Thursday, April 29, 2010

Journal Excerpts from El Salvador Mission Trip 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

We arrived in San Salvador only yesterday, but I feel as if I've been here for weeks. Today was our first day on the work site with Micah and others from the Fuller Center, and we worked hard into the heat of the day. A young man, J., joined us and did twice the work I could (and he was only 16!). I'm hoping my body adjusts soon to the temperatures and climate here so that I can help as best I can. All the while [we worked], I kept thinking to myself: "What does Christ look like in El Salvador?" I still feel that this question gets at the heart of the reason for my coming here. Inasmuch as I desire to share the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed, I am equally hopeful that I will receive new understanding(s) about Christ in the world outside of my normal surroundings. I wish that for all. Thank you, God, for the journey!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Our second day on the work site involved even more heavy work, lifting buckets of gravel and sand and cement into a large mixer, but there was more interaction with more of the families, especially the children...And that was some of the best stuff, that relating. What little spanish I know and am learning has been a great help. And the people are so gracious.

We've mostly been working on a walkway/sidewalk that is attached to one of the new houses, and I began to think about what I might say if someone asked me: "Why go all this way to build a sidewalk?" And I thought part of my answer might be that an Oscar Romero might walk there, a Lupita, even Christ might walk there...and in fact Christ will walk there, playing, living, loving in the lives of these El Salvadorians. May it be so. Thanks be to God!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The last two days on the work site, I was slowed down by an injury to my back, but it gave me the opportunity to relate to the families and fellow workers of El Salvador more. Those connection made it difficult to leave yesterday, not knowing the path ahead for many of them, especially the children, and wanting to be assured that they'd be okay. It's amazing how compassion (and even love) and concern can develop so quickly at times (and so slowly at other times). I pray, O God, that you would continue to bless and keep those beautiful families, those children of God, as only you can. And at the right times make me an instrument of your grace and peace, your hope and love. So it goes.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We arrived at the Iglesia Bautista Dios Compasivo in Ahuachapan on Sunday and have enjoyed their hospitality and fellowship these past few days. We have each been staying with different families the past two night and that has been quite an experience. Already I have begun to feel like family. I quickly became comfortable with taking bucket showers, sharing a room with the grandchildren (there are four generations in F. and G.'s home!), and conversing at breakfast. Thank you, God, for this opportunity!

Yesterday we all visited the Seminario Evangelico Baustista Latinamericano (SEBLA), and I very much appreciate J.'s presentation and explanation of the Baptist situation in El Salvador, particularly the relationship between the ABES and the FEBES. I summarized that experience as the pursuit of unity in the midst of/through diversity. It's the same with ABCUSA. The SEBLA only seeks to keep the gospel in context (i.e., El Salvador), which I think is important (authenticity, etc.).

Later in the day, J., K. and I went to the Clinica for ESL teaching and games with the children, and that was a lot of fun. We even had two pinatas, and we played football on the porch. I have acquired/devised a nickname that has caught on: "oso grande" (i.e., big bear) and I am quite fond of it.

[Even] Later today we ate lunch with many members of the church under a large mango tree, and then walked 2-3 miles down the mountain road to the river. We hiked up past an old electric plant to a large waterfall, that was just awe-inspiring. We played in the spray and pool below with such joy. I thought of the psalmist who wrote: "Deep calls unto deep..." After a while I walked back up the mountain road with two young boys. Although we didn't understand everything we said to each other alontg the way, there were several shared moments of wonderment. Thank you, God, for your beautiful creation, and your children.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The reality that our trip is almost over began to sink in today, as I said goodbye to F. and his family, those I'd lived with the past three nights. I feel such a deep sense of gratitude for all that has happened, all that I have seen the past several days. The view at La Puerta de Diablo, and the volcanoe and the waterfall have been as wondrous as the faces of children and older men and women. All tell of the great love and constancy of you, O God (Ps. 19). Te amo!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Today was primarily a day of rest and reflection, as we concluded our time in El Salvador. Still we were able to make a trip to the sites where Oscar Romero and many others were murdered and martyred and now revered and remembered. I found it deeply moving to hear and see photos of the events of those days. Walking through Romero's home, I considered what things might be included were a museum to be made for me someday. Moreso I considered the weight of glory, the cost of following Jesus--not only must we be willing to die/be killed for such faith, but we who remain must have the strength and faith to forgive and give to the culprits, the undeserving. It is difficult to be a champion of and friend to the poor, but it is even more difficult to be loving, forgiving, etc. to our enemies. But so it must be...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

1st Sunday in Lent - Pastoral Prayer

Dear LORD,

In this season
We remind ourselves that
We are dust
And to dust
We shall return.
We remind ourselves that
We will die

O God, Some of us are all too familiar with this fact—
Through illnesses, natural disasters, accidents,
violence, aging, and the death of loved ones.
Some of us do not need to be reminded that
“the grass withers and the flower fades.”

Still others of us, O God, deny this fact,
Filling our days to the brim
With activities and entertainment.
We fight our mortality with busyness.

But in this season, O God, lead us
And surprise us
Into still, quiet places
Where we may realize that
Even though we are dust
Even though we will die
We are upheld by your Holy Spirit,
Which gives us courage and comfort
To sort through the tears, uncertainties, and trembling.

Help us to know and trust that—
Whether we wake up in our own bed,
In or beside a hospital bed,
Or in heaven—
We have never left your sight,
We have never left your arms.

We give you thanks for the assurance
Of your love made known
In your son, Jesus.

Who taught us to pray with boldness,
saying, "Our Father..."


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Remember that you are dust...

A few months ago our church, like many others, was making budget preparations, deciding how much we would allocate to this and that function of the church. And one day I found myself reflecting aloud to a fellow pastor about the extent to which long-time members of the church were invested in keeping the church, both its life and its building, exactly as it was or continues to be. We are all guilty of this to some extent, though some more than others. Wanting to hold on to an experience or atmosphere or style of being church that works for us, we can become attached to our traditions and place of worship. The problem is that the church is not meant to be a static institution, but a dynamic organism (the Body of Christ!).

So I began to wonder if part of the problem had something to do with an inability to accept our mortality. I wondered if the desire to preserve the building and the life of the church “the way it’s always been” for us ignores or denies the reality that we will not always be alive to enjoy it. This desire ignores or denies the reality that the Church is constantly changing—dying and rising—with new members who have new gifts and talents and ideas for ministry. I am convinced that churches that consist primarily of elderly members have succumbed to this desire and have become ingrown—forgetting to invite and welcome new members or preventing what new members there may be from exploring and expressing their gifts for ministry. And they are dying physically and spiritually as churches, even as they secure themselves in their beautiful places of worship, telling one another that they will live forever.

I believe that Ash Wednesday provides a way out of this scenario, a wake-up call, if you will: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” When those ashes are placed on our foreheads it can/should impress upon us the sometimes shocking reminder that we are finite beings with relatively little time to concern ourselves with things that do not matter. For however much we may want to ignore or deny it, we will return to dust. Therefore, let us spend our life’s energy striving for the kingdom of God for ourselves and those yet to come, because it alone endures forever.