Posted by: kristenandhierald | April 12, 2010


Eyes…I see the eyes and I am reminded of all that has been, I see the eyes of a mother yearning to change the world in which her children live in. But even more I see the pain the injustice of years of imposition, of colonialization, of oppression, of feeling powerless, and of wanting to simply co-exist. As the tears role down her eyes I am reminded of the countless of stories of other woman in the country of my ancestors who share the same pain, the same grief, the same anguish. I tell myself this should not be, this cannot be, it has to stop.

She reminds me of mothers who all they know are the tears that they have shed for their little ones, the tears the represent the injustice that each one of them has had to carry on their backs. I am not sure how to take all this pain that I am seeing, I am not sure at times what to do with the stories of injustice that continue to be filtered through my ears. I simply do not know how this world can continue to exist and yet so many live so blindly without an ounce of understanding, willingness, or knowing of the stories that I have had to listen to.

Eyes…they look at me and all I see are the tears…eyes…the stories of the past the stories of whats to come and the fear of what is unspoken. More and more I ask myself if I am to walk alongside this person I can have compassion, I can listen, and I can be present but how many more are going through the same things. It takes every ounce within me to say “Its going to be okay, fear nothing your family will be okay. Look at the signs, the rain, the rainbow, the dove, the universe is saying it is well” as I search deeper I begin to understand that it is indeed well, but the eyes of that woman, the eyes of despair, anguish take me back to a place I don’t want to be in. I push myself and I say enough we need to do this together and we need to change the world we live in. We need to find ways for the richest CEO to stop earning 86 million dollars while the child who is 6 can’t go to school and is forced to sell 25 cent gum on the bus or on the street and then is driven to join the gangs because they offer him the security of a family, the protection of a loved one, and the certainty of having something to eat.

THIS HAS TO CHANGE and MY LIFE WAS TWISTED AND TURNED BECAUSE IT PAINED ME NOT JUST FOR THAT MOTHER WHOSE SON WAS IN DANGER AND WHO THE LEGAL SYSTEM OFFERED NO SUPORT BUT FOR ALL THE MOTHERS, SONS, AND DAUGHTERS WHO ARE GOING THROUGH THE SAME. My life turned and twisted and screamed because of the corruption that has deeply penetrated the land of my ancestors and deeply inflicted the lives of those who live here. But even greater pain was to recognize where it was coming from and recognizing that it was all directly connected with the place I have always called my home the United States of America. I am taken back and see all those walking so blindly neveri seeing those eyes..the stories…the pain…and what hurts even more are the bright youthful minds that are being lost because of this system, because of this unconscienceness…

The cylce seems endless but it has to stop somewhere, day in day out I learn that it can. The stories shared by Marta, the way I have seen with my eyes how she carries her work have impacted me in such a way that I will not leave here the same person. I know that I AM who I am, I know that I Need to firmly be grounded, I know that I need to assert my right to demand, dream, and concieve a new future. I not only believe I KNOW that what I have chosen is the path I have to be on. Life continues yes and many just live life. I want to appreciate all that surrounds me, I want to love like I have never loved before, I want to be one with myself, the earth, and humanity. Marta’s words describe it so well:

“To work for peace and justice in societies which value possessions and consumerism can be a very trying experience, because that is what is promoted, sold to the peoples and nations in the world. Thus, the ways to create balances and keep the clarity to go on is essential. This is the key to the path of peace, and one must be about this every day. It is not about optimism, nor faith. It is about having come to a certainty – with no doubt – that this is one’s way, and that this is the contribution you are to make here on earth. It is about being able to see the vision, the light that is much farther than the day, the year, the working on the issues, or even present needs, and for that light and vision to guide one’s work to impact the seventh generation and beyond. To know – not to believe, but to know – that this is your call, your challenge, and then to be ready to carry it out in a most creative way, in joy, so you can be about your path and create possibilities so that society in its entirety can be about this nationhood project – the durable, sustainable peace project.”

At the end of the day what vision are each one of us carrying, how are we seeing beyond the present day and working to impact the seventh generation? I know many reading this might label me crazy, but I can no longer live a life that is about the well being of all humanity and the health of the planet, I know that it is not possible. I can’t exist without the reminder of those eyes. As Marta says, I know, I don’t simply believe it but I KNOW that THIS IS MY CALL, THIS IS OUR CALL, AND OUR CHALLENGE TO THE BE READY TO CARRY IT OUT.

Are you ready to carry it out? Will you be willing to look into those eyes of the mother not knowing what steps to take but knowing that she has to be strong for the sake of her son who she sees has a future? We need to change this cycle and this is a call to those living in the US to realize that it has to be different. I want to live in a world that when I see those eyes I see possibilities, I see creativity, I see joy, a new day, I see life, the life we have been given by our creator to live fully. I WANT TO SEE “THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS HEAVEN” that is the world I want and that is the world I will work for.

Posted by: kristenandhierald | April 7, 2010

“But it’s beautiful to love the world…”

Our time in El Salvador is slowly running out. I feel like I am now entering finals and I have to recapture everything that I have been learning. Each moment here has been a lesson from the way I set the pot on top of the oven to understanding the complex reasons of the violence here in El Salvador. What I do know is that everything has a reason, a purpose in order to continually create the conditions that we need for a different society: we have to be willing to have a purpose, a mindfulness and be precautionary. All of these alone seem very simple but I think that if they were so simple we wouldn’t be coexisting in such horrible conditions and our brothers and sisters around the world would have very different lives than the ones they currently are living.

I have also learned in a very real way what it means to advocate and to exist in solidarity with one another. Words cannot express the daily encounters that we experience here in El Salvador, each time I sit on the bus and see the faces of each individual attempting to sell 25 cents worth of candy, a soda, or even a natural remedy for the joints it hurts me. Not because I feel bad for the person needing to make a living but because I know that my country yes I am naming the United States as my country has had something to do with creating the conditions that maintain a few very rich people and a lot of folks very impoverished! It also hurts because I know that possibilities do exist and if we truly wanted for people to have a different way of living we could impact countries like El Salvador with its 8 million inhabitants. But people here don’t see the possibilities because they have been blinded, raped, robbed of their identity to be people and many simply no longer feel that the new world is indeed possible. Salvadorans have no sense of who we are and simply are surviving a metaphor for just making ends meet.

I do not believe one has to say that I am not going to have a job and I am going to change the world its more than that. It’s about what a person commits to do in their everyday. How one lives and how one challenges those in their circles that’s what makes the impact. Even more than protesting on the street and yelling change one needs to show it, to be it, and to believe it. As I have been trying to wrap my head around the role I/we have decided to take I have gained a clearer picture of it all…we need to love with all of our hearts the world in which we exist in. We need to love the earth that we exist on, we need to love each other. Yes, it sounds flaky I am sure for some but I have experienced something I never have before and that is that when a person genuinely believes in changing conditions one can truly move mountains. I have seen it with my own eyes. I have understood that when a person comes with a situation it is not just about solving the person’s situation but about thinking how will we ensure that thousands of other people do not have the same situation happen to them. It’s not simply putting off the fires but preventing the fires and ensuring that no one thinks that starting that fire is okay in the first place. It takes work but it’s possible, it is and I believe it with all of my heart.

There is a poem I keep reading over and over and over trying each moment to make sense of it more and more but I think it applies on how we should envision what we do it goes like this:

“Before the Scales, Tomorrow”

Otto Rene Castillo

And when the enthusiastic

story of our time

is told,

for those

who are yet to be born

but announce themselves

with more generous face,

we will come out ahead

-those who have suffered most from it.

And that

being ahead of your time

means suffering much from it.

But it’s beautiful to love the world

with eyes

that have not yet

been born.

And splendid

to know yourself victorious

when all around you

it’s all still so cold,

so dark.

