots of tears as we said goodbye and lots of promises to hold one another in our hearts and prayers.
As we prepared to leave, we gathered in the parking lot of the TNI church, loading up the van with the lunch supplies and the majority of our Guatemalan retreat participants. Miriam and Eluvia remained with us while Martin drove the others back. We were all in good spirits, even though we knew our time together was quickly coming to an end.
There were two comments made during this time that, for me, sum up the dichotomy of a Sister Parish delegation. The joy and the sorrow. The love and the fear.
At lunchtime, Eluvia had given us each the gift of Carnival Eggs – regular egg shells that had been carefully emptied of contents, leaving a hole on one end. The shells are painted festively, filled with confetti and sealed with crepe paper over the hole. Joe was holding the bag with all the eggs and Eluvia said something that made Carrie laugh out loud. She prefaced her translation with the information that in Guatemala, the word “egg” is also a slang term for men’s testicles. What Eluvia had said to Joe was “don’t break my balls!” She was laughing her big laugh and we were all howling over the joke.
After the van arrived and we got loaded, Miriam and Eluvia stood on the concrete, looking in at us and smiling. Then Miriam asked Carrie to translate for her to give us one final message. She told us, “We know you are worried about us because of the violence we live with. But don’t worry about us. We know how to struggle. We were born for this.”
The look she gave us was so gentle and maternal. So concerned about us being worried for them. Eluvia simply nodded and smiled.
And with that, I felt my heart torn in two. Those two women, Miriam and Eluvia, are the strongest, most heroic women I know. The way they get up every day, facing extreme challenges, yet ready to take on the world, is incredibly humbling to me. I don’t know where Eluvia finds her joy. Well, I do. In her faith. That’s where she and Miriam find the strength to keep pushing on when all the odds seem stacked against them.
That’s why I was there, I guess. God is giving me the opportunity, with each visit to Guatemala, to deepen my faith. To learn perseverance. To regain perspective.
Many of us here in Minnesota and throughout our country, face great challenges in the days and years ahead. The values we cherish and the Gospel we know – one of justice and mercy and love – are ours to keep or to lose. We must persevere. We must not lose hope. We will find our strength in each other and in God.
And when our energy flags and it seems like we can’t face losing one more battle, we need only turn our eyes south to Guatemala. For 500+ years the people have fought for justice. Let us learn the art of resistance from them. Let us push on in our building of the Kingdom. God is with us and has given us each other. We are yoke mates and so the burden is made light.
The Guatemala representatives meeting was held March 4-5, 2017. See photos.
The March 2017 Guatemala Representatives Meeting was hosted for the second time by UPAVIM (United for a Better Life). UPAVIM was very excited to support the organizing efforts of the Sister Parish and facilitate the new Guatemala Directiva (advisory board) elections.
The newly elected members of the Guatemala Directiva for 2017-2018 are:
President- Luis Talaoj
Vice President- Paul Quiroz
Secretary- Victor Chun Chub
Treasurer – Concepción Mateo
Member at large – Pahola Chumil
Member at large – Irene Gil
The representatives also had the chance to learn more about and compare their own experiences with climate change.
Read more in our Guatemala Representatives Meeting Report.
Por Karin Grosscup
Delegada de Sta. Juana de Arco que visitó a Tierra Nueva II en 2017. Se puede leer más reflexiones en inglés en el sitio de Sta. Juana de Arco y ver fotos de la delegación en Flickr. Las lecturas mencionadas son del 5 de febrero de 2017: 1 Corintios 2:1-5 y Mateo 5:13-16.
Para empezar, quisiera agradecerles por su espíritu de generosidad al recibirnos, convivir con nosotros, y guiar nuestro camino. Hemos sentido su amor y protección cuando hemos compartido con sus familias y su comunidad. Es una experiencia increíble poder caminar por la calle, sentir una conexion con nuestras familias hospedadoras y hablar con miembros de su comunidad que se acercan para darnos la bienvenida.
