It might not be obvious to the casual observer that Clive has a strong connection to Latin America. At a glance, the city looks pretty all-American. But beneath that American exterior, Heartland Presbyterian has established a deep tie to El Salvador.
Heartland has done mission work in Berlín, El Salvador for years, often led by Pastor Mark Davis. The church works with its Salvadoran sister parish Equipo Pastoral Comunitaria, establishing ties to the community and making global connections.
The pastor at this sister parish, Katherine Pater, will be in central Iowa until Oct. 20, available to discuss her experiences with those who are interested in El Salvador and mission work in general.
Pater, who is originally from Wisconsin, graduated from Harvard Divinity School in May of 2012 and visited El Salvador in October of that year. After graduation, she waited for an ordained “call,” or position, within the Presbyterian Church. That call came as a position to serve as a pastor in Berlín for two to four years. She has been living there since January of this year.
“When I found this opportunity and was told that I could be ordained to do it, I jumped at the chance to serve the people of Berlín,” Pater says.
The work that Pater has done so far has been immensely rewarding. She has learned more about life in a developing country by living in Berlín than she ever could in a classroom.
“The group of Salvadorans that I live and work with in Berlín have lived lives of extreme poverty and survived a brutal, 12-year-long war,” she says. “The words ‘justice’ and ‘peace’ are hardly platitudes: they are charged with urgent, powerful and absolutely real meaning.”
Of course, the rewards that come from living with an impoverished, war-torn community are also the challenges. According to Pater, the most difficult part of life in Berlín is knowing that while she and her colleagues can help their Salvadoran neighbors improve their lives and build power within communities, change won’t take place over night.
Despite the challenges, however, Pater looks forward to returning to El Salvador later this year.
“Even after my time is over, I hope to visit El Salvador again,” Pater says. “I have fallen in love with the people or Berlín. I don’t think you could keep me away from them forever.”
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