In The Beginning: All Great Beginnings Have An End In Mind

Beginnings require a starting place. All great beginnings also have an end in mind. Today (March 8, 2014) we began our journey, most of us from Dallas. A small group of 15 students and one professor, Dr. H. Recinos, completed the travel team. We ended today’s journey with our safe arrival in San Salvador. The flight was approximately 3.5 hours. After clearing customs, collecting luggage, and a 20-minute ride to the hotel, we were finally at our destination for the evening. Upon arriving at the hotel we found our rooms, briefly unpacked and headed for our dinner and a meeting. During our orientation meeting we were reminded us of the rich history born out of struggle. Our meeting facilitator and native host for the week Edwin Pineda, spoke of the high infant mortality rate, gang violence and other challenges that are relevant to San Salvador. He told us how we would visit sites this week that are steeped in history and struggle. Wisely he encouraged us not to focus on our end thinking.  That thinking should not judge the people or the situations that they find themselves in. Edwin shared that unless one understands the essence of their struggle, then we fail to see opportunities to begin again. We will spend this week working at understanding and honoring the historical and current struggles of the people of San Salvador.

 

 (Perkins School Of Theology Spring 2014 Immersion To San Salvador-Arrival Photo (Ginger, Shelly, Jenna, David, Cynthia, Billy, Lynne, Todd, Jennifer, Lael (not shown: Dale Willbanks and Dr. Harold Recinos)

Following The Passion Of The Cross To San Salvador

Now I lay me down to sleep, God help my exhausted feet.

If I should die before I wake, God bless my joy it is no mistake

For I have found the fuel that ignites, the fire in the darkest nights

The fire is from God above, the essence His unchanging love

            Today (Wednesday March 12, 2014) we visited an agency called Pro Search Association of El Salvador. The goal of this agency is to find missing children. A stark contrast to our earlier visit to a neighborhood school, Blanco Rose. At the neighborhood school 250 children, teachers and staff greeted us. The beautiful faces of the children along with the prepared songs and dances were now a stark contrast to children’s voices silenced. In a life full of contrasts the questions become apparent. What is our role as pastors in the margins between the living and the lost? What can we do locally (in our own neighborhoods) and globally in our world to enhance the perspective of an abundant life in our world for all? How do we help create the change we want to see?

Yesterday I introduced the idea of a finite human being being in relationship with an infinite God. This relationship between God and human beings has the capacity to thrive wherever we are. The essential ingredients to thriving are: fuel, air and desire. The fuel is the recognition that there is opportunity at hand. That fuel is a reminder that somebody may want to have a relationship with God who has not had an opportunity to hear about God. Second, the air is the environment or culture. That is, how will the church (human beings Who have a relationship with God) respond based on Christian beliefs (Bible) and social context? Finally, desire is that which God provides when Christians acknowledge that there are life situations and circumstances that are bigger then our capacity to respond.  All three conditions are available in San Salvador (and likely in most other countries around the world)

The challenge I am extending to others and myself is to take inventory of your surroundings. Next, assess whether your humanity (finitude) has an opportunity based on a relationship with God (infinity) to respond to need/poverty/lack. That is, do we realize our own limits? Do we realize how much we need God to respond to issues concerning the human condition? Finally, be still and listen for the desires of your heart. View the response of your heart as a call to action.

The silence of the missing children and the laugher of the children of Blanco Rose is an opportunity for all to Asses. What are the opportunities of our life? What assessments do we need to respond to? How will our findings make this world a better and safer place for our children, that is the children of the world?

(note: some difficulty with posting daily because wi-fi was not always available)

(Pictured Below Is Cynthia Rinna at Blanco Rose Neighborhood School In El Salvador.  I like Thinking That She Is Pointing At Hope)