Venimos como Pablo, en la lectura de Corintios de hoy, con debilidad y temor, con conciencia de las disparidades en el mundo y las injusticias de nuestro gobierno. Pablo llegó a Corinto para difundir la noticia de Jesús y creo que llegamos aquí para recibir el
amor de Jesús, compartiendo nuestras vidas y dejando que el poder de Dios nos toque.
Somos personas diferentes cuando salimos de su comunidad. Nos sentimos humildes por el coraje, la gracia y la dignidad de las personas que hemos conocido especialmente al llegar a comprender como las injusticias económicas afectan a las personas que queremos. Salimos con gratitud y un profundo respeto por todas y todos.
Nuestro tiempo en Guatemala ha incluido muchas visitas a los monumentos de las personas que fueron asesinadas por defender la justicia. Fuimos a Santiago Atitlán donde los mayas fueron masacrados debido a los sistemas de opresión. Vivimos en un mundo interconectado.
Lo que les sucede nos afecta y lo que pasa con nosotros les afecta tambien. Sólo podemos dar un paso a la vez. Sin embargo, cuando nos conocemos, nuestros corazones están conectados y empezamos a ver cómo nos afectamos unos a otros. Me parece que es por eso que los Evangelios siempre nos llaman a hacer la justicia. Cuando hay reciprocidad en nuestras amistades, la luz de Dios brilla. Comenzamos a ver otras posibilidades mientras comemos juntos, nos reímos juntos y lloramos juntos.
El Evangelio de hoy nos recuerda que somos la sal de la tierra. La sal da sabor a nuestra comida, así como conserva. ¿Cómo sazonamos la vida del otro? La sal de nuestras lágrimas nos une ya que sea por tristeza o por alegria. ¿Y qué es lo que estamos conservando para el futuro? Nuestro viaje a un centro de permacultura maya nos recordó lo importante que son nuestras relaciones en la creación de un mundo que prosperará. Fue una experiencia impactante ver cómo la biodiversidad de Dios es esencial para la salud de nuestra tierra. Aprendimos de la cultura maya y el cuidado de la Madre Tierra. Vimos tambien un guia para nosotros como seres humanos, para convivir juntos con la diversidad y para hacernos más fuertes. Mateo nos recuerda de esto hoy cuando dice hagan brillar su luz delante de todos. Estamos agradecidos a todas y todos en Tierra Nueva II – han fortalecido nuestras luces para que brillen con mas fuerza.
by Karin Grosscup
Delegate from St. Joan of Arc visiting Tierra Nueva II in 2017. Read more delegate reflections and see photos of the delegation. Readings referenced below are from February 5, 2017: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 and Matthew 5:13-16.
To begin I would like to thank all of you for your generous spirit taking us into your lives and guiding our way. We have felt your love and protection as we have entered into your families and community. It is an amazing experience to walk down the street feeling connected with our host families and have members of your community coming toward us and welcoming us as well.
We came like Paul , in the reading from Corinthians today ,with weakness and fear as we are aware of the disparities in the world and the injustices in our government.. Paul came to Corinth to spread the news of Jesus and I think we came hear to receive the love of Jesus sharing our lives together and letting God’s power touch us. We are different people as we leave. We are humbled by the courage, grace and dignity of the people we have met especially in coming to understand the impact of economic injustices on people we have come to love. We leave with gratitude and a deep respect for all of you.
Our time here has included many visits to the memorials of people who have been murdered for standing up for justice as well as to Santiago Atitlan where Maya people were massacred due to systems of oppression. We live in a world that is interconnected.
What happens to you touches us and what happens with us touches you. We can only take one step at a time and yet when we meet and come to know each other, our hearts touch and we begin to see how we affect each other. It seems to me that is why we are always being called in the gospels toward justice. It is when there is mutuality in our relationships that God’s light shines through. We begin to taste such possibilities as we eat together, laugh together, and cry together.