The words are so true yet depending on the day challenge us in such a way that one might be like no this isn’t for me. I am learning that I do not want to simply be a change agent but walk alongside individuals who want a different society and I want those closest to me to support the work Kristen and I are committing to and if we can at least receive that support we can walk and sing. We aren’t radicals yelling off the top of our lungs though at times it feels like its all we can do. We simply want a different world for the seventh generation and beyond for the children having to sell fruit and candy in the market, for the woman who doesn’t have the $22 to pay for her daughters medicine and to cease the cycle from existing of injustice, oppression, and all other isms from continuing to exist.

The challenge remains will you who are reading this blog commit to supporting our work to change the U.S. in order to create a just world for all of humanity and for the health of the planet? Supporting does not mean just saying good job Hierald and Kristen but supporting means owning your own responsibility in your every day and asking yourself how will what I do impact not just me, but the local community, the region, the nation, and the world. I read something today by Grace Lee Boggs an Asian American activist in Detriot who will be turning 95 this year she said the following:

“Until I change, society will not change. When I change, society can change. Revolutions involve two-sided transformation. They are not just struggles for power. That’s a very macho view. Revolutions are {r}evolution .”

This is taking ownership of our own present conditions and it reminds us that a revolution is not taking power it is about evolving (EVOLUTION) into different human beings as Boggs says, to become more human, more caring in our relationships with one another, with all living things and with the Earth.

Food for thought…

The next entry will be on reflections on Msg. Romero, till then share with others

Much Love,


Posted by: kristenandhierald | March 13, 2010

Convictions : Living Life to the Fullest

This blog was supposed to be published March 6th…but we figured we would post it anyways, but another entry will come soon. It was great having Kristen’s mom and sister Julie with us this week. We had a blast and we are excited that Matt, Kristen’s little brother, will be staying with us while the Messiah students are here-they arrive today, March 13th.

Current Happenings:

  1. Kristen, Marta, and I have been working endlessly on the creation of a Thematic World Social Forum – Celebrating Monsignor Romero here is a blurb from our call to action that went to hundreds of people from around the world and if you are led to do something in your community let us know. Also share this information with others you think might be interested.
  2. As part of the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador, we have created a Thematic Social Forum to celebrate his life, legacy, and his call for a new El Salvador. Within this context a group of people, institutions, and social movements have joined together to create the time and space for such a meeting here in El Salvador. We have sent invitations to individuals, movements and organizations worldwide asking them to join in this celebration by hosting events in their own communities in March. We have created this web page, (, to provide information about the forum and to publicize events that are being hosted worldwide.
  3. Anticipating the arrival of some wonderful people (Linda, Julie, & Matthew) who are coming to El Salvador for a week followed by a wonderful group of people from Messiah College.
  4. Kristen and I had the privilege of attending an opera in honor of the 100th Birthday of el Teatro de Santa Ana on Saturday, Feb. 27th it was beautiful and in Italiano!

The road is not short, and there is much, very much to do, but we can do it, and we will be able, yes that is how we want it and we choose to manifest it.”-Marta

I decided to give this blog entry a title such as convictions:living life to the fullest because it is a thought that constantly has been on my mind as I continue to do the work here in El Salvador and prepare for my transition back to the United States. I continually keep thinking: How does living life to the fullest also imply ensuring that we be conscious of one another, that we take care of the planet, that we respond, act, and decide to be different human BEINGS? I keep thinking not only of myself but those around who are close family and friends and how are they living life in such a way that gives them the joy of living it fully but that also cares intently for the those that are made to be the“other,” the person next door, the children in El Salvador, the people of Haiti, and the list can go on and on.

Communicating a message of living life fully seems easier said than done, I continue to have the great privilege of sharing life right now with a person who I can honestly say has chosen to live life in such a way where every single aspect of who she is and what she does has a meaning, a purpose, that has gone well beyond her present situation. Marta, continues to invoke a deep rooted desire within us to think how will we be the persons we have been called to be here on Earth in the here and now. She pushes us to think beyond simple salvation but to intently ponder on the experiences that surround us and to be aware of the signs of our time.

