Greetings from El Salvador!
Today we began work on the water project! It was much like I expected – hot, humid, and lots of manual labor. Our tools of choice – pick axes and shovels. The foreman of the project, Carlos, outlined where we were to start our digging. By the time we arrived at the project location, there were already about thirty people who had already begun working.
We split into three groups and began working. Mike and Kelly took the first stretch, Tim and I took the second, and Joanne and Scotty took the third. It took us a little bit to get oriented on the proper technique of ditch digging, but within 20 minutes, we had it down! On our ditch, Tim swung the pick axe, and I cleaned out the loose dirt. Though it doesn’t sound like much, digging a two foot deep ditch is a lot of work!
A few fun things happened along the way. First, a lady who owned a small shop in front of where we were digging gave us fresh tangerines! They were the best citrus fruit I have ever tasted. Oddly enough, they were green, and in between an orange and grapefruit in size. They were so juicy! When I opened mine, the juices flowed everywhere!
Second, a cute little dog decided to hover nearby. He stayed on our dirt pile while we worked and kept watch. He wouldn’t let us pet him, but he was quite loyal. I even accidentally threw dirt on him a few times, and still he persevered. Noble dog.
Third, everyone was so friendly! One thing I love about being in El Salvador is that we aren’t looked at like aliens. Yes, we clearly look different, but it has been made known that we are here to serve. I even wish I had payed more attention in Spanish class way back when, mom. You were right. 😉
On one of our breaks, we ventured up the road a little bit and met a precious woman named Erlinda. This adorable woman is 91, and about 4′ tall. She was so excited to show us her home! She was the first recipient of an Enlace home in the San Jacinto area. Her previous home, made of sticks and mud, was still standing behind her new home. It is quite the contrast! She lived with two other women who didn’t have anywhere else to live. Though she doesn’t possess a lot, her life is full!
After digging for quite a while, we broke for lunch, then the adventures continued. We packed a few sacks full of food items and went back out into the community to deliver them to families. The first family we visited had a house that was built during last year’s El Salvador serving trip. The man’s name was Benjamin (pronounced Ben-hameen). Last year when the team was here, Benjamin was an ice cream peddler. Since Benjamin is a little older in age, he is now unable to carry the box of ice cream. He now sells sweet bread and makes about $6 a day. It was an honor to be able to visit Benjamin’s home, as well as meet his wife, daughter, and granddaughter. Joanne said a prayer for them before we left, and Benjamin said one over us. It is so neat to see how we are all part of one church though we live in different locations!
The second house we visited belonged to a lady named Rosa. Joanne and the team were able to meet Rosa while they were here last year. She invited us to come and join her on her porch for a sit, and she told us her story. Rosa has not had it easy. She is the primary provider for herself and five grandchildren. Her youngest daughter was unfortunately raped last year, which resulted in a pregnancy. The baby is beautiful and is named “the little angel” in Spanish.
Rosa told us about how she has heart problems and passed out the other day, resulting in her banging her head and spraining her wrist. This gets in the way of her farming, which is how she brings provision and finances to the family. When we were able to present her with food, she was so grateful. Scotty prayed with her, we exchanged goodbyes, and ventured on.
Our next stop was at a house of a lady named Isabella. Joanne had made a great connection with Isabella’s daughter, Juliana. Unfortunately, Isabella wasn’t home. We travelled down the road a little further, we stopped at her brother Juan’s house. While there, we learned that both Juan and Isabella have major kidney problems, due to their trade – field fumigation. Neither of them have the proper masks and have been doing the task for many years. This made the impact of our gift greater in our understanding. I was able to pray with Juan and bless him before we gave him a bag of food for himself and for Isabella and her family.
Then we began a long trek back to the church. We stopped by a large water tank that was provided by Willow. This tank is part of the water system that we are laying into the area. It was so cool to see how this project has come together in different stages, and how so many different Willow teams have been a part of it! As we stopped to look at the tank, lo and behold, several children came walking down the road. Juliana, Joanne’s little friend from last year, was among the group. She was curious, but really shy. We tried to get a photo of her, but she refused to look up. Tim even pulled out all of the stops and did a first class juggling act, complete with sound effects. Eventually, she warmed up a little and allowed us to take a few photos.
We walked back to the church and relaxed for a while, then dinner was on! Jani, pastor Mauricio’s wife, along with a few other precious ladies, cooked us a fantastic fried chicken and French fry dinner! Then, the rain came. Hard. We sat out on the porch and listened to stories from Walter and pastor Mauricio about their lives. It was so fun!
We drove back after the rain let up a little bit. It was scary driving back on the soaked roads, especially since we drove through mini-rivers in many locations. Thankfully, Walter is a champion driver, persevering through rain, and fogged windshields to get us safely back to the hotel.
And that brings us to the present. I am currently sitting in the lobby, freshly showered, and listening to stories from some new friends – Orturo and Melissa, who are both from Enlace. Melissa is actually from Willow Chicago and has been living in El Salvador for the last year.
Up next: Bananagrams – round 2. We played a few intense rounds last night, and I have the feeling the heat will come again tonight!!
Until tomorrow, my friends!
More photos from the day: