Rev. Philip Anderson was first introduced to Latin America as a seminary intern in a Benedictine Catholic monastery in Mexico. He went on to become a missionary pastor in Colombia, and since then, his ministry in Latin America has only expanded. He was a Washington, D.C. representative for LIRS and is now a volunteer coordinator for the Election Observer Mission of the Ecumenical Forum of El Salvador/Latin America Council of Churches. In this two-part blog post, he reflects on the region’s history and what the current climate means for the Church, both in the United States and in Latin America. You can view the first segment of his blog post here.
In this second edition, Rev. Anderson recalls how he met Lutheran Pastor Medardo Gómez, now Bishop, in the 1980’s in El Salvador:
In July of 1980 in El Salvador, Pastor Gómez had just begun to assist internally displaced people [from the Salvadoran Civil War] at a location called “Fe y Esperanza,” with financial assistance from Lutheran World Relief and other international humanitarian faith-based agencies. Members of Lutheran churches, along with thousands of others, were fleeing El Salvador for Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Later, this diaspora community of refugees included Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe, as well as Nicaragua and other countries in Latin America. These international connections would prove beneficial to the Salvadoran Lutheran Synod and indeed El Salvador as a whole, as people’s consciousness was raised about the war and U.S. public policy vis-à-vis Central America.
Fast forward to 2014: Peace Accords were signed in the 1990’s to end the armed conflicts in Nicaragua (1990), El Salvador (1992), and Guatemala (1996). Wars ended. There was hope for a “peace dividend” of tranquility, democratization and human development. But as we look at Central America today, particularly at Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, the “northern triangle” of Central America, it is clear that “social peace” has not been achieved. These three countries statistically have the highest rates of homicide per capita in the world. Economic prosperity for the vast majority remains a distant dream. Hence, migration to the United States and elsewhere continues. Thousands of young men, and some women, risk their fortunes and their lives attempting to make it to the United States, Canada, and elsewhere to earn “daily bread” and to send remittances back to families at home.
Bishop Medardo Gómez of El Salvador often has a chance to visit the United States at the invitation of Companion Synods and others. Without fail, and with compassion and urgency, he invites the Lutheran churches of the United States to reach out to Central Americans in their midst. They are brothers and sisters in Christ, human beings with needs but also gifts to share, with their energy, world views, and faith that another world is possible– a world in which we can all live at peace and with enough prosperity to be able to remain in one’s country of origin if one so chooses.
Rev. Anderson and Bishop Gómez are recipients of the Sylvester C. Michelfelder Award for Christian Services. To share your gifts with our brothers and sisters in Christ, go to www.lirs.org/act.