Calvary Trouble Makers: Amparo Palacios

by Amparo Palacios Lopez

Today I am going to talk about  a holy trouble maker, Amparo Lopez Palacios, my mother, not me, I never make or get into trouble…Amparo Lopez Ulloa was born in 1938, in the city of Guadalupe Victoria – a city built by revolutionaries who fought with Pancho Villa.   Her father named her Amparo, (which means protection, shelter or support).

Her aunt Rosa Lopez was the organist at the Calvary Baptist Church in Torreon, Coahuila (where the father of Stan Hastey was the missionary pastor), it was in this church where she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

Her call to the ministry was received at the Church of the Divine Savior in the city of Monterrey, Mexico.  She went to study at the Hispanic-American Baptist Seminary in Los Angeles, California and graduated with honors.

Later she was a teacher at the Baptist Seminary of Mexico, were she met seminarian Edgar Palacios, for whom she was a close friend over the course of four years.

On 1969 Amparo married Rev. Edgar Palacios and moved to San Salvador. Together with her husband Edgar, she pastored at Emmanuel Baptist Church; at the First Baptist Church of San Salvador; and at the Shalom Baptist Church.

Later, when they were in Mexico again, Amparo was President of the Baptist Seminary of Mexico where she supported a special ministry with the indigenous churches. In 1980, the armed conflict began in El Salvador, a civil war, which took the lives of more than 75,000 people, with thousands of disappeared persons and over a million Salvadorans forced to flee the country  in search of shelter abroad. The U.S. government aided the Salvadoran government and its armed forces with weapons and troops to help them conquer the insurgent forces.  The civilian population suffered the scourges of the war.

The war reached its greatest intensity in 1989. Amparo’s life and that of her husband were at such risk that they were obliged to flee the country at the advice of a special Vatican envoy, and with the protection of the United Nations. In January 1990, Amparo began to work here in Washington, at the Methodist Building, as Executive Director of the Washington Office of the National Debate for Peace in El Salvador.  Organization which brought together the social forces in El Salvador working toward a negotiated solution to the conflict.

Amparo was the spokesperson in Washington of the Salvadoran people and organizations working for peace.  Her work was successful, with the help of an excellent staff and the solidarity of Christians, Churches, and other social forces in the US.  Amparo called upon the U.S. Congress to cut off  military aid to the Salvadoran government and army.  She and others also made the rounds of the congressional offices, asking that the US abandon the thesis of “a military victory”, adopting the thesis of “a political way out through dialogue and negotiation”.

These efforts toward peace reached a definitive success when, in 1992 at the United Nations in New York, the Peace Accords were signed. Amparo and her husband, Rev. Edgar Palacios, were present as special guests. Amparo was ordained at the Festival Church of the Church  of the Savior in 1993 under the direction of Rev. Gordon Cosby, serving as an Outreach Pastor.  She was member of Calvary since 1997.

In the last years of her life she worked as a caseworker at the Family Place, a drop-in center serving pregnant women and young families mostly immigrants. She taught prenatal and parenting classes, ran support groups for victims of domestic violence and accompanied people to court, hospital and school conferences. Her main concern was the generation of children from immigrant parents who would grow in disadvantage in a country full of opportunities, not only because the opportunities were not always available to them but because the parents didn’t know the ones that were available. She would highlight the importance of education since a very early age.

Amparo was a person that would talk to everyone from Senators and Ambassadors to people in the street and had the capability to listen and put herself in the situation of the other. Walking with her in Adams Morgan or Columbia Heights could take forever because she would always find someone she knew or would begin a conversation with a stranger, she knew the problems of the persons in the Donuts shop, at the CVS, she knew the life of the cashiers at the Safeway. She would stop and talk to the construction workers that were working in the area and would advice them about taking care of their health, be faithful to their wifes and to not be afraid to fight for their rights, she would scold them if they didn’t show any interest in marching for immigration reform and would tell them that the change would begin when everyone would raise their voices and would stop being afraid.

And that was her life, She was faithful to the Lord. She believed in the dignity of women and men and believed in the family and in the work the Church can do to make this a better world. All the work she did was done because of her call to serve others and to put herself in the situation of others. She based her work in the eclesiastic world; she moved churches and changed people. She got frustrated sometimes when any church or person was slow or selfish to think of others, but most of the time she was hopeful because she was a woman of faith, she had confidence that the Lord was working in her life and in the life of others. And with that conviction,  she was never afraid to raise her voice and talk about the problems of others and to tell the truth, any truth to anyone.

And for all of that she was a holy trouble maker….

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