International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence
November 25th – December 10th, 2013

 November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the first day of the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign. Each year, from November 25th through December 10th (International Human Rights Day), individuals and communities around the world make a special effort to raise awareness and advocate for change in our communities and government policies so we can end violence against women and girls.

This effort is especially important in 2015 as the United Nations has launched the Sustainable Development Goals,which provide a holistic framework for global action for the next 15 years. One of the 17 new goals is to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” A key component of the work needed to achieve this goal is to eliminate violence against women and girls.

During the next 16 days, we invite you to join with individuals and groups around The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion to listen and learn and speak up and speak out about gender-based violence. We also invite you to pray for all those who have experienced gender-based violence and all those who are working to create a world in which no one suffers violence because of who God has created them to be.

Posted in Advocacy, Anglican Communion, Gender-Based Violence, Girls, Social Justice, The Episcopal Church, United Nations, White Ribbon Campaign, Women | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

International Day of the Girl Child

IDG2015-avatarOctober 11th is International Day of the Girl Child, one of the newest United Nations days of observance. The Reverend Heather Melton, who serves as the Missioner for the United Thank Offering and is the mother of one-year-old twin girls, reflects on the world she hopes her girls will experience as they grow older. Let us pray for the well-being of all girls this weekend, both in The Episcopal Church and around the world.

Promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

Just over a year ago, I gave birth to twin girls. We spent a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where the prayer of many was that they would fight: fight to breathe on their own, fight to eat and grow, and fight to get out of the NICU. I remember one of the nurses saying to me that our youngest daughter just had to decide she wanted to do these things on her own and she’d be fine. I watched her decide. I watched them fight. I got to be their cheerleader from the first day of their lives and I will be until their last. That’s what I learned being the mother of tiny babies. What I didn’t know then, was that being their cheerleader would come with some unexpected challenges right out of the gate.

I had never been to a baby clothing store before I had babies. I found that there was no end to the number of items I could purchase for my girls that extolled their physical appearance: from #Princess to Super Cute and Always Adorable, my girls could wear terms praising their looks at night on their pajamas, during the day on their shirts and coats, and even on fancy dresses. My children are always adorable to me, but I also want them to know that their self-worth is not tied to their appearance. Yes, I want them to eat healthy and exercise but I don’t want them to do it obsessively. I do not want them to train their waists, but to train their brains. This is why every time they hold up a square I say, “That’s a square, four equal angles and four equal sides” not, “aren’t you cute holding something.”

If you go to the other side of the store, where the boys clothes are, you’ll find a different set of words. Some shirts did say handsome but the majority said things like: brave little explorer, best friend, and little genius. I want my girls to be brave, to explore, to be a good friend, and to be as smart as they can. There was only one shirt in the girls’ section that referenced being smart, so I took it home with one from the boys side that also talked about being smart. I know that it is a small thing–words on a shirt before they can even make sentences–but words are powerful and can often have lasting effects on those who read them and those who wear them.

Lucy and Carrie Melton

Lucy and Carrie Melton

Here in the United States, women are still far outnumbered by men in the sciences. In 2013, the New York Times ran a story in which they interviewed women who succeed in tenured academic science positions. What stood out to me in this article was that time and again the women said that when they stopped comparing themselves to others and, when they had a mentor who believed in them, they were able to succeed.

This year, on the International Day of the Girl Child, I want to take this chance to be the cheerleader for all girls, not just mine. It will take all of our voices to help pave the way for girls to live to their full potential. We need to choose the words we use when talking to girls very carefully. As the International Day of the Girl Child webpage says: “If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world – both as empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders.” So let’s support them, encourage them, and love them; from the words on their shirts to the books they read and the toys they play with. Girls can change the world, but we must create safe environments for them to do it.

