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El Salvador Mission Trip in the Episcopal Times

The Summer 2007 Episcopal Times, published by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, included an article on the El Salvador mission trip that Paul Pyzowski participated in. The complete article can be found here. A portion of the article can be read below.

New leaders get mission-trip ready and set to go

“Medical supplies, sunscreen, serious bug dope!”

These were some of the things Dianne Smith was packing for a June mission trip to El Salvador. She said the most important equipment she was taking, though, was not on her list: it had to do with her faith and life experience so far and some recent training that’s helped shape it into a mission-ready perspective.

A grandmother of five and a parish nurse active for 35 years in almost every way imaginable at St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown, Smith describes herself as “quietly passionate about many things.”

“In recent years, I have been fortunate to be able to travel a little, but, no, I have never had a mission trip experience,” she said. “The opportunity to join this mission team felt like an absolute miracle. Probably all of my life prepared me for that immediate ‘Yes!’”

A fellow traveler is Paul Pyzowski. The father of two young children, he is a biotech executive who joined the Episcopal Church soon after moving to Massachusetts seven years ago and is currently the junior warden at St. Mary’s Church in Newton Lower Falls. Though he has what he describes as “significant international experience,” having lived in Japan and Switzerland and traveled in India, China and Indonesia, he, like Dianne Smith, has no prior mission trip experience.

But their different journeys have brought them to a common place: both are part of a group putting themselves forward for service through a newly developed diocesan mission leadership training program. The program aims to create a wider-spread pool of trained leaders who can share experience and expertise with congregations considering or planning service travel.

Having completed the training—nine monthly meetings, two hours each—10 people made the June trip to El Salvador (a second team also completed the training but has had to postpone its planned mission to Tanzania).

The group worked on a road repair project and visited Jiquilisco, in the country’s southeast, to learn about hurricane and earthquake devastation and Episcopal Relief and Development projects there. They also worshiped in different churches and spent time with local clergy and lay leaders, sharing experiences of church life.

“Unlike other mission trips where attention is focused on one specific community for purposes of developing a close relationship, our itinerary exposed the team to a range of projects and experiences in El Salvador,” explained the Rev. Ted Gaiser, a deacon and coordinator of global mission partnerships, which are part of current diocesan mission strategy. He and the Rev. Mark McKone-Sweet, Curate at St. Paul’s Church in Natick— both experienced mission trip leaders—accompanied the group to El Salvador.

“Every mission team is unique. Our group is no exception. We all have experienced time of doubt, fear and anxiety—questioning God’s call and why we need to be part of this team, questioning our physical body’s capacity, questioning whether we have time for this,” McKone-Sweet said.

The group experience built into the training model made all the difference, according to Dianne Smith.

“It was not easy for any of us to carve out that amount of time and to travel some distance,” Smith said, “but the gatherings were invaluable in terms of both content and process. We haven’t even gotten to the airport, but already I wish every Episcopalian could have a similar experience.”

Pyzowski said he hoped to bring back kindling to spark his parish’s dormant relationship with a sister parish in El Salvador, St. Mary’s in San Bartolo.

Smith said she viewed the whole experience—training and travel—as an invitation: “I go with one expectation only: that we will learn a great deal from our Salvadoran friends.

“Hasta la vista!”

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