Sunday, September 4, 2011

Compañeros: A History of Our Purpose

Below is a little information about the Compañeros group that I am a part of. The two women here this past week are also part of Compañeros and were making a yearly trip representing the group. This information was written by Nancy Lister-Settle, who is one of the women that made the trip this year, and is also the moderator of the Social Ministries Task Force of the Presbytery of Des Moines.

"In mid 2001, when Rev. Bob Cook had decided to move to Berlín, El Salvador, he and members of the Presbytery of Des Moines called together representatives of Presbyterian congregations with a strong allegiance to the 10-year partnership between the Presbytery of Des Moines and the Parish of San José. At that time Karen Martens (Trinity, Indianola) was elected Moderator of the group and the first purpose was to investigate the protocol necessary for this body to offer a call to Rev. Cook for a validated ministry in El Salvador. Other members were from First, Dallas Center; Park Avenue, Des Moines; First, Des Moines; Ankeny; Heartland, Clive; First, Newton; Westminster, Des Moines.

By September, 2001, it was determined that the Presbytery itself could commission Rev. Cook as its Designated Missionary to El Salvador working as a member of the Parish Team of Parroquia San José in Berlín. The working group was then charged with the duties of educating people in Iowa churches about the work of the mission; assisting churches to organize delegations; fundraising and management of mission funds through the office of the Presbytery of Des Moines; and promoting projects that support the mission. Officers and sub-groups were designated to carry out these duties. Rev. Cook went to live in Berlín in October, 2001. The coordinating body elected to call itself “Compañeros” to reflect the mission statement: …to “empower the people of La Parroquia de San José through education, support, and advocacy and to be in Christian solidarity with our brothers and sisters of El Salvador.”

By 2003, a number of congregations had formalized partner relationships with cantones in the parish: El Tablón with Heartland; San Isidro with Trinity; San Felipe with Des Moines First; Corozal with Ankeny; San Francisco with Des Moines Westminster; and Virginia with Dallas Center. Blanchard Court Bags and Don Justo Coffee projects were established and Compañeros members worked in small groups to promote both. Compañeros had organized first-timers delegations so members of non-partnered congregations could visit El Salvador and bring home eye-witness reports of the country and the mission. Compañeros created and funded the Our Sister Parish website with guidance from Mary MacKenzie (Trinity, Indianola).

Since 2003, Sacred Heart Church, Newton, has organized regular medical delegations; St. Catherine’s, Des Moines has sponsored delegations for its Drake University students; St Boniface, Waukee has partnered with cantón El Recreo; and Wakonda Christian Church, Des Moines has partnered with cantón Las Delicias. Compañeros officers and members have made regular visits for formal meetings with the Pastoral Team. Many delegations from Iowa congregations have made trips to strengthen their relationships with partner cantones and to understand and prioritize projects. Other groups have visited El Salvador and Berlín to learn about the country and its history, the mission and related projects, and the partnership model of development.

The purpose of Compañeros (which formally exists under the umbrella of the Social Ministries Task Force of the Presbytery of Des Moines) remains basically unchanged:
1) to tell people about the mission and the opportunities for churches, communities and individuals to participate;
2) to coordinate delegations so that visits are well-planned and well-timed, and so that visitors are informed and prepared;
3) to raise funding for the mission to support the mission co-worker and the cost of administering the mission; and
4) to support the projects that fund and foster development in the cantones.

In order for Compañeros to do its best for all parties—the Pastoral Team, the Mission Co-worker, the residents of the cantones, and the partner congregations—it is necessary for all partner congregations to be aware of and to support each other’s relationships. That means scheduling delegation trips through Compañeros; sharing experiences with one another with reports at regular meetings; taking part in fundraising events; and supporting mission-wide projects.

Compañeros is the body through which the Our Sister Parish ministry flows, and its work requires the full participation of the Presbytery of Des Moines and all church partners. That being said, Compañeros has no authority to insist on that participation. Instead, there must be an understanding among those in relationship with Salvadoran partners that we are also in relationship with each other."

1 comment:

Matt said...

Great information about the history of Compañeros and the relationship between Iowa and the Berlin area.