Back in the NICU so many prayed that my girls would fight; now I think my girls pray that we will fight for them. We need to demand that our society change to offer equal pay and opportunities. We must fight against social plights like human trafficking and child brides, which rob our girl children of the futures they deserve. Fight for our girl children, become a mentor, an advocate, and a friend. Advocate for change to make the world safe for girls and make space for girl children so they can change the world. Join me as we tell all girls, of any age, that they can change the world through their love and bravery, and that we are here to help them do it.

Posted in Advocacy, Anglican Communion, Children, Gender-Based Violence, Girls, Mission, Partnership, Social Justice, The Episcopal Church, Uncategorized, United Nations, United Thank Offering, Women, Youth | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

International Day of Peace: Peace through play at Kakuma Refugee Camp

Two of the four men's Kakuma Sports of Peace teams, one in red and the other in yellow jerseys, congratulate each other at the end of the first game.

Two of the four men’s Kakuma Sports of Peace teams, one in red and the other in yellow jerseys, congratulate each other at the end of the first game.

Sport might seem an unlikely activity to feature on the International Day of Peace (September 21). However, it is recognized as an excellent peacebuilding activity with its own annual UN International Day and an entire UN Office dedicated to Sport for Development and Peace. By promoting peaceful exchanges between members of a community, sport helps overcome poverty and boosts economic and social development. It is referenced in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that will be adopted this week at the UN General Assembly.

In the Province of South Sudan and Sudan, sport is fostering a glimmer of peace and hope amidst war-ravaged despair thanks to the dreams of young people living at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, temporary home to thousands of South Sudanese. Michael Puot Rambang, a Nuer university student in journalism in Nairobi, attended an intertribal peace and reconciliation training workshop there and envisioned following up the training with sports tournaments for young men and women, with opposing teams from mixed ethnic and tribal backgrounds. Partnering with Hope with South Sudan, a California-based nonprofit founded by the Reverend Jerry Drino, Michael and other young people raised funds and formed the Kakuma Sports for Peace Committee. The UN camp coordinators officially recognized the Kakuma Peace Institute (KPI) as the tournament organizer and designated some land so it could build a center.  The very first Sports for Peace Games were held in August. Jerry’s report was jubilant:

The weary but happy team of five leaders of the Kakuma Sports for Peace committee are now back in Nairobi having spent most of yesterday traveling.

They report that the success of the games was more than they had hoped for.  They were greatly assisted by the Presbyterian leader of the Nuer community, who saw that things moved smoothly and brought his own youth leaders to the training.  The peace and reconciliation sessions saw 80 youth coming together from 7 tribes.

The games, with mixed teams, were a challenge because the various venues for men’s and women’s tournaments were in different parts of the camp, which is large – it can take 30 minutes by car to get from one place to another.

The Rev. Michael Bul Tor, one of the leaders, said that when people came to the games, they were at first confused, because they didn’t know who to cheer for: if you were from the Nuba Mountains you found that your tribe’s people were on the same team as Dinka, Nuer, Murle, etc.  The tournament caused a paradigm shift.  The United Nations, Kenyan Police and the Sports Authority said that this was the first time that a tournament was held and that fighting didn’t break out. What a success and affirmation of these young people’s vision, effort and work.  When you look at the picture of the seated players, we don’t see the difference, but there are seven tribes represented in the mix.

The Kakuma Sports for Peace teams are made up of mixed ethnic and tribal backgrounds, such as these players who are from seven tribes.

The Kakuma Sports for Peace teams are made up of mixed ethnic and tribal backgrounds, such as these players who are from seven tribes.

Grant funds provided for the whole nine-day event, including the new uniforms and shoes.  They did run short because so many participants were starving – five people died while they were there –but none of the participants.  They were forced to travel all day by bus since they did not have funds left to take a plane from Eldoret to Nairobi.

Our team did an amazing job. The UN wants to promote it and asked that they return in December to put on another training…

We are very, very proud of what they accomplished.

