Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dresses Brighten Day in La Llanes, El Salvador

Left to right: Josseline, Marina, Marta, and Carmen.

Ismael (a leader in the La Llanes canton) called everyone near and said some beautiful words of gratitude. He mentioned that most everyone has clothing – but when they buy something “new” – it isn’t new. They buy used clothing that people sell on the streets of Berlín. This was a special gift to have something new.

I told them a little about you (Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Des Moines): ‘...that a group of women with the gift of their sewing hands and with their hearts full of love... made clothing for their brothers and sisters. You had heard about them in our stories and were moved to raise funds for their water tanks… and even after that, you kept them in your hearts and wanted to do more. So, here we were with these gifts made with love, and I told them again (they had your letter—see excerpt below) they are always in your prayers.’

During the give-away and as we were leaving, people came up to us for a hug and to ask us to tell you ‘thank you’. And that they are also praying for you. And to please greet everyone.

So, please, accept our words of thanks. With all our hearts (the community, the Pastoral Team and me) we say thank you. Thank you for your beautiful gift: for the time and effort it took to make them, for your hearts that were touched by God. And then so touched – moved to share with your new family in La Llanes.

Blessings to all of you. With great affection and gratitude,

(especially Blanca, Cecilia and Idalia who shared in this give-away)
“Today, I took a suitcase full of 85 little dresses, big dresses, and shorts for the girls, mothers, and boys of La Llanes. Our ladies of the church have been sewing dresses and shorts for sometime. Our church was so generous with providing money for the water storage containers, we wanted to do something personal. So we have sent these clothes with the delegation of the Dallas Center First Presbyterian Church, and are asking that you see they get to La Llanes. The dresses are so cute and we wanted the girls, moms, and boys to know that someone far away thinks of them, prays for them, and loves them enough to make them lovely garments to wear. We hope that they will enjoy them and get lots of good wear out of them... We just want them to enjoy their clothes. We appreciate your work and love of the people. The work you do is so important and I know that God smiles each time he sees you with the people. God bless you each and every day. Thank you for your help in getting the clothes to our friends.”
~Mary Lou Briles, Park Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Attend the Presbytery Holiday Open House

Merry Christmas!

The Des Moines Presbytery will host a Christmas Open House at the Des Moines Presbytery Office on Friday, December 2.

Everyone is welcome to join us and visit our office from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We’ll have appetizers, treats and punch available, so stop by and celebrate the season with the Presbytery staff!

From your Presbytery staff:
Rev. Phil Barrett, Rev. Goanar Chol, Kim Coulter, Nancy Lister-Settle and Betty Dyer

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Outstanding Older Adult Award Goes To...

For two years now, the Des Moines Presbytery’s Older Adult Ministry Task Force has asked our church sessions to submit nominations of an outstanding senior adult for this award that recognizes mature, service-minded and Christian modeling of faith.

This year's nominees and their families were honored at the Presbytery's Nov. 8, 2011 Stated Meeting at First Presbyterian Church in Oskaloosa. They each received a certificate during the ceremony and a free meal hosted by the church. The winner was Luree Straup from First Presbyterian Church in Allerton, Iowa. Luree does the daily devotions in the Mission Yearbook and is currently reading through the Bible – for the third time! She received a special commemoration plaque.

Congratulations to all 13 nominees—you are all winners in God’s eyes! Thanks goes to each church and their sessions for the following nominations:
  • Al and Emily Wyckoff (Ankeny)
  • Barbara Boatwright (Des Moines, First)
  • Mary Lou Briles (Des Moines, Park Avenue)
  • DeVerne Dixon (Indianola, Trinity United)
  • Gene Freese (Atlantic, First United)
  • Harriet George (Clive, Heartland)
  • Madonna Jack (Hartford, Community United)
  • Bob Mahaffey (Des Moines, Union Park)
  • Kathryn Renoe (LeRoy, First)
  • Luree Baker Straup (Allerton, United)
  • Lola Timmins (Ottumwa, Westminster)
  • Dianne Van Gorp (Oskaloosa, First)
And the award goes to Luree Straup, (Allerton, First).
The OAM Task Force members felt all were qualified – even over qualified! And it was very difficult to center on one person, from the amazing report of the walks in faith over many, many years. Each person’s story will be highlighted in the monthly OAM eNewsletters.

Their lives will be inspirations to us all to never retire from listening for God’s whispers.

Older Adult Ministries Task Force Moderator Darlene Shepherd or 641-673-5793.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Joining Hands with Egypt - Day 3

The Des Moines Presbytery's Hunger Action Enabler and Social Ministries Task Force Moderator Nancy Lister-Settle writes of her trip to Egypt, October 11-18, 2011.

It's not all work and no play here in Egypt. On Sunday, TFD Network Coordinator Nabil Sisostres, and his family took us to Ein Sukhna on the Red Sea for a day of relaxation. Rather, as much relaxation as you can have with two 4-year-olds!

