I am in El Salvador for Lucia’s wedding. I’ll blog this short trip as much as possible. More photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bishopmike

Lucia Morales is the daughter of Pastor Manuel Morales, who served Igelsia Luterana Principe de Paz in Houston for many years. Lucia has worked in our office for 4-5 years. She handles the web page, database, phones, mailings and lots more. She is marrying Jorge Quintanilla.

I thought I might fly in under the radar, but it was not to be. Bishop Medardo Gomez smoked it out and asked me to preach at Resureción, the cathedral church in San Salvador. He is the senior pastor. If he can be bishop of a national church and lead a local congregation, why can’t I?

My sermon on the Workers in the Vineyard is prepared. Aura Suárez, wife of our new DEM Pedro helped with translation. I’m nervous to preach in Spanish here, in a place that has known so much suffering, but it is a blessed exercise. How North American is our gospel? We’ll see. I’ll post the sermon when I get a chance, and podcast it afterwards, if the technology doesn’t let me down.

I arrived today with Living Word member Vondra Drees and Assistant to the Bishop Peggy Hahn. Vondra used to live in Wisconsin where her synod (Milwaukee) is a companion synod to El Salvador. She has been coming here for a decade and knows people well. Peggy has been coming for two decades.

Our schedule is packed. This is my first time in El Salvador, so I’m excited, and exhausted (already). Today we met with Bishop Gomez and key leaders at the Lutheran Compound. More on that in a minute.

Tomorrow we rise early, drive two hours out of San Salvador and visit Pastor Gloribel Rubio at Guaymango. I just found out I preach there too. Same sermon (I hope). We return in time for Lucia’s wedding at 6:30.

Sunday, September 18 we are at Resurrection. We’ll also visit Bishop Romero’s burial site at the Cathedral and the Memorial Wall at Parque Cuscatlan. Peggy and Vonda go on to Usulutan. I stay back because I have to return Monday for a meeting of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference.

Monday they go to Puerto Parada and Llano el Coyol. Tuesday they go to San Miguel and Divino Redentor. Wednesday they visit the Fe y Esperanza vegetable garden and possibly Heroes de la Fe. They return Thursday.

Today we arrived at the Lutheran Compound at around 3:00. Many Lutheran churches around the world have a similar setup. Simple rooms for $20 or $30/night. Synod offices. A worship space where one of their churches meets, Concordia Lutheran Church I think. There are Luther roses everywhere. It would be cool if we had a compound.

We met pastors Norma y Rafael, Santiago, Marco. I think El Salvador has bishops for life. Bishop Gomez has been bishop since I was in seminary in the 80’s. 25 years all told. Captured and tortured, he has been through hell for his faith. He is 5′ tall. He greeted us with a big smile and bear hugs. If I remember correctly, he was confirmed by Oscar Romero.

A large group from Lakepark Lutheran in Milwaukee was present. Their pastor was there with intern, musician and a dozen others: Angela, Jesse, Anna, Matt, Dave Walker, Kendra, et al.
Medardo reminded us of the civil war and suffering of the people. He told us they had just celebrated their Independence Day from Spain, yesterday, September 15. 199 years. He reminded us that it was priests that started the process of independence.

Resurrection celebrates 39 years tomorrow. The congregation was bombed twice and destroyed. You can see the subversive cross, a treasure of their faith. He said, “This cross is important. We Lutherans practice the theology of the cross.” It is the 20th anniversary of this cross next year. I’ll post more on the history and significance of this cross tomorrow.

20 years ago they had the murder of the Jesuit priests. They have given amnesty to those who killed the priests. Now the international court in Spain is suing for justice. It’s not over.

They are quite worried about climate change. “We need to convert both rich and poor,” said Gomez. He also said, “We cannot understand theology without diakonia (serving the world).”
“We believe this Theology of Life, a dynamic word: Follow me. This is how Jesus began his church. Since then the church became a movement. The wisdom of Martin Luther: the church should never become an institution, but a movement.

We had a lot of time for Q&A. I asked about structure. They have 78 congregations and 27 pastors. Lots of catechists, evangelists and deacons. All together there are about 100 leaders. He meets with pastors and deacons weekly. This is an advantage of a small country (20,000 square kilometers). El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, but also the most populated. 6 million Salvadorans live in El Salvador. 3 million Salvadorans live in the U.S. Interestingly, they just passed a law saying Salvadorans living in the U.S. Can vote for president in El Salvador. Should be interesting.

Bishop Gomez closed by inviting us to a February pastoral encounter in Los Angeles. Latino pastors in the U.S. will share together with pastors from El Salvador.

This is a unique church. Tomorrow I am excited to get out of the city and meet more of the people.