What starts to happen is this: you begin to see that the person who is walking down the street as not just a stranger but your brother or your sister and there is something that causes you to think differently of your location and present situation. Living life to the fullest I have learned does not simply mean living life in a happy manner all the time that is part of it but it also means to intently live life where ever you are to the fullest that you can possibly live it and let me stress NO MATTER WHERE THAT PLACE MAY BE. I have had to learn this the hard way especially now that we have recognized the need to do the work of social transformation in the United States, it was hard at first but I am excited because of the endless possibilities that abound to do this work with others and you know it might even take us back to good old Williamsport, PA.

The question remains are you living life as fully as you could possibly live it? Living life in such a way that one is conscious of the other, that we live a life of intentionality which is the practice of deciding, choosing and creating consciously, not acting without knowing or understanding.

I use to think that I could only attain such fuzzy feelings in another country but I have quickly learned that there is something beautiful something worthwhile no matter where you are physically. That to me is what living life to the fullest, that to me is what conviction is. Asking the questions: Am I giving everything I have to the life I live day in and day out. Am I sharing with others the many gifts I have been given by my Creator? I am learning what it means to take life by what it gives you and to enjoy the good, the bad, and everything in between because there is a lesson to be learned that is meant to take us to a different level of being.

This then is what leads me to the spiritual aspect of this process a process that not only comes from how I think but from my soul, spirit, and my heart. I continue to grow and learn that what I do is spiritual and because it is divine I must take notice of my actions EVERY action to be able to do work I have been called to do to the fullest where ever that may be. With this my friends I leave you with a quote from Marta who continues to inspire me and continues to give us the great gift of knowledge, wisdom, and time while we are here in El Salvador: We are always creating, we are powerful, we are a field of possibilities personally as well as socially. May each of you be inspired to create and realize that you are powerful LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST WITH CONVICTION of course.


Posted by: kristenandhierald | February 19, 2010

Spirituality-Culture of Peace

The work here in El Salvador has been a lot about figuring out how we create a culture of peace and live it out. We have learned that it is in our daily actions that we make the biggest impact on the world. Daily actions such as eating local foods, conserving water (turning off the shower when soaping our hair, while brushing our teeth, while washing the dishes) reducing energy usage (knowing what we want in the refrigerator before we open it, minimize the amount of times we open the refrigerator door, turn off lights, unplug utilities), compost our organic waste and minimize our non-organic waste (check out this documentary on the garbage island-it’s surely is eye-opening and overwhelming). We are living this lifestyle of a culture of peace right now while we are in El Salvador, which is teaching us that there is no reason that we can’t do the same upon our return to the U.S.

(Side Note-we got to visit the Botanical Gardens in San Salvador over the weekend and I of course just loved it. I have inherited the love of gardening from my abuelas (grams) on both sides of my family. )

Thinking about returning to the U.S. is a bag of complicated emotions…excitement to return to familiar faces and embracing loved ones but then there is the complexity of how we have been changed-never the same, and the necessity of being accountable to what we have learned and what we have experienced. El Salvador and its people will and have marked everything we do. One can no longer buy clothes at the store and not think about the hands that have made the clothes; people who work 12 hrs a day to earn 5 dollars a daily, so that we in the U.S. can buy “cheap” clothes. These are the same workers who in their free time have to sell goods on the street just to make enough money to get by and hopefully see their children reach high school. The kicker is that the clothes that people are sweating over making in horrible conditions aren’t even assessable to the majority of people in El Salvador.  The factories are owned by foreigners for the production of goods to be exported to the U.S.A. and once the people in the U.S. pick through what they like, the left-overs are sent back to places like El Salvador and sold at a higher price. The complexity of living in the U.S. with the consciousness of the injustices all over the world created by our lifestyle and politics in the U.S. is very overwhelming. The temptations of consumerism, the ingrained need to own more and more stuff, the need to be financially secure on the backs of those whom struggle to find food to eat, and a culture that tells us that we don’t need to create a diverse community, all of these things have collectively drained our spirits as humans living in the U.S.A

I have begun to learn that this journey we call life is a lot more about developing our spirit then it is about any other earthly matter. Creating a culture of peace in our homes, communities, and nations is a spiritual journey; that’s why we are living hell on earth because consumerism and the accumulation of wealth is spiritually depleting-its killing humanity and our dear mother earth. We have been taught that we need things, we need money, and we need to be independent for our families and communities when the truth is that we need to create another world order, a new system. Many religions have been trying to teach us this, mother earth is trying to wake us up as well, she is telling us that we MUST change or we will seize to exist. Jesus taught us in his prayer to God “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus knew that we create our own realities and he was praying for us to bring the kingdom of peace onto earth but we have ignored the spiritual concrete practice of peace and consciousness for ourselves, our communities, and the environment. God has given us all that we need but we who have eyes to see don’t see. Well I am feeling like I am getting preachy so I am going to stop but I wanted to get some of my thoughts out on the blog.

On another note….I love visiting Hierald’s family. The contrast between life in the city and life on Hierald’s grandparents’ farm is incredible but I must admit I am such a country girl at heart. I love walking all around, getting dirty, working hard and eatting good old country food. I hope we return there soon. Not to mention, I really miss my garden and I can’t wait to be planting again. I told Hierald that I want to own some chickens and a rooster so that we can have fresh eggs but he hasn’t converted to being that country yet, there is still time for conversion haha.

Things that I am thinking a lot about:

  1. On a daily basis, I have a really hard time going to sleep because I think about all the violence that is occurring around us in El Salvador. All this violence has its roots in U.S. matters. I mourn for the mothers and fathers who find their young people killed in so inhumane ways and I mourn for the people who are doing the killing. To be able to kill one has lost so much of his/herself, one’s spirit dies.
  2. I can’t wait to see my Mom!!! I am so happy that she is coming and bringing my brother Mattie, and Julia. We will have a blast and it will be so good to hug them!
  3. I am daily overwhelmed with the overabundance that I have…I don’t ever wonder what I am going to eat and when I have slept on the floor it has been by choice. I have daily conversations with one of the students who work at the Museo. He has been living on his own since age 12 and his stories daily break my heart and at the same time bring me much joy.
  4. I am constantly trying to figure out how to bring all these lessons back with me to the U.S.A. and to ensure that we create a process that allow others to be transformed. I am daily more and more convinced that the U.S. is where Hierald and I need to be; our work is in the U.S. and if we are to bring about this new world that is possible and urgent we in the U.S. have a lot of work to do.

Some friends went to Millersville University the other week to hear Cornel West speak about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.; and they gave me these words and I will now gift them to you:

Self-confidence, self-respect, be willing to work, be willing to serve, and know that you are not The Messiah. You cannot save everybody and may not save any body, but you may be able to just work hard and leave the world a better place.” ~Cornel West

Posted by: kristenandhierald | February 18, 2010

Looking forward…small steps

“To find balance….you must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have four legs instead of two. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head.  You must look through your heart, instead. That way, you will know God.” By Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat, Pray, and Love

Lessons learned:

1)      I don’t look very Salvadoran nor do people assume that I am from here

2)      Spanish is harder than I ever thought…will I ever perfect it who knows?

3)      I LOVE tortillas and cheese no not quesadillas but homemade tortillas with yummy cheese

4)      I am learning how to compost and I want to take this on to the U.S. any ideas on urban composting?

5)      Plastic doesn’t dissapper

Well next Monday will mark our one month stay here in El Salvador and I Read More…

Posted by: kristenandhierald | February 16, 2010

Familia – TAKE 2

So its been a while since we have posted, but we have been busy visiting family and spending quality time with them.  But please know that we have been writing in our journals and will be posting our thoughts soon.  Its been fun thus far and we keep thinking of all the wonderful things we want to share with all of you. From our renewed sense of composting, gardening, and creating a home that considers all the things we have learned.  Enjoy our pictures as you anticipate our next blog entry.

Much Love,

Hierald and Kristen

Visiting La Palma, Artistic Pose.

Visiting my grandfather they say we look alike!

Us visiting the JUNGLE! Not really we went to a botanical garden on Sunday.

Posted by: kristenandhierald | February 7, 2010

Pictures – Fotos

After a nice day in La Palma, El Salvador

We thought we share a picture so that you could see how we are doing. Enjoy! Thoughts will be posted soon lots to write about.

