Today´s travels in El Salvador took us to the UCA (Universidad Centroamericana) and to San Lorenzo, a small community near the coast. In both places we witnessed the struggles of the Salvadoran people and the global church´s solidarity with El Salvador.
At the UCA we visited the Oscar Romero Center for Theological Studies (if I have the name slightly wrong, please excuse me. I´m on a terribly slow computer and I can´t look up the proper name right now!). This center tells the story – with powerful pictures and a well-done little museum – of the 6 Jesuit priests who were murdered – martyred – in November 1989 for their outspoken teaching and advocacy on behalf of the poor and against the civil war. From the copy of Jorgen Multman´s The Crudified God soaked in the blood of one of the martyred priests, to the portrait of Archbishop Oscar Romero that had been shot by the deathsquads (as if to say that they would kill him again if they could), to the priests personal affects, it was a moving experience.
But to reference the title of this post, I was very pleased to see several posters from the 1980s and other materials demonstrating solidarity from the international community. A citation from the Washington, DC City Council declared an "Archbishop Oscar Romero" day. A poster from Taiwan decried the violence of the war. The sign-in book contained several languages . . . The Jesuit Martyrs and Oscar Romero are revered not only by Salvadorans, but by Christians around the world.
And then we traveled a little more than an hour to San Lorenzo, a small community near the coast that was created after the devestating 2001 earthquakes. From what I understood – by speaking with Salvadorans and Spanish-speaking Germans – this community was founded largely thanks to the support of the international Lutheran community, particularly from Europe. About 27 families live in San Lorenzo, where a Lutheran congregation (which also operates a small primary school) is the major community organization.
In addition to the presence of a German missionary pastor, the international community´s presence is made known in several ways. Organizations and individuals central to the development of San Lorenzo are recognized with street names (including Lutheran World Federation Street), and two simple plazas honor Bavaria and Norway, whose churches made significant contributions to the community. As you walk through San Lorenzo, you can´t help but feel a larger community – a broader church – at work in the place.
El Salvador is a small country, but there is a big, a global church walking alongside it in solidary, in partnership, in mission. There was something beautiful about sharing prayer and conversation with a German Lutheran pastor as we both spoke in less-than-perfect and poorly-accented Spanish. But it was the Salvadoran people – better put, it was the presence of Christ in the suffering of the Salvadoran people – that brought us together, that helped us to better realize the mission of the church – to proclaim the Gospel in Word, Sacrament, and Service, particularly alongside the poor and suffering of the world.
Thank God for the Lutheran Church of El Salvador, and thank God for the partner churches who walk in solidary with it!
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If I write again before returning home on Monday, August 11, it will be on Sunday evening. On Saturday we head off to Cara Sucia to visit another church and spend the night in family homes. It promises to be a wonderful experience.