The adventures of El Salvador – day 5
Greetings from El Salvador!
We have another fantastic day almost behind us. Because the community finished the first ditch/water project yesterday, we were moved to another area where there were doing the same thing. Before we started working, we stumbled upon a truck that was stuck. Being the problem solver, Tim, seeing a crisis in progress, dove right in and began helping. According to Melissa and Carlos, they both thought that the man who got the truck stuck was an idiot…especially since he was parked right next to where the digging was going on. Whilst Tim, Scotty, and Mike worked to pull the truck out, the rest of us watched. Here is a video to prove it. 🙂
After the truck fiasco, they put us at the top of a hill, overlooking beautiful hills and a volcano in the distance! We made a friend named Jorge, who informed us that, “the volcano erupts, and it puts ashes all over, but you can’t see it. You breathe it in (at this point, he breathed in sharply…twice), cough, but you can dust it off the plants.” This is very important information. 🙂
Atilio, a man that we have seen several days now, brought us a small turtle that he found in the river on his way to the site. We had quite a lot of fun playing with the turtle. When we were finished, our pet lover, Kelly, really wanted to drop the turtle back off at the river. Arturo quickly told us that we shouldn’t go to the river. This made Kelly really concerned for the future of this turtle, who by now I had been holding and had dropped once…much to Kelly’s dismay. While we were standing around discussing the fate of this turtle, Kelly accidentally dropped it, and screamed a little. She picked up the turtle, and profusely apologized to it for almost killing it. This was a priceless moment in my life. A few moments later, a neighborhood boy came by, saw our predicament, and saved the turtle by dropping it off at the river. The day was saved!
Today was by far the dirtiest day yet. As has been the case in the past, Tim won the dirtiest award. The soil was a little looser than the past few days, but was heavy due to rain last night. We felt pretty beastly when we were done. And by beastly, I mean tired 😉
Have I mentioned pastor Mauricio’s adorable dog yet? Well.
The dog’s name is “doggie,” but instead of being said like the American pronunciation of that word, it is said more like “doug-ie.” I approve.
This afternoon, we went out for more home visits. We went in a completely different direction than we have gone the past few days. We walked from the church, down a steep hill, past a public pool area, up another steep hill, and around a few bends in order to reach our destination. The first house we visited was an Enlace house that was built by a Willow Creek Student Impact serving team. Inside the house lived a couple named Noria and Pedro. They have five kids, and one who has special needs. Her name is Jaclyn. Unfortunately, Pedro has been sick with fever for the past few days, and hasn’t been able to work. Before we left, we were able to give them a bag of food, and pray for them.
One thing that is great about El Salvador is how they live in close community. Many times, the houses of parents and their children are within a minute or two’s walk of each other. That was the case for our next house. We met Norma’s mom, who was named Paulita. She was very open to having us in her house, which was a blessing, because as we were talking with her, it started raining heavily. So we ended up standing in her front room for a few minutes. While we were there, we were able to pray for one of Paulita’s daughters who had been sick with fever and aches for the past three weeks. When we went into her room to pray, Bernice, the daughter, was faced away from us, and I could hear her praying quietly while we prayed for her.
If you have a moment, please keep Bernice, and her brother-in-law Pedro in your prayers. They need healing!
During our trek to the different houses, both Mike and Tim decided to be local. They carried the bags on their heads…at this particular point, Tim’s bag looked like a helmet from the blow-up sumo wrestler games that frequent kids events.
Jaime’s house is located on the right of the photo.
Our third stop was at a house of a man named Jaime (pronounced Hay-meh), who had a son with him named Josue. When we first arrived on the property, Josue immediately started crying. Melissa told us that Josue thought we had come to take him away, and he was so scared! The poor little guy didn’t stop crying the whole time we were there!
Jaime, his wife (who was out in the coffee fields), and Josue lived in a temporary shelter that had been built back in 2001, after an earthquake hit the area. They are currently on the waiting list for an Enlace house, and will be getting a house during the next round of building! They were very grateful for that!
Our next stop was just in front of Jaime’s house. We stopped in to see his mother, but since she was at church, we had the privilege of meeting one of her sons, Juan Carlo. He has a unique story. Juan has been out of prison for about two years, after being in a gang. According to our guides, there are about 100,000 El Salvadorians who are parts of gangs. Once you are in a gang, it is extremely difficult to get out. One of the only ways to get out of a gang is to join the church. The moment they find out that a former gang member isn’t attending church anymore, things go sour. The miracle of Juan Carlo is that he isn’t in a gang anymore, but yet he doesn’t go to church either. It was said that he is kept safe by the prayers of his grandma. Since he was in a gang and was in prison, he is ostracized in the community. This is why the mission of the church is so important. We were able to deliver food, and let him know that he is loved by the church.
On the way back to the church, we stopped by a few places to see their new Eco stoves, which is one of enlace’s projects within the church. These innovations are key for the community because they help to reduce the number of upper respiratory infections that occur each year. Many El Salvadorians cook under their roofs, which traps the smoke, causing them to breathe it. This is detrimental over long periods of time, and for kids under the age of 5.
The Eco stoves are also an economic benefit for the families they are placed with because they burn 2/3 less wood than an open fire. This especially helps the families who gather and buy wood for their fuel. This simple project costs around $200 and helps many.
One thing I learned today about Enlace projects is that for every project Enlace does, the recipients of that project must contribute resources, and agree to help reciprocate the project for others. This enables buy-in in the community, and helps the projects remain sustainable.
On the way back to the church, we had to trek back up the massive hills that we came down. Being the instigator that I am, I quickly said to Tim, “I’ll race you up the hill!” Off we went up the hill. Mid way, I decided that my idea was stupid, yet kept running. Everyone else followed behind…a few minutes later. Even though I thought my idea was initially stupid, we did it again. Another hill came up, and we ran it. Oddly enough, it felt really good. Haha. Oh we are so smart sometimes! According to Joanne, this was definitely one of her daily highlights 🙂
Tonight was the night that we have all been waiting for. This was the night we were able to experience the El Salvadorian expertise of pupusas. They are essentially corn tortillas with absolute goodness smashed inside, covered in salsa. Oh. My. Goodness. They were so good!!!! If you ever have the opportunity to try the goodness that is called pupusas, DO IT!
Up next: heading back to the hotel for a debrief session, and maybe more Bananagrams! Tomorrow, we will head back out for one last go at ditch digging, after which we will have a dedication ceremony over the projects. We have a surprise planned for pastor Mauricio’s wife, Janita…stay tuned for that!
You will be pleased to know that we did indeed get to play last night, and it was fantastic!!
Photos from today: