The Rappahannock River has a history of mission in El Salvador working with the Evangelical Methodist Church in El Salvador. District United Methodist Volunteers in Mission teams have been traveling to El Salvador since 2013, with the most recent team having just returned in August of 2017. Opportunities to be involved in helping in El Salvador include student sponsorship, direct donations, mission team suppport, medical supplies collections, or mission team participation.
Rev. Dr. Ted Smith's recent articles on the Covenant Relationship the District has with the Evangelical Methodist Church in El Salvador follow below
Revived and Renewed: El Salvador Partnership (Part 1)
It feels like it’s been forever since we connected with our El Salvador ministry partners, even though we sent our last VIM team in 2015. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that many on our Rappahannock River District don’t know (or don’t remember) that we are in a ministry partnership with the Evangelical Methodist Church in El Salvador. To the contrary, I pray that some of us remember that we’ve been in this international ministry partnership since 2012.
The great blessing and joy is that we have revived and renewed our partnership through the connection of last week’s El Salvador mission team.
In November of 2012 we released a bulletin insert that began this way: Luke 14:13-14 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." “We prayed, we shared the prayer feedback, we prayed more, and we selected Mission Partners. We understand that the most important goal of our partnership is to build relationships. We are delighted to introduce our Fredericksburg District International Mission Partner….”
This original 2012 announcement of our ministry partnership also included the announcement of a 2013 November VIM trip to El Salvador. In a fast forward to last week (July 3rd through 7th), we were deeply blessed and excited to connect again with our Methodist partners in El Salvador. We had four days of travel, devotions, house to house visits, a tour of Mayan ruins, and more. The great blessing and joy is that we have revived and renewed our partnership through the connection of last week’s El Salvador mission team.
Revived and Renewed: El Salvador Partnership (Part 2)
At a recent clergy gathering, the Rev. Walt Westbrook made an insightful point during his devotion. Rev. Westbrook said: “There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, there is only ‘we.’” That statement is a great way to describe the mission partnership between the Rappahannock River District and the Evangelical Methodist Church in El Salvador. In our partnership we’ve sent and received mission teams, we’ve shared and received evangelism insights, we’ve affirmed our mutual deep spiritual passion for getting outside our church buildings to connect with our communities, and we’ve inspired each other to venture into new ministry opportunities. Sure, there are obvious differences between us like language, geography, favorite foods, and size, but those differences are miniscule in comparison to our similarities.
The similarities between the Rappahannock River District and the Evangelical Methodist Church in El Salvador are a matter of theological belief, mission vision, and spiritual clarity. We both understand and put into practice the goal of Methodists transforming the world. We both work tirelessly to respond to those who are suffering, especially our children; and we both are amazing stewards getting the most of God’s resources for good in the world.
Our similarities were best lived out during the July 3rd to 7th district mission trip. We arrived in El Salvador in the afternoon and began unpacking the supplies we carried, supplies that would be delivered to churches throughout the Conference. Next, we began to prepare for our neighborhood evangelism and food delivery visits.
On Thursday of the trip, I was able to have fellowship, prayer, and sharing with Bishop de Dios. The important topic was the matter of how the El Salvador Methodist Church is progressing and what a prioritized needs list might look like. Bishop de Dios shared narratives of the tremendous progress the Conference is making in all facets of ministry, especially Bishop Juan Pena de Dios Supply Delivery Food Delivery 2 new church starts. One of the most significant achievements is the effectiveness the Conference is having in reducing gang activity. As many of you know, the gang MS13 is notorious for its crime, violence, and brutality, however, the Methodist Church in El Salvador is reducing and, in some cases, eliminating gang activity. In one community the Methodist Church reduced gang membership from over 60 to 3.
Thus, it is vital to support this partnership in as many ways as possible. The list of partner needs is as follows:
Sponsors for Primary & Secondary School Children - $40 per month/$480 per school year;
Truck Purchase – approximately $12,000
A New Church, School, and Parsonage in two communities (Los Horcones) and Gloria Church in Ahuachapan, Approximate cost is $40,000.
Ahuachapan Primary & Secondary School – first of three Phases $200,000;
School Supplies – to be delivered with teams - Toothbrushes, tablets, used laptops, Spanish Bibles, Spanish UM Hymnals, School Supplies, Vitamins
Medical Clinic – cost based on team particulars. These accomplishments make it imperative that we help our Methodist El Salvador partners keep their effective ministries going.
Revived and Renewed: El Salvador Partnership (Part 3)
I love the way Hollywood sometimes releases a “Prequel” to the story. The prequel sheds more light on the story (we don’t all know) before the story (we do all know). The El Salvador prequel many don’t know is how we, the Rappahannock River District came to become a mission partner with the Evangelical Methodist Church in El Salvador.
The former Fredericksburg District was created as a result of Virginia Conference redistricting. In February 2011, Bishop Charlene Kammerer asked that I serve as the DS of the newly aligned Fredericksburg District saying: “Unify the district and provide a vision.” As a result of that call and conversation I began to pray about unity of the district and a vision. The result of the prayer was a four part district vision and ministry focus that included creating a process to connect with an international mission partner. From Mid-June through early July 2011, district laity and clergy began prayer and discernment about which international Methodists we might partner with. Our connection with the Methodists in El Salvador was based on close location via air travel, relatively low airfare cost, the desperate needs in El Salvador, the average cost of sending teams, and the Methodist clarity of desiring relationship building above all other goals.
God has greatly blessed the El Salvador Methodists and the people of our district. The relationship has been one in which our partners have sent teams to us and we have sent teams to them. We have learned a great deal about our friends and they have learned a great deal about us. We’ve remained committed to Christ’s mandate to Go Make Disciples. Since 2011, both the El Salvador Methodist church and the Rappahannock District have experienced spiritual and numeric growth.
In a fast forward to this summer, our July team of seven built upon the foundation started years ago. Our team also remains amazed at how our Methodist partners are engaged in the most challenging cultural situations and the ways they are seeing results. It cannot be over emphasized that in every place where the El Salvador Methodists offer community ministries we see a drastic reduction in gang activity. The numbers in the Gloria Church community have been checked and double checked to confirm a reduction from 60+ gang members to 3. How is this possible? It is because the opportunity of an education causes children and teens to turn away from the gang(s). How can we continue to help? Thanks for asking!
As a result of prayer, continued relationship building, and conversation, we know exactly how we can assist and support our Methodist El Salvador partners. In fact, our District Mission Board is sending a recommendation to the Rappahannock River District Connectional Ministry Council. The Mission Board has made the first commitment of help and is asking our congregations and our Connectional Council to join in the effort. The Mission Board is asking every church to pray for our El Salvador partners and to begin collecting school supplies. Churches are also asked to consider sponsoring a student at $40 month/$480 per year – so that we can help keep the gang reduction going. The Mission Board will help the El Salvador Methodist Church purchase a much needed truck and is asking the Connectional Council to make a financial gift for the truck in 2017 as well as a gift for church construction in 2018. The Council is being asked to provide these means of support from our reserve funds rather than apportion our churches.
In the coming weeks and during the Charge Conference season you’ll hear more about our Methodist El Salvador partners and about the specifics of responding to their most urgent needs. We’ll tell you more specific details about sponsoring a student, about school supply collection sites, and about our collective effort to undergird our partners with prayerful and tangible support.
So, we are asking every congregation to begin in prayer for our El Salvador Mission partners and asking every congregation to begin discussing which of the support responses your church is feeling led to engage. For example, it would be great if each of our churches would sponsor 1 student and collect school supplies.
We also hope you’ll be in prayer about who from your congregation might join the 2018 El Salvador District Mission Team. Grace and Peace!