Volunteer Missionary Movement

January 2008 • Volume 14 Issue 12

Learning to Love Like a Child
By Alicia Kaul
“We will be receiving four more average wage is less than $3.30 per children on Monday.” This what I was day (if one is lucky enough to find told when I arrived at the orphanage in work), where the average person Santa Apolonia, Guatemala. has less than a third grade Exhausted from two months of education, and large families are language school, the three-hour bus needed to work the fields. Decision ride to the orphanage, and the visual implies you have other options; stimulation that comes with viewing a these children came because there place where you will spend the next were no other options. two years of your life for the first A beautiful thing took place amidst time, I simply nodded wide-eyed. The the sadness that clouds the world weekend passed with a blur of of this family. The other children excitement as it was the orphanage’s at the Orphanage came to the new nd 22 anniversary. There were grand children, not with jealousy at the meals, parades through the town, four new faces who would now dances, talent shows, nightly masses, require the same attention they all piñatas, music and more fireworks crave, but with the unbridled than I have seen in my life. Monday VMM Alicia Kaul (pictured in the middle) excitement for the children morning arrived and I was feeling just makes new friends at the Santa Apolonia represent new brothers and sisters, as exhausted if not more than when I Orphanage in Guatemala. n e w p l a ym a t e s , a n d n e w had arrived three days before. While companions to share in their although most, including adults, were eating breakfast I saw a large group of experience. Young and old, boys and crying too hard to eat. The four adults and children headed my way, I girls made their way to the four beautiful children, all siblings under quickly remembered the four new children throughout the day, many the age of eight-years-old, looked children we would be receiving. Once in bringing their own toys to present confused and terrified by the tears of the cafeteria, all were served breakfast the new children, hoping to begin their relatives. A few short hours later, drying up their wells of tears. the final goodbyes were said. One adult male was weeping inconsolably The man weeping at the table was 1. Learning to Love Like a Child even though the Sisters at the the children’s older brother. Perhaps Orphanage repeatedly assured him the knowledge his younger brother 2. Executive Director Report that this was for the better. The four and sisters just received 80 new children shared in his desperate cries 3. New VMM Board Members siblings, siblings whose first instinct to change what could not be changed. is to reach out and comfort their 4. CAFC & Dev Director The family left. A family with nine new, scared, and beautiful brothers children who farm the fields, who had and sisters, may ease his pain if only Reports just lost their father the month before, slightly. I cannot fully comprehend now, under the inability to manage 5. VMM Friends in Mission what I experienced, but I am in awe financially, made the heart-wrenching at how children can turn something 6. Transitions / Wedding News decision to bring the four youngest so painful into something so children to the Orphanage. But 7. Microfinance / In Loving beautiful, and incredibly grateful to decision is the wrong word to use, have the next two years to learn how Memory / Correction when you live in a country where the to love like a child.


Serving in … Living for ... Mission

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Executive Director’s Report
By Julia Pagenkopf
It has been an exciting Fall for VMM, beginning with the The SHARE Foundation’s ‘Milwaukee portion’ of their 25th anniversary celebration during the weekend of September 14-15-16. The keynote speaker at the day-long symposium on Saturday was Lutheran Bishop Medardo Gomez of El Salvador. There were also panel discussions and breakout sessions with Salvadorans who had flown to Milwaukee to personally share the hopes and struggles of their communities. We also learned that Sr. Linda Fuselier, from California, who attended our Discernment Weekend last April, will be working through the VMM European office. She will be placed at the St. Francis Counsellor Trainer Institute in Mbarara, Uganda. We will keep you in our prayers, Linda, and we look forward to working more closely with our European VMs! At the end of October, Betsy and I attended the U.S. Catholic Mission Association Conference in Austin, Texas, whose theme was “Are not our hearts burning? Spirituality of Mission in the 21st Century". One of the presenters was Shalini D’Souza, SCN whose ministry closely paralleled Edwina Gateley’s work with women in prostitution. Sr. D’Souza ministered to and supported women in the commercial sex trade in India for seven years and also opened the House of Hope, a residential program for the children of the women. She says, “In a world of intolerance, exclusion and individualism, our lives lived in community and communion is a powerful witness to an alternative model of social life – rootedness in the ‘Kin-dom’ values of Jesus.” Another presenter was Katie Eberhard, a young woman who had spent three years with Franciscan Mission Service in Zambia. She said, “Mission puts us in the unique position to reveal the truth that we really are brothers and sisters.” “We as missioners are uniquely blessed in our position of

