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Family fights for voting fairness

When the Archers arrived in El Salvador to volunteer for the Lutheran Salvadoran Synod, they expected to spend time on carpentry and maintenance projects. Instead, Salvadoran Lutheran Bishop Medardo Gomez encouraged them to join an international brigade of observers monitoring the country’s March 12 elections for municipal and legislative assembly leaders.

Harry, Molly and their two daughters are members of Fullness of God Lutheran Church, Chelan, Wash., and nearby Parroquia Camino de Esperanza, the Yakima Valley Hispanic Outreach Ministry. After two days of training, they were ready to participate in El Salvador’s complicated election system. Instead of voting in neighborhood precincts, voters report to central locations. Since voters must travel long distances, the election took place on a Sunday, when most businesses were closed. Despite reforms in the election process, irregularities and abuses still occur. Electioneering near voting areas is rampant.

At the International Fair Building in San Salvador, Harry and Molly Archer observed thousands of city residents with last names beginning in A, B or C go to one of 167 tables to pick up a ballot to cast a vote in a cardboard booth.

In the suburb of San Miguel, outdoor voting tables stretched along two miles of highway. The Archer sisters — Hallie, 17, and Natalie, at 14 the youngest international observer — roamed from table to table alongside Salvadoran Boy and Girl Scouts.

The observers help people feel safe in a country where politics is serious business. Voters are fiercely partisan, and most are divided between the right-wing ARENA and the leftist FMLN. “There is no middle ground and no middle class,” Harry said, “yet election volunteers from all parties were trying their best to do a fair job.”

The Archers observed every part of the process, from delivery and set up of ballot boxes on Saturday to the ballot count after elections ended. They were encouraged to photograph any irregularities and file a report with the nongovernmental organization that supervised the observers.

“The presence of international observers means that each election is better, with less fraud and less violence,” Gomez said. “And because [these] people of faith don’t adhere to a particular [local] political party, they have more credibility when they report errors.”

“Our presence says we care about the process,” Molly added. “It’s all about making [it] transparent.”

This week's front page features:

Balancing compliance with compassion: With the Patriot Act and related legislation, aspects of global mission and ministry with immigrants have changed. (Photo at right.)

Religion and the public square: Making straight the wall of separation.

In the wilderness: City youth open up at the camp Ham Muus founded.

Write … and hear this! Members of a writing group want to leave ‘more than a tombstone.’

Also: Word.

Also: Faith and science.

Also: A theology of dissent.

Read these articles at our front page > > >

This week in our discussion forums:

Do you write regularly? Would you ever consider sharing your work with others in your congregation? The Lutheran welcomes guest host Jo Buth (right) today through June 27 to discuss her congregation's writing group.

Talk with Buth and your fellow readers about the practice of writing as both an individual exercise and one that can bring people together in a congregation.

Haven't read the arcticle? Consider checking out "Write … and hear this!" before joining in.

Join the discussion > > >

This week on our blog:

Andrea Pohlmann blogs about resisting the temptation to attend the "Church of the Holy Comforter."

Elizabeth Hunter writes about the diversity of opinion on the immigration debate around her kitchen table on Father's Day.

Last week, she wrote about summer worship on the road. This week, Kathleen Kastilahn asks what your congregation is doing to greet summer visitors.

Daniel Lehmann (right) asks readers what topics they'd like The Lutheran to cover.

Amber Leberman spreads the word about a blog by Drew Genszler of the ELCA Washington Office, who is taking a fact-finding tour of Gulf Coast communities and meeting the people affected by last year's hurricanes.

Check out our blog (and leave a comment) > > >

Tell us! Reversing greed.

How does your family stay grounded in this crazy consumer culture? For our November cover story, we’d like to know how you reverse greed in your home, especially if you have children or grandchildren. Send your idea (100-200 words), with your name, congregation, city and state, to Elizabeth Hunter or The Lutheran, 8765 W. Higgins Rd., Chicago, IL 60631, by Aug. 1.

Or respond on-line > > >

Your comments are welcome!

We'd love to hear what kinds of articles you like to read in this e-newsletter. Do you prefer reflections on the coming Sunday's Scripture readings, stories about current issues, first-person accounts or light and humorous pieces?

Is there someone we should ask to write a guest e-newsletter or a ministry we should feature?

Let us know. Send any comments about or suggestions for this e-newsletter to Amber Leberman.

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