For the past decade our church has experienced a wonderful global partnership with the country of El Salvador primarily through our ability to visit the country and interact with citizens of the island community of Tasajera. We have watched dreams for improved health care and education combine with the Salvadoran country’s hopes for justice and peace. Our church’s generosity of spirit has led us to listen and learn in an environment very different than our own but very similar when viewed as close to our hearts. We have been blessed with a transformational spirit of hope which includes the enrollment of over 100 island students with goals to complete high school, trade school and college. Further, we have participated in brainstorming with the community to face issues of increased need for an improved internet communication system, an increase in clean water in isolated communities, and increased community health/food/hygiene access. The island community continues to experience opportunities which would not have been possible without access to educational knowledge beyond the 8th grade; current and past students continue to lead, to provide mentorship and guidance. Our church has been vastly supportive with prayers, participation in church services/planning and with direct giving during World Communion Sunday. Our ‘listening and learning’ has helped shape the future of this emerging community.

Now, we have reached a turning point and we need the congregation’s help.

Our Mission Statement is to ‘Listen and Learn.’ In the past we have sent cards and our Sunday school children looked at photos from the island, drew pictures, and talked to past travelers to the island during children’s moments. Our older youth, with their parents, participated in life on the island, visited the homes of the students and met their parents. We’ve played soccer, cooked meals together, gone to the beach, experienced rides in horse drawn carts, rested in hammocks and shoo’d cows. Church members were able to share their time and talents, to show their interest in the lives of the island residents. Older students, church members and staff have attended the annual leadership conference developed by the CIS (Centro Intercambio y Solidaridad) scholarship students from throughout El Salvador. The student chosen topics have included sexuality, women’s roles, understanding how extreme poverty can lead to the destruction of families, and gang violence prevention. Leadership training has allowed a variety of of communities to learn team building strategies. Church members participate in learning and listening and individual needs in housing, meals and mobility are respected. Many of our church members have personally stayed in guest houses, hotels and home stays on the island (CIS provides all transportation and all sites are safe and protected).

For the last five years, due to changes in staffing and COVID restrictions, we have not sent a delegation or had much engagement with Leslie Schuld of CIS. We have began to lose the ability to engage in needed dialogue. As a result the key components of the global partnership team have been weakened. We need new members to join our partnership team; church members who are interested and willing to learn, to plan and perhaps to travel. We need discernment and prayers and we need listening action. Please contact the Social Justice and Witness Committee through the church office or through direct email (justiceandwitness@fcceugene.org) if you are even a little bit interested. El Salvador is a beautiful country; the island is surrounded by a mangrove ecosystem which is unique in the world. It is a country that has experienced vast damage due to climate change and the exploitation of a plantation economy; education remains the most important way to protect families and reduce illegal immigration, to reduce the refugee crisis. Our own church has been enhanced through interaction gleaned through service camps, family camps and Peace Village. Tasajera’s delegation visits have offered a unique opportunity.

May we continue to find our way in a complex and changing world. Please take time to think about this important need in our church community.