VMM Members gathered for lunch during the 2007 Call-to-Action Conference held in Milwaukee in early November. (L-R) Edwina Gateley, Julia Pagenkopf, Joey Gass, Mary Jane & Glenn McLeod, Mary Jo Runnoe, Happy Gass, and Su Hood. witnesses of God’s love. We are able to see miracles and healing in a way that other people often miss.” Those unique blessings are what form the foundation for the continual transformation of our missioners, what fills them with the Spirit, and lifts them up as they walk with the poor and suffering every day. The first weekend in November found everyone at VMM at the Midwest Center downtown Milwaukee for the 2007 Call to Action conference. Our booth was next to Edwina’s so we had a better location than last year and were able to interact with more people. The theme was “From Racism to Reconciliation: Church Beyond Power and Privilege”, a theme expanded upon by some outstanding speakers, including a wonderful workshop by Edwina during which she introduced us to some of the women she has helped through Genesis House. Their stories were heartbreaking, but filled with unbelievable courage and hope. We also enjoyed having lunch on Saturday and connecting with all the VMM members who attended CTA. And then in mid-November, Betsy and I visited El Salvador for eight days. We gathered all the missioners together for a two-day Thanksgiving mini-retreat at the Loyola Center in San Salvador. The gathering gave us the opportunity to strengthen the VMM community and to share our lives and thoughts and stories. Storytelling helps to make meaning in our lives, to explore the small wonders and the larger significance of how we live in the world, and how we relate to others. Continued on next page...

In November, some of the current VMM Missioners gathered together for a two-day Thanksgiving miniretreat in San Salvador.

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Betsy and I were also able to visit some of the communities that are affiliated with our Project Partners. Ellecuria near Chalatenango is one of the rural communities that is partnered with The SHARE Foundation. Two more are being helped by our Project Partner, FUNDAHMER (Fundacion Hermano Mercedes Ruiz): Santa Cecelia in an extremely poor and violent corner of San Salvador, where Paul is working developing programs for young people; and Las Mezas, in a rural area about two hours east of San Salvador, where the Foster family is liv-

ing and helping to improve the water supply to the village, as well as providing teaching support in the school. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, the new board members nominated by VMM Members, attended their first board meeting. We welcome these new directors and look forward to the gifts and enthusiasm and creative energy they will bring to VMM. You can find out a little more about each of them below. There were also some sad moments at the Board meeting as we bid farewell to three directors who will be leaving the board – Mike McCloskey, Roger Schroeder and John Hallen. They have led VMM through some of its toughest years, and their guidance and experience and heart for mission will be sorely missed. In honor of Mike’s seven years on the board, and long-standing position as Chairman, as well as the generous contribution of time and guidance from his wife, Fran, in financial matters, VMM has established the McCloskey Missioner Fund which will be used to support the training of our new missioners in the coming years. I would like to encourage all of our Members to consider supporting this special Fund when making donations. Finally, I want to wish everyone a New Year filled with peace and joy as we all continue walking the Spirit and Lifestyle of VMM, in love and service to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

A woman in Las Mezas, El Salvador, makes corn tortillas for lunch in her kitchen.