Nabil, his wife Safi, mother Nana and twins Simon and Skylen entertained us at their beachside condo. And since Sunday is a work day for most Egyptians, we had the sands nearly exclusively to ourselves.

We walked the shoreline picking up seashells and pieces of coral. We basked in the sun on powdery soft sand. We inspected the jellyfish the kids found. We watched a constant parade of oil tankers on the horizon, heading for the Suez Canal. It was a delight. As the sun went down we celebrated Nabil’s birthday (a day late) with an Arabic birthday song and a trick candle that sent Simon and Skylen into fits of laughter. Safi’s cake was delicious!

The super highway between Cairo and Ein Sukhna is beautiful—in the median are giant Egyptian urns and pharaonic sculptures. The trucks and cars use separate roads. And the speed limit is 10 km/hr faster than any other road in Egypt!

Nabil and Safi thanked us for the day at the beach house—they seldom take the time away from home and work to enjoy it. We assured them that we would be happy to fly in anytime they needed a getaway. They thought I was joking.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Joining Hands with Egypt - Day 2

The Des Moines Presbytery's Hunger Action Enabler and Social Ministries Task Force Moderator Nancy Lister-Settle writes of her trip to Egypt, October 11-18, 2011.
Back in Cairo, we met with one of the first organizations to enlist in the Joining Hands-Egypt network: Association for Protection of the Environment (APE). This group works in Moqattam with the community of garbage collectors, the Zabaleen. APE has been offering training to the women of the community in paper-making, rug weaving and patchwork along with literacy classes and children's programs. Since March of this year they have been holding civic education workshops as part of the Together for Family Development (TFD) campaign. We met with the APE project leadership.
The APE staff told us about their approach to enabling citizens. They worked with a television production company to create a role play illustrating the important elements of active citizenship and presented it in four locations and at the big Coptic Orthodox Church in Moqattam. They selected 10 women from the community to take the workshop to their own neighborhoods--training trainers. The role play was recorded and now can be shared with other organizations.

The staff told us they feel that the people of Moqattam now know the language of politics, they can think for themselves about candidates and issues, and they have a new sense of responsibility to take part in the upcoming elections.

I asked if the common people had access to candidates so that they could express their concerns and raise the issues that are important to them. The women told me that the candidates would not meet with the voters, but instead would make appointments with community leaders (i.e., the priest at the Coptic Orthodox Church in Moqattam). After thinking a minute, one of the ladies from the community commented that they needed to make sure that the priest knew what the critical issues for the Zabaleen actually were!
There is concern, of course, that intimidation and violence will erupt at election time--especially in the slums of Cairo--which would keep people from going to vote. Husbands would keep their wives at home rather than expose them to danger, so the women would not be able to participate.
The final request from the staff of APE and the women who have taken part in the civic education program: "Pray for us and all of Egypt during these uncertain times."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Joining Hands with Egypt – Day 1

The Des Moines Presbytery's Hunger Action Enabler and Social Ministries Task Force Moderator Nancy Lister-Settle writes of her trip to Egypt, October 11-18, 2011.

I've been waiting since February for this visit to our Joining Hands partners in Egypt--those plans were interrupted by the revolution. Last Sunday, when Dave Best and I were preparing to leave, news of violence in Cairo caused a flurry of phone calls and emails from concerned family, friends and PC(USA) staff.
We made the decision to leave on Tuesday as scheduled. We came with the understanding that our itinerary would be adjusted, to avoid areas of high tension. The Joining Hands network here decided in March that it was imperative that they adjust their campaign for 2011 to focus on enabling people to be informed citizens for the upcoming elections. After a three-day workshop for network representatives, each member organization designed a project especially for their own community.
Nancy Lister-Settle is in the back row, standing, second from the right.
David Best is in the center, middle row, seated.
On our first day, Dave and I traveled to Alexandria to hear from partners there about their project. Nada Thabet and Village of Hope work primarily with families of children with disabilities. They designed a program to teach political terminology, how to assess parties and candidates, the electoral process, and understanding political campaigns. They decided to work in primarily in poorer areas of Alexandria because people there were generally less educated and had less access to information. Even though their workshops were promoted to the families they serve, they were open to anyone elegible to vote.
We met with women who had already completed the training; their experience was profound:
"The women are humble, simple people and they were very excited to learn new things!"
"We didn't know political terminology, so we had been easily influenced before--after the training we could think for ourselves."
"We thought our voice and our votes were useless."
"If you see something that isn't going well, you can vote for better representatives who share your concerns."
One woman told us that before she came to the training she knew little about politics, and she wasn't searching to know more. She said the training opened the door and transformed her and the other women she works with.
In addition, the larger association of organizations in Alexandria, all working with the disabled, agreed to all support a candidate or party who put the rights of the disabled in their platform. They are also working with officials to make voting accessible to adults with disabilities.

As our conversation ended I asked the women if they believed that the people who had attended the trainings would all vote. They replied, "No, not all of them. Probably 90%."
Nada and the Village of Hope also created a small, easy to understand booklet as part of their training for political life--these will be available to anyone.
The next morning Dave and I enjoyed a relaxing morning with Nada and her family beside the sea. It was easy to imagine a brighter future for Egypt after talking with our Alexandria partners.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Circle of Trust: A Soul Tending Group for Spouses of Clergy

Spouses of clergy know they often face unique and specific challenges in their lives and in their roles, roles often not well defined, as partners in a clergy couple.

The stresses of these challenges may at times push them up against important ways in which they thought they knew about themselves, their family systems, their friendships, and their own religious and spiritual beliefs.

Individuals married to a pastor have a “position”, whether wanted or not. With this position comes an image or a role which, if not seen clearly as an opportunity for growth in one’s own spiritual journey, can result in becoming trapped in ways of living and behaving that are not authentic and life-giving.

A Circle of Trust will focus on the spirituality of the clergy spouse and address topics such as learning to trust oneself, understanding and creating healthy boundaries, finding one’s voice, and facing change and transition. Kathy Reardon from the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, has put together this workshop for clergy spouses which will focus on cultivating spiritual growth. She needs at least six participants but no more than eight to hold the class. The deadline for registration is October 20, 2011 so if you are interested, please contact her at DMPCC as soon as possible to register.

This circle of trust will meet on the first Tuesday of the month from 10 a.m.-Noon at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, 8553 Urbandale Ave., in Urbandale (near the Panera Bread restaurant on 86th Street and the Presbytery office). Enrollment is limited to eight.

This series of seven sessions is scheduled for November 1, and December 6, of 2011, and February 7, March 6, April 3, May 1 and June, of 2012. Cost per person is $280 (The Des Moines Presbytery has agreed to pay $50 per participant.).

If you have questions or need more information, contact: Chris Davis (Clive, Heartland), 515-771-2017 or Mary Ellen Stanley (Leon, First), 641-442-5301.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Join SMTF in an Interfaith Special Event on Palestine-Israel U.S. Policy!

What would eight million dollars-a-day do for our economy, our state, and our nation?Israel receives a free gift of $8.0 million a day from the U.S. government and our taxes. And it’s used for oppressive policies against the Palestinian people.
Come to the U.S. Policy in Palestine--Israel Conference, Oct. 14 and 15, in Ankeny, Iowa. More information and background on the critical issues in the Middle East will be provided and you'll learn how Iowans can make a change to U.S. policies.

An interfaith group under the umbrella of American Friends Service Committee,, has brought together individuals from the Des Moines and Eastern Iowa areas to sponsor the conference, U.S. Policy in Palestine--Israel: Engaging the Faith Communities in Pursuit of a Just Peace, Oct. 14 & 15, at Our Lady of Immaculate Heart Church, 510 East First St., Ankeny.

The Presbytery’s Social Ministries Task Force is a contributor and member, the honorably retired Rev. Liz Knott, is one of the event planners and they have been planning for almost a year! There will be four plenaries and four tracks of workshops on various issues. Registration fee: $30 and includes three meals in the registration price. Friday and Saturday evening a Mediterranean meal will be served!

The keynote speakers will be spell binding!
  • Phyllis Bennis of the Institute on Policy Studies and author of numerous books on the Middle East;
  • Ali Abunimah, a first generation Palestinian-American and founder and executive director of the Electronic Intifada;
  • Josh Ruebner of the U.S. Campaign to End The;
  • Lynn Pollock of Jewish Voice for Peace and
  • Laila El-Haddad will have stories about the Gaza strip.
A complete program listing is available on the AFSC website.

Please encourage our Presbyterian members to come and learn. Brochures and registration materials are available from our Presbytery Office or go online to: or

Friday, September 30, 2011

Deadline Extended for Submissions to Outstanding Older Adult Award

Last year's award presentation at the Downtown Marriot in Des Moines, Iowa. Nominees are recognized in the presentation and also given a certificate and meal with their family and friends during the Presbytery's stated meeting.
The OAM Task Force of the Presbytery of Des Moines invites your church’s Session to nominate one person for the 2011 Outstanding Older Adult Award, to be honored at the Des Moines Presbytery’s November 8th Stated Meeting in Oskaloosa.

Your nominee should be a person who is 65 years or older and should exemplify the art of growing older while deepening their faith. This person need not be actively involved in the church at this time in their life. Their record stands for the great work they have done while they were aging.