The gospel today reminds us we are the salt of the earth. Salt seasons our food as well as preserves it. How do we season each other’s lives? The salt of our tears unites us whether from sadness or great joy. And what is it we are preserving for the future? Our trip to the IMAP reminded us how important our relationships are in creating a world that will thrive. It was a powerful experience of how God’s biodiversity is essential to the health of our earth where we learned of Maya culture and care of the earth. We couldn’t help but see a map for us as human beings as we live together with diversity and become stronger. Mathew reminds us of this today when he says to let our light shine. We are grateful to all of you that have strengthened our lights to shine.
by Nancy Wiens
I, along with seven fellow travelers, recently participated in the Open Delegation to Guatemala and El Salvador. It was a joyful and educational trip that exposed me to people and experiences that would not have been open to me in any other way. A consistent thread running through this delegation was how people came together to form what I lovingly call “pop-up” communities — generous, kind and loving folks who surrounded us from Day One and who shared their lives and their stories with us wherever we went, throughout the trip. I feel blessed to have experienced these loving encounters.
My memories include…
- Traveling with kind, hopeful and joy-filled fellow delegates.
- Experiencing delicious home-cooked meals and open conversations with the many hosts who took care of us throughout our journey.
- Being ‘in community’ with delegates and Southern representatives and exchanging stories during late-night gab sessions.
- Making music, thanks to Greg and his mandolin and all the strong and vibrant voices of our community.
- Meeting Luis’ parents in Antigua as well as Luis’ activist friend Javier Gramajo, and hearing viewpoints about how two generations have experienced conflict and activism.
- Learning and contributing during small-group planning sessions at the Southern Encounter.
- Touring a variety of Sister Parish communities (Chontala, Guarjila, Tierra Nueva Dos) including the brand-new Sister Parish community of ACOMUJERZA, and witnessing a multitude of projects and initiatives to create better lives for themselves and their children.
- Conducting a 4-station Solidarity Walk at Iximche Mayan ruins (including a Mayan ceremony by Otto), Chontola, Tierra Nueva Dos and Jon Cortina Museum in Guarjila.
- Sharing faith and personal stories at a heartfelt Sunday service led by Pastor Diego at Ruth and Nohemi.
- Learning the history of Radio Sumpul in Guarjila and being on air (interview and songs).
- Bouncing around in the open back of a pick-up truck and swimming with friends in the Sumpul River.
- Celebrating and laughing at an evening picnic and song “throw-down” (English vs. Spanish) up at mirador El Alto near Los Ranchos. What a view, and what a joyful time.
by Tom Pouliot
Nancy Wiens, the chair of the board of Sister Parish, brought a meditation to our fall board meeting in 2015. In the meditation she offered the following quote from Pope Francis:
“When God comes, he always calls us out of our house. We are visited so that we can visit others; we are encountered so as to encounter others; we receive love in order to give love.”
She also brought an article, written July 1, 2015, by Thomas J Eggleston in the Houston Catholic Worker that discussed what Pope Francis meant by a culture of encounter. A lively discussion ensued about how this related to our work and our lives in Sister Parish. At the end, Nancy suggested that we declare The Year of Encounter as the theme for Sister Parish in 2016. In addition, it was agreed that the culminating event for the year would be a Southern Encounter to be hosted in Guatemala.
Invitations went out from the northern board to the Sister Parish community in the United States to join members of the board and representatives from the Sister Parish linkages in Guatemala and El Salvador for the Southern Encounter. Four board members, Nancy Wiens, Mike Spellman, Luis Cuyun and Tom Pouliot, along with staff member David Ericson, joined Karen Hupchick, Rick Nelson, and Greg Huang-Dale (former board member) to form the delegation from the United States.
“Interpersonal encounter in the Christian sense is thus both active and relational—it occurs between two or more persons or between a person and God. An encounter between two people is a graced experience in which one realizes a strange paradox: the seemingly contradictory human situation of the utter connectedness within which we live in solidarity with each other and at the same time the wild otherness which makes us our own beings living in solitude.
As many of us had done with other delegations, we allowed ourselves to enter into the sacred space of encounter. From across many parts of Guatemala, from areas around El Salvador and from various places in the United States, we came together in Guatemala City to start our journey of encounter and walking with each other. And walk we did. Over the course of 10 days we walked in many places, with many people, in many ways.
