Rios de Agua Viva: our sister parish

rios-churchOur partnership with Rios de Agua Viva in San Mauricio, El Salvador began in the early 1990s. It is part of the Companion Synod Program of the ELCA, in conjunction with the Lutheran World Federation, a communion of 140 churches in 78 countries. The program’s purpose is the strengthening of the companion churches for life and mission. At First Lutheran, the program allows us to participate in the life and ministry of Rios de Agua Viva through prayer, communication, exchanging visitors and sharing resources. The Milwaukee Synod of the ELCA is very active in El Salvador and makes available excellent information on El Salvador. A blog by “Tim” has a lot of detail on what’s going on in El Salvador.

Goals

Sister Parish Program Partner churches seek to:

    • Make manifest our unity in Christ through sharing experiences of faith and Christian living
    • Provide a network of concerned friends to advocate for our Salvadoran brothers and sisters should they be in danger or need
    • Support small community-based, sustainable development projects

Current Projects in Rios

1. Sponsor children: Many of the families in the congregation in San Mauricio cannot afford to send their children to school. Pastora Vilma and the church council have identified those children/families who are strongly in need of financial support, limiting aid to one child per family. Members of the congregation at FLC have become “padrinos” (godparents) to individual children in the \ Rios de Agua Viva congregation and sponsor them financially on a monthly basis. The funds go to buy school uniforms, shoes, school supplies and transportation to school. Throughout the year, sponsoring families share photos and exchange letters with their Rios family. We hope that beyond the financial help, this will connect our church families with theirs in a more personal way.Sponsors contribute $25/mo for preschool age children, $30/mo for primary school children, and $40/mo for high school students. If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please contact Karan Barich.

2. Support the after school program: There is great need in San Mauricio for an after school “homework help” program. Pastora Vilma has arranged for a “Committee of Mothers” to work with the children of the church and the community in the afternoons. Additional tutoring is provided by some of the older students and occasionally some student teachers from the nearby Lutheran University. Funding provided helps pay the participating mothers a small stipend. This program is currently supported by Benevolence funds provided by FLC.

3. Provide support for the ongoing ministry of Rios de Agua Viva in the community of San Mauricio: There are variety of special projects and needs that are identified throughout the year that we support through prayer and special financial gifts, including emergency aid for families and individuals. Recent needs were for aid to families who lost their homes in a hurricane and for emergency medical aid for a member of the congregation paralyzed in an accident.

History

    • Our partnership with Rios de Agua Viva, our Sister Parish in San Mauricio, El Salvador. began in the early 1990s when we were introduced through the Companion Synod program. For many years, Christine Segerhammar served as head of the Sister Parish program and maintained our communication with the Pastor in Rios.
    • We received our first visitors from Rios in 1997 and responded by sending a delegation of youth, led by Mark Hurty and Randy Urdahl, in 1998.
    • A second youth delegation traveled to El Salvador in November of 1999.
    • In 2001, following the earthquake that devastated the country, a women’s delegation from FLC went to Rios, taking many needed supplies.
    • During the summer of 2002, we again hosted a small delegation from Rios. Friendships that developed between youth in both congregations blossomed during our latest visit.
    • The latest delegation to visit Rios, the week after Christmas, 2004, consisted of 5 high school youth and 3 adult chaperones. We specifically focused on meeting the people in the congregation and building relationships with them. We visited their homes, shared the Word and prayer, and listened to their concerns. We spent time learning about the civil war that has affected so many of the families in the congregation. Bishop Gomez and his family hosted us for an evening, giving us the opportunity to discuss with him the role of the Lutheran Church in El Salvador. Finally, we had an opportunity to meet with both the Rios Church Council and Youth Council, to discuss their ministry in their community and the plans that they have for the future.

In our most recent trip, many of us at FLC have developed true friendships with our brothers and sisters in San Mauricio. We have a better vision of what their hopes are for their ministry and how we can support them in their efforts. The community there is economically depressed but rich in faith. They have presented to us four specific projects that they would like help with.

Looking ahead

One of the most important things to come out of our most recent visit has been a renewing of friendships. That, in turn, has opened avenues of communication that have previously been a struggle. We are in contact with the people in Rios regularly and have been reminded over and over again just how difficult their lives are, and how much our support, both spiritually and financially, means to them.

It is our goal to keep our Sister Parish in the hearts and prayers of the members of the congregation here at FLC, to report often on their ministry, and to connect our families with theirs through the “Sponsor a Child” program. It is our hope that we, as a congregation, continue to be united in our support of our sister community in El Salvador.