Friday, August 27, 2010

Learning, Growing and Building Community

"Our community is about education. As a church and as a community, we want everyone to know that we are about education. We can hang a banner on the church saying, 'Welcome to Los Heroes, where we are about education."

Every few years we get together to do strategic planning. We figure out where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. It's been four years since our pastor in El Salvador identified our sister community's focus on education. I should say, "intentional" focus, because over our 12 years together as sister churches, education has been central to who we are and what we do together. In the past four years, there has been a "program."

In the US, we were ready for a scholarship program early on. In El Salvador, the community was not ready. After 8 years of growing and learning together, we started a scholarship program together. And during the past 4 years, the program has helped children and youth to stay in school, has helped families and the community to grow stronger in their relationships with one another, and has helped families in our US church to build relationships with families in El Salvador.

The thing about a program is that there are rules. One of the rules for the scholarship program in Los Heroes is that parents need to be involved. Some children do not have parents who are willing to be involved, so grandparents and neighbors have stepped up on behalf of children. The adults meet twice each month, sharing Bible study and discussing parenting strategies. After about a year, the women came up with a proposal of their own. In addition to the general parent meetings, the women wanted to set up a family commission - a team of women who would serve as leaders in different neighborhoods in the community. They divided the community into 5 sectors, each sector has a leader, and meetings take place in homes. The women share Bible study, talk about problems in the home or with their children, take turns assisting with worship, and plan fun events, and recently, one group invited some of us over for lunch.

It's easy and good and important to hear the stories of scholarship students safely going to school in their uniforms and carrying backpacks and learning to read. But beyond the photo ops to which we are drawn, there are hundreds of other stories about learning and growing and building community -- stories of women working together to bring change to their neighborhoods and to their families and in themselves.

This is our community, and we are about education.

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