Fall 2021 newsletter
Larry Parr, El Salvador
Greetings from El Salvador! I hope this letter finds everyone well.
One of the most important parts of my ministry as a Maryknoll lay missioner in El Salvador is accompanying young people and their families on their journey of working for a more just and compassionate world. In my experience, accompaniment is creating mutual relationships that foster understanding, support, trust and love. It is sharing in both the joys and the hardships of life and finding God’s presence through these experiences.
By creating trust and entering into these relationships, we are able to support each other in the mission to create a better world with justice and opportunities for everyone. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and this can be done by sharing our faith and life with people in marginalized communities and building relationship-based trust, respect, dignity, and love. These relationships can help transform the world and create a more inclusive and just society.
In my ministry, accompaniment has taken the form of sharing in everyday moments with the people of Las Delicias. This includes picking coffee in the fields, riding the local bus, visiting families, sharing a meal together, kids’ birthday parties, graduations, baptisms and other activities that help build trust and understanding. Some of the most impactful moments have come from hanging out and playing games and sports with young people. This has helped build the trust needed to support the youth in their studies and to help them reach their life goals.
Just this month, one of our soccer coaches, Esau, was able to build a relationship with a 12-year boy who had never gone to school. Through this relationship, the mother of the boy confided in us that her children do not go to school because they don’t have birth certificates.
Now we are working with local institutions to help the family get the documents so that the children will be able to go to school. Our scholarship students have volunteered to teach the kids to read, while they wait for the documents to be processed. We only knew about this case because our soccer coach was able to accompany and build trust with young boy.
Accompaniment also means to share in the hard times of the community. The young people in the community face many traumas in their lives such as violence, abandonment, poverty, jail time and lack of opportunities. Just as it is important to share in the joy of the inspirational moments, it is even more important to share the pain and trauma of the difficult times.
Accompanying a family who just lost their child to gang violence is very difficult. There are many things that we can not change, but we can be present for the people in their moment of need and stand with the community to denounce the injustice that plagues marginalized communities. Understanding the harsh reality of the young people in El Salvador has helped me to support them in their quest for a better future.
Accompaniment is also a two-way street, and it is about opening your life to your neighbor. I have had the privilege of being a godfather to four young people in the community. It has meant a lot to me to be a part of their families and accompany them in their spiritual lives.
This year when my twins, Freddy and Violeta, were born, I knew that I wanted people in the community to share in the lives of my children. Juan, a graduate of our scholarship program and a young man I have mentored for 12 years, became the Godfather to my twins. It was very special that someone I have worked with for many years is now a part of my family and will be there to help mentor my children.
As a missioner, I am able to share in the lives of the young people that I work with, but they are also able to share in my life as we work together for the kingdom of God.
It has been just a blessing to able to accompany these young people and families in their journey and to work together to create a more just world.