This has been another busy year for the El Salvador Partners Mission Group as we continued to deepen our understanding of economic, political, and social justice issues in El Salvador, and as we continued to nurture our CBC relationships with Shalom Baptist Church in Atiquizaya and Shekina Baptist Church in Santa Ana, our two partner congregations pastored by Alex and Ruth Orantes. The SHARE Foundation has once again supported our El Salvador relationships by providing advocacy resources and issues analysis, and most especially by facilitating our youth delegation and assisting with other "on the ground" networking with people and organizations in El Salvador. We celebrate the news that the Alliance of Baptists increased their mission support for Ruth and Alex Orantes funded through the 2008 "Bridges of Hope" annual mission offering. And financial support from CBC for our El Salvador relationships also continues to be strong, with 2007 Outreach budget providing funds for Shekina's "Open Doors" community outreach program and for Shalom's project for constructing a pastoral center in Atiquizaya. We were honored to receive a Philadelphia Baptist Association Award at the annual PBA Mission Banquet in September '07.
Youth Participation: Looking back on the past year, we are especially pleased with the participation and leadership of youth from both sides of the border who are involved in shaping the visions for our partnerships and who continue to deepen their personal relationships. We regularly have youth participants in our monthly mission group meetings who bring news from their Salvadoran counterparts. Many CBC youth who are high school seniors this year wrote about their experiences in El Salvador in their college application essays. Upon returning from January meetings with youth leaders at Shalom and Shekina in El Salvador, Nora P. inspired the CBC youth group to organize a work-a-thon fundraising event to support the Salvadoran youth group's trip to a sister congregation in Costa Rica. We are excited that Tessa B. is working on a proposal to be a high school exchange student at the Baptist school in Santa Ana. These are all sure signs that CBC's commitment to the people of El Salvador, begun more than 20 years ago, will continue into the future.
Technology: We are making good use of the wonders of computer technology to support our El Salvador connections. Our CBC youth stay in contact on a daily basis with Salvadoran friends through "Hi5," a social networking site similar to Facebook. We have been using Skype for free internet-based phone calls with Ruth and Alex. There are plans to schedule a video conference via Skype with the Shalom pastoral council in Atiquizaya. And our mission group blog provides a central location for telling stories, reporting news, and sharing photos and videos about our El Salvador relationships. For all the latest updates, visit the blog frequently at www.salvadorpartners.blogspot
Highlights of Activities at CBC: We cooperated with the CBC Peacemakers around awareness regarding the School of the Americas in Georgia and non-violent protests at Ft. Benning and showed a documentary video about the SOA military training program. We worked with the CSC/St John Baptist task force for New Orleans in discussions of the nature of partnership relationships. We provided several educational events for youth and adults at CBC, including a speaker about microcredit and microlending models of economic development in Central America and an opportunity to assemble and decorate wooden crosses to send to the SOA protests in Georgia.
Travels to El Salvador, Georgia, and New Orleans: In addition to the June '07 Youth Delegation to El Salvador, there have been several significant opportunities for travel this year which are all highlighted in more detail below.
June '07 -- Youth Delegation to El Salvador: Following months of preparation, a group of seven youth and five adults from CBC spent eight days in El Salvador in June '07. The experience was supported by very generous financial contributions from the CBC congregation responding to the delegation's fundraising activities and the Communion Offering. Youth participants in the delegation were Nora P, Kelsey P, Tessa B, Lucy P, Adam B, Matt S, and Zach T. For Nora, Lucy, and Adam, this was their second CBC youth delegation to El Salvador, and they renewed friendships from their previous experience in 2004. Adults were Jocelyn Emerson, Ron Morgan, Kathleen Bailey, Caroline Cargo, and Bernie Peterson. Alex Orantes and six Salvadoran young people from Shekina Baptist Church and Shalom Baptist Church also traveled with the CBC delegation throughout the week. For the beginning of the trip, the delegation members were hosted by families from Shekina Baptist Church in Santa Ana. Other meetings and events during the week were coordinated by the SHARE Foundation. The itinerary included visits to women's cooperatives, a base Christian community and urban youth program in Mexicanos, various sites in San Salvador, and the community of Nueva Esperanza.
November '07 -- School of the Americas Protests in Georgia: In November '07, Kathy Stayton, Gwenyth Lewis, and Caroline Cargo traveled to Ft. Benning in Georgia for the annual School of the Americas protests. The theme of the weekend was "A Convergence of Hope and Resistance" and it provided an excellent opportunity to network with human rights organizations and other groups focused on Central American justice work in a busy schedule of workshops, plenary sessions, and the culminating procession at the gates of Ft. Benning. In preparation for the events, the Salvador Partners showed a documentary video at CBC about the School of the Americas and provided materials for youth and adults to make wooden crosses to carry in the SOA protest procession marked with names sent by Ruth and Alex Orantes of Salvadoran friends and family members who died in the war.
January '08 -- Meetings with Shalom and Shekina Pastoral Councils and Youth Leaders in El Salvador: Marcus Pomeroy, Ron Morgan, and Nora P spent several days in Santa Ana in January '08 to meet with members of Shalom and Shekina to discuss dreams and priorities for our partnerships with the two congregations. Nora's presence was especially important for focusing on youth concerns. An on-going goal in our partnerships is to develop better communications directly with the pastoral council leaders as we work together in the future.
March '08 -- Meetings in New Orleans with St. John Baptist / CSC and the Alliance of Baptists Convocation: The Salvador Partners coordinated plans to host Ruth Orantes for a trip to New Orleans for a solidarity visit with Rev. Boutte and St. John Baptist and a networking visit with the Alliance of Baptists. We solicited the support of both the Alliance and the Baptist Peace Fellowship in sending letters to the US Embassy in San Salvador to advocate for the approval of Ruth's travel visa. Ruth welcomed the opportunity to be part of the CBC delegation participating in work projects in the Lower Ninth Ward and other Churches Supporting Churches activities. She brought encouragement and a message of hope to the St. John congregation. At the Alliance of Baptists Convocation, Ruth provided leadership at the main plenary session and presented a workshop on Baptist work in El Salvador. On behalf of Salvadoran Baptist leaders, Ruth invited the Alliance to participate in a gathering of Baptists in El Salvador in 2011. We will continue to build on connections made at the Alliance meetings for the future.