Advent greetings from El Salvador in the name of the coming Messiah!
This is my third December in El Salvador and I still haven’t quite assimilated to a tropical holiday. Sure, lights adorn many houses, the markets and malls are bustling, and traditional straw reindeer and nativity scenes are being sold around every corner. Yet, the hot and sunny days, the buzz of mosquitos through open windows in the evenings and the palm trees instead of pines just don’t seem to lend themselves to preparing for Christmas. As in years past, my Christmas preparations include closing up my apartment in San Salvador and getting ready to travel to my parents’ home in Washington State to spend the holidays with family. These additional arrangements always add an extra bit of excitement and stress at an already busy time of year, and as I try finish preparing to leave there are several year-end and holiday traditions to be enjoyed here.
|Members(and members-in-training) of the JHES Directive Board; |
Abel Gonzalez, Carmen Diaz with Josias, Edith Morales,
Silverio Morales, Doris Evangelista with Maya, & Kristi Van Nostran
Not pictured: Rev. David Alvarado and Blanca de Guardado
The Directive Board of Joining Hands El Salvador (JHES), complete with 3 new members elected at our Annual Assembly in October, held its final meeting of 2012 and holiday celebration last week. It was a blessing to reflect upon all of the work of Joining Hands communities to strengthen the food sovereignty movement in El Salvador. All shared their hopes and aspirations for the coming year as JHES continues to promote and advocate for public policy that guarantees small farmers access to land, the right to utilize native seeds and employ agro-ecological practices that contribute toward the restoration of God’s Creation.
The Reformed Calvinist Church, my church home in El Salvador, celebrated its Annual Assembly and holiday lunch yesterday with fifty adult members in attendance, and almost as many children! I was humbled and encouraged as this small denomination with extremely limited resources, but with a passion and calling to serve our marginalized and impoverished sisters and brothers in El Salvador, committed to partnering with other churches in 2013 to support the Pastoral Initiative for Peace. This ecumenical effort, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, is striving to unify the Church’s voice and actions in support of a peace process that began with a negotiated truce between warring gangs in El Salvador. Gang violence that contributed to an average of 14 homicides per day has dropped significantly to an average below 4 since the truce was originally negotiated in February of this year, and in the second phase of this ongoing process of peacemaking and reconciliation, weapons are being handed over and peace zones are being designated throughout San Salvador and across the country. It is in this context that our little church is living into God’s call to be agents of peace in God’s world.
With all that is going on it is nearly impossible to focus solely on Christmas and the preparing that is yet to be done. Again this year I feel as if Advent has gotten away from me; somehow I missed the voice crying out to fill the valleys and bring the mountains low, to smooth the rough roads and make the path straight for the coming of the Lord. Still, during Advent we are also reminded how Emmanuel, God with us, came into the world as a baby born to young, first-time parents, far from home and in less than ideal accommodations – it is certain that neither Mary nor Joseph felt fully prepared for their roles in God’s Christmas story either.
As the season of preparation comes to a close I am thankful that even now God does not wait for us to be prepared. Just as God sent Jesus that first Christmas into an unjust and broken world to be our Hope and our Peace, we feel Christ manifest still today, with us even in the midst of violence, conflict and division; in the hills and valleys, on all the trails we have yet to level. The Good News of great joy, my friends, is that Christmas came…and Christmas comes, whether or not we are prepared. May we join our voices with the choirs of angels, singing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased!”
Blessings and peace,