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 / Misa para celebrar el hermanamiento de Santa Juana y TN2

Español abajo

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. 

Misa especial para celebrar el hermanamiento en Santa Juana de Arco
15 de noviembre de 2020

Rita Nohner habló de sus experiencias con el hermanamiento durante la misa.

En esta época del año, Santa Juana de Arco suele estar repleta de actividad. Se entra al Centro de Bienvenida cualquier domingo y se verán a personas presentando todo tipo de ministerios. En uno de esos domingos, en esta temporada, vería al comité del hermanamiento organizando nuestra feria anual de artesanías, ofreciendo artículos hechos por los miembros de nuestro comité de artesanías en Tierra Nueva Dos, Guatemala. Pero este no es un año típico, por lo que no hay feria de artesanía. Y eso realmente me entristece. Porque la feria de artesanía es una buena oportunidad para platicar más con ustedes sobre este increíble hermanamiento de 25 años de reciprocidad y oración, de aprender a vivir las bienaventuranzas. Mateo dice: “Bienaventurados los pobres de espíritu”. Lucas dice “Bienaventurados los pobres”. Lo que nuestro hermanamiento me ha enseñado es que los pobres de espíritu tienen mucho que aprender de la comunidad de Tierra Nueva Dos.

Por supuesto, lo que se ve en nuestra feria de Artesanía anual es solo una pequeña parte.
El verdadero corazón del hermanamiento son las delegaciones y visitas cuando realmente escuchamos las historias y vemos la realidad de nuestros hermanos en Cristo. Jeff y yo hemos viajado a Guatemala varias veces. Durante las visitas, las familias anfitrionas nos han abierto sus hogares, compartiendo sus comidas, sus casas y su iglesia con nosotros. Pasamos tiempo como miembros de sus familias, jugando cartas con los hijos de Olga, tocando música con la familia de Leonel, manteniendo conversaciones profundas a través del traductor de Google con los hijos de Estela. Hemos aprendido de primera mano los desafíos de su vida diaria y la resiliencia y tenacidad para enfrentarlos. En resumen, se convierten en nuestra familia y nosotros en la de ellos.

Las visitas de las delegaciones de Sur a Norte a Minneapolis son igualmente importantes. Jeff y yo hemos tenido la suerte de recibir a los delegados de TN2 en nuestra casa. Al recibir, hemos tenido la experiencia de ver nuestras vidas a través de sus ojos. Hemos sentido la inquietud que surge de enfrentar nuestro propio privilegio y considerar los costos de nuestra comodidad. Nuestros huéspedes también ven nuestro mundo.

Recuerdo claramente una visita a Northside Achievement Zone (una organización que trabaja en un área marginal de la ciudad) cuando nos reunimos con un grupo de jóvenes que habían salido de las pandillas y se dedicaban a crear la paz en su comunidad. Una de las delegadas de Tierra Nueva 2, una madre que había perdido a su hijo por la violencia en Guatemala, se acercó a ellos con tanta ternura y amor. Estos jóvenes del norte de Minneapolis se conectaron con estas madres de Guatemala de una manera tan profunda, con un sentido tan profundo de pérdida compartida. Fui sólo testigo. Pero fue como ver una bola de luz crecer y llenar la habitación. Estar allí fue un regalo.

Como puede ver, gran parte del tiempo de nuestra delegación se dedica a “ser” en lugar de “hacer”. Nos escuchamos unos a otros y compartimos ideas para afrontar la injusticia que nos mantiene a todos en la pobreza de una forma u otra. Compartimos nuestras esperanzas y sueños y celebramos los éxitos de nuestros proyectos conjuntos. Pero nuestro tiempo juntos nos recuerda que estos proyectos conjuntos, aunque importantes, son vacíos sin este sentido de comunidad compartida. Dar un paso hacia la solidaridad mueve el concepto de justicia de la cabeza al corazón. Y así, es cuando regresamos a casa de nuestras delegaciones, cuando realmente comienza nuestro llamado a la acción.