Loving God, on this International Day of Peace,
we thank you for your provision and blessing in our lives,
and for the gifts of dreams, creativity, vision and hope
to imagine your peace and bring light to the darkness.
May your blessing of peace quickly take root
for our brothers and sisters in South Sudan. Amen.

Posted in Africa, Community Development, Mission, Partnership, South Sudan, The Episcopal Church, Uncategorized, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Christians in the Middle East

Archbishop Suheil Dawani and Rev. Canon Robert Edmunds in Jerusalem.

Archbishop Suheil Dawani and the Rev. Canon Robert Edmunds in Jerusalem.

The Rev. Canon Robert (Bob) Edmunds and his wife Deborah served as missionaries of The Episcopal Church in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem from 2008 to 2011. Working with Archbishop Suheil Dawani, the Edmunds were physical representations of the longstanding relationship between The Episcopal Church and the church in the Holy Land. The knowledge, experience, and relationships Bob gained during his missionary service forms the foundation for his current ministry as the Partnership Officer for Jerusalem and the Middle East. In this role, he works directly with the diocese of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East and with individuals, parishes, dioceses, and organizations of The Episcopal Church who are involved in the region.

 In today’s post, Bob shares news and resources from two Episcopal Church parishes that have come across his desk recently.

The situation which exists for Christians in the Middle East continues to deteriorate.  The world now faces the greatest humanitarian crisis in a generation with literally millions of people displaced, despairing, and desperate.

The Rev. Christopher Bishop, Rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Radnor, PA, is headed to Erbil, Iraq later this month on a solidarity visit to bring badly needed financial support which he and his parish have raised.  In cooperation with the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf (which works ecumenically for humanitarian relief in Iraq along-side Kurdish and Iraqi authorities), Fr. Bishop has made contact with a Chaldean Catholic parish and its priest and will visit him and his parish during his time in Erbil.

We can follow along with Fr. Bishop’s journey on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. More information about standing with Iraqi Christians is available on the program’s website.

The Rev. Matthew Heyd, Rector of the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York, NY, shared this article with his parish as a way to engage the ongoing refugee crisis. The article lists concrete ways that Christians can be involved in supporting refugees from Syria.

The need is great.  The need is now.  You can help.  We all can help.

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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples:

Promoting health and well-being among indigenous Episcopalians

Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD; LORD, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication. (Ps 130:1)

•L to R: Jasmine Bostock, Frank Oberly and Cohen Adkins at the Opening Ceremony of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May.

• L to R: Jasmine Bostock, Frank Oberly and Cohen Adkins at the Opening Ceremony of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May.

August 9th is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, first proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994. This year’s theme, “Post 2015 Agenda: Ensuring indigenous peoples’ health and well-being”, highlights access to health care as an important need that must be addressed to improve the lives of indigenous peoples.*

Access to mental health care, in particular, is vital to the health and well-being of young people as they traverse the milestones and formational experiences that will shape the rest of their lives. This point was stressed by indigenous Episcopal delegates – Jasmine Bostock, Cohen Adkins and Frank Oberly – in April at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. In a written intervention to a special session on “Youth, self-harm and suicide”, the delegates underscored the critical plight of indigenous young people, who suffer from alarmingly high levels of self-harm and suicide. They identified the need to address root causes of intergenerational trauma, implement structural change, care for the environment and restore and protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples in order to overcome this tragic trend.

The Revised Common Lectionary reading for Sunday, August 9th includes a passage in which King David orders the commanders of his armies to “deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom”, his son, as they prepared to battle the forces that Absalom had gathered against him (2 Sam 18:5-33). In spite of this, Absalom is killed by David’s soldiers. King David is overcome with grief:”O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” David’s cry ripples outwards, affecting his family and community. His cry is the same as the one too often heard by families within our indigenous communities. Voicing that cry, bearing witness to that terrible, gut-wrenching reality, is one small step towards healing and wholeness.

The United Nations has proven a key forum at which indigenous Episcopalians can voice their cries and bear witness to their realities, both painful and positive. Under the umbrella of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church, indigenous women and men, elders and young adults, have attended sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues over the past few years. They bring their voices and concerns to the attention of UN agencies, member states and non-governmental organizations in advocating on behalf of their local churches and communities. Once back home, they share their experiences and continue local advocacy in their communities. Many share reflections in reports and blogs, such as these by delegates Jasmine Bostock and Cohen Adkins from this year’s UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Nellie Adkins enjoying worship at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March.

Nellie Adkins enjoying worship at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March.

The Church is enormously proud of this year’s indigenous delegates: Nellie Adkins, Chickahominy, Diocese of Virginia (first official indigenous Episcopal delegate to the UN Commission on the Status of Women); Jasmine Bostock, Native Hawai’ian, Diocese of Hawai’i; Cohen Adkins, Chickahominy, Diocese of Virginia; Frank Oberly, Comanche/Osage, Diocese of Oklahoma (all three the first indigenous Episcopal delegates to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues). May their voices and actions be blessed as they continue to ripple outwards from their communities, to the United Nations, to the world.

* The “Post-2015 Agenda” is the new sustainable development framework that will be adopted by members of the United Nations in September. Its 17 Sustainable Development Goals will be the new framework until 2030, replacing the 8 Millennium Development Goals expiring in December 2015.

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William Wilberforce, Anthony Ashley Cooper, and Serving God

Steve SmithOur guest blogger today is Stephen Smith of the Diocese of California. Currently a senior at Virginia Theological Seminary, Stephen served as a missionary in Grahamstown, South Africa with the Young Adult Service Corps. During Stephen’s two years in South Africa, he lived and worked with the brothers of the Order of the Holy Cross at the Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery and taught the Holy Cross School. Stephen preached at the mid-day Eucharist service at the Chapel of Christ the Lord at the Episcopal Church Center in New York yesterday and has graciously shared his homily with us.

Mark 9:33-37, 42 William Wilberforce and Anthony Ashley Cooper

 “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

On two separate occasions in the chapters leading up to today’s Gospel lesson from Mark, Jesus predicts the Passion and explains to his disciples that he must suffer and die and on the third day he will rise again, and the poor disciples just don’t get it. It’s not sinking in. Instead of absorbing the significance of what Jesus has been trying to tell them, the disciples get into trivial squabbles with one another about who is the greatest. Jesus, being the patient guy that he is, doesn’t get frustrated or loose his cool (something I would probably do), but instead he keeps on teaching. He does so by warning his disciples not to seek to be greatest but rather to be a servant of all. He also goes on to explain what the inclusiveness of God’s kingdom looks like when he commands the Twelve to receive a child (i.e., an often overlooked and insignificant person for this time period). It’s a rather straightforward message that Jesus is hammering home: 1) Seek to serve all people, 2) welcome even those who may have been overlooked or deemed insignificant.

This past week I had the opportunity to spend some time with the new cohort of Young Adult Service Corps missionaries who were going through their orientation at the Holy Cross Monastery. It was a fun and exciting time to be around this group of young adults. They were in the midst of getting ready to spend a year of their life serving the Episcopal Church as mission workers in various parts of the world. During the orientation, one of the mission officers who was helping to lead the training, made a point that stuck with me. He informed the young adults that a lot of what we were talking about in terms of mission, service, and cross-cultural immersion may seem straightforward, but it’s a whole different ball game when we actually have to start living it. The real challenge for these young adults, and for all of us, begins when we have to make the jump from merely hearing Jesus’ message of service and inclusiveness to actually having to start living it out in our lives. Service for others isn’t easy. It requires putting egos aside; it requires putting oneself in uncomfortable situations; it requires patience; and it requires doing things we don’t often want to do. Yet, in the Gospel lesson we heard today, Jesus commands his disciples to put service at the very center of who they are. This is exactly what the Young Adult Service Corps program does. It asks young adults to put service at the very center of their lives. And this isn’t always easy for them. It means being away from family and friends for a year, sometimes it means putting a career on hold, etc. But it is through this experience, experiences of service and of mission, that the young adults are invited to dive deeper into their faith and their relationship with God.