The submission deadline is Sept. 26, 2011. Submission deadline is now Oct. 18th.  The nomination forms and fliers are available online at: . 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It’s Time to Schedule PC(USA) Mission Co-workers Itinerating in Iowa

The Stewardship and Mission Interpretation (SMI) Committee of the Des Moines Presbytery will be hosting two missionaries in the next couple of months:
The Rev. Douglas and Dr. Elizabeth Searles have served since 1997 in international ministries in India, China and now Central Europe. They are jointly appointed by Global Ministries and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and supported by three denominations: United Church of Christ, Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, and PC(USA). The Searles live in Lodz, Poland and their call is to walk with Kosciol Ewangelicko-Reformowany (KER), the Evangelical-Reformed Church of Poland, a minority and marginalized church. They work to support initiatives of evangelism, church growth, and ecumenical relations. A new area of outreach work supports Roma people – formerly known as Gypsies – residents of Europe for over 500 years. Stigmatized, loathed and persecuted, Sinti/Lovari/Roma face severe human rights challenges. The Searles have begun to build relations encouraging capacity-building, advocacy and other ecumenical efforts towards acceptance, access and inclusion for Roma. Their final itinerary dates with the Des Moines Presbytery are Sept. 26-Oct. 5. If you are interested in inviting the Searles to your church, contact SMI Committee Moderator Sandy Wagener or 515-964-3762.
The Rev. Cobbie Palm has served since 1989 with Presbyterian World Mission in the Philippines. He is currently director of spiritual formation at the Divinity School at Silliman University. Silliman University was founded by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 1901, and has evolved into a premier academic institution under the auspices of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). In this ministry, Cobbie designs and facilitates spiritual retreats and workshops, which are incorporated into the semester for each class, the faculty, and the whole seminary community. “I truly enjoy this ministry,” Cobbie writes, “we sing and perform, pray, reflect, and worship with such enthusiasm and joy knowing that for a refreshing change performance is not a grade point average.” As part of the annual 2011 Mission Connections Live!, Cobbie will be here in south central Iowa from October 1-5. If you are interested in having him meet with your church members, contact SMI Committee Moderator Sandy Wagener or 515-964-3762.

HOSTING IS EASY: Keep arrangements and meals simple. There is no need for fancy meals or lodging. Once you’ve established a specific date with the coordinator, it’s good to develop a 4-person team:
  1. Advance liaison to let them know the entire “plan”
  2. Presentation liaison for audio-visual and other set-up arrangements in the meeting space 
  3. Host and transportation liaison for housing, meals, etc. 
  4. Onsite event assistant to greet the guest at the site, help set-up and staff a display table, count heads, gather email addresses and contact info, clean-up and get stuff to the car, and generally help out.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Recap of Synod School 2011 from the Keeping In Touch News

The following stories are from the Synod of Lakes and Prairies newsletter, Keeping In Touch, August 11, 2011 issue. The story links are found on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s News Service website at

Two of the articles below are of special importance to the Des Moines Presbytery and are about our own Director of Communications Kim Coulter (Clive, Heartland) and another story of a former member of the Knox United Presbyterian Church in Des Moines, the Rev. Burns Stanfield family.

Consider attending Synod School next year at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, July 22-27, 2012. (Thanks to Synod Communications Editor Duane Sweep for permission to repost.)
Synod school teacher demonstrates new media role in evangelism: A short video, a little bit of show and tell, and a lot of discussion – it’s the way Kim Coulter led her class on social media here at Buena Vista University during the 58th Synod of Lakes and Prairies' Synod School. With an opening video that proclaimed, “If Facebook were a country, it’d be the world’s third largest,” Coulter made the argument that social media can play a role in the church. The complete PNS story is at:
Presbyterian family share stories of Kenya during Synod School: When Lorraine Stanfield turned 50 last spring, she didn’t want a party. She wanted her family to go with her to Kenya to serve people – and maybe take in a safari near the end of the two-week visit, which the family did. The Stanfields, of Milton, Mass., offered a workshop describing highlights of their trip during Synod of Lakes and Prairies’ Synod School, held during the last week of July at Buena Vista University. The complete PNS story is at:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Big Tent Recap: Together in Christ

More than 1,700 Presbyterians gathered in Indianapolis, Ind., July 1-3 for Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s second Big Tent. Find reports, videos, and resources from Big Tent. And here are a few stories:
  • Innovative models for ministry in the modern world. ‘Come and See.’
  • Then and now: read how women are changing the meaning of “role model” in the church.(Article was written by Kim Coulter, director of communications for the Des Moines Presbytery.)
  • God will make way: Read how one pastor believes we can become a more cross cultural church.
  • Read why Calvin’s 16th-century lessons are vital to our 21st-century church.
(Reprinted from One in the Spirit, a monthly email from Executive Director Linda Valentine strengthening community between the General Assembly Mission Council and Middle Governing Bodies.)
The Des Moines Presbytery had a few people in attendance: Rev. Dave Madsen, Rev. Goanar Chol, and Magdy Kago (DM, Cottage Grove Avenue), Rev. Betty Sandy (DM, Clifton Heights), Martie Larson, CLP (Clive, Heartland), Cindy Lou Ray (Windsor Heights, Windsor), General Presbyter and Stated Clerk Rev. Phil Barrett, and Director of Communications Kim Coulter.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Presbytery’s Summer Camp Dates/Times Are Set!

