“Be Examples to the Flock”

22 06 2011

Author Myles McCormick (front) with Marina (third from right), her family, and friends.

by MYLES McCORMICK, World Service Corps

I have been struggling with how to describe the life and work of Marina de Merino and her grassroots community-development organization in El Salvador. Instead of fleeing during the civil war atrocities of the 1980s, she stayed to struggle and save the soul of her homeland. “If we don’t set the example, who will?” she explained.

Having received her philosophy and work methodology directly from her 16-year mentor, Ed Guy, Marina is the embodiment of 1 Peter 5:2–3 NRSV:

…tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock.

Be examples to the flock. True joy for her community and its successes are evident on her smiling face at every neighborhood meeting, church event, planning session, and worship service.

Marina spends hours every week maintaining friendships with community members around the Program Center for ADCASMUS (Association of Community and Environmental Development and Multiple Services of El Salvador). The people are both members and nonmembers of Community of Christ. This places Marina in a position to try to guide the community to a better standard of living.

At the Program Center lives a family: Carlos, Francesca, and their 8-year-old son, Josué. Previously they lived under a sheet of plastic on the bank of a river. The parents collected plastic and glass bottles and shards to scrape a living.

As a social worker, Marina took on this family case, putting them in her center for shelter and work. They have lived there three years, helping keep the grounds clean. Last year, Carlos and Francesca were baptized under a small grove of yellow bamboo.

Marina understands that a key to bringing sustainable change to her country and community is children. During the school year ADCASMUS facilitates a free before- and after-school study program for students in middle and junior high schools. Books covering basic classes and a licensed librarian-turned-educator-turned-social worker reinforce the program.

Students come from the immediate and surrounding neighborhoods. A few even travel over 30 minutes to learn in a peaceful environment. Leaders encourage all students to bring their parents. Then, the staff involves them in helping their children study.

Marina also has confronted violent gangs that harassed some students for “safe passage” through the neighborhoods. She and her faith ended this.

Marina left her home congregation in Santa Rita, near the capital, San Salvador, to found a congregation that shares land with her organization’s center. They are not in a fancy building in a glistening metropolis, three blocks from a Starbucks. Instead, they work where the need is greatest, where struggle is visible, where the sheep wait.

Nearly all ADCASMUS funding has originated from Community of Christ’s World Hunger Fund and is channeled through World Accord. Programs and ministries like those led by Marina are possible through Spirit-filled generosity. Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a states:

Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers of all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.

God calls on us to respond with our gifts to foster reconciliation where there is brokenness. We answer by loving one another in a community of shalom. God calls us to shepherd the flock by being examples.



2 responses

22 06 2011
Keith McMillan

Thanks for sharing Marina’s inspiring story. We are so blessed to see examples of what you did in
El Salvador around the world. You tied in beautifully the scriptural admonitions and everyday life experiences of how when we respond-many (including us!) are blessed. Keep up the good work my friend.

22 06 2011
William RAISER

The appears to be a case of the gospel in action, restoring and creating community. Would that this were not an isolated example.

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