The Art for El Salvador Delegation

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The (almost) completed mural of Sarah’s School. The delegation left the rest of the painting to the community–a great reminder that our work is never done and that it is our Salvadoran partners, and not ourselves, who finish and continue our efforts in solidarity with us when we aren’t here with them.. The quote at the bottom (from global education activist Malala Yousafzai) says, “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.”

We were so overjoyed to have 17 enthusiastic, compassionate, solidarizing people from Art for El Salvador visiting us last week. This organization, if you remember, is dedicated to using all forms of art as a means of lifting up impoverished communities in El Salvador.

The story of how this school came to be built is deeply beautiful–and deeply personal. The organization began in 2010 when three sisters, Niah, Maria, and Sarah, started creating and selling art in their hometown as a way to raise funds for their church’s partner community in Berlín, El Salvador. At the end of that summer, all three sisters were in a tragic car accident, and Sarah did not survive. In 2011, Niah suggested that the best way of honoring Sarah–a girl who loved school, especially reading and writing–was to build a school in her name.

Last year, Niah and Maria came to investigate the possibility of building a 7th-9th grade school in Mediagua: a community where most people, especially most girls, end their formal schooling at 6th grade because their families feel that it is unsafe for them to walk to the nearest middle school. They were surprised when the community was not only invested in having a school–and absolutely willing to build it with their own hands–but also invested in building before the next school year began so that their children who were graduating from 6th grade wouldn’t have to wait another year to continue their studies. We calculated that between the timing of the agricultural seasons and rhythm of the Salvadoran school year, Art for El Salvador had to raise $5000 in 5 weeks to have enough funds to build the school on time.

And you know what? They did it. The dream of Sarah’s School dream is now a reality. So the people of Art for El Salvador came to see it for themselves! It’s not just a great story about how well a community can work together to accomplish something incredible, or how USA-based churches and organizations can best serve impoverished communities by listening to the communities’ own hopes and dreams, but also about the power of love and solidarity transforming tragedy.

In other words (for me, at least), it’s a story about death and resurrection.

Many thanks to the community of Mediagua (and some of the families of El Zapote and nearby communities, as well) for all their hard work in building the school and incredible hospitality this past week. To the teachers of the Central Escolar of Caserío Hacienda Mediagua, thanks for all your hard work to educate these kids and for welcoming us to your school. To the Salvadorans of Pastoral Team of Berlín, thanks for all your amazing work in coordinating the construction of the school–and keeping 17 people fed and well cared for throughout last week, too!

I will start by sharing just a few of the pictures I took last week, but stay tuned for updates. With the permission of some of the delegates, I plan to share some of their photos, too!

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Sarah’s School, when the construction project began (Sept. 2014).

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Sarah’s School today (Photo via Kathy B.)

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The delegates visit the tomb of NOW BLESSED Oscar A. Romero just a few days before his beatification.

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The delegates receive a tour of the UCA, where six Jesuits and their two housekeepers were murdered in cold blood by the American-armed and trailed Altacatl battalion of the Salvadoran military in 1989.

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The delegates have a meeting with the community board and teachers of Caserío Mediagua.

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The delegates visit the homes of Mediagua students and present them with books and art supplies. These children do not even have enough books in their own school, much less in their own home, so this gift was an incredibly big deal for them.

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The delegates worked with the young people and Directiva members of Mediagua to paint a beautiful mural to honor Sarah, the relationship between Art for El Salvador and the community, and the importance of education.

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The delegates played games with some of the children in Mediagua and other local schools. The parachute games were a huge hit!

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The water did not run for the last several days while the delegation was here, so the Pastoral Team had to go to neighboring towns to look for water! Here, the delegates help to carry water up the stairs and dump it into one of our cisterns.

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The delegates celebrate the dedication of Sarah’s School with a party. And you can’t have a Salvadoran party without piñatas!

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On Doing Good and Feeling Good

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Rembrandt, “Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses,” 1653.

“I might try to tell a story here about what I am feeling, but it would have to be a story in which the very “I” who seeks to tell the story is stopped in the midst of the telling; the very “I” is called into question by its relation to the Other, a relation that does not precisely reduce me to speechlessness, but does nevertheless clutter my speech with signs of its undoing. I tell a story about the relations I choose, only to expose, somewhere along the way, the way I am gripped and undone by these very relations. My narrative falters, as it must.

Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.”

Judith Butler, “Violence, Mourning, Politics,” in Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence.