A Warm Welcome to Our New VMM Board Members
Tim Muth is an attorney with the Milwaukee law firm, Reinhart, Boerner, Van Deuren, S.C, with a JD from Harvard Law School. He is married and has three children. His expertise is in complex civil business litigation. His parish, St. John’s Lutheran Church, has a sister parish relationship with a church outside of Tonacatapeque in El Salvador, and Tim has made six trips to that country since 2001. He is also the author of Tim’s El Salvador Blog that can be found online at http://luterano.blogspot.com. Irene Senn has worked for 17 years as the Director of the Office of Peace, Justice, and Integrity of Creation for the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. She has an MD degree from St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee and currently serves with the Southeastern Wisconsin Initiative for Fair Trade. Irene’s commitment to the Catholic tradition of justice has led her to activities at the forefront of issues such as sweat shops in Guatemala; the U.S. government’s reaction to the attacks of 9/11; water quality of the Great Lakes and how American Indians are portrayed by the media. She and her husband have four children and four grandchildren. Stella Storch, OP, is a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, with an MS in Private School Administration from the University of San Francisco. She serves as Coordinator of the Justice, Peace and Ecology Ministry for the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes (CSA) in Fond du Lac, WI, working with the Justice, Peace & Ecology Committee to establish and carry out goals for CSA members and associates. She networks with a variety of groups to promote systemic change and to bring about the reign of God on earth. Fr. Stan (Stanley) Uroda, SVD, is a priest in the Chicago province of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). Stan worked as a missionary in Ghana for seven years, primarily as a chaplain at a school. Upon his return to the U.S., he was named Director of Formation of SVD Seminarians in Chicago during the period of 1985-1990. Stan has also served in leadership of the SVD Chicago Province. During that time, he played a key role in establishing and supporting the partnership between VMM and the SVD (McKeowns in Chicago and Quinns in West Virginia). In 2005 Stan was appointed the rector of Divine Word Theologate in Chicago.

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VMs Break Bread Together in San Salvador
By Betsy Gonwa, Central America Field Coordinator
In November, at Centro Loyola, a retreat center in San Salvador, VMM hosted a retreat for the VMs. This gathering was an important and special time for the missioners and balm for mine and Julie’s spirits. For just as the missioners are blessed in their service, we were encouraged by being present and connected to those we serve (the VMs!). Some of the missioners had met each other before, but others had not. But our common experiences united us; in no time, we became community. The children played running and hiding games, adults chatted until late into the night, and the Hawaiian melody we sang came to life, “We come to share our story, we come to break the bread, we come to know our rising from the dead.” It was a beautiful time of openness to one another and to the movement of the Spirit. The missioners were asked to reflect upon their experience using the imagery of a cup. The image of a full cup was appealing to those who felt brimming with God’s abundant gifts, full and ready to offer everything to those being served. The empty cup appealed to those who wake every morning, empty of expectations, but completely open to God’s grace and blessings, ready to be fully present to whatever needs arise with the people they serve For me, I felt like the Psalmist who wrote, “My cup overflows.” And long before the time for farewells, I heard, “We need to do this more often!”

On your mark...get set...GO!
By Kathyrn Ebert, Development Director
Hello! I am the new Development Director for VMM (as some of you may recall from the Fall issue of Bridges). While I only started my position here four short months ago, it seems like I’ve been off to the races, so-to-speak, wearing multiple hats and have “hit the ground running” at VMM. I am thrilled to recognize three grants that we have recently received from very generous benefactors. We are extremely thankful to the Mary Alphonse Bradley Fund for $20,000 in support of Laura Hopps, Christine Ruppert and the Friends of Batahola Volunteers Project; the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL (Poverty, Justice & Peace Fund) for $5,000 in support of the Foster family and the Las Mezas Community Support Project; and the FSC Foundation for $3,000 in support of Paul Agnello and the Youth Leadership Training Program. Most importantly I am in awe of the generosity of each and every one of you, our individual donors. More than 39 years ago, Edwina Gateley began VMM with the intention to build on person-to-person relationships. That remains true today. We are only successful because of your belief in what our missioners do each and every day. And we can only hope to continue to serve the poor and marginalized with your support. Each and EVERY gift we receive — whether it’s $1.00 or $1,000.00 — makes a tremendous difference. Building on the “person-to-person relationship,” we will be kicking off a “Mission Circles” event with Edwina right here in Milwaukee on February 15. Our hope is to reacquaint local friends with where we are today and introduce new friends into our flock. With God on our side, we hope to be successful and to some day branch outside of Wisconsin to other parts of the country. If you are interested in attending the “Mission Circles Kickoff” here in Wisconsin or if you have friends, acquaintances, relatives, organizations, etc. who you’d like to introduce to VMM please let me know. I hope to meet you by phone and in person in the upcoming months. Thank you for warmly welcoming me into the VMM family and “away we go!”

On your mark...get set...GO! — literally! Marty & Elly Jordan recently ran the Washington, D.C. Marathon for VMM and successfully raised more than $1,800 for VMM from family, friends and fellow VMMs. A BIG thank you to Marty & Elly! Marty and Elly served as VMMs in El Salvador from 2004-2006.

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By Laura Hopps

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VMM Friends in Mission: Laura Hopps & Christine Ruppert
Christine Ruppert and I, recent graduates from Boston College, are currently working on a pilot volunteer program at the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte (CCBN) in Managua, Nicaragua. After spending a month in Mexico at a Teaching English as a Foreign Language program, we arrived in Nicaragua. While Christine started to settle into life in Batahola, I spent two weeks in Australia at the Oxfam International Youth Partnership program conference. It was an opportunity to get to know 300 youth activists from around the world and build "a force for change." This experienced has helped me greatly to get a wider perspective on the world, and to connect with 50 activists from Latin America who continue to be a source of information and encouragement. What has inspired me the most in the last three months has been getting to know more about the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte. The mission of the CCBN is: "to live a more humane and just way of life, according to the Gospels and with preference for the poor, working through Culture and Holistic Education to discover Human Rights, Self-Esteem and Equality. We believe in empowerment and in the value of sharing who we are and what we have, as a means of transforming society into the Kingdom of God." Since 1983, the CCBN has offered a space for culture, education and practical training, inviting people who have been excluded from economic, political and social power to discover their human rights, self-esteem and equality. Participants in the CCBN's educational program come from over 100 neighborhoods and spontaneous settlements in and around Managua. The CCBN has helped hundreds to become trained professionals such as lawyers, doctors, translators, social workers, journalists, business administrators, physical therapists, engineers, musicians, and artists. The CCBN offers over 11 technical and domestic arts courses including basic accounting, cooking, sewing, handicrafts, cosmetology, computer science, and others. The arts programs include: dance, music lesson, chorus, orchestra, theatre, painting and drawing. (L-R) Two members of CCBN meet with Christine and Laura at a meeting to discuss initiatives for scholarship students. In addition, the CCBN provides scholarships to 130 students to complete their elementary, high school and university education, has a 5,000-volume library open to the public, and provides workshops on a variety of topics including "Childto-Child" program aimed at reducing violence in the home, Cooperative Games for children, to explore themes of selfesteem, teamwork, assertiveness and conflict resolution, labor rights for women, and photography for children. For more information see the CCBN website: www.centrobatahola.org. Christine and I feel blessed to be part of such an amazing community. Over the next two years, we will be working to set up a sustainable volunteer program, which will include research into existing programs. We will be starting an English program, which we will begin teaching in February, as well as working with women's groups that want to become cooperatives. In addition, we will be helping the CCBN in the development of other initiatives aimed at empowering women and youth, and will be involved in the CCBN as students as well. We hope to take classes in guitar, Natural Medicine, and other areas! For more information, including news, photos, and videos, see our weblog at: http://bataholavolunteers.blogspot.com/. We thank VMM for their support and guidance, and the other Central American VMs! We look forward to sharing more about our experiences with you in the future.

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By Kelley Burns
It was a whirlwind. Two weeks before I was scheduled to begin a third year with the Peace Corps in Costa Rica I was offered the SHARE/ VMM position in El Salvador. I didn’t even hesitate. In a flurry of excitement, tears, nerves, and goodbyes, I “redistributed” my few belongings, packed my bags and landed in San Salvador on October 11, then reported for work the following Monday morning. As the Grassroots Solidarity Education Coordinator for SHARE (www.shareelsalvador.org), I am in charge of organizing “large” delegations. My first project consists of planning a delegation of 100 youth to visit El Salvador in July 2008. The delegation will have an environmental theme and focus on creating alliances between Salvadoran and American youth. (If you know of interested youth please send them to www.share-elsalvador.org/delegations/youthdelegation.) We are also working on developing a theological consortium in which we will build on SHARE’s long history of accompaniment via delegations by adding an academic focus for theological schools and seminaries. I am very excited about both projects and am proud to be a part of SHARE’s legacy of solidarity with the Salvadoran people. In November, I attended my first VMM retreat and met my fellow Central American VMs. As this was my first face-toface meeting with VMM, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was my community. Since leaving the Peace Corps, I hadn’t realized how much I missed that camaraderie that is created among people who have dedicated themselves to a common cause. Regardless of where we started, we’ve ended up here, looking to be part of something bigger than ourselves. “My cup runneth over.” As far as living in El Salvador, my experience is distinct from most volunteers in that I have not lived in the U.S. for over two years. Whereas most volunteers are giving up the creature comforts of the first world, I’m moving from living in a marginal community as a VERY grassroots organizer, to living in an urban environment as a NGO worker. The greater institutional and systematic failings of El Salvador are not far either. I only have running water in the mornings and even then it’s not safe for drinking. Armed guards pepper the streets, and hang out of delivery trucks. Of the fortunate individuals that are counted as “employed,” over 50% of them sell goods in the streets. Trinkets, toys, fruits, fish, crabs and cell phone covers are pandered at intersections. Those that don’t have anything to sell, improvise. Mimes, acrobats, magicians, and window cleaners perform between cars at red lights, then pass by windows for change. At an intersection I pass through each day on my way to work I see a young man spitting fire out of his mouth. The first time I saw a big ball of flame erupting into the air, I thought a bus was exploding. When I realized what was going on I was somewhat amused by his industriousness. I was still thinking of the long-term health consequences of this trade the next time I passed, when I saw a young boy of nine or ten alternating with him and it suddenly seemed more desperate than industrious. There are so many children, young boys barefooted in old filthy clothes on Sunday morning sidewalks. The only thing more heartbreaking than seeing them, is when you realize that you don’t notice so much anymore and you wonder what kind of person you are to not see it. That is the tragic irony of El Salvador. Another life, one that doesn’t know hunger or desperation, is visible everywhere yet definitively out of reach. Luxury malls abound selling mirages, no less fictitious than the storylines on popular Colombian soap operas. In Costa Rica, the poverty is not immediately evident. I found it hiding behind tourist resorts and nature reserves. In El Salvador, there is no hiding. Here, poverty comes to me.

Wedding News
VM Keith Pfaller and his wife, Colleen, were married on September 2, 2007. Keith works as youth minister and Colleen works at Comair. The Pfallers reside in Ohio. Keith served as a VMM in Zambia from 20002002. Congratulations Keith & Colleen!

Calling all VMM Members! If you have news you’d like to share in an upcoming newsletter, please email Kat at kebert@vmmusa.org.

