It was the last day of our trip. Our group left Ahuachapan and made our way toward San Salvador where we would spend the day on the hallowed grounds where Oscar Romero preached and was ultimately killed. When a group of 15 people enter a space and a hush falls over the crowd, whispers subside, and silence hovers in the air, you can’t help but feel the holiness of the ground on which you stand. A sanctuary where guns went off, where blood spilled onto the floor, and the people prayed. Oh, did they pray.
That afternoon, we visited the chapel at the University. Like many buildings, there was beautiful artwork in the chapel with a mosaic there at the front. As I learned more about the mosaic, I became keenly aware of how something so pleasing to the eye can feel like a dagger in the heart. Like scales falling from the eyes, I learned the story of how the United States supported the El Salvador government by sending $1M a day during the height of their civil war. Without the support of the US, the civil war could not have continued for as long as it did. In the bottom left corner of the mosaic was a gun with the number “1,000,000” under it as a marker, a truth being told, and ultimately… a confession.
I left the country with that mosaic as a final image in my mind. I left a country we would call “poor” with a heightened awareness of our own spiritual and emotional impoverishment. I left with a prayer of confession on my lips. I returned to the northern part of the continent reminding myself that I had spent a week in Central America. Perhaps Making America Great Again looks a little more like Sabbath on Sundays. Hospitality. Plantains and pupusas. Marketplaces and dirt floors. One-room church houses and village life. Futbol on a dusty road. Palm trees. Dark skin. Español. Truck beds full of people and wind in your face. Rice and beans. Bright colored buildings and tin roofs. Afternoon thunderstorms. Prayers of confessions and saints who have gone before us. Holy ground and holy people.
A Prayer adapted from St Oscar Romero:
A religion of Sunday Mass by of unjust weeks
does not please you, Lord.
A religion of much praying but with hypocrisy in the heart
does not bear your name, Lord.
A church that sets itself up only to be well off,
to have a lot of money and comfort,
but that forgets to protest injustices,
will never be your true church,
O divine Redeemer.
Redeem us and lead us in your ways. Amen.
From the NC Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Immigration Alliance
To educate this week:
Try to find ways to host an English as Second Language class.
To cultivate growth this week:
Write letters to immigrants in detention.
To advocate this week:
Build a rapid response network within your congregation and community interest partners.
Laura Thompson is an elder in the North Carolina Conference currently serving Pleasant Green UMC in Durham.