Location for all the summer camps sponsored by the Des Moines Presbytery this year is at the Wesley Woods Camp & Retreat Center near Indianola.
  • PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY CAMP (all ages)........$315.....June 26-July 2 (3 p.m./10:30 a.m.)
  • S.P.L.A.T. (Seek, Play, Learn, Act, Teach, ages 6-9).....$189.....June 5-7, June 22-24, & July 27-29
  • SUMMER FUN CAMP (4th-8th & 9th-12th grades*)...$340*...July 17-23 (5 p.m./9:30 a.m.)
    *(Cost of attending camp is reduced to$290 for youth leaders – 9th-12th grades.)
  • SUMMER FRIENDS CAMP (2nd-3rd grades).............$195.....July 20-23 (2 p.m./9:30 a.m.)

For camp descriptions, brochure, registration materials and scholarship applications, visit the Presbytery’s website at: Questions? Contact Camp Registrar Dennis Britson, 515-282-9139 or
Other Iowa Presbyterian camps include:

P.S. Did you know that you can ‘Follow’ us on Facebook? Search for ‘Des Moines Presbytery Youth’ and ‘Summer Fun Camp’. See old photos and reminisce with others from summer camps going way back!

Monday, April 11, 2011

2011 Lunch & Learn Series is Set!

Here is the line up for our Des Moines Presbytery’s Lunch and Learn Series. We'll be changing to the 2nd Thursday of each month for 2011. The first one was Feb. 10, 2011 and we had two people in the Presbytery Office and two participated via web conference!

Pastors, church staff, lay leaders and volunteers are invited to join us. From Noon – 1 p.m. we’ll offer a communications and educational discussion/training to our congregations. If you currently work at a church, either as a pastor, staff member, volunteer or lay leader join us for an informal discussion and information sharing time each month.

Each month a topic has been identified around which the majority of the discussion will revolve. Participants are encouraged to bring questions, samples, and insights related to the topic. In addition, you’ll be able to network with others and share recent projects or accomplishments, or ask those “burning questions”.

For those who live far away, you can participate by Webconference and conference call with the proper computer and a separate phone line. Contact the office to receive instructions for your church.

All lunch sessions are free. Just bring your brown bag lunch and we’ll provide the beverages (a microwave and frig are available too). RSVPs are recommended, especially if you want to participate by Webconference. Here are the 2011 Dates and Topics:
  • February 10 – Social Networking: Making it Work for Your Church. Kim Coulter, director of communications for the Des Moines Presbytery, recently spoke at the COM/CPM training for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies and she’ll be recapping her presentation on using social media for church.
  • March 10 – Web Sites: How to Make Your Church Presence on the Internet. Kim Coulter will give instructions and tips on creating a Web site or blog from scratch for free or little investment except time.
  • April 14 – Transformed by Walking in Solidarity with Our Brothers and Sisters in El Salvador Kathy Mahler, the Des Moines Presbytery’s mission co-worker to El Salvador, will give us an update on the ministry of Our Sister Parish and Compañeros.
  • May 12 – Advocacy Opportunities for Your Church in Iowa. Nancy Lister-Settle (Dallas Center, First) and Marcia McAdoo (Ankeny) went to Ecumenical Advocacy Days, March 25-28 in Washington, D.C.
  • June 9 – Stories from a Nursing Home in Egypt. Denise England, PC(USA) mission co-worker to Egypt, will reflect on her work as a geriatric nurse and with the latest uprising in Egypt.
  • July 14 – Iowa Religious Media Services shares some of their best Christian education resources. Executive Director Sharon Strohmaier will also give a sneak peek of the RE:image Conference on Sept. 17.
  • August 11 – Session Clerks are the Back Bone of the Church. Polk Davison, clerk of session from the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Des Moines is one of the longest serving clerks in our Presbytery. Let’s pick his brain about the responsibilities of being a clerk!
  • September 8 – Activate your Faith… what can it look like in your church? Rev. Jan Scott will show us what Covenant Presbyterian Church in West Des Moines has done to encourage their members and friends.
  • October 13 – Communicating Multigenerationally. Dr. Matt Bruinekool, professor at Drake University, will talk about the experiences, values and expectations shaping the various generations within your congregation. Learn to take advantage of the opportunities provided in this diverse landscape of people.
  • November 10 – What they didn't teach me in seminary: how to moderate the session, and run a congregational meeting. General Presbyter and Stated Clerk Phil Barrett will help us with Roberts Rules tips and more!
  • December 8 – How to lead the ministry in administration.
  • Presbytery Office Manager Betty Dyer and Communications Director Kim Coulter will share what they learned at the recent Synod of Lakes and Prairies Administrative Assistants Retreat.

