We had some amazing delegations come to visit us at the Pastoral House this year, groups who love the people and communities of Berlín as much as we do. So naturally, I simply had to take a blog post to honor all of you who came as part of a delegation this year and all of you who helped them to get here. Thank you all so much for your efforts to visit and for your solidarity with the people of El Salvador. We are so grateful to all of you.
It is in the spirit of gratitude, therefore, that I present the first annual Delegation Awards, wherein all of the delegations that visited us in 2013 receive slightly ridiculous but hopefully also funny and accurate prizes. Again, thank you all for what you do for these communities, and we hope to see you all again in 2014!
Award for Patience and Amazing Active Listening Skills: Heartland Delegations of July and February
It’s not easy being a one-person delegation and sitting in meetings all day, attempting to understand the language and the complex, multifaceted problems that impoverished rural Salvadoran communities face, but both of the Heartland delegations/delegates did that. They listened, they waited, they asked a ton of questions, and they inquired about small details. They took the time to learn people’s names. One of them spent a night in the community. We truly appreciated your patience and ability to listen.
Award for Most Energetic Group/Most Unapologetic in Soda Consumption: Ankeny Presbyterian Church
Corozal is a large and active community, and this large, energetic, multi-generational delegation had the energy to match it. Very few people can sit through a school opening celebration, a party, and a meeting with the Directiva on their first day in the community, but these guys did. And several of them had the energy to hike up a mountain towards the end of the week to boot.
Also, I think they drank over 100 bottles of soda while they were here. No, I’m not exaggerating.
Wait, could their energy levels and their soda consumption levels be linked? THIS MAKES SO MUCH SENSE NOW. But seriously, whatever works, because y’all were awesome.
Honorable Mention: Santa Cruz Parish and Presbytery of Long Island. Because you all drank the second-highest number of sodas, I’m pretty sure.
First Presbyterian Dallas Center: Award for Most Willing Do Absolutely EVERYTHING and Confront Difficult History
Almost everyone in this group had visited El Salvador and Berlín multiple times. They know the country, they know the people. It would have been quite easy for them to insist on skipping the historical sites so that they could simplify the agenda and to have a chiller, more relaxing trip.
Nope, not these guys.
They wanted to do everything. They wanted to visit every site, climb every mountain, visit every house, leave no stone unturned. And despite their experience, they wanted to do these things so that they could learn even more about the country and its people, even insisting that we make the trip to Illobasco to hear some harrowing stories from a Civil War survivor who has seen, and heard, some very difficult things. They listened with compassion and yet managed not to be overwhelmed.
Tip of the hat.
Honorable Mention: The February Heartland delegation, for sleeping in the community overnight.
Award for Most Artistic: Santa Cruz Parish and the Presbytery of Long Island
Seriously, you guys. They came, they saw, they painted, they did crafts, they directed plays that taught children about the Bible, they wore a giant toothbrush costume, they played dancing games. And they used their skills to leave a permanent symbol of their love for Santa Cruz by painting a beautiful mural on this community’s seed bank. Most importantly, they involved the community in all of these ventures, particularly the young people and children. It was a beautiful thing to see.
Honorable Mentions: Dallas Center for singing and offering music as part of the celebration on the last day, and Covenant for their lovely rendition of “Cups.” Anna Kendrick sends high fives.
Award for Most Intrepid & Extroverted/Threatening to Give Mission Co-Worker the Most Panic Attacks: SW Partnership
If there was a mountain, they wanted to climb it. If there was a horse, they wanted to ride it. If there was a soccer game, they wanted to participate in it. And if there wasn’t a soccer game, they were going to start one, gosh darn it. Going over hill and under dale, talking to everyone they met along the way, this group was willing to put themselves out there, even if I was more than a little concerned that they were going to hurt themselves and/or sue us. But you didn’t, so shout out to you all.
Honorable Mentions: Heartland (July) and Ankeny, for the number of poisonous/large snakes that you all came into contact with sans dying. A+.
Award for Almost Drowning and Living to Talk About It: Covenant Presbyterian, West Des Moines
The Pastoral Team tells me that this valiant group comes at the height of the rainy season every year, and that they always get drenched every single day. This year they had a particularly rain-filled visit, and one day the truck became stuck in the mud and almost tipped over. We eventually got ourselves unstuck, but it was raining so unbelievably hard that the cliff faces lining the road temporarily turned into waterfalls that we had to drive through in order to return to Berlín. It was like going to a waterpark, only with more mortal danger. Mad props to your troopers.
Honorable Mentions: Ankeny and Compañeros Delegations. Y’all had it rough, too, I won’t lie. It’s just that Covenant almost drowned, so that makes them the clear winner.
Award for Best Conversationalists: Compañeros Delegation
Because this conversation happened:
Me (to delegation): I would like permission to serve communion here.
Delegate #1: That’s part of your call. You don’t need to ask permission to do that.
Me: Well, can anyone who lives in this house help me serve it?
Delegate #2: Yes. Duh.
Me: Ok, good. I promise I won’t baptize people, though.
Delegate #2: And why not?
Me: Because that’s not our polity. I’d have to baptize them into a specific Presbyterian church.
Delegate #2: Who cares?
Delegate #3: Yeah, we don’t care.
Delegate #1: Really. Go forth and sin boldly.
Also, we talked about theology and incredibly inappropriate college mascots. Shout out to you, the best colleagues a pastor could ask for.
Honorable Mention: July Heartland Delegation for talking with me about Liberation Theology until late at night.
Award for Surviving The Most Physically Strenuous Journey: Westminster Presbyterian, Des Moines
San Francisco is one of the geographically largest cantons in Berlín, and who walked to every single house? THESE LADIES. One day, their walking required two of them to walk down a road that is over a kilometer long—and straight downhill—in order to visit some of the most isolated families in the community. Then they walked straight uphill for about 30 minutes to return to the main road.
I suppose I should also give them the award for, “Award for Coming the Closest to Cardiac Arrest,” but, you know, same thing.
To add to the craziness, the only road that connects the city of Berlín directly to San Francisco was under construction when this delegation was here, meaning we had to drive all the way around rural Berlín to reach the community most days. On our last day, they spent almost five hours in the pickup truck. It was insane.
This group was small but mighty. Run the world, girls.
Honorable Mention: Dallas Center. Seriously, could it have been hotter?! And you all have one of the larger communities to cover, too. Well done, friends.
Special Award for Having the Valiant Spirit to Teach English to Elementary School Kids: Short-Term Volunteers from First Presbyterian Newton, IA
They weren’t technically a delegation, but these folks deserve a special shout-out for their dedication to the children of Berlín in general and their partner community, Muñoces, in particular. They spent almost a month teaching English to the children of this community, braving heat, bad roads, and crazy truck rides to do so. And the kids loved it!