Seeing Beyond The Sites To The Passion

Each morning a faithful few, (Dr Recinos, Edwin, David, Billy and myself) leave at 6 am for our morning run. What a blessed peaceful time to reiterate old stories , share new stories while simultaneously creating a story in the moment to be told at a later time. Today was no different then the other days that we have been in El Salvador. . .full of adventure. Today’s adventure (Tuesday March 11, 2014) took us to: mister coffee coffee house, tour the Museum UCA and Metropolitan Cathedral (burial sight of Monsignor Romero); visit to the Romero Foundation (legal organization that pursues social justice) lunch back at the hotel, and visit to The Passionist Foundation (an organization that responds to gang violence through education, job training, social intervention, housing etc.). These site visits and lectures remind me that the problems inherent in the human condition can be solved through the ultimate reality, a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The problems or challenges here in El Salvador, are much like that of most of the world. One such problem is violence. Father Antonio, head of the Passionist Foundation, described violence as the source of conflict. He further described violence in terms of: illness or the inability to get appropriate medical treatment; lack of expressed love in a culture that is predominately machismo; discrimination (based on gender or ethnicity); and lack of food (Father Antonino, The Passionist Foundation Lecture, March 11, 2014). To respond to the problem of violence Father Antonio has created a social service program. This dynamic program responds to an array of gang related scenarios. One of the goals of this program might be to improve the lives of those who have been impacted by violence. By contrast, the Romero Foundation responds to the problem of violence through the legal system. This organization provides legal support for social justice issues such as: reparation for families of missing persons kidnapped and murdered during the civil war. Finally, the Metropolitan Cathedral is the burial site for Monsignor Oscar Romero who responded to the problem of violence through his role as as archbishop. His pursuit of social justice cost him his life.
Each of these agencies and person has a common component. That component is Jesus Christ or an affiliation with the Catholic church. This affiliation usually includes a belief or acknowledgement of Christ as Savior and the Bible as the word of God. The Christian faith tradition often includes going to church, participating in prayer and a celebration of the eucharist (communion).
In summation, perhaps the best responses to violence in El Salvador and around the world is our faith in Jesus Christ. This faith reaches from God to human beings. It can teach us how to respond to violence. The programs mentioned in this writing and Monsignor Oscar Romero are evidence of the power and impact of the Christian faith tradition’s response to violence. Christian faith is the constant in these examples. It allows these agencies and a person(s) to become more than a response to violence, Jesus Christ becomes the hope that comes with a 6 am day.

Following the Passion Of The Cross To El Salvador

The Subversive Cross Is a Symbol of Empowerment For All Including El Salvador’s Women

I did not share with you a remarkable gift I received on Sunday (March 9, 2014) during the morning church service. Every visitor received a hand made necklace. The necklaces were given to us by the children and youth of the church. Many of the crosses were replicas of the submissive cross. This submissive cross is a symbol of both carnage and hope for some parishioners during the civiil war and for Salvadorian women who currently struggle to find a safe place.
Subversive was the name given to a group of resisters.These Salvadorian resisters fought against what was wrong in their country. Unable to verbally discuss social injustices the parishioners wrote their concerns (literally) on the cross. They wrote on the cross because they would be killed if they spoke out loud about their concerns. The cross (approximately 10 feet tall) now bore the pain of the people through their writings. During a destructive raid on the church, the cross was taken and placed in prison. This act of aggression demonstrated that the war was not only physically brutal it was also psychologically violating. Some time later the cross was returned to the church.
Today the women of El Salvador face a similar plight. After the peace accord of the Salvadorian civil war was ratified in (the 1990’s ) women who fought as gorrilla’ became leaders in a new war. The war these women are now fighting is against abuse. This abuse includes: physical beatings, psychological torture and certainly femicide (the murder of women at the hands of their spouse or partners (with no recourse)). El Salvador has the third highest rate of femicide in the world (Lecture at Los Dignas, El Salvador, March 10. 2014). Salvadorian women are dying at the rate of 20 women a day as a result of acts of aggression (Lecture at Los Dignas, El Salvador, March 10. 2014). The Salvadorian organization known as Los Dignas has become a current subversive group. This organization seeks freedom for women from domestic violence. The organization attempts to change the culture of violence through research, legislation (for the sake of the comparison creating legislation may be viewed as writing on the cross) and information. Utilizing creative strategies these courageous women work to create impact in a male centered and dominated culture. Los Dignas also responds to daily acts of violence toward women. The organization’s response addresses physical, psychological and informational needs. While these women do not have a literal subversive crosses, their pain and brokenness may be comparable to the parishioners who created the subversive cross. In both instances the cross becomes a symbol of brokenness and hope. That hope is possible through the pursuit of justice. The brokenness acknowledges the quest for peace.
In summary, the gift of the subversive cross from the children and youth has created an opportunity to consider parallels between the Salvadorian parishioners during the civil war and the plight of abused Salvadorian women post civil war. In an effort to defy the controlling factions, congregants and women of Los Dignas wrote literally and figuratively on the cross. The hope for all is to achieve both justice and peace. (Oscar Romero)