Today we specifically remember two men who lived lives of service: William Wilberforce and Anthony Ashley Cooper. They were two English politicians who fought tirelessly for social reform and for the rights of those who were often overlooked. I love how Lesser Feasts and Fasts describes these two. It says these men, “refute the popular notion that a politician cannot be a saintly Christian, dedicated to the service of humanity.” Wilberforce and Cooper, despite being politicians, devoted their lives to fighting injustice at all levels of society. They led crusades for the abolition of slavery and fought against the oppression of women and children. We remember them today because they committed their lives and their vocations to the service of others.

So, why is service so important? Why does Jesus command that we live a life of service to others? Well, the very nature of God, and the nature of God as Trinity, is self-giving and overflowing love. This overflowing love is not merely hidden in the being of God. Rather, God reveals this love to all of creation going all the way back to Genesis. Jesus invites us to participate in this overflowing and self-giving love by commanding that we put service at the very center of who we are. In doing so, in giving our lives to others and by serving those who may be overlooked or not deemed worthy, we draw closer to the self-giving love that is the very core of who God is. Amen.

Posted in Africa, Missionary, South Africa, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

World Mission Sunday is February 15!  To prepare ourselves to celebrate the many ways in which The Episcopal Church participates in God’s mission around the world, we present these blogs from our missionaries.

Guest Blogger: Kirsten Lowell from the diocese of Maine, serving as a member of the Young Adult Service Corps in the Diocese of Uruguay. the past month I have had the opportunity to meet people from all over the globe.Each day I enter into the cathedral, unlock the gates, turn on the lights, gather my informational pamphlets, and wonder who I will meet that day. Since the New Year, I have encountered people from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia, Venezuela, Thailand, Canada, the US, England, Wales, Germany, Holland, Italy, and people from right here in Uruguay. I have met people who attend an Anglican Church back home, and those who have never been in an Anglican church until right then. Each of these people has a story. Some are traveling together with friends staying in hostels or are on business trips; others are on cruises and only have a few hours in the city while others live just a few blocks away but have never been inside the cathedral, and some people who simply want a quiet place to pray for a few minutes in the midst of their hectic day. Some days I answer questions about the building itself, some days I answer questions about what Anglican’s believe and how it differs from other denominations, and sometimes I end up answering questions about where I am from and how I ended up in Uruguay. As I open those doors each day, I am opening a window into the Diocese of Uruguay, as well as to the Anglican Communion as a whole and letting God’s light shine in.

I had a light bulb, an “ah-ha” moment this week. I’ve been on short term mission trips before (granted all within the US but still away from “home”), and I was so eager to love, and continue to love, everyone I met, and just as eager to return home and share my stories and photographs. It was incredible because it wasn’t in my own backyard. It was different.

What I realized this week is that Uruguay IS my backyard (and just as incredible), and loving people in my backyard is different (not easier, not harder, not more important, not less important, just different). I am learning to love the good, the bad, the sweet, and the grumpy. It’s another one of those continuous learning processes. It also made me think of my previous backyards and all the people I never took the time to love (believe me, it’s a lot easier to love a child who is reaching for your hand than to love the man who is reaching for your purse). Starting now and Uruguay, and wherever my next backyard may be, I want to learn to love everyone in it. And I think with Jesus as my teacher of loving people (and I think he is pretty stellar), I’m on the right path

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

Posted in Latin America, Mission, Mission Models, Missionaries, South America, The Episcopal Church, Uncategorized, Uruguay, World Mission Sunday, YASC, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Episcopal Church Welcomes You

World Mission Sunday is February 15!  To prepare ourselves to celebrate the many ways in which The Episcopal Church participates in God’s mission around the world, we present these blogs from our missionaries.

