(ABP) -- The objective of the community organizer was to help our church discover projects about which we are passionate, ideas for mission and ministry in our city. She began by asking everyone in the circle to mention one way in which they had, at one time in life, advocated for change.
Nothing sprang immediately to mind.
The other people in the circle began to talk, and it turns out that among us we actually did have some social change-makers. One person shared about starting a campaign to have the college cafeteria serve more fresh vegetables. Another person mentioned working toward a policy change at their condo community that would allow more play space for children. Slowly but surely, folks shared stories about efforts they’d undertaken to make a difference.
I still couldn’t think of anything.
When it was my colleague Edgar Palacios’ turn to share, he mentioned helping found the National Debate for Peace in El Salvador and attending the signing of the 1992 peace accords at the United Nations that marked the end of the war in El Salvador.
That’s when I gave up trying to think of anything. It’s not easy working with somebody who helped save a country, and don’t let anybody tell you anything different.
Edgar Palacios and I have served on ministry staff together for almost 10 years, and I was reminded again of the impact his life and work have had in this world just this past week when the Baptist World Alliance named him the 2012 winner of the BWA’s Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award.
From 1980-1992 a devastating civil war ripped the country of El Salvador apart. At that time, Pastor Edgar was serving as a pastor and advocate for the many who were suffering as a result of the conflict. Spurred by the conviction that our faith calls us to tirelessly work for peace and justice, Pastor Edgar began working even harder to facilitate peaceful solutions to the war. Across ideological, political, social and even religious differences, he worked to help people talk with each other, to find solutions that stopped the violence and destruction.
For his convictions that Christian faith meant advocating for peace and justice, Pastor Edgar was targeted for assassination by the Salvadoran government. While he experienced a harrowing escape with his life, some of his friends and colleagues were brutally killed, and all of them paid a significant price for their convictions.
If you ask him about it, he’s likely to look confused. In his mind there is no difference between being a Christ-follower and working for peace and justice. Everywhere we look, wherever we live, there are people whose voices have been silenced and for whom we can speak in the name of Jesus Christ. Our work, he would probably say, is to find those people and to right those injustices. Just as Jesus did.
Around here it’s not so unusual to feel intimidated by the tremendous witness of Pastor Edgar’s life. It makes advocating for another salad bar in the cafeteria seem, well, not quite as urgent as it seemed at the time. Being around Pastor Edgar reminds me every day that the mandate of the gospel is rigorous and urgent; that none of us is exempt from its call; and that even those of us who feel insignificant have more power to make change than we think we do.
See what I mean when I say it’s not easy working with somebody who helped save a country? Knowing Pastor Edgar reminds me that I say I am a follower of the One who saved the whole world.
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