In a mission-related meeting that occurred not too long ago, in the midst of a tense discussion about old conflicts and current, difficult issues, one of my colleagues blurted out, “I’m sorry, but this just doesn’t feel good.

I hear some version of this at least once a day.

“These discussions of privilege make me feel accused.”
“Talking about power makes me feel uncomfortable.”
“I don’t like conflict. The Church should be a place of peace.”
“This doesn’t feel good.”

In all of these situations, a relatively privileged American was explaining how being involved in our mission as a delegate to El Salvador or a volunteer in the USA sometimes makes one feel uncomfortable, sad, angry, out of place, discouraged, hurt, ignored, or any number of other negative emotions.

Don’t get me wrong: no one ever wants to feel bad, and it is never my or my Salvadoran colleagues’ intention to make people feel bad. Feeling sad, hurt, or just generally uncomfortable because there are religious, cultural or linguistic differences and differentials in power and privilege in our relationships as Christians is never pleasant. Feeling sad, hurt, or generally uncomfortable when we have relational issues, communication problems, or conflict (as any organization does) is never pleasant, either.

As someone who believes that God has created us for happiness, I agree that we are not meant to feel bad all the time. As a liberationist, I am weary about glorifying sadness, discomfort, and suffering.

But you know what? It’s not always a bad thing to feel so-called negative emotions, either.

Somehow, at some point, we mainline Protestants became a little too comfortable with ourselves, didn’t we? We came to expect that we would go to church on Sunday, hear an inspiring sermon that would apply to our largely white, wealthy, suburban or small-town lives, and then ponder it with our friends and neighbors—largely people who identify with us in terms of race, class, and culture—over a cup of coffee in the basement. We show up expecting to be made comfortable by the familiarity of the experience and the content of the message. We expect any challenge to be of the relatively light, inspirational, and personal variety. We do not expect a challenge to the very social, cultural, or economic systems that our privileges are built upon, because church is not a place we go to discuss things that bother us.

We expect that being involved with church will generally make us feel good.

We especially expect this to be true when we are doing more than simply showing up on Sunday mornings. Helping with Sunday school. Brewing the coffee. Volunteering at the homeless shelter or soup kitchen. We expect that doing these good things will make us feel good.

We expect the same when we participate in foreign missions, whether we are volunteering in the USA to help the mission stay organized and financially viable or spending our own time and money to visit a far-away place. We spent all this time and all this money to come here and be with these people, we think. It should feel good. It should feel fulfilling. It should feel fun. We are doing good, and doing good should feel good, right? We should feel comfortable. It should never involve difficult conversations about privilege or power. Things only feel bad if we are doing something wrong, right?

Wrong.

I was having a very hard time (psychologically, emotionally, spiritually) a few weeks ago. Blanca and I had a long conversation about why I was feeling so bad and what might be done—as my American, privileged, mainline-Protestant mind always thinks—to fix that.

“Katherine,” she said, “Christ has chosen you to suffer with Him for his work. You should feel honored.”

Blanca did not mean to say that I am particularly important, my situation is particularly important, or my personal suffering is particularly important. Quite the opposite. She was pointing me to a truth that many Christians like me who live privileged lives have forgotten: following Christ should not feel good all the time, and if it does, we are probably not actually following Christ.

If what we are doing is really solidarity and not charity, empathy and not empty sympathy, real love and not transitory affection, real relationship and not cursory familiarity, we need to feel the pain that our brothers and sisters here feel because of their systemic poverty and oppression. When something is causing conflict, gets relationally messy, or makes us feel bad, we should not run away from those feelings, from the mission, or from these relationships to seek a more pleasurable experience.

Instead, we should lean into and feel their pain with our whole hearts. We should get stuck up to our noses in their mess—or, when we are truly embracing solidarity—our mess. We should confront the ways in which the world gives us more power, privilege, and opportunity than our Salvadoran brothers and sisters in Christ. We should examine why our Christian relationships expose how we are ultimately vulnerable to and dependent on the Other—both when these relationships are working well and perhaps especially when they are not.

We should be undone by each other. This is the price of love, vulnerability, and connection.

To ignore the pain, the discomfort, the awkwardness, the “bad” feelings that we are taught to avoid at all costs in our own American culture, whether those feelings arise due to challenges to our privilege or the general mess that is living with and trying to care about other people, is to lose an opportunity to draw closer to the heart of Christ, to kneel at the foot of the Cross.

When our sisters and brothers living in extreme poverty and oppression suffer, Christ suffers. When we suffer for Christ’s work to right a world gone wrong, we push ourselves past our customary discomfort with the uncomfortable and find something beyond price: the place where the Cross meets the ground.

