Perkins School of Theology in El Salvador

Dr. Harold J. Recinos, Professor of Church and Society at Perkins School of Theology, is leading his class of 14 students to El Salvador during spring break 2014. The group is examining Christian mission in cultural context as part of Perkins’ Global Theological Education program. This immersion experience enables students to engage in a sustained theological and ethical reflection upon the meaning of mission and education in Salvadoran society. The course includes meetings in various locations with leaders of popular political organizations, schools, women’s organizations, ecumenical associations, the base Christian communities, and political leaders.

Perkins student Lael C Melville, DPsy, a 2016 M.Div. candidate and president of the Perkins Black Seminarians Association, also is posting on her blog: http://llaelm.wordpress.com

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Today I climbed a mountain

An update from Lael C Melville, PsyD, a 2016 M.Div. candidate and president of the Perkins Black Seminarians Association, who also is blogging at “Following the Passion of the Cross to El Salvador”:

Today I climbed a mountain. It was not on my itinerary or list of events for the day. Our planned itinerary included: running at 6 a.m. (small group lead by Dr. Recinos – what a great runner), departure from the hotel at 9 a.m., a Lutheran church mass and meeting with Father Gomez, lunch at Planes de Renderos, visit to Panchimalco church and museum, and a stop at a coffee house. Once back at the hotel: dinner at 7:30 p.m., a debriefing and review of plans for the next day (Monday March 10, 2014). While every aspect of this day was extraordinary, my hope in sharing the “mountain climb” will give you a better glimpse of today’s journey.

The run was fantastic! The altitude and hills were challenging. However, my co-laborer and fellow seminarian David helped me keep pace. After two laps around a trail, compared to Dr. Recinos’ and Edwin’s four, we were back at the hotel for a yummy breakfast and departure to church.

Here is what you should know: If I spent the remaining time in El Salvador blogging about today’s church experience, I still would not have enough words to adequately describe our time there. I determined yesterday that every good beginning should have the desired end in sight. With that in mind, consider with me Bishop Gomez, who has been nominated four times for the Nobel Peace Prize. Also noteworthy is his three-day kidnapping and torture. Why was he kidnapped and tortured? Because he believed in four fundamental values: the need to defend human rights, the need to defend society (demilitarized society), the need to promote economic justice, and the realization that good people have died in the struggle and they should be honored (Dr. Recinos, Debriefing, March 9, 2014).

Bishop Gomez’s preaching message today focused on “The Temptations of Christ.” He shared how the temptations of Christ are similar to the temptations faced by humanity.

After church, in a meeting with our Perkins School group, Bishop Gomez further personalized his temptation message by relating it to his kidnapping. Bishop Gomez told us how he promised God during his torture that if God allowed him to survive the torture, he would stay and serve in El Salvador for the rest of his life. With pressure from the international community Bishop Gomez was released. Offers for opportunities outside of El Salvador followed his release. Bishop Gomez shared with us that he was tempted with the idea of leaving El Salvador …. but, he stayed. And now at 78 years old, he serves the local and extended congregations to fulfill his promise to God.

Later in the day, after lunch, we stopped at a park. There were several attractions in this park, one of which was a mountain that could be climbed to see the view of the valley beneath it. Dressed in my informal church clothes, armed with a community of like-minded Perkins students (Shelly, Steve, Todd, Edwin and Billy), we climbed a steep mountain.

I climbed the mountain today for a lot of reasons: I climbed the mountain out of frustration regarding injustices here in El Salvador as well as those I have experienced raising Black sons in America; I climbed the mountain because some days being a woman in ministry is hard; I climbed the mountain today because I want to give my life away for Jesus’ sake and sometimes I don’t know how to do that; I climbed the mountain because today I need to get closer to Jesus and it seemed like a reasonable first step; I climbed the mountain because sometimes when we do not know what to do we should just do something; I climbed the mountain because sometimes life has mountains, hills, valleys and temptations, and part of the Christian journey is determining which mountain to climb and when to climb it … today was that day.

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