Iglesias Hermanas nos ofrece la oportunidad de convertirnos en instrumentos de la paz de Dios, una necesidad tan esencial en Minneapolis como lo es en Guatemala. Nuestra delegación de 2020 se pospuso y no sabemos cuándo vamos a poder viajar de nuevo. Pero gracias a Dios por la tecnología. En ausencia de presencia física, se nos ha encomendado la tarea de mantener nuestro sentido de comunidad de una manera diferente. Nuestro grupo de estudio Bíblico SJA-TNII ha comenzado reuniones de Zoom para que puedan reflexionar juntos. Nuestros dos comités, el Norte y el Sur, hacen llamadas de Zoom regulares para compartir las luchas y los logros de nuestra vida diaria. Y recientemente los jóvenes becados organizaron un programa virtual especial sobre la cultura de Guatemala. De hecho, Iglesias Hermanas está organizando una “delegación virtual” que comienza este domingo. Invitamos a todos los feligreses a unirse a nuestro hermanamiento. Traigan sus talentos: un corazón abierto, un espíritu amoroso y el deseo de ser un peregrino.

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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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Sister Parish Emergency Aid Update – September 2020

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the Sister Parish emergency aid fundraiser.  We have raised enough to provide every Sister Parish community with aid money to use as they define based on their greatest need.  The majority of funds disbursed so far have been used for food aid and basic hygiene supplies like soap, toothpaste, and toilet paper.

As of September 2020, aid disbursed has included:

  • Food aid to hundreds of families, with priority given to elders, single mothers, differently-abled people, people living with a chronic illness, craft cooperative members and others who lost their jobs due to COVID-19, and farmers who lost their crops to drought last year
  • Masks and basic hygiene supplies
  • Electric repairs at a health clinic
  • No-touch thermometers for two health clinics
  • Medication to treat COVID-19 for a health clinic serving two urban communities
  • Medication to treat chronic illnesses
  • Vitamins

Sister Parish communities that have organized local relief efforts with the funds include:

  • Tierra Nueva 2
  • Tierra Nueva 1
  • San Andrés Itzapa
  • Chichipate
  • Virginia
  • Chontalá

Communities in El Salvador will be disbursing food aid and medication with the emergency funds in September and October.

This will be a long-term emergency for many Sister Parish communities.  Even when the health crisis passes, recovery from the economic crisis will be a long road.  We will keep our fundraiser open and will continue to disburse funds as needed, as we accompany people through this difficult time.

Thank you to everyone who has made this possible.  Thank you to those who donated and thank you to the Sister Parish members in Guatemala and El Salvador who are volunteering their time and taking risks to serve those most in need in their communities.

Organizing food drive in Chichipate.

Organizing food baskets in Tierra Nueva 1.

Clinic in need of repairs.

Clinic after a new roof and electricity had been installed.

Preparing to give out food baskets in Tierra Nueva 2.

Food aid efforts in Tierra Nueva 2.

Organized food packages in Tierra Nueva 2.

Packages of food aid and supplies delivered in Villa Nueva.

Organizing food aid in Virginia.

Preparing to hand out food aid in Chontalá.

Handing out food aid in San Andrés Itzapa.

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Update with Brian Tyler – August 2020

Sister Parish Regional Coordinator, Brian Tyler, shares a brief update from Guatemala.

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Zoom conversation with Dina – August 29

UPAVIM President Dina Velásquez gave us an update over Zoom about how the cooperative and community center based in urban Guatemala is weathering the pandemic. Dina also shared her thoughts on solidarity and faith in the pandemic.

Dina is a founding member and long-time leader within both UPAVIM and Sister Parish. We are grateful she was able to share with us over Zoom. For more information about you can visit the UPAVIM website and/or support the community center by shopping for masks and other beautiful crafts.

*Sister Parish provided consecutive translation for the Zoom meeting.

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Reflection from a rural doctor in El Salvador – Carlos Orellana

by Carlos Orellana

En español

Carlos is a doctor in a rural health clinic in Chalatenango, El Salvador.  He is also a community leader and a very involved member of the Sister Parish relationship that his community Potrerillos has with Decorah First United Methodist Church.

