Baby Pastor. This is the name lovingly bestowed on a painted 2-liter soda bottle.
Why, you ask, would I paint a 2-liter soda bottle to look like my pastor? To raise money, of course!
Here is the back story. About 13 years ago, Bishop Medardo Gómez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church had an idea to establish a fund that could produce a basic income for the ordained pastors of the church. As a church committed to walking with those who struggle with injustice, oppression, poverty, violence, the Salvadoran Lutheran Church is rich in faith, rich in hope and poor in financial resources. It's not easy to grow an endowment fund when current needs are so great, but this is exactly what the Salvadoran Lutheran Church committed to do, with the help and structure of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).
The Salvadoran Lutheran Church Endowment Fund for Pastor Salary Support (yup, the legal name is a mouthful) is set up so that the principal will exist in perpetuity and the interest can be distributed quarterly to support pastor salaries. The fund is managed within the ELCA Foundation and interest is released upon request of the Salvadoran Lutheran Bishop.
In the early years, the Salvadoran Lutheran Church chose to reinvest the interest, in order to grow the principal. When the situation became dire for Salvadoran pastors several years ago, Bishop Medardo began requesting the interest annually at the end of the year. This way, the interest stays in the account as long as possible. The interest is used each December to pay any back pay owed to pastors and to cover all of the salaries for the last month or two of the year.
Over the years, churches in the US and Europe have done some pretty fantastic fund-raisers in order to grow the principal of this account. In El Salvador too, congregations have done their part in supporting the fund. One time a church bought a calf and raised it and then auctioned off the grown cow. They raised about $100 for the fund! The fund currently has a balance of about $700,000.
One consistent idea that the Bishop has supported is the "Dollar per Lutheran Campaign." The idea is for each Lutheran in El Salvador to give $1 to the fund during the year. This is a challenge for many who can only afford to give 5 or 10 cents at a time. This is also a challenge because many of the church members (and truthfully the pastors too) have not well understood the concept nor the function of the Endowment Fund.
About a month ago, a friend and I did a workshop with the Salvadoran Lutheran Church pastors. We talked a lot about money - not an easy topic, but one that is important to discuss openly and honestly. We and the pastors had a lot of fun acting out different conversations and scenarios, and we dug right into the Endowment Fund with power point slides that helped explain it. We held up the Bishop's idea for the $1 per Lutheran campaign, and that was when we introduced the recycled-bottle-pastor-piggy-bank. The pastors loved this little guy (which could also be a girl) and named it "Baby Pastor." (If you look carefully at the photo, you can see a slit in the back so that dollar coins or bills can be dropped in.)
Congregations do want to support their pastors. They do want to give their coins and dollars (if they can) so that their pastors can support their own families. This little baby pastor represents the love that the people have for their pastor, and each coin they give is a gift of love. When the little baby pastor is full or half-full, the offering will be given to the Salvadoran Lutheran Church administration Endowment Fund account. The goal of the administration has been to send a check to the ELCA Foundation once or twice per year.
At the end of the workshop, I gave the baby pastor to his real-life look-a-like, who will use it during offering time to gather coins for the Endowment Fund. (He really liked the curly hair!)
Later, one of the woman pastors quietly came up to me and said, "I have an idea." She was pretty excited. Her idea is to have each family make a little pastor bank out of a used water bottle. Then, on a special Sunday, everyone will bring their little pastors and put them together to make their offering together. We agreed this was a fantastic idea!
The $1 per Lutheran Campaign is one which those of us in the US or anywhere outside of El Salvador could use to raise money for the Endowment Fund. If you have an interest in staying in touch with the campaign you can follow the Salvadoran Lutheran Church Endowment Fund Facebook page.
And that is the story of the Recycled Plastic Baby Pastor.
Curious about another plastic bottle project? Check out Plastic Bottle Art Part 1.