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

After all, the Cross is where God and humanity undo one another. We find that place in the messy complexity of grief, suffering, joy, conflict, sadness, anger, grief, happiness, and grace that comes from really knowing and loving the people our mission experiences connect us with. We find that place when we realize that the systems of privilege and power that benefit us and damage others’ lives in the process are the nails that hold the Crucified God and his Crucified People in a suspended state of agony.

We find that place when we stop trying to be comfortable and start trying to be Christians.

Friends, someone bled and suffocated to death for us. If we think that should make us feel comfortable all the time, we’re doing it wrong.

And let’s face it: we’re probably missing something, too.

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Holy Week

As many of you may already know, Salvadoran Catholics take Holy Week very seriously. In Berlín, and particularly in many of the rural communities here, there are religious activities throughout the week. Life slows down as people take the time to remember themselves into the story that occurred 2,000 years ago in Palestine, as well as to spend time with their friends and families. It is an incredible honor and privilege to spend these holy days and nights with people that love this story so much, hold it so closely to their hearts, and both mourn and celebrate it with their whole bodies.

On behalf of the whole Pastoral Team of Berlín, I wish you a joyous and blessed Easter season filled with hope.

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It is traditional for families to come together during holy week to bake bread. Here, Idalia and Cecilia help our friend Manuel to make “quesadilla,” a type of thin, sweet cornbread.

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The children of Alejandria prepare to participate in the Via Crucis. This procession remembers fourteen different events in the final hours of Jesus’ life, including his death and burial. In many communities, including Alejandria, this practice is realized not just on Good Friday, but on every Friday during Lent. For a more detailed explanation, read more here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15569a.htm.

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Balmore offers a reflection before the procession begins.

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The 8th Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

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Each family is responsible for decorating a different station. Some do so with paper decorations, others with flowers or plants.

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When we reach the final station, Balmore offers a final reflection and prayer.

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On Good Friday, the streets of Berlín are mostly closed so that different community associations can make “alfombras” (lit. “carpets”)–street paintings made with dyed salt and natural materials. Some of these alfombras are small, while others stretch across several city blocks.

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Each painting has its own particular style and theme. Here, we see an image of Monseñor Romero, who is a popular subject for these public artworks.

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Some alfombras have incredible amounts of detail. Most of them take all day to complete. Some people see the act of creating one as a form of repentance.

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At 6pm on Good Friday, the procession known as the Santo Entierro (“Holy Burial”) begins. At its center is a large glass coffin containing an image of Christ, crucified and dead. I do not know how much this coffin weighs, but I know that it takes 25-35 grown men to carry it. It is common for this procession to continue until 1 or 1:30am. It moves slowly forward as people pray the rosary or sing songs of mourning and repentance.

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The Santo Entierro, of course, walks right over the street paintings that were so delicately created. What took hours to create is destroyed in a matter of seconds. It is a beautiful mediation on the fragility of life, as well as a call to remember that the only things that last are created by God, not by human beings.

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On Saturday evening, the Great Vigil of Easter begins. A bonfire is lit in the middle of the street. Once the fire has been blessed by the priest, he uses it to light the Paschal Candle.

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As the procession continues, the Paschal Candle is used to light the candles that we have all brought with us to the procession. It is a beautiful and stark reminder that Christ is the Light of the world–and through him, so are we.

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We finally reach the church and enter (mostly) in darkness. The Vigil recounts the whole of salvation history: beginning with the Creation, it tells the story of God’s promises to Abraham and covenant with Israel and relates the warnings and hopes of the prophets. Finally, we reach the moment where we sing the Gloria again, the bells of the church are rung, and we hear the story of Christ’s resurrection. Allelujah!

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The Importance of Fertilizer, Part 3

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A man signs a receipt to indicate that he has received his fertilizer. He uses a fingerprint in lieu of a signature because he cannot read or write.

[This is part 3 of a series on the importance of fertilizer for rural, impoverished farming communities in El Salvador. Read part 1 here and part 2 here.]

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
-Matthew 13:33

Nothing is sustainable here. Not even life is sustainable here. 
-Blanca, 25-year veteran of the Pastoral Team of Berlín

Fertilizer still does not seem like a stable, long-term solution for Berlín-area farmers.