The past month in quarantine has been difficult.  In the very beginning, as a doctor, I thought we would be able to control the pandemic. At the time, I thought that the rural communities wouldn’t be too affected. At that moment I was thinking as the head doctor of a rural health care clinic.

It was not until I was transferred to the regional hospital in Chalatenango that I understood the reality more clearly.  Initially, I was working as a primary care doctor for COVID-19 patients. At this point, I was able to face the fear, not just my fears for myself because of my daily exposure to the disease, but also the stress of not having much contact with my family and the fear that, with contact, I could pass the virus on to them.

Later, I was asked to go and help the team in the morgue, where I witnessed  and felt pain, sorrow, suffering, empathy, and the fear of death.  I also witnessed dehumanization.  But in the middle of all of that, I felt what it really means to be human at the deepest level.

Carlos and his wife Alba on a visit to their sister community in Decorah, Iowa in 2014.

Carlos talks to our 2019 Open Delegation about efforts to find funding for a potable water project in Potrerillos.

Volunteers work to clean and disinfect public spaces in rural communities in El Salvador. Potrerillos, Chalatenango.

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Movement for racial justice

“This is an emergency. I’m not talking about the coronavirus. I’m talking about racism. As all the universities in the world scramble to try to find a cure for the coronavirus – that same level of concern and action is needed to rid our society of the virus that is racism. I am calling for a declaration of a state of emergency for Black people. Racism is a public health crisis.”

–Andrea Jenkins, city council member in Minneapolis, 2020

“I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion of citizens from the management of the country, repression. All this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest flows naturally.”

— Saint Oscar Romero, Salvadoran martyr and saint, 1979

In the wake of the George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis and the widespread calls for systemic change in the U.S., Sister Parish joins the call that Black Lives Matter and supports the efforts led by Black people, Indigenous people and all People of Color to end systems of racism and inequality in the U.S.  We recognize that the calls are not new and did not start with George Floyd’s death but started with the unjust systems deeply rooted in our country, systems now exacerbated by the pandemic.  We call for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Rayshad Brooks, Elijah McClain, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and too many others killed by systemic and structural violence. We acknowledge the deep pain and grief that communities throughout the U.S. are feeling right now.

We believe that all people deserve to live with dignity and basic human rights. We also believe that true solidarity means recognizing and actively working to challenge and change unjust systems in partnership with the most impacted people.  The systems of racism and inequality are an integral part of U.S. history and the current reality, but they are also global systems, spread through colonialism and imperialism.  Calls for justice in Guatemala, in El Salvador, in the U.S., and throughout the world are intertwined.

As the Sister Parish community, what can we do?  We can listen, educate ourselves, and take action individually and collectively.  We can build new long-lasting relationships to promote racial justice and transform systems that oppress people. Our sistering relationships have always underlined the importance of listening, learning, and making commitments to change ourselves and our communities.  We believe that this work and each person’s journey exist on a continuum.  We are works in progress – always – and there are no simple solutions to such deeply rooted, painful injustices.  But we need to keep taking steps to uproot racism and anti-blackness in our communities and in our own hearts.  We invite our Sister Parish communities to join us in conversations, wherever people are on this journey.

What does our vision for our better world look like? What do we need to do to move our world toward one of compassion, justice, and equality in the midst of such deep crises?   In the words of Sister Parish member Miriam Vásquez, “This is hard, but we are called as Christians…to listen to the cries for help and take action. We want people alive and active in these times of violence and the pandemic.”

Thank you for being part of our Sister Parish family.  May we challenge ourselves to take more and bigger steps to dismantle racism as part of our long walk in solidarity with each other.

Sister Parish staff and board

A few resources

The following resources are only a small portion of what is available. If you are interested in sharing your local resources and actions, please let us know and we can add them.

Denominational racial justice resources

News, training and materials from organizations that work for racial justice

En español

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