Friday, March 25, 2011

PW Spring Connection is Takin' it to the Streets

“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” ~Matthew 25:40 On Saturday, April 9, 2011, at the First Presbyterian Church, 1204 13th St. in Dallas Center, IA 50063 the Des Moines Presbytery's PW Gathering will be held. Guest speaker is Dr. Roberta Victor of CROSS Ministries. Worship and Holy Communion will be lead by Rev. Julie Sterling. Activities include a Street Fair with church mission displays available. Don’t forget to bring your Birthday Offering! Plus the offering of the day will go to CROSS Ministries. Don Justo Coffee from El Salvador, Egyptian Scarves and other items will be available for sale. Bring money to spend! Lunch cost is $6. So make your reservations by April 2, to PW Moderator Rev. Linda O’Connell, 641-203-3660. See you on the Streets!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Trinity UPC Delegation & Friends - Day 8

Day 8 - Standing in solidarity with our El Salvador brothers and sisters

This was a hard morning. We had to say good-bye to our delegation buddies. We have lived and breathed with them for the past 7 days and it’s going to be hard to be without them. After the obligatory delegation photo in front of the Pastoral House mural that appears on the front of the house, Larry Leper, Denise Core, Margaret Blair, Linda O'Connell and Betty 'Liz' Sandy were picked up at 8:30 a.m. by Alfredo in the white microbus – the same driver and vehicle that had brought us to this place.

That left us (Maurice and Betty Dyer), at the house with the pastoral team, Kathy Mahler, our fearless mission co-worker and Alisha Lundberg, who arrived the day before we did in San Salvador. Alisha is a native of Des Moines and the Westminster Presbyterian Church and has arrived down here for a 10-month stay to teach English at one of the local schools, along with the possibility of another school and private lessons. We had the privilege of having her join us for the week during all of our adventures. She was a true delight and we did so much enjoy her company and it felt like she’d been made an honorary delegation member.

No sooner had our delegation buddies left, then it was announced by Blanca that they were very sad to tell us that WE WERE GOING TO THE BEACH! They wanted us to have a relaxing day at the beach and honestly, not only did we need it, but I think they all did, too! We packed up everything needed for a day at the beach and headed to Usulutan where we just had a little farther to drive to the local beach.

It was unbelievably beautiful! We had our own little hut complete with mucho hammocks. We waded in the Pacific Ocean, got soaking wet and lounged to our heart’s content. We ordered lunch that came with giant fishies on our plates. We bought jewelry from the locals when the little girl showed up with her big eyes. We also bought from a gentleman who came with a larger variety of items.

We were home again by 5:00 p.m. and after finishing up our decorations for the Alejandria celebration on Thursday and we crashed. It had been a long day and a long week.

A big thank you goes out to the wonder members of the pastoral team here. Blanca, Cecilia, Idalia, Aminta, Balmore & Jesus.

They go so far above and beyond to make our visits great ones. What wonderful individuals they are and such dedicated ones! Who else would do the wonderful work that they do and not get paid for it?

And Kathy has outdone herself, yet once again. The relaxed way that she takes on any and all situations never ceases to amaze me. She has such a gift for doing the work that she’s doing here. We are so blessed to have her in this position representing all of us in the Des Moines Presbytery. If you have experienced her work first hand, then you already know what I mean. If you have not, ask anyone who has been on a delegation here.

Thanks to my wonderful traveling buddies for the past week: Larry Lepper, Denise Core, Margaret Blair, Linda O’Connell, Betty Sandy and the love of my life, Maurice Dyer. I can’t tell you how glad I am that he was able to come with me on this trip. I know that all of my traveling buddies, and especially Maurice, “get it.” They understand the importance of coming to El Salvador to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters here. ~Betty

Pictured above: Larry Lepper, Betty Sandy, Margaret Blair, Betty Dyer, Denise Core, Linda O'Connell and Maurice Dyer.

Trinity UPC Delegation & Friends - Day 7

Day 7 – Trinity United Presbyterian Church El Salvador Delegation ,
by Larry G. Lepper

The day began with a wonderful breakfast prepared by Cecelia of the Pastoral staff. It consisted of scrambled eggs, fried plantains, beans and tortillas. Being Valentine’s Day, there was a card and small turtle toy at each place setting. They were from Betty Dyer to each of us. It was very thoughtful of Betty. The Pastoral team marched in with a gift for each of us. Each of us received candy and a small gift. It was a great breakfast.

Our schedule for the day was to visit two schools in or near Berlin. We gathered our gifts we had brought for the schools and prepared to leave. Before we could leave I went with Kathy Mahler to put gas in the truck. There are two gas stations in Berlin. The first one we visited is very close to the Pastoral House. As we pulled in the station attendant shouted “No gas!” So it was off to the other station where we purchased gas. One does not say “Fill ‘er up” but tells the attendant an exact dollar amount to put in the tank. Yes, it is full service. Kathy asked for $40 of gas. That $40 put 10.61 gallons into the tank. That’s $3.77 per gallon.