Guest Blogger: Carlin Van Schaik from the diocese of Northwest Texas, serving as a member of the Young Adult Service Corps in the Philippines.


Here is the situation. You are many miles from home and you find that the only road has been completely blocked by a mudslide. It’s too dark to turn back to where you came from and there are no hotels. Where do you go?

Is your first instinct to head to the town church or to try and find a place to sleep in your car?

I was recently put in this situation on a trip from my home in Tabuk to visit a partner community in Saltan. When my companions informed me we would just sleep at the church for the night, I wasn’t impressed with the plan. I had tried the same approach in Memphis, Tennessee as an 18 year old on a road trip and it didn’t go particularly well.

As we approach Advent Episcopal Church in Balantoy, I notice two things. The first is a sticker on the door that says, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” and the second is large group of people sitting on the balcony of the rectory having coffee. As it turns out, the church isn’t just where stranded church employees went, but where many stranded members of the community turned for shelter. By the end of the evening, there were 12 of us sheltered together. We threw our money together and slaughtered some chickens for supper. We played cards, sang, talked, ate, and enjoyed the warm fire. When late in the evening it came time to sleep, we rolled out mats of the floor and stretched out side by side.

St. Timothy’s Church in Saltan

The Episcopal Church Welcomes You. I mean really welcomes you. I know I have been guilty of using that same sticker on the back of my own car to get free parking at Churches in historical downtown areas. I know many of us think of it in reference to the inclusiveness of congregations towards particular individuals. But I don’t think that I ever thought of it in terms of the welcoming of one individual by another. In this case, it wasn’t the articulation of an institutional guideline. It wasn’t “The Church” welcoming people. It was a statement of the responsibility and joy of an individual providing safe haven to other individuals.

When the slide was cleared, we moved onto Balbalasang and Saltan to do our training seminars and data gathering. Our timing happened to coincide with the town fiesta, so once again, we shared with rectory with 8 other out of town visitors. The whole town came together for church services, eating, a Mrs. Senior Citizen beauty contest, traditional music and dance, and sporting events. Oh and did I mention the eating?

Posted in Asia, Community Development, Mission, Missionaries, Philippines, The Episcopal Church, Uncategorized, World Mission Sunday, YASC, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The wisdom of little people

World Mission Sunday is February 15!  To prepare ourselves to celebrate the many ways in which The Episcopal Church participates in God’s mission around the world, we present these blogs from our missionaries.

Guest Blogger: Ryan Zavacky from the diocese of Eastern Michigan, serving as a member of the Young Adult Service Corps in Grahamstown, South Africa.

 Two years ago this month, I was baptized into Christ’s Church at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Alma, MI.

That day was an absolutely amazing day filled with many friends and family, and at that time, one of the most powerful experiences of God’s love I have ever felt. Now, two years later, I am even more struck by God’s love.

Lately, I have been really struck by the fact that I am living in South Africa. I know I should have probably realized this 4ish months ago, but you know life and things are happening. The great presence of God’s love has been from the amazing people I have met. I have become friends with many beautiful souls in my time in South Africa. Makhulos who give anything to the many children they watch, the strength of the schools social worker and the school counselor to the horrific stories they hear, and most importantly the wisdom of the little people I watch. They really are wise little people.

On our daily drive down the dirt road, Pheliswa, a third grader, and I talked about many things. One day I thought I would ask her is she was scared leaving Holy Cross next year and going to a new big school. Having changed many schools in life, I thought I could shed some light on changing schools. She told me, “of course I am nervous Bhuti, who wouldn’t be. But changing is life.” I was so profoundly struck by the wisdom of this little girl.

I have loved the journey my faith has taken me on in South Africa. It is really crazy how quickly my faith has taken me to the ends of the earth!