Posted by: kristenandhierald | February 1, 2010

Pensamientos, Thoughts

From Hierald (Pictures for this blog are pending):

Lessons learned thus far:

1)      I can’t speak Spanish (well I can but not as perfect as I thought)

2)      Los is NOT interchangeable with Nos (thanks to my mother who taught me differently)

3)      I like the outdoors and eating fresh produce much more than I ever would have imagined

4)      Writing is a powerful tool…

5)      Flip Video is one of the best gifts ever and perfect for blogging

It has been exactly nine days since we embarked on this journey and time has gone by so quickly.  In the short amount of time that we have been here we visited Antigua, Guatemala worked on organizing the World Social Form of El Salvador, began systematically implementing a strategy to reach a network of people around the world to introduce the work Marta is doing, and have started the process for the implementation of Monsignor Romero’s 30th Anniversary commemoration event.  Throughout each of these processes we have been pushed and reminded by Marta and others at the museum the importance of the work we are learning/doing.  At times it seems that the three months that we are here will be the equivalent of four years in college.  If one only knew the wealth of information and experience Marta has, yes it indeed can be overwhelming but soooo worth the experience.

SIDE NOTE: Marta and I share the same birthday November 20th and I often say that in itself confirms the importance of our paths crossing in the first place.

I can truly say that the life lessons we are learning right now will forever impact what we do in the future.  I have been challenged on the importance passing on what I bring to the table and realizing that the moments that I do that we are indeed making a difference.   I am still processing a recurring theme: the expansion of consciousness which is how we expand what we do, deepen it (understand it more) and transcend it (take to the next level).  I am also challenged by the concept that what we do is for the seventh generation (which is very forward looking to think beyond our existence on this earth), the importance of living simply, and the richness in intentionality.

In each lesson I am reminded of the kind of world I want for my children and many generations to come.  It is a world that is inclusive, free of consumption, fair, just, equal, with a deep rooted care for the environment, and full of joy/happiness.  For me being here is not simply an experience but a journey, an encounter with a desire to be a different person.  When I sit on the bus and I see the street vendor selling his or her candy, vegetables, or other miscellaneous items I am reminded of the privilege I have as a US citizen, I am reminded that I can simply leave and decide to never think of that street vendor.  I am reminded that the actions I make for my life no matter where I am will inadvertently have an impact on the street vendor I saw on the bus.  For me my time here is how to figure out how what I learn can be passed on and commit to a life that is solidarious. The journey continues…on to La Palma tomorrow on a three hour car ride!

“We the citizenry must decide to govern our governments, our nations, our lives, and create the processes to do so. This is organic, this is sustainable. We the citizens are solutions, and this is where violence and social ills will find their end.”

From: “El Salvador in the Age of Globalization Discerning Violence, Manifesting Peace” by Marta Benavides

Posted by: kristenandhierald | January 30, 2010

Museo Aja: Santa Ana, El Salvador

From: Kristen

We have been in El Salvador for almost a week now but the intensity of the work makes it feel like much more time. We have settled in well and we are enjoying ourselves as we work hard. It is clear that our time here is time of preparation for our lives work as we return to the U.S. A. We realized a few days ago that 3 months with Marta Benavides is like getting your masters degree in a 3 month intensive exchange. It is wonderful to get up in the morning awakened by the city as it comes alive filled with people selling fresh produce, bread, tortillas, toilet paper, etc. It is more wonderful to be able to work the garden in the warmth of the morning air and see the beauty that we can create as humans when we use common sense and our god given brains.

Flor-Trash that Inspires

Much Love,

Kristen and Hierald
Posted by: kristenandhierald | January 23, 2010

Antigua, Guatemala

From: Kristen

We safely arrived yesterday to Antigua, Guatemala. The weather is lovely and the people so beautiful. Immediately, we were reminded as to why this path is right and on time. We head to El Salvador today and will keep you posted.

much love,

Kristen & Hierald

Antigua - By Grace Park

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