In Common Faith and Service
Reflections on Our Week in Argentina
We return from Argentina with heads awash with ideas and opportunities and hearts aglow with the Spirit of God at work among us. We are grateful for our growing relationship with the Iglesia Evangelica Luterana Unida (IELU). Alana Klomp, Fred Reyelts, and Pastor Frank Rothfuss, representing St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Grand Rapids, MI, spent a week in Argentina exploring the possibilities of partnership with IELU, and we offer the following reflections.
In March of this year, a team of 31 people from St. Luke’s participated in a mission trip to Argentina. Building on this experience, St. Luke’s is interested in developing a more intentional and long term vision for future mission trips. We envision a partnership between our congregation and select congregations of IELU through which we might work together to address needs within the congregations and their communities.
Based upon our observations and discussions, it seems to us that this could be accomplished through a series of trips, planned and executed in collaboration with the church office and the congregations, which would address issues of healthcare, housing, and congregational and community life.
We offer the following as an initial proposal for:
A) A mission trip in the summer or fall of 2010 which would
have two components:
1. A joint healthcare project in San Gregorio developed and
implemented in collaboration with St. Luke’s, the
Ascension mission, and the local hospital.
2. A Habitat project in Lujan which would be developed in
collaboration with Habitat Humanity of Argentina.
During this trip we could also meet with the three congre-
gations west of Buenos Aires (San Lucas, San Juan, and
San Pablo) to explore possibilities of a common mission
project. Members of these congregations could be invited
to join us in San Gregorio or Lujan as a way of building on
the relationships which were initiated during our recent
B) One or two mission trips in 2011. The first trip in 2011
might include another healthcare project in San Gregorio
as well as a Habitat project in or around Buenos Aires.
The second trip would be developed in collaboration with
IELU and the congregations during and after our 2010
We are proposing that our partnership begin with a joint project in San Gregorio for the following reasons. The Ascension mission has a very positive presence within the community of San Gregorio. Members of the mission also have a history of involvement with healthcare and other social issues. We were able to establish a very promising relationship with the medical director at the hospital in San Gregorio, who is not only connected to La Annunciación mission but also very open to working together on healthcare issues within the community.
A cursory view of the community suggests to us that there may be a benefit in a project which offers basic health screenings to people within San Gregorio. These screenings would include tests for hypertension and diabetes, both of which may be significant health concerns in that community.
Given the strong connections between La Annunciación and the local hospital as well as the interest and receptivity of the medical director there, it seems that such a healthcare project could be quickly and easily facilitated.
To support this project, St. Luke’s would be able to provide 3 – 5 healthcare professionals who could go out into the community, accompanied by people from the mission and the hospital, to offer these tests in selected neighborhoods (the neighborhoods where the members of the mission live).
In listening to the members of La Annunciación, we heard a sense of hopelessness from the people, especially concerning the agricultural economy (jobs) and inadequate housing. People said things like, “There is nothing we can do.” The healthcare project suggested above may indeed provide members of the mission something that they can do. Involvement in such a mission and ministry could revive a spirit of hope and draw in people who have drifted away around a common purpose.
For this to happen, of course, the people of the mission would need to be a full partner in this project and have a solid sense of “ownership” for it. This project cannot belong to St. Luke’s or the hospital alone
Congregations West of Buenos Aires
In visiting San Lucas, San Juan, and San Pablo, we listened to various dreams and ideas that they have for future ministries within their respective communities. At San Lucas, we heard about ideas for addressing healthcare and women’s issues. At San Juan we heard about ideas for a ministry with young people, focusing on sports activities. At San Pablo we heard about a long standing dream for a ministry in Barrio Sarmiento. All of this seemed to be ideas that were still in the very initial stages of development, and that they were not yet activity engaged in any such project.
In thinking about a partnership with these three congregations, it seems to us that St. Luke’s is not in a position to partner with three separate mission projects at this time. However, if the three congregations developed a common mission project, perhaps St. Luke’s could partner with them in some way.
The dream of a ministry in Barrio Sarmiento would require a major effort – one for which the congregation of San Pablo does not seem to have the resources to accomplish on its own at this time. It may be that the three congregations could come together around a ministry within this barrio and that such a ministry would offer opportunities for St. Luke’s to be a partner. This would seem to be more of a long-range mission project which would benefit from the three congregations working together on one or more smaller project developing the relationships and skills to engage in a more challenging project.
Most of the things above were discussed at our debriefing meeting with Gustavo Driau, Sari Demes and Fabian Kreischer on Saturday evening. At that time we developed the following “next steps”:
1. Contact the Medical Director of the hospital at San
Gregorio (Fernando Corzo) to explore the
possibilities of doing such a healthcare project in
the community. Fred Reyelts will make this contact.
2. Contact Habitat for Humanity in Argentina to explore
the possibilities of working in Lujan at the same
time that healthcare personnel are working in San
Gregorio. Alanna Klomp will make this contact.
3. Share and discuss our plans for future mission trips
with the Leadership Team and Congregation
Council. We will need to get formal approval from
the Council for this partnership and also budget
funds to assist with the expenses of future mission
trips. Pastor Frank will report to the Leadership
Team and Council. Fred will share with Council
some proposals for covering future costs.
4. Reconnect with mission trip participants at St.
Luke’s (both past and potential) to share and
explore our plans for future mission trips. Alanna
will assist in getting the mission trip particpiants
1. Discuss our reflections and proposals with the
mission in San Gregorio and discuss with them
whether and how La Annunciación might partner
with St. Luke’s and the hospital on this kind of
health care project.
2. Discuss with San Lucas, San Juan, and San
Pablo our interest in working with these three
congregations and our limitations in doing so.
Share with them our thoughts that if the three
congregations could come together on a common
project, St. Luke’s might be able to partner with
them to accomplish it.
3. Explore with the three congregations how they
might begin to build a working relationship with
St. Luke’s by having members of the
congregation join members from St. Luke’s on
one or more of the initial mission trips (e.g., as
translators, Habitat volunteers, companions).