I can see God’s work in the world first hand. It is really interesting the things that can happen if you give up your plans for your life and let God control it. I never planned on going to Africa, but I am so happy I did.

Posted in Africa, Mission, Missionaries, South Africa, The Episcopal Church, Uncategorized, World Mission Sunday, YASC, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buen Vivir–Striving for “Good Living”

World Mission Sunday is February 15!  To prepare ourselves to celebrate the many ways in which The Episcopal Church participates in God’s mission around the world, we present these blogs from our missionaries.

Guest Blogger: Alan Yarborough from the dioceses of Upper South Carolina and Western North Carolina, serving as a member of the Young Adult Service Corps in the Diocese of Haiti.

Buen Vivir speaks to good living, common wealth, the pursuit of happiness perhaps. But who determines what is buen vivir, and how can we strive for buen vivir for all?

The U.S. Declaration of Independence suggests Creator-given rights, namely life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, are what constitute good living. The document continues by saying that good relationship between the government and the governed, prudence and not abuses, is the mechanism that can spread and maintain buen vivir.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explains, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matt. 22:37-40). Again, the focus is on good relationship, this time between people and between people and God. Through these commandments, restorative and loving relationships, we can achieve buen vivir.

The rights-based approach to community development is one method used to restore relationships and help us achieve buen vivir for all. Foundation Cristosal, a non-profit human rights and community development organization, works for the good living of all people in El Salvador using this approach.

The church were Oscar Romero was martyred

I just spent a week with Foundation Cristosal’s Global School in San Salvador, taking a course on the theologies of human rights and development, where I learned about the rights-based approach and the positive impact it can have.
I had two main takeaways from my time in El Salvador. First was simply seeing the country, meeting Salvadorians, and learning more about their history and current reality with overwhelming gang violence and emigration. Second was learning about the rights-based approach and how Foundation Cristosal works within El Salvador using that perspective.

A daily newspaper in San Salvador reported on the continued gang violence. 102 people were reported killed by homicide in the first 7 days of 2015, in a country of around 6 million people. This gang culture, some explain, is an evolution of the environment of violence during the Salvadorian Civil war which lasted from 1979 until 1992.During the course, the Cristosal staff took us to important sites around the capital including Oscar Romero’s house and his resting place underneath the cathedral. Along the way, staff shared their nation’s history, their personal connections, and how they feel motivated by the hope of Romero’s preaching. It is very clear to me that many Salvadorians not only do not want to be defined by the violence in their country, but are boldly working to combat it.

“Do this in memory of me”

Through a series of meetings, conversations, site visits, and one community visit, the Cristosal staff and guest speakers taught us about the theology and theories of the rights-based approach. Restoring relationships, advocating for the assurance of basic human rights for all, and building community capacity are at the core of the approach.Rather than seeking to provide for a need (for example handing out food), or funding a project from the outside (for example externally funding a water well project), the rights based approach would seek to empower the community in need to grow its own food or communicating with the government to provide clean water.

Rights-based development helps people and communities claim the rights they hold and advocates for duty bearers to fulfill their duties. This happens in part through a restorative process that builds relationships and capacity without fostering dependency. Through those long-lasting, loving relationships, dependable justice can advance and human suffering diminish.

I’m very excited to apply what I learned to my work in Haiti. I really believe the rights-based approach has a valuable place there–and is in fact already happening in some cases even if not by the same name. In light of this experience, my biggest immediate task is to analyze each of the initiatives I’m involved in from the rights-based perspective, identifying aspects that pass or fail the approach. From there, I hope to determine why the current approach exists and seek potential shifts in the ministry for a better way forward.Thank you to all who made this experience in El Salvador enjoyable and educational.

“To not forget” followed by the dates of the civil war


Posted in El Salvador, Haiti, Latin America, Mission, Mission Models, Missionaries, The Episcopal Church, Uncategorized, World Mission Sunday, YASC, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment