Monday, March 17, 2008

Palm Sunday

On our way to the procession

Little Robert Emilio checks out the palms outside his grandma's house

The Liturgy of the Palms

San Andrés celebrated Palm/Passion Sunday with style. We opted to make the procession shorter this year in order for more people to participate, and it worked. Almost 40 people processed down the street fron Niña Romana´s house to the church. The church was packed with 55 people, and the youth did a fabulous job reading the Passion narrative.

The youth of the parish read the Passion gospel

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Back to Work...

On my first day back at work, Jacob checks out the librería (bookstore) with new friends Vilma and Lupita

Vilma holds Jacob; Jacob makes me laugh!

We arrived back in El Salvador after spending the last two months of my maternity leave with family in California, and both returned to work, in mid-February. It's been good to be back in El Salvador, and while returning to work has been an adjustment for all of us (Jacob's not to big on Mommy not being around a couple of evenings a week, and since Vince has been working with groups we've had several adventures in tag-team parenting!), it's been wonderful to see Jacob with his many Salvadoran "amigos." He goes to the office with me two days a week, and my staff completely re-arranged my office because they weren't pleased with the placement of his "cunita" (aka playpen)!

I have been thrilled to return to a church and school which are not only still running, but doing better than before I left! A number of physical improvements have been made to the school, the staff re-vamped (both to meet more stringent Ministry of Education standards), and a new, wonderfully dedicated, highly qualified director hired. When I left there were three evening activities a week at the church, and now there are four! Vilma, the lay reader who the bishop put in charge of San Andrés while I was gone, did a fabulous job. We need to pray that she continues to respond to God´s call to ministry, hopefully ordained ministry!

Jacob visits with Don Emilio and Niña Romana;
Jacob gets a hug from Dieguito (below)

Thursday, March 06, 2008


The Church must change, not only in order to attract new members and grow, not simply in order to survive as an institution. The Church must embrace change if it is to embrace the mission to which Christ is calling it in the 21st century: a mission to be Jesus to a world which is increasingly divided, increasingly broken, increasingly secularized, and plummeting semi-obliviously toward disaster. How can we be Jesus’ loving hands (multiplying bread and fish); how can we be his healing presence (casting out demons and raising the dead); how can we live his Paschal Mystery—dying to ourselves and being raised up for others in our world today? A world that, in California, looks like four-lane freeways and identical shopping outlets; tucked-away migrant labor camps and lonely oncology wards? A world that, in San Salvador, looks like bright children with an uncertain future, unwieldy bureaucracies top-heavy with corrupt officials, the price of beans and corn doubling so people can eat half as much, a dozen young lives a day cut off by uncaring violence, families on two sides of a wall that prevents them from seeing each other, maybe ever again?

I don’t have a strategy or technique for being Jesus in the middle of all of this. I know that it is important to keep love several blocks ahead of fear. I know accompaniment is key—it’s important just to be there with people; to show up. And I know that mission is about transformation—of the world in Christ’s image, yes, but first and foremost, of ourselves. It won’t happen by sitting still. That transformation-that-is-mission happens when we allow ourselves to be turned inside-out by others’ reality, which we come to realize is our reality too. Then, there is true solidarity: we stand together. Then we can start to talk about change in the world, together, because we ourselves have been changed.

Change is terrifying to most human beings. Yet change is also the most organic, natural thing in the world. Our bodies’ cells are constantly changing themselves, being renewed and transformed every minute; if they weren’t, we’d be dead. Change can be drastic and sudden, or gradual, but it is never total—we always bring something of the old with us, even if it’s only in the imprints of our hearts and minds, in the shaping of who we are. Change is life. To be open to change is to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, it is she who will breathe into us the power to be Jesus to the world. -Amy+

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Noah, our friend and co-worker in El Salvador, was staying with us. He got a call on his cell phone around 11PM on Monday, November 19. I was in the room, and I could tell it was something serious. Cain, who works with Noah in rural Usulután, called to tell Noah that Cain’s son-in-law, Dani, had been shot. Dani and his compañera, Cain´s daughter Carolina, were members of my youth group at church and lived in the neighborhood. She 18, he 21; they had had a baby five months prior.

When Noah told me that Cain´s son-in-law had been shot, I stayed calm and just asked if he was alright. “They’re operating on him in the hospital in the neighborhood.” It took me that long in my fuzzy post-partum mind to make the connection between “Cain’s son-in-law” and Dani. But I still didn’t freak out. Noah was raging about the violence and the randomness and the injustice, Vince was listening sobered; I lit a candle to leave burning, made Noah and Vince pray with me, and went to bed. I felt like everything was going to be alright.

By the next morning we learned that Dani was in a coma, had been transferred to the hospital in Zacamil, over an hour away, and was to be operated on again. By mid-morning he had been transferred a third time to the large public Hospital Rosales in the Centro for surgery. After several calls from Cain, Noah decided to get on a bus to Rosales, about ten blocks from our apartment, to offer some moral support to the family. I decided to go with him.

There was a long line of people waiting with little pieces of paper to get in for visiting hours, but Noah and I, either because of our invisible “gringo pass” or because the gate guard knew the situation was dire, were let right in. We hurried through the tropical landscaped grounds of the hospital, passing open buildings which felt like odd crosses between Victorian wards and military barracks. We finally found the surgery unit, one of the few new buildings on the campus, and were again let quickly through a guarded gate. In the hallway beyond a closed door we found the priest who works with Noah and Cain and several women surrounding Dani’s mother, who was seated and sobbing. We had arrived moments after Dani died on the operating table.

The priest told us that Cain and Carol were outside and could probably use some support. I sat with Carol for two hours after she found out her life partner was dead. I sat with her on the sidewalk, backed up against the wall of the hospital, her baby playing with an older woman a few feet away. I sat with her in the car on the way to her parent’s house, and on the sofa. These are some of the things that she said...

“It’s not true, it’s not true. Dani’s not dead. He’s not dead.”
“My love why? Why? Don’t leave me! Fight! Fight for your son!”
“I love you, Dani, I love you, I love you, I love you...”
“O God, don’t take him away from me!”
“He wanted to marry me.”
“He loved my baby so much.”
“God please take care of him for me, wherever he is.”
“I know he’ll watch over us.”
“I’ll take care of our baby for you, I’ll be his mother and father.”

At the funeral the next day Carolina read a reading. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met.

After the service I dropped Vince and Jacob off at home and caught up with the funeral procession going out to the cemetery for the burial. It’s a lovely, grassy place in the hills above the city, with trees. Out of everything, the burial was the hardest part. The youth from the church, his friends, sang a song about having lost the best one. Irma, the diocesan youth leader, spoke about the youth needing to carry on in his footsteps—those of a humble, gentle, genuine, and good person. Cain spoke eloquently. Dani’s mother thanked everyone for their support. And Carol spoke, and sang a love song over her boyfriend of 7 years’ casket. Even small children were crying as she sang.

I have often thought that Salvadorans get melodramatic at interments, sobbing and wailing over caskets as they are lowered into the ground. The cries that day were real, and they were the most gut-wrenching sounds I have ever heard. Noah said afterwards, “I never want to hear anyone scream like that again.”

I need to tell you why Dani died. He was killed purportedly by a 13-year-old, who was given a gun by the gang in our neighborhood and told to stake out Dani’s mother’s house and wait for his brother. Dani’s brother, a taxi driver like he was, had allegedly refused the gang members a ride at 2AM to commit a drive-by shooting in enemy territory several weeks before. The 13-year-old needed to kill someone in order to become a fully fledged marero, gang member. If he had come back without having murdered, he would have been beaten or killed by the gang. So he shot the first person that drove a taxi up to their mother’s house and got out. Dani was shot on his mother’s doorstep—she saw him shot from within. And Carol and their five-month-old son witnessed the shooting as well; they were sitting in the taxi.

Days after the funeral Carolina and Dani’s families both moved permanently out of the neighborhood where they had grown up. It is not safe for them to go back.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jacob´s Baptism

The Bishop baptizes and Amy annoints Jacob

Jacob Ruben was brought into the Body of Christ, hecho miembro de la familia de Dios (made a part of God´s family), at a little less than a month old, on November 18, 2007, at San Andrés Apóstol. Bishop Barahona baptized Jacob, Padre Richard Bower, director of Cristosal, preached, and his momma got to put holy oil on his head and say in two languages, "Jacob Ruben, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism, and marked as Christ's own forever." His godmothers are Marta Muñoz, engineer and revolutionary, and Suyapa Pérez, liberation theologian, both Salvadoran friends, and his godfathers are Noah Bullock, a friend and fellow missioner in El Salvador, and José López, director of the Anglican Church´s human rights office. We are grateful to God for such wonderful compadres and comadres! (This is a special term signifying a special relationship that doesn´t exist in English-- the relationship between parents and godparents-- they are ´co-parents´.)

The godparents and parents hold the light of Christ for Jacob after he is baptized

Padre Bower holds Jacob during ´baptismal preparation´ on the eve of his baptism

Thursday, November 15, 2007

He's Here!

Just out!

Our son, Jacob Ruben Zuniga, was born at 8:30p.m. on Tuesday, October 23rd at the Hospital Centro Ginecológico in San Salvador, El Salvador. He was 7 pounds 8 ounces and about 20 inches long. He is healthy, beautiful, and has a lot of hair on his head! Thank you all so much for your prayers, congratulations, and well wishes. The world feels new for us with Jacob in it.

On our way home

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Amy and Vince in front of the new mural painted by San Andrés kids and members of our companion parish (yes, that is a tiny blond ´Reverenda´standing in the church door on the mural!)

We have some exciting news to share... Vince and I are expecting our first child this month! He will be born in El Salvador, and so will be both a Salvadoran and a U.S. citizen (this is our Salvadoran friends' main concern-'If he's born here will he be able to go to the U.S.?'). We plan to spend a couple months around Christmas introducing our little one to California family and friends, and then will return to El Salvador to finish our third year here, Sept. 2007-Aug. 2008. We will continue our work here with the Anglican Episcopal Church of El Salvador as Volunteers in Mission of the Episcopal Church, supported by Foundation Cristosal ( Many, many thanks to all of you who have donated to our mission fund and helped make this year (2006-2007) possible for us! We feel called to continue growing in this crazy, difficult, wonderful place... both in our work and ministry, spiritually and as human beings, and now as a family. -Amy