According to our human understandings of sustainability, fertilizer projects seem like an unsustainable long-term solution because they do not change the systems of farming or of food sustainability and sovereignty in El Salvador. And according to our American understandings of development and progress, fertilizer does not seem like a “successful” venture: it does not produce much more wealth, more jobs, or significant economic changes in a community.

However, God’s idea of what constitutes sustainable solutions, of success, simply does not match ours. For God, the only thing that is truly sustainable is God’s Kingdom: the imperfectly-immanent-but-still-present places and situations in our own world where God’s reality breaks into ours. In our work, these are the places and situations where people are truly humanized and empowered to make their own decisions and where we help make those decisions possible—which tells them that we recognize their humanity, their struggle, their lives.

This is what God sees as sustainable. This is what will be preserved at the End of All Things, when God removes from the world all that is not love, not peace, not hope, not of God. This is what will remain when all else is gone: real relationships, real unity, and real love. This is God’s idea of sustainability.

Jesus did not overthrow the Roman Empire or Israel’s religious establishment. He did not change the oppressive social systems of his time—at least not in his short 33 years on earth. His solution was to be present with us in this messy world and in doing so, teach us how to build the Kingdom of God, the New Creation, inside the shell of the old world.

Is the Kingdom of God sustainable? Of course it isn’t, at least not in a traditional, capitalistic sense. It is not meant to survive in the same way that a business survives: by profits triumphing over expenses and producing some tangible or measurable good, whether that good be a pair of socks or a web browser. It is a gentle, fragile, living thing that is so much more than inputs and outputs. And of course it cannot survive without nurturing, without being held gently in our hands, planted and watered gingerly, kneaded constantly. Our work on it is never done. It continues our required engagement, love, participation, patience, and attention—and that is the point.

This work is slow—have you ever watched plants grow or bread rise?—but Jesus teaches us that the seeds are in the field and the leaven is in the dough. We are called to water and knead in faithfulness. The systems will change, in time. We will work to change those systems when and where we can, though we at OSP certainly do not have the power or political clout to change them on our own. In the meantime, we must strive to preserve the seed of Eternal Life that we find in these communities—and that means preserving both their physical lives and the organization that allows them to build a better future for themselves. Fertilizer projects are an important part of this work.

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Community members help families to unload their fertilizer from the delivery truck. Some of these bags weigh more than 200 pounds.

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Families that have access to a wheelbarrow, a horse, a car, or an oxcart use those methods to get their fertilizer to their house. Those that do not (or who live relatively close by, in some cases) carry their fertilizer home on their backs. Yes, all 100-200 pounds of it.

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The Importance of Fertilizer, Part 2

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The delivery truck prepares to leave the agricultural supplies shop in Mercedes Umaña where we purchase our fertilizer.

Won’t giving people fertilizer increase dependence? 

The farmers here will always be dependent on fertilizer, or at the very least they will be dependent on fertilizer until all the systems of land ownership and farming in El Salvador change. This will not happen anytime soon.

However, receiving fertilizer from a partner church will keep them from being too dependent on predatory lenders who they might need to borrow from to purchase fertilizer. It will keep them from being so dependent on the changing climate, because increasing their yield will give them a “cushion” should most of their crop fail due to excessive rain or drought.

Furthermore, many farmers in the USA receive different kinds of government aid and assistance, and even those that do not are often covered by crop insurance or have other protections. We are simply offering the Salvadoran farmers we love a similar kind of protection. We are not giving them food, we are enabling them to grow food for themselves and their families.

To borrow from a common expression, we are neither giving them fish nor teaching them to fish—we are simply giving them the bait, which they simply cannot afford on their own.

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The delivery truck arrives in the community with the fertilizer.

Aren’t these fertilizers unsafe for farmers?

There are indeed some agrochemicals used in Central America that we need to be concerned about. Many people have written to us about concerns regarding the epidemic of “Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Origin” in this region, and whether the fertilizers that farmers use here have been linked with higher instances of disease. We can assure you that most of the agrochemicals used in Central America that scientists are concerned about associated with sugarcane and cotton farming—and most of them are pesticides and herbicides, not fertilizers. Most Berlín-area farmers do not use these chemicals, both because they know the dangers and because they are costly. Neither the pre-emergent nor the post-emergent fertilizer that we provide to communities has been directly linked with higher rates of chronic kidney disease, and the post-emergent fertilizer that most of them use has few negative long-term effects on the environment, either.

It would indeed be ideal if these farmers did not have to use chemical fertilizers, and especially ideal if they did not have to apply them by hand. But being poor always means having to make calculated risks, and the communities that we work with feel that not being able to eat has both short-term and long-term consequences that outweigh the potential risks of using fertilizer. Who are we to make this difficult choice for them? It’s their lives and the lives of their children that are at risk, not our lives.

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The Directiva of the community discusses how to take the fertilizer off the truck and give it to each member family as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Why not use organic fertilizer? 

Expense. Organic fertilizers must be formulated to provide plants with proper nutrition, which often involves having to purchase plants, honey, or other organic compounds to make said fertilizer. These ingredients are not easily available to these farmers and are often just as expensive—if not more expensive—than chemical fertilizer. Farmers also need to use triple or quadruple the amount of organic fertilizer as chemical fertilizer to achieve the same effect on their crop yield.

Time. A farmer cannot simply switch from using chemical fertilizer to organic fertilizer and expect to grow food immediately. Chemical fertilizers, while increasing a farmer’s yield dramatically, also strip the soil of the natural vitamins, minerals, and bacteria that allows anything to grow in it naturally. It takes at least 3-4 years (and as many as 7-8 years) for the soil to be restored to a natural balance through the application of organic fertilizers. During these years of transition, the soil yields almost nothing. Since people cannot afford to not eat for years at a time, farmers have no choice but to continue using chemical fertilizers.

Land access. People in most Berlín-area communities do not own their own farmland—they rent it. Because the price to rent land changes (and usually rises) from year to year, they are often forced to switch fields every few years to find a field that they can afford to farm. They cannot afford to spend 3-8 years transitioning rented land to organic farmland only to be forced to leave that land if they can no longer afford to rent it. In order for organic farming to be practical in these communities, people would have to own enough land for them slowly transition (plot-by-plot) their fields to a more organic system.

This all seems hopeless.

It certainly is not hopeless. As farmers receive more training from the Pastoral House and other institutions, they are learning to minimize their use of chemical fertilizers. Most have learned how to handle these chemicals as safely as possible given their circumstances. Fewer and fewer farmers are using the dangerous pesticides and herbicides that may be associated with kidney disease and other conditions. Things are indeed changing.

However, experts tell us that farming in this part of El Salvador will always require some chemical fertilizer because the soil is so depleted from centuries of overuse. This is especially true as farmers are confronted with the effects of global climate change. We all long for the day when these farmers can use less of this fertilizer. But for now, they simply cannot eat without it.

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The Importance of Fertilizer, Part I

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The inside of the agricultural supplies shop where we purchase our fertilizer.

As some of you know, March-April is a busy time of year for the Pastoral Team of Berlín because we are making lots of fertilizer deliveries to partner communities! 

Many churches and individuals have asked us questions regarding our reasons for providing fertilizer to the impoverished communities of Berlín, so for the next week or two I will be providing some important information on why fertilizer is so important for the subsistence farmers here.

Why should we consider providing fertilizer to our community?

The Pastoral Team of Berlín feels that there are three principal reasons to provide fertilizer to communities here.

Perhaps most obviously, fertilizer is a material and financial good. Without fertilizer, families have trouble growing enough food to feed their families. One farmer tells me that with fertilizer, he can harvest about 340 pounds of corn in a year. Without fertilizer, he is lucky to harvest 80-100 pounds. Fertilizer makes an enormous difference in how much a family is able to eat. When families eat better, they stay healthier and spend less money on medicine. When children eat better, they do better in school, which in turn creates more opportunities for them as they grow older.

Because farmers can harvest almost nothing without fertilizer, most families that do not receive fertilizer from their partner church are still going to purchase it. However, since fertilizer is so expensive, they often have to choose between purchasing it or purchasing all the other things that a family needs: medicines, school supplies, food other than the beans and corn that they grow, clothing, the water bill, the electricity bill, and many other things besides. By purchasing a bag of fertilizer, you free up some of their hard-earned income for other necessities.

Alternatively, farmers who cannot afford fertilizer may borrow money at high interest rates to purchase fertilizer, hoping for a good yield that will allow them to pay that money back. If they cannot pay the loan back and the lender will not pardon them, they risk losing what little property or possessions that they have. Others pay back their interest in corn. If they have a bad harvest, they often end up giving most of their corn to the organization they borrowed from, leaving them with little to eat.

Families that grow more corn also often have corn left over to sell at the end of the year. This means that they have more money to purchase everything their family needs that is not corn and beans. Buying a bag of fertilizer has a positive effect on the entire economy of a community, allowing everyone to have more purchasing power. It helps families to help themselves. Farming is hard work whether a farmer uses fertilizer or not, but we can help their hard work bear more fruit.