Then it was off to two schools. At the both schools we visited kindergarten, and first and second grades. Students either go in the morning or afternoon. Mornings were the younger children and afternoons older children. The first school had about 45 children in the morning and 45 in the afternoon. Kathy first introduced us with our Spanish names. Then Kathy asked each of them their name. They were a bundle of energy, just like kids everywhere. They counted 1 to 10 in Spanish and then we did also. Then they sang a song to us and we returned the favor with a simple rendition of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands….” We then presented the teachers with gifts for the school consisting of white board markers, glue, permanent markers, jump ropes, crayons, craft supplies and coloring books. The children at the first school led us on a very short walk to their soccer field where they would play at recess. Being the dry season it was dusty and a little worn from all the little feet running over it. They were more fortunate than the second school which was right in the city and had a small paved play ground.

The second school had about 125 students. We visited both morning classes with the same procedure as the first school. Not as many school uniforms were evident in this school as the first. We assume the lack of uniforms was due to personal finances of the family.

We were struck by the dedication of teachers. They were trying to do so much with very limited resources. The children were like most random groups; some were natural leaders and others were quiet and reserved. The children were bursting with energy which we enjoyed.

After the school visits we returned to Casa Pastoral for a wonderful lunch of chicken, beans, fresh pineapple, fresh papaya, rice, onion salad and tortillas. Then it was off to the coffee finca (farm) to learn about growing, harvesting and processing coffee. Senor Evers was the coffee foreman who showed us around and explained the process. Not much was happening on the finca as the harvest was completed a couple of months ago. We saw the nursery where new coffee plants were being cultivated. Shade trees as well as cocao plants were also being raised. Some of the areas of the finca had both coffee and cocoa plants.

Coffee is grown in the shade of other trees. The larger trees protect the coffee plants from too much sun. The manager of the finca has to know the proper amount of shade required to produce the best coffee. Each coffee plant produces about 10 lbs. of coffee beans. Buds were now on the plants waiting for the rains to begin in April-May when they would bloom and produce this year’s crop. The crop can vary widely with this past year’s crop being about 3 times the previous year.

The coffee plant produces a fruit called “cherries”. Each cherry generally has 2 coffee beans although it is possible to have three. The first process is to pick the cherries, and this is done by hand. Only the ripe cherries are picked and harvest generally takes 2 pickings. The land where the coffee grows can be very steep so workers must walk around the plants to harvest the cherries. The cherries are taken to a central processing site where the hulls are removed leaving the beans. The beans are then spread on a concrete drying bed, where it takes about seven days to dry the bean for either roasting or storage. The dry beans can be stored for up to one year before roasting. We did find some cherries and put them into our mouth to taste. We chewed and did not detect a hint of coffee flavor. We also did the same with the dried coffee beans with the same results. The flavor we associate with coffee doesn’t develop until the bean is roasted.

After the finca visit we returned to the Casa Pastoral to rest before taking the pastoral team to a nice dinner in Alegria, as it is our last evening here. Alegria is located up the mountain from Berlin. Along the road up the mountain is a beautiful view of the Lempa River Valley. Several volcanoes could be seen in the distance. There were seven of us travelers plus six from La Casa Pastoral. We had all worked very hard together and shared many experiences during the week. Several toasts were made and a few tears shed as we will miss our new friends greatly. Tonight we pack for the trip home and head to the international airport in San Salvador in he morning. We have so many wonderful experiences we are anxious to share with the people of Iowa.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Trinity UPC Delegation & Friends - Day 6

Day 6 - Sunday at Casa de Zacate

This is the sixth day of our adventure in El Salvador, Betty "Lizbet" Sandy reporting. In case you are wondering why the unusual name, there are two "Bettys" in the El Salvador Delegation. It was confusing to call out Betty and get two responses at the same time. Since Maurice Dyer is here with his wife, Betty, I decided to use my legal given name, Elizabeth which is often "Lizbet" in El Salvador. So that's who's writing here.

Our schedule has been very full all week. We get up at 6 a.m., breakfast at 7 a.m., and today, we were on our way to the market in Berlin at 8:15 a.m. We walked the streets of Berlin about three square blocks and everything in the middle. There were stores, vendors, and farmers all selling their wares. Three-wheeled taxis were weaving in and out along with buses and large truck transports that were bringing people into the city from the villages. They have been up since dawn to cook and do chores and then walk to church and market.

At 8:40 a.m., we walked over to San Jose Catholic Church. We participated in the Mass as much as we could. We even sang two familiar songs including the chorus to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" entitled "Gloria, Gloria, Hallelujah", and the chorus to "Amen" at a slower tempo in response to the conclusion of the Lord's Supper. It was beautiful to see the church fill up with people throughout the Mass before the Lord's Supper. It started out with about one quarter of the church filled, but by the time of the sacrament, the pews were full and totaled about 200. The service ended at about 10:45 a.m. Then we went to the market and bought a few things including pineapple which we ate at lunch.

Lunch started at Noon. We drank a fruitie drink with finely diced apples, pears, watermelon, and other fruits in water. It was delicious! We also had beef, potato and cheese casserole. The white cheese used is called "quesillo". It is delicious and lends itself to a rich but mild taste.