We walked the first day with Javier who was instrumental in peaceful protests in Guatemala City that helped bring down president Otto Perez Molina in 2015. Javier shared the philosophies, the solidarity, and the spirit hopefulness that brought so many people together.
The second day, on our way to Chichicastenango and Chontalá, we stopped at the archaeological site Iximchē, where we walked with the spirits of people who walked the space for hundreds of years. Here Don Otto performed ceremony calling on the ancestors to bring health to our encounter. In this sacred place we spent time in ice breakers getting to know the people we would be spending the next days with in meetings, in prayer, at meals and in informal times.
We were welcomed at our home for a few days, Ruth y Nohemi by Pastor Diego, where we were fed and where we heard a brief history about the area. Using Ruth y Nohemi as a base, we travelled the short distance to Chontalá where we were again welcomed with introductions, with dance and song, and with food. Our walk in solidarity took us through the streets of Chontalá as we sang songs and read passages describing the joys of encounter and solidarity.
In Chontalá we also conducted the business portion of our encounter. The business of Sister Parish is to come to know each other, so while we talked some, most of us listened as we discussed the joys of Sister Parish as well as the risks and challenges involved in maintaining a healthy organization.
Informal times of the encounter were every bit as important as the more formal times. In those less formal times we worked to break down the barriers of language and culture. There were times of intense joy and times of intense pain as we talked, laughed and shared our lives.
While in Guatemala we were blessed to walk the streets of Tierra Nueva 1 & 2, and to meet the people and hear the history of those communities. We shared a wonderful meal together, sang songs and felt yet another encounter with the sacred.
Our time in Guatemala was relatively short, but the connections that were made through this encounter were life changing. These “graced experiences” allowed us to strengthen interpersonal relationships as well as the corporate relationships to the Sister Parish organization. We are blessed with committed people who will travel hours in busses to join together in this blessed encounter.
From Guatemala, the group from the United States, together with Clementina from Tierra Nueva 2, and staff members Brian Tyler (Guatemala) and Julieta Borja (El Salvador) next set off to Guarjila, El Salvador.
In Guarjila we walked through the community learning the reality of El Salvador and of Guarjila. We saw and heard the pride of new projects and of projects that have been an important part of the region for many years. Most importantly, we lived in the homes of people we came to know better and now call friends.
There were more meetings in Guarjila – more times to listen to the voices calling us to deep encounter. At the same time, there were those moments of deep spiritual calling as we toured the museum in memory of Father Jon Cortina, and there were moments of laughter and joy as we shared food, sang and played games at El Alto.
This picture of the Southern Encounter is not meant to be a travelogue or a recitation of every detail, but rather to give some feeling of what it was like to step out away from home and take a chance to be open to the living spirit. If you have been on a Sister Parish delegation at some time then you probably know the feelings of love, joy, pain and hope that was in this encounter.
Many things from this encounter, this solidarity walk of 10 days, will stay in my heart as long as I live. I will hold within me the joys and pains discussed late into the night. I will hear the musical background of Greg playing his mandolin throughout the trip. I will relive the moments of walking through Guatemala and El Salvador with people I had never met but now call beloved friends.
In the Eggleston article on encounter he says:
“The Culture of Encounter places value on mystery. To see the world through the lens of encounter is to realize the presence of God all around us and that we are connected to each other through ties both visible and invisible…The Culture of Encounter moves us to walk the journey of our lives tenderly holding each other’s hands knowing all the while that it is Christ who is our veiled and shining companion.”
This is the essence of the Southern Encounter every bit as much as it is the essence of Sister Parish.
From Christ Episcopal Church Sister Parish Commitee:
Here are some pictures of our solidarity labyrinth walk. As we walk the labyrinth towards the center, we are reminded of our search for God. As we walk back out from the center, we are reminded to bring God into our world. Don’t you agree that this is a powerful symbol of how to live our lives? Blessings and peace to all of you!
