Friday, May 24, 2013

Pentecost II

Pentecost II – English as a second language.
We had our 1st couple of Classes for adults and the youth. We had 21 attending the 1st class and 23 the 2nd. We also had our 1st Children’s class at the school. Because of a prior commitment to attend a health checkup clinic many of the children could not attend our class. Four could attend but what it lacked in numbers it made up in enthusiasm.
I’m not sure who got more out of it, them or us. What I am sure of is that there’s a lot more than learning English for them and learning Spanish for us going on. Exactly what that is, well I can’t define it but I know it’s all good. Maybe it’s Espiritu Santo (the Holy Spirit) in our midst.
“There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all”
---- Stephen King
Tom & Dianne

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


A Pentecost Blog, I know it’s kind of cliché. Dianne and I are in a foreign land, learning a new language but here’s a funny short story. We went to Bible Study last Miercoles (Wednesday) and one reading was Acts Chapt 2: 1-11 (Pentecost Story). Alfredo, facilitates bible study by asking members what they think. Normally he has Dianne or I read a text in Spanish or English to help us become part of the group. Not this week, this week he asked other people questions they answered and then he looked at me and said "que mas Tomas"? (what more, is the direct translation but in this usage it’s “what else”) Gulp, OMG I don’t even know what the other people said, what am I supposed to say so I blurted out “Yo pienso, necesito el Espiritu Santo tambien”, I think I need the Holy Spirit also”. I was relieved when everyone laughed because at least they understood me and if you want to be part of a Bible Study Group, you can be scholarly but I think funny is better.
All kidding aside we do need the Holy Spirit to help us with Espanol. I know we get help every day from our Creator, just waking up healthy is gift enough, Dianne and I know this. On some days we just feel plain old stupido (stupid). It’s tough not knowing a language when we want to say and understand so much but you can’t rush it. It takes time, practice, more time and more practice. I can speak Espanol enough to communicate to a point but understanding it when it is spoken to me is a totally different story, I freeze up. Dianne on the other hand doesn’t speak it as well as me but she picks up on what they say to us, go figure. Thank God we have each other.
Tonight is our 1st ESL (English as a second language) with the adults and jovenes (youth) of the community. Our Schedule is Tuesday &Thursdays 6 PM with adults and youth. Wednesday & Viernes (Friday) 1 PM with the K-3 children. We’re expecting at least 10 or more in the older group and probably at least that many in the younger group. Everyone is very enthusiastic about learning English knowing the opportunities it will provide them. We are excited as well because now we’ll be interacting with many more of the community. At the immersion school we attended one of the teachers reminded us, “we are all learning, we are all teaching”. That will be our motto here in El Maizal.
 Our method of teaching will be to introduce common words and phrases in the beginning, while also reciting and writing vocabulary for them to write down and study. We’ll also have constant review that will require the usage of the English the students learned. We’ll do this until we can have very simple talks about our community and our interests in English. It’s how the immersion school did it and it makes sense to us. From there you keep expanding the vocabulary, introduce verb conjugation, proper grammar, better pronunciation, the alphabet and it all builds on itself. While in class, little to no Espanol will be allowed. All the while they will be learning how to help us learn more Espanol. It tends to be a lot of fun because as teachers we’ll need to act out words, draw pictures and do whatever we have to in order to answer their questions without using Espanol.
The real benefit won’t be any of us learning a language, although I know we all will. The benefit will be that we’ll have to learn how to work together in order to learn. It’ll be different cultures, different languages and different backgrounds coming together. Can’t you just hear from Heaven that rushing mighty wind filling our classroom where we sit. (For those not up on the Pentecost story see Acts Chap. 2 verse 2).
I want to finish by sharing a brief conversation I had with Bishop Barahona last year when Dianne and I were still wondering if this was our call. I expressed to the Obispo (Bishop) our concern that we don’t know the language. He said to me “Tom, many people speak the same language but they don’t communicate, just communicate the best you can and with God’s help it will be fine”, he was right. We struggle mightily but we communicate and we wouldn’t want to serve God any other way, any other place or speak any other language.
Tomas y Dianna

Thursday, May 9, 2013

2013 GEMN Conference, Bogota, Columbia

Our group at the Church of Divine Salvation

Bishop Holguin Khoury livening up the crowd

The Teacher is here and he calls you

Bishop WilfredoRamos (Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Connecticut)  and Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori

Group picture with the presiding Bishop

GEMN Board of Directors

We spent May 4th through the 11th at the GEMN Conference in Bogota Columbia. GEMN stands for “The Global Episcopal Mission Network” but what it represents is much, much more.


·         Facilitates and strengthens mission programs.
·         Provides a training curriculum for Global Mission Agents.
·         Sponsors an annual mission conference (Institute) for education, training and exchange of global mission ideas.
·         Foster and support mutually responsible and interdependent relationships and accountability among mission-minded individuals, organizations and dioceses within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.



It was a rough start as we flew from El Salvador to the United States and then Columbia starting at 5:30 AM landing at 7:30 PM and our luggage was missing. The airlines assured us it would be rectified soon and Demos Gracias a Dios (Thanks be to God) it arrived Monday night.


The conference does cover all the bullet points. The main way it achieves these goals is by allowing us to network in an atmosphere of education and motivation among a group of like-minded people. The added bonus is that all of us differ in age, education, race, cultural backgrounds and professional experiences. You get to hear perspectives from totally different backgrounds which are a huge benefit in discussions. We also share all of the funny stories and challenges of stumbling through new languages, cultures, bad water, cold showers and foreign foods that have become our staples.


The conference has a host of speakers and presenters. All of them well known in their fields of economics, theology and motivation to name just a few of the speakers talents. The most valuable thing they share with us is their love for their fellow man. For example one speaker with many credentials in Theology started his presentation by bringing mission down to the simplest of statements, he said “Remember mission is not theoretical, it is not philosophical, it doesn’t start with our heads, it’s all in our feet. Where are you standing? If you aren’t with the people you want to serve then you need to rethink your view of mission”. I liked that very much because nothing prods my feelings of frustration (and anger) more than when I hear long winded explanations of what mission is, of how to change things, change people, make immediate impact, blah, blah, blah and these harangues never mention the importance of physically being with those who need help. You can’t empower people, teach them self-advocacy or love them by talking about it. You have to be there. You don’t need to be in El Salvador, Columbia or The Dominican Republic but where ever you are; you need to put your feet in front of the people who need your help. After that, everything else, with God’s help, will fall into place.


The programs have ranged from micro loans, liberation theology to how to plan and execute a proper project. In order to help us get to know each other we also split into small groups to do a 1 hour bible study on selected verses that apply to mission. We had site visits to Churches that turned struggles to successes, agricultural projects that feed and bring income into communities and a women’s group that fights injustice, violence and oppression on a daily basis to help their families survive. Sometimes the women win, sometimes they lose but they don’t lose their will to fight for themselves and their families. Inspiration is not a strong enough word to describe how they conduct themselves.


In the next 2 days, the conference will wrap up. Our Presiding Bishop Katherine Jeffers Schori will preside over our closing Eucharist with Bishop Ramos of Puerto Rico. I’m looking forward to hearing her speak to us about mission and feed off her insights.


Finally we’ll say our goodbyes and head our separate ways with the knowledge that we are part of a bigger community. Conferences like these remind us we are not alone and we should never feel that way. The power of community in Christ shouldn’t be underestimated.


Hebrews 10:24

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds




Tom & Dianne