We regrouped and then left for Casa de Zacate. It took 45 minutes to an hour to drive seven miles over tarmac, cobblestone, and dirt roads with huge potholes and uneven ground. Riding in the back of the truck was a real challenge for us "gringos" who are not used to walking these mountains. The trip included a drop in altitude from 3,300 to 1,200 feet in seven miles.

Upon our arrival, we were met by Miguel, the President of the "Directiva" or Town Council. We were greeted and welcomed by the council. Miguel led us to the peoples' homes. They were nicely laid out in adjacent plots of land. It was rather quick and easy to reach the rest of the homes today. We met with 14 yesterday and about nine today. We also took a census on the people in each home to be able to determine who lived in each house, which children went to school and what grade they are in. We gave each family a hat for the man of the household and a homemade apron and card for the woman of the household. They were very grateful for our gifts of friendship and love.

After visiting all the homes, we again met with the Directiva and all the families. They thanked us for coming to visit them in their homes and learn about their people and customs and wants us to come again. Miguel said that we were the first group to visit them that were not a medical team. Again they thanked us and prayed God would get us home and back to our families safely.

We came home, had a delicious dinner. Then we had our devotions and then worked on decorations for a Celebration of the Completion of the Water Project and Electrification Project in Alejandria.

I'll end with a quote that I have heard Miguel and others say this week: "...these are my words, and that's all I have to say."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trinity UPC Delegation & Friends - Day 5

Day 5 - The Ministry of the Poor.

I have the privilege of blogging today. My name is Maurice Dyer and I have the honor of being a member of the Trinity United Presbyterian Church delegation that has a sister parish relationship with Casa de Zinc. Even though I have been attending Trinity for 52 years this is my first trip to El Salvador. I have heard the stories and seen the pictures of previous trips by our delegations. I felt I was as prepared as I could be short of becoming fluent in Spanish.

I was not caught off guard nor by surprise by what I have seen. I was aware of the abject poverty of the people with which we were connected. The pictures and stories from previous delegations were accurate in their depictions.

Jesus spoke of the poor. His was a ministry to the poor. Sell all you have and give it to the poor he told the rich man. He spoke of women. His was a ministry to women, whether they were married, divorced, widowed, Samaritan or prostitutes. His was a ministry to women in a male dominated society.

Today, during our trip to Casa de Zinc I witnessed ministry to the poor. We met with the Directiva, sort of like a city council, to discuss progress they have made. Our delegation was party to a discussion, maybe a pep talk is a better way to define it delivered by Blanca, a member of the pastoral team. (She's pictured below with Betty.)

Blanca talked about the importance of communication, the need to support the members of the Directiva to help pay their expenses to attend meetings in Berlin, home of Casa de Pastoral, "The Pastoral House". It was decided that each of the 14 households in Casa de Zinc would pay $1 per month to help defray the costs for Directiva member.

But Blanca also talked about helping the poor because there is always someone who is worse off than they were. Each house in Casa de Zinc comes equipped with a dirt floor. Each house does not have running water. Each house does not have indoor plumbing. Each house has chickens or turkeys or cows or horses or hogs sharing the same dirt yard surrounding the house. A mangy dog or two is usually scrounging for scraps or simply lying in a depression to seek some coolness. Dust, dirt, weeds, trash and manure is all mixed into that area surrounding the house.

Chickens walk into the house were there is a wood burning stove that may or may not have a vent to the outside. Regardless the house usually has smoke filling the space. Laundry is hung outside on the barb wire fence. A dependable source of water may be miles away and must be procured daily. Yet, there is always someone worse off than they are, said Blanca.

Blanca talked about improving the life of each person in Casa de Zinc. She talked about getting out of the dust. She talked above improving the quality of life if, as brothers and sisters, they could work together as a family. Blanca spoke to the women telling them there was more they could do than simply gathering water, cooking meals, doing laundry and keeping quiet.

She knew this because she had at one time thought the only thing a woman could do was to care for the family, the laundry and prepare meals while carrying water. Today she was standing in front of the families telling them they could do better. The key to the success of this program is not so much telling people what to do but rather listening to their needs and then designing programs they can do to make improvements.

In each case people are empowered. In each case people are validated as a person, an individual. People may come to understand they have the ability to a make a difference in their lives. In this case this is ministry of the poor by women who volunteer their time. They do this ministry because they are dedicated and compassionate. In the course of their ministry they become empowered. The ministry of the poor. Remember, as Blanca says, there is always someone worse off that you.

In the United States non profit organizations sometimes fall under scrutiny for their lack of directing money to its intended purpose. The Pastoral Team watches very closely to insure contributions end up where they are supposed to. They watch for those individuals who may trying to milk the system in an attempt to get something for nothing. They watch the dynamics of the meeting of the Directiva attempting to see if anyone or any one group is attempting to run the show. They establish some expectations for the members of each community in a relationship with a congregation. This is truly mission.

As the women of the Pastoral Team conduct this work they are empowered. They gain confidence. As they gain confidence the mission of the church is enhanced. The ministry of the poor administered by women who display God's love daily in their work.