Every January at Trinity Episcopal Church (Newtown, CT) each committee contributes a summary of the previous year’s activities to the Church’s Annual Report. This summary of our first south-to-north delegation from San José La Montaña, in the department of Chalatenango, El Salvador, appeared in abbreviated form in our most recent report.
Companion Parish’s biggest project in 2016 was to bring a delegation from San José La Montaña to share with us in worship and cultural exchange. This South-to-North visit was one of our goals from the time we began this relationship at the end of 2013, and was the culmination of three years of work. We are particularly gratified that we were able to bring them because they never got the chance to travel north when they were paired with a previous church. Honoring this commitment that we made to them during our first visit to El Salvador in the spring of 2014 was a great joy.
We learned a great deal from the delegates, but the process of arranging the delegations was an education in itself. Arranging visas for the delegates required much work throughout 2016, especially coordinating letters of invitation not just from Trinity but also from Pat Llodra of the Board of Selectmen in Newtown and Senator Blumenthal’s office in Hartford. The committee invited six delegates to apply for visas but the US Embassy rejected 5 of the 6 applicants, 4 of them without explanation. Two other members of San José La Montaña’s Sister Parish committee already had visas for their family to travel and thus could fill out the delegation. So in the end we could welcome three residents of San José La Montaña plus an employee of Sister Parish, Inc., who accompanied the delegation as a translator and guide.
The delegation took place over the last 10 days of October, and activities included worship with us on two Sundays, a meeting with our Outreach Commission to compare the ministries that our two churches have undertaken, and consultation with Pastor Kathie on the place of women in the Episcopal church. They participated in one of Adult Formation’s Basics of the Faith classes to discuss with the rest of the class the question, “What is God Calling You to Do?” They shared a primer on our labyrinth and its use, after which all participants walked the labyrinth, meeting in the center to pray together. They participated in the Chapel On The Green service with the homeless in New Haven, after which they distributed food and socks. The delegates also enjoyed seeing the youth’s Great Pumpkin Challenge Halloween fundraiser for local youth to attend camp. The discussions taking place during and around those chances to worship, study, reflect, and serve gave both guests and hosts a better understanding of the formal structure and priorities of each other’s churches and helped strengthen our relationship by emphasizing its foundation in walking the path of faith together.
Delegates had also expressed an interest in meetings with social service agencies and politicians in the Danbury area. They particularly enjoyed a presentation by the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury about domestic violence, a topic which two of the delegates have worked on in El Salvador. They also visited the Danbury office of Family and Children’s Aid. They talked about local issues with Pat Llodra of Newtown, and a candidate running to represent Danbury in the state legislature.
Delegates also enjoyed a number of formal and informal cultural activities, hiking in Litchfield County, touring Manhattan, visiting the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, and a barbecue dinner and social gathering at Sue Roman’s house that many parishioners attended. The delegates also received a visit from professor José Gonzalez, a literature professor from the US Coast Guard Academy whose family emigrated from El Salvador to the US when he was a child. They discussed his family’s experience in both countries and their lives in contemporary in San José La Montaña. Dr. Gonzalez presented a book of his poetry and the delegates presented a book telling the stories of women from their region of El Salvador. Two members of the delegation had worked on that book.
San José is very committed to education and youth development, and the delegates, one of whom is a school principal, enjoyed the chance to compare their education system with ours. They visited Newtown High School, where Michelle Toby arranged for them to talk with some classes; the newly rebuilt Sandy Hook Elementary School, where principal Tim Napolitano led a tour; and Trinity’s church school classes, where the children eagerly told them what is on their minds these days.
On the final evening of the visit, we sat together over dinner and discussed how we would like our relationship to proceed in the coming year. We agreed that it should include more frequent communication, even though the internet connection in San José is not always reliable, especially during their rainy season (roughly our winter months). We have since established a group texting circle so that members of both communities can easily and quickly exchange greetings, share news, and make prayer requests. Sister Parish established a closed Facebook group for much the same purpose, and we would like to expand that so that more of the both communities can remain in touch with each other.