Following The Passion Of the Cross to El Salvador

Today I Climbed a Mountain and Then I Spent The Rest Of The Day Understanding The Reason I Climbed

Today I climbed a mountain. It was not on my itinerary or list of events for the day. Our planned itinerary included: running at 6 am (small group lead by Dr. Recinos-what a great runner), departure from the hotel at 9:00 am, a Lutheran church mass and meeting with Father Gomez, lunch at Planes de Renderos, visit to Paanchimalco church and museum, and a stop at a coffee house. Once back at the hotel: dinner at 7:30 pm, a debriefing and review of plans for the next day (Monday March 10, 2014). While every aspect of this day (Sunday March 9, 2104) was extraordinary, my hope in sharing the “mountain climb” will give you a better glimpse of today’s journey.
The run was fantastic! The altitude and hills where challenging. However, my co-laborer and fellow seminarian David help me keep pace. After two laps around a trail, compared to Dr.Recinos and Edwins four, we were back at the hotel for a yummy breakfast and departure to church.
Here is what you should know, if I spent the remaining time in El Salvador blogging about today’s church experience, I still would not have enough words to adequately describe our time there today. I determined yesterday (in the blog, Saturday March 9, 2014) that every good beginning should have the desired end in sight. With that in mind, consider with me Bishop Gomez who has been nominated 4 times for the Nobel Peace Prize. Also noteworthy is his three day kidnapping and torture. Why was he kidnapped and tortured? Because he believed in four fundamental values: the need to defend human rights, the need to defend society (demilitarized society), the need to promote economic justice, and the realization that good people have died in the struggle and they should be honored (Dr. Recinos, Debriefing, March 9, 2014). Bishop Gomezs’ preaching message today focussed on “The Temptations Of Christ”. He shared how the temptations of Christ are similar to the temptations faced by humanity.
After church, in a meeting with our Perkins School group, Bishop Gomez further personalized his temptation message by relating it to his kidnapping. Bishop Gomez told us how he promised God during his torture that if God allowed him to survive the torture, he would stay and serve in El Salvador for the rest of his life. With pressure from the international community Bishop Gomez was released. Offers for opportunities outside of El Salvador followed his release. Bishop Gomez shared with us that he was tempted with the idea of leaving El Salvador…. but, he stayed. And now at 78 years old, he serves the local and extended congregations to fulfill his promise to God.
Later in the day, after lunch, we stopped at a park. There were several attractions at in this park, one of which was a mountain that could be climbed to see the view of the valley beneath it. Dressed in my informal church clothes, armed with a community of like-,minded Perkins students (Shelly, Steve, Todd, Edwin and Billy), we climbed a steep mountain. I climbed the mountain today for a lot of reasons: I climbed the mountain out of frustration regarding injustices here in El Salvador as well as those I have experienced raising Black sons in America; I climbed the mountain because some days being a woman in ministry is hard; I climbed the mountain today because I want to give my life away for Jesus sake and sometimes I don’t know how to do that; I climbed the mountain because today I need to get closer to Jesus and it seemed like a reasonable first step; I climb the mountain because sometimes when we do not know what to do we should just do something; I climbed the mountain because sometimes life has mountains, hills valleys and temptations and part of the Christian journey is determining which mountain to climb and when to climb it…today was that day.

Following The Passion Of The Cross To El Salvador

Beginnings require a starting place. All great beginnings also have an end in mind. Today we began our journey, most of us from Dallas. A small group (14 students and one one professor, Dr. H. Recinos). We ended today’s journey with our safe arrival in El Salvador. The flight was approximately 3.5 hours. After clearing customs, collecting luggage, and about a 20 minute ride to the hotel we were finally here. Upon arriving at the hotel we found our rooms,briefly unpacked and headed for our dinner and a meeting. The meeting reminded us of the rich history born out of struggle. Our meeting facilitor and host for the week Edwin, spoke of the high infant mortality rate, gang violence. He told us how we would visit sites this week that are steeped in history and struggle. Wisely he encouraged us not to judge the people or the situations they find themselves in. Edwin shared that unless one understands the essence of this struggle then we fail to see opportunities to begin again. We will spend this week working at understanding and honoring the historical and current struggles of El Salvador.