A Story of Hermandad
I awaited the arrival of the group with excitement. I always enjoy accompanying the groups that come to visit the Salvadoran Lutheran Church.
I awaited the arrival of the
group with excitement. I always enjoy accompanying the groups that come to
visit the Salvadoran Lutheran Church. When a group comes from the United States
to see a society living in entirely different conditions, it has a
mind-opening, heart-gripping impact on all who see it. It makes us understand
that we need to do something to better the lives of those in need. More
importantly, though, we make new friends. We no longer work with those in need,
we work with Norma, Carlos, Manuel, or Maricela. These friendships grow into
is a Spanish word that generally translates to “partnership”, but
that doesn’t catch the whole sense. Instead, we can think of partnership, brotherhood,
and sisterhood all mixed up in the same pupusa, a traditional Salvadoran food.
In the same way that the pupusa contains beans, cheese, and ground pork all
mashed together into a corn tortilla, hermandad contains different cultures,
lifestyles, languages, and backgrounds all mashed together in a common faith
and hope. The visit then becomes more than just a charity mission trip. It
becomes the essence of Christian community.
own passion for mission started over six years ago on such an adventure in
Nicaragua. My Disciples of Christ region of South Idaho has a historic
partnership with a church called the Iglesia Misión Cristiana (Christian
Mission Church), our Global Ministries partner in that country. After hearing
several stories, I finally had the opportunity to visit for myself. The growth
that came from that and subsequent visits eventually led me to take the
position of a long-term missionary in nearby El Salvador. Through all those
trips and the ones I accompany here in El Salvador, I have seen countless
others commit themselves to a more serious and passionate faith as we work to
bring change to a suffering world.
I enjoy accompanying many groups from various places and churches in the United
States, and often other parts of the world that come to engage in hermandad.
Sometimes I get particularly excited when I know them from before my mission,
like when my parents visited in April, or when representatives from Global
Ministries and various Disciples of Christ regions, including South Idaho and
Montana, visited in May. In the same way, a few weeks ago I anticipated the
arrival of a group I knew. But I started to worry as they started running late.
Most groups fly in, so I know exactly when they should arrive, but it’s much
more difficult to figure it out when they decide to drive. I wasn’t waiting for
friends from the United States. I was waiting for some of the many friends I
had made in the Iglesia Misión Cristiana of Nicaragua.
they finally did arrive, everyone was well and ready for their mission trip
with the Salvadoran Lutheran Church. Two women from the Christian Mission
Church made the trip, along with the Global Ministries missionaries serving in
Nicaragua, a couple with their three-year-old daughter. When we think of
mission trips, we often think of those who come in from the big and powerful
country to use their resources to help provide for those in poor conditions in
the weaker country. We must use our resources to accomplish things that the
local church couldn’t accomplish on its own. What can representatives of a
church with so few resources hope to accomplish on its mission trip to a place
with as many needs as El Salvador? It can accomplish much. They did not come to
build a physical structure. They came to build hermandad.
could only get away for a couple days, so we had a limited time for the
experience. But we made good use of the time we did have. And what better use
of time can we have than in worship of our God? We attended Sunday morning
worship at Pastor Vilma Rodriguez’ church, Ríos de Agua Viva (Rivers of Living
Water), in Mejicanos near the San Salvador volcano. When we arrived, the
visitors immediately commented on the church building, which had been built by
funds from an international partner. The building’s style impressed them. Its
simple, one-room structure resembled the churches they knew from Nicaragua. So
they felt comfortable and indeed felt an immediate connection to the mission of
the Lutheran Church, which focuses on people rather than material things. This
connection is an essential ingredient in the pupusa of hermandad. It reminds us
of the truly important things that unite us even though other things might look
worship service followed the standard Lutheran liturgy, a set order of worship
that emphasizes a calm, reflective approach that involves responsive songs and
silent prayer time.
style contrasts greatly with the Iglesia Misión Cristiana’s high-energy, Pentecostal
worship that involves swaying as the Spirit moves and spontaneous shouts of
praise. In hermandad we could recognize that even with our different styles, we
worship but one God, and that God very much deserves our praise.
amidst all the struggles, God gives us so much. God created the sun and the
rains. God created the animals and the fruits of the earth. Today, we have so
many challenges before us, like poverty and violence, that we can easily forget
that creation did not end after six days. God still provides these things. We
just need to remember how to claim them. Both the Iglesia Misión Cristiana and
the Salvadoran Lutheran Church have agriculture projects that seek to take
advantage of God’s gifts. On the grounds of Fe y Esperanza (Faith and Hope)
Lutheran Church, which lies in Nejapa, around the San Salvador volcano to the
north, the two churches came together in dialogue about their individual
we drove the dirt road that climbs the base of the volcano, we could get a
sense of nature that seldom shows up in the capital city. In this somewhat
remote area, the church grounds served as a refuge for those displaced by war
in the nineteen eighties. Now that the war has passed, the church has adapted
the use of the expansive grounds to accommodate current needs. As economic
struggles rise, access to basic needs becomes more and more difficult, and the
ability for families to provide their own food becomes more and more necessary.
To discuss this, we sat in the shade of a tree and each church shared.
programs aim to feed families in several communities by helping them grow their
own food. The Christian Mission Church in Nicaragua lends out seeds like a
bank, expecting a return at the end of the harvest equal to the same number of
seeds plus a certain percentage. Thus their program jump starts agricultural
productivity for those without the means to do so. In a similar way, the
Salvadoran program, known as the Fight Against Hunger, offers materials to get
the participating families started, but participants must take part in training
sessions first. An agricultural engineer trains them in techniques that use the
waste of one technique for use in another as organic fertilizer or chicken
feed. They also learn to include diversity in their techniques, from raising
earthworms to raising tilapia fish, from growing tomatoes to growing papaya.
This gives participants an opportunity for sustainable sustenance.
The women and men who take
care of this project at Fe y Esperanza showed their enthusiasm when they spoke
about it, and even more excitement when we got up and saw the work in action.
The representatives from Nicaragua took advantage of the tour and learned ways
they could improve their own program. They even took samples of some smelly,
dark fertilizer as an example.
Salvadorans also learned and grew. They grew not just from learning from the
Nicaraguans, but from seeing how their own work impacted and inspired others.
Their work matters. From this encounter, we all grew in solidarity. One group
did not passively receive the blessings of another, but both shared and learned
from each other. Both formed a common link in common mission. We witnessed the
birth of a hermandad.
saw further examples of hermandad during the visit. We grew in understanding
how to serve those in deepest need when we visited the Casa Esperanza, which
gives meals and a place to rest to those who live on the street. We saw how
history can inspire us when we visited the place where Archbishop Óscar Romero was
killed and the Lutheran Church’s own Subversive Cross. In just two days, this
hermandad got off to a good start.
do not know where this new partnership will head, but I do know that Pastor
Santiago Rodriguez, director of the Fight Against Hunger program, expressed
excitement that he might get to visit the seed bank program in Nicaragua, and
that Sonia Cabezas and Claudina Lacayo, the representatives who visited this
time, have made it a goal to build and maintain this relationship. I hope that
many more around the world will also make that connection. May we find others
so that we can help each other in our mutual goals under the guidance of our
mutual Lord. When we see that God’s love knows no boundaries, we can truly work
together. And together, we can achieve much. But these achievements don’t tell
the whole story. At the end of the visit, we took time to hang around and
relax. In that time, we took part in the most important aspect of hermandad…
Nicholas Green serves in El Salvador as a long-term
volunteer with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of El Salvador. He supports the National Youth, with the
Family and Gender Program of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of El Salvador. He also assists with the Communications