We also started to discuss the idea of taking on a joint project to help the youth of San José La Montaña by establishing a scholarship program to help students who make it as far as university to pay their bills. That discussion will continue in 2017.
The Companion Parish committee would like to thank everyone who helped make the delegation a success by hosting our guests in their homes, presenting or facilitating discussions, visiting with them at various activities, and generally opening our community and our hearts to them. And we would like to invite all interested parishioners to continue to stay in touch with the people of San José La Montaña through letter writing, Bible study, and other shared activities that our two committees are collaborating on for the coming year.
Tierra Nueva I Delegation to West Fargo, North Dakota – Dec 1-8, 2016
by Peggy Bernard
We welcomed Brian Tyler, Aura Lemus Lorenzana, Aura Esquivel Gomez and Cynthia Trujillo Waight de Rodriguez to West Fargo/Fargo, North Dakota on December 1, 2016. We met them at Hector International Airport in Fargo at 9:30pm. We brought them to Faith Lutheran Church to meet their host families and to visit about their day. They thought it was VERY cold here. The wind was bad and the temps were around 30 degrees F. It continued to get much colder throughout the week they were here.
We were busy every day they were here, of course! Each woman stayed in a different host home, where the hosts couldn’t speak Spanish and the women don’t speak English. It was challenging at times, but we made it through. They visited the state capital in Bismarck, ND and had to drive home in a “white out” blizzard. The roads were closing right behind them, but God got them back to Fargo safely!
They visited a couple museums, attended a Christmas concert with 750 college students in the choir, went Curling (ask Cynthia and Aura Esquivel about that), met the people that wrote letters for them to the embassy so they could get their Visa’s, and went to Bonanzaville (an historic city) where they rode in a sleigh pulled by Belgian horses, saw some old homes and an old school house. We traveled to Casselton to RDO to see the huge farm equipment we use here and then to the Fire hall to play on the Firetrucks and have supper and a meeting.
We also took them to Churches United, a place for the homeless. We got a tour of the facility and learned how the homeless are cared for in our COLD weather. They provide small apartments for families and single men and women. We served about 50 people their noon meal and ate with them. It was a wonderful experience.
Danilo Martinez-Rivera took us to NDSU (college) where he works as an agronomist and gave us a tour of how they test seeds that the farmers plant in our area. He also told us his story of how he came to the United States from El Salvador.
All in all we had a very nice week. We were all exhausted (well, speaking for myself anyway)!! I am anxious to see my friends again soon!
Del 27 de septiembre al 6 de octubre, tres personas de San Antonio Los Ranchos visitaron su hermanamiento, la Primera Iglesia Luterana de Duluth. Marcela Murcia compartió estas palabras con la congregación de Duluth. Ver más fotos de la delegación.
Démosle gracias a Dios por todos los días, por los tantos beneficios que recibimos de Él, especialmente la solidaridad que nos brindan los hermanos de la iglesia Luterana de Duluth, por permitirnos nosotras venir aquí con los gastos pagados a compartir y conocer experiencias y también a los que compartieron su casa con nosotras.
También darle la gracias a Dios por todos los momentos difíciles que hemos pasado porque al recordarlos vemos la presencia de Dios en cada uno de ellos, cuando nos han abatido los problemas, las enfermedades, la pobreza absoluta, las tentaciones, la guerra que sufrimos, Dios ha estado siempre con nosotros. Al correr el tiempo a lo largo de los años, estos momentos difíciles nos parece que fue un sueño, porque al ver tantos logros alcanzados, podemos decir que con alegría que Dios ha estado grande con nosotros.
En la vida de una persona para que se llame vida tiene que tener muchos ingredientes, pues si no, no se le puede llamar vida. Estos son algunos de los ingredientes: enfermedades, desesperaciones, dudas, cansancio, trabajo, desprecios. En fin, muchas cosas, que a veces pensamos que son negativas, pero tienen que pasar. Pero también pasan muchas cosas bonitas como: salud, trabajo, alimentos, alegría, la familia, amistad, paciencia, fortaleza, cariño, solidaridad y sobre todo mucho amor.