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By John Hallen

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Microfinance: A Path to Service for Lay Missioners
Over the past 25 years, microfinance programs, especially in Latin America and Africa, have made a significant impact on poverty. The World Bank reports that of all the programs attempting to help the poor, microfinance has consistently been the most successful. Muhammad Yunus started microfinance in Bangladesh by establishing the Grameen Bank in 1974. He recently received the Nobel Peace prize. From 2001-2003 Craig Hickein and I worked extensively through Catholic Relief Services (CRS) with micro credit programs in El Salvador from 2001-2003. Microfinance has achieved both impact and sustainability. It seems to me to be a great area of service for lay missioners. The majority of the world’s people earn their living as family farmers, artisans and trades people. A visitor to Central America will immediately spot many poor people trying to sell various goods on the streets. Many would be considered extremely poor and can barely survive on a subsistence economy. In urban areas as many as 50% of working people are engaged in these types of activities and in rural settings the percentage is even higher. Muhammad Yunus gave very small loans to poor women in Bangladesh to start cottage businesses. It might have been buying another cow or a piece of equipment but whatever the case it allowed the borrowers to make a small income. The dramatic learning for Yunus was that the women paid back the loans at a 90% plus rate. Thus the microfinance movement began. Today the World Bank estimates that over 500 million people support their families through such small scale projects. John consults with a microfinance client. John served as a VMM in El Salvador from 2001-2003. John Hallen consults with a microfinance client. John served as a VMM absence of banking 2001-2003. In many countries thein El Salvador from systems which provide access to the poor leaves the poor with no access to formal credit. Most people are squatters who have no legal property which can be used as collateral. People with an entrepreneurial spirit have to get loans from family members or moneylenders who charge exorbitant interest rates often as high as 20-30% per month. There are also pervasive stereotypes that women are credit risks which make it difficult for women to negotiate for financial services. There are thousands of different microfinance businesses. They all start with very small loans. Examples from El Salvador include: an oven that helped a woman expand selling pupusas, a small cart that allowed a man to sell ice cream, a loan to expand a living room to provide more space to sell groceries and a set of home cleaning items which helped two young girls start a home cleaning business. As people repay minimum loans they qualify for larger loans if their businesses are viable. CRS promoted the formation of cooperatives which provided a sense of support and solidarity to the participants. These groups often became the community banks which managed the loan program. They provide a guarantee for loans and are a vehicle for supporting group member’s businesses. The meetings also provide a forum for women to socialize, exchange ideas and pass on information useful to the members. These cooperatives or community banks are self-managed. They elect their own officers, determine procedures and regulations and establish appropriate bylaws. The growth in microfinance institutions has been phenomenal. Financial institutions such as banks which avoided micro credit originally, jumped on board when it became clear that loans were repaid at a 90% or better rate. Many had to change their stereotypical thinking about women and the poor. Microfinance is an excellent vehicle through which to apply the Social Teachings of the Church. It is another avenue through which VMM missioners can serve and journey with the poor.

In Loving Memory
On December 27, 2007, Lara was tragically killed in a car accident leaving behind five children under the age of 14. Lara is the sister of our missioner, Daemian Foster. Daemian and his family are currently serving in Las Mezas, El Salvador. Eternal Rest Grant Unto Her, O Lord , and May Perpetual Light Shine Upon Her.

In the August 2007 issue of Bridges we misspelled Carole Schupp’s first name, omitting the “e” at the end of “Carole.” Our sincere apologies to Carole for the error!

Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Permit No. 9 Greendale, WI

Volunteer Missionary Movement 5980 West Loomis Road Greendale Wisconsin 53129

Our Mission
VMM recruits lay Christians in an ecumenical spirit to witness to the Catholic social justice tradition. VMM supports their commitment to sharing their lives, resources and skills as they collaborate with domestic and overseas partners to promote equality, empower sustainable human development, and challenge unjust and oppressive social structures.
Bridges is published by the U.S. office of the Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM). Phone: 414-423-8660; Email: vmm@vmmusa.org; Website: www.vmmusa.org. VMM is a nonprofit 501(c)3 charitable corporation registered in Illinois. The Newsletter Editor reserves the right to edit all submissions.

Executive Director: Development Director: CAFC: Office Support:

Julia M. Pagenkopf Kathyrn Ebert Betsy Gonwa Tom Kowalski

VMM-Europe: All Hallows, Grace Park Road, Dublin 9, Ireland

Spirit and Lifestyle
This is a continuing excerpt from “Spirit and Lifestyle” by Edwina Gateley We must be men and women
whose action is motivated and strengthened through prayer. We gather together to share our worship and prayer, recognizing that Christ is at the center of our lives, and that as People of God, celebration and worship means sharing and gathering.

We learn to be still and to listen
in all types of prayer, not only to the needs of our brothers and sisters in the noise and action of today's world, but also to that silent movement of God's action within us which leads us to a deeper awareness of God's love for each of us and a greater sensitivity and caring for all God's People. We bring together in harmony the voice of the people and the voice of the Spirit, and we strive to respond to both.

Our prayers, as well as being
shared and public, also involve personal and silent encounters with God for which there can be no substitute.