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The hardworking gentlemen from the shop help one another to lift these 100-200 lb. bags of fertilizer onto their backs so that they can load it into the delivery truck.

Fertilizer is also an organizational good. Poverty is not so much a lack of resources as it is the lack of power that makes it impossible to acquire those resources. By trusting these communities and their leaders to determine their own priorities and helping them to achieve these priorities, we give them more power over their own future than they have ever had before.

This is no small thing. For over 500 years, decisions about the lives of the Salvadoran poor—where they can live, whether they have enough food to eat or water to drink, what kind of jobs and education and opportunities have been available to them—have all been made by people more powerful than them without their consent. When the Directiva—the democratically-elected community board—and people in the community work together to request an important need such as fertilizer, the community and Directiva feel empowered to democratically decide for themselves what their needs are, organize themselves to ask for those needs, and then acquire them. They have never had that kind of power, agency, or decision-making authority in their own world before.

Giving communities fertilizer helps give power and credence to the community organization and build trust between the community and its Directiva, as well as trust and power between the partner church and the community.

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Some of these bags weigh over 200 lb., and some communities require over 100 bags each!

Last but not least, fertilizer is a spiritual good—both for us and for the Salvadorans. The rural, impoverished farmers of El Salvador have been largely abandoned by their government, aid organizations, NGOs, and even their own churches. They often feel that no one in the world cares whether they have water, have food, have an education, or have a functioning roof—in other words, that no one cares whether they live or die or what kinds of conditions that they are living or dying in. As Christians, we care called to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and clothe the naked (Matthew 25). When we give families fertilizer, we do just that—by helping them to feed, care for, and clothe themselves.

But giving fertilizer to the families of our partner community is also a spiritual good for us. At Our Sister Parish, our way of practicing mission has its basis in solidarity: believing that each community knows and understands its needs and priorities better than we (as people from the “developed world”) ever could, and it is our calling to support them in determining those needs and priorities for themselves. Even when a community asks for something that we feel we would not necessarily prioritize under the same circumstances, we submit ourselves to their wisdom and experience out of a desire to “do mission” from the needs and desires of the people—not from our own needs and desires.

Listening to the needs and priorities of the poor—including their need for fertilizer—liberates them from some of the worry about providing food for their family. It also liberates us from our flawed self-understanding that we understand the world of the poor better than they understand it themselves.

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#RomeroBeato

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The altar the Pastoral Team built to honor the immanent beatification of Monseñor Oscar A. Romero.

Friends, a great and wonderful thing happened in the world today: the date for Romero’s beatification ceremony has been announced: May 23rd, 2015. It will take place in the Salvador del Mundo Plaza in San Salvador.

We are overwhelmed with joy that this Salvadoran bishop, who gave his life for the work of the Kingdom of God in the world and peace in his own country, has finally been formally recognized as the martyr, prophet, and beato that he is. The older members of the Pastoral Team have been waiting for this day for 35 years, ever since Monseñor Romero was assassinated by the member of a death squad on March 24th, 1980 while celebrating Mass. His life, witness, and words have inspired everyone on the Pastoral Team to work for more justice, love, and solidarity in El Salvador and elsewhere.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Vatican’s process for recognizing someone as a Roman Catholic saint, beatification is the last step in the process before canonization, or the formal proclamation of a deceased person’s sainthood. In English, a beatified person holds the title of Blessed. In Spanish, the formal title is Beato.

In Monseñor Romero’ case, a miracle will need to be attributed to his intercession with God in Heaven for him to receive the title of Saint; in other words, he must (miraculously) intervene with God on behalf of someone who specifically asks him for help. But in the meantime, we are incredibly happy that we can now refer to him as Blessed Oscar A. Romero.

We have shared so many elated thoughts throughout the day, but I asked Jesús, longtime member of the Pastoral Team, to share his feelings about today’s announcement with all of you.

35 years ago, the Salvadoran people mourned the death of our venerable archbishop Oscar Arnulfo. Today, we cry with joy and we celebrate the triumph of Monseñor Romero’s Easter. And this joy leads us to believe that today God has done justice, and has given payment to those who they killed because of hate. And that is the best justice that God has done. Even though here on earth the Salvadoran authorities, even though they are dividing our people to do justice for those that they brought to death. Oscar Arnulfo Romero has not died. He lives in the heart and the struggle of the Salvadoran people. The challenge that he gives us today is to follow his example to fight for justice based in truth. 

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