Greetings from El Salvador!
Today has been quite the emotion filled day so far. This morning, we learned far more than we worked, thanks to sore muscles and guides who were willing to answer our streams of questions. 🙂
We were able to visit the home garden of a man named Isidro. He was so welcoming to us and showed us everything he was working on. Our first stop was looking at his greenhouse (shown on the left of the photo). Through the help of Enlace, Isidro has been able to start growing plants using non-traditional methods. His tomatoes were grown in bags inside the greenhouse. This method allows for any insecticides that are used to be localized to that specific plant, which prevents water contamination. Having the plants in the greenhouse also decreases bugs in the plants. Enlace provided Isidro with the seeds and training in order to make this reality for him and his family.
After the greenhouse, Isidro took us outside to his crop, where he was growing maize, green beans, and eggplant.
On our way out of his property, Isidro introduced us to a new fruit – jacote (pronounced ho-coat-eh). It is a small, grape-sized fruit that has a seed in the middle. When I tasted it, it reminded me of a pre-ripe banana in how it made my mouth dry, but yet it had a sour flavor. Tim didn’t like it….I didn’t mind it.
While we were procrastinating our work, we learned a lot about the whole water system from one of enlace’s engineers, Paco. The whole process starts at a series of springs two miles away from today’s dig site. That water gets pumped into a large main tank. Then the water is pumped from there into the main distribution pipes, like the one we helped lay our first day digging. From that main distribution pipes, secondary pipes are laid that deliver the water to homes along side streets. There are additional pumps located along the secondary pipes to facilitate water movement. In order for homes to tap into the line, they must first bring their request to a community board for water. I costs $300 to tap into the line after the board approves the request. Those funds then are put in an account for later use in other water projects or for repairs. If a pipe breaks, the water board will ask families around the area to help fix it. If a family can’t help with the fix, they must pay $6 extra dollars that month to help cover someone’s salary that is working on the project.
This water system is an augmentation on the water system that is already in place in some areas. Currently, homes that pay the $5 per month fee for water are only able to access water every other day. With the addition of the new pipe that we were working on, they can now have access to water daily. This brings up a new problem. Now that families have water at their disposal for a flat fee, it is being wasted. A new system is about to be implemented that will charge the families based on the volume of water the use rather than a flat fee. This process will take around a year to implement.
Now that it was about 10:00, and we had only dug a little, we decided to work. The issue we ran into today was how dense and wet the soil was. When our men would hack away at the dirt, we would attempt to scoop the loose soil out, but it would settle back immediately. This made the work slow and difficult. By the time noon rolled around, we had completed about 10 feet of ditch, and had about 20 feet that was started, but not finished.
During our ditch digging period, we met a horse. Through conversation with Isidro, I found out that his name was Muchacho. Unfortunately for us, he didn’t want to socialize…but he was a great diversion.
The highlight of the day was our special surprise for Jani and pastor Mauricio. When we found out yesterday that Jani needed surgery but the family didn’t have funds to pay for it, we all looked at each other and immediately knew what to do. Through Melissa, and with Walter’s blessing, we began our plan.
Immediately after leaving the church last night, we went in search of an ATM. Arturo took us to the mall, but we found the CitiBank ATM NON-operable. We saw some local ATM machines nearby, but they didn’t like us. We got back into the van, and Arturo took us to a CitiBank location, but they were closed. The security guard informed us that we could find an ATM at a nearby grocery store. 20 minutes and one stop for directions later, we found our ATM. It was so exciting when it actually worked! We pulled all the money we needed in order to help Jani.
After we finished lunch today, we made the presentation. Joanne, through heartfelt words and a few tears, told pastor Mauricio and Jani about how we heard of their need, and decided to take action. Here is the video of this touching event:
After the presentation of the money, Jani began to tell us about the goodness of God, as seen through this situation. It all began when she went to the doctor because she had a cold. The doctor referred her to a gynecologist, who told her that things weren’t looking too good and that surgery is required. When he told her how much it cost, she knew that they didn’t have the money. Jani thought that they had some money in savings from a land sale. It turns out that pastor Mauricio had sold the land to a pastor who was building a church, and had re-routed the money into the finishing of Jani and his new home. Even though this was a road block, Jani said that she never worried and added, “This gift is right on time. I am sure that God is the one working through you guys. I feel that you are the hands of God right now. I am accepting this as if the hands of God were right here.”
Pastor Mauricio told us that just this morning, he and Jani got up early to pray. His prayer was specifically for finances to come in for the surgery. He had no idea where it would come from or when it would arrive. A few weeks ago, Jani had suggested asking friends for money, and a friend had offered to lend them some, but the deal wasn’t final. Then God laid on our hearts to cover the surgery, which fully answered this family’s prayers. Mauricio said with tears in his eyes, “With all my heart, on behalf of my family, on behalf of my church, we thank you.”
One really cool thing about this trip is that no matter where we go, we are being welcomed. No matter what house we stop in, the people are always ready to serve. This has been especially true with pastor Mauricio and Jani. Before we left for dedicating the water project, Jani thanked us not only for coming, but for showing them how to serve and how to show love to others. Personally, I was shocked when she said this! Meeting their need was the least we could do! But she placed proper context around the statement by saying that in the El Salvadorian culture, it is hard to see the needs of others when personal needs are so forefront. But yet it is a biblical principle to give, then receive. I love that not only did we as a missions team learn more about serving, but we were also a living example of the hands and feet of Christ. What a blessing to be a part of the kingdom of God!
After praying with pastor Mauricio and Jani, I asked Walter for some tape. “Tape? Why do you need tape?” You ask? Well, let me explain.
When we were walking back from our worksite, I accidentally snagged my shorts on some barbed wire, which left an L shaped gash right by the back pocket on my right side. Thankfully, I had a pair of my spandex compression shorts on underneath, so no one was in danger of being flashed. Being that I am a girl in an unfamiliar culture, I asked for tape so I could temporary close the hole before throwing the shorts away later. Jani found some tape, and laughed at my statement about being culturally appropriate…then offered to instead sew it up. Once she finished, I asked her if I could take a picture with her, myself, and the shorts for my mom. She laughed, and lovingly obliged. I am convinced that these shorts will now stay in circulation, cheating death once more through the caring hands of my friend Jani.
Since my short dilemma took a while, we were delayed in getting out to our next activity, the dedication of the water project. We walked out to the meeting site, and the event began. Pastor Mauricio shared a little about the project, and a mini sermon, after which each member shared a little about our own experiences this past week and other thoughts. It was a touching ceremony, after which we hugged and said goodbye to all of our new friends in San Jacinto, El Salvador.
Currently, we are in the van on our way up a mountain to the land of coffee. Tomorrow, we will be going zip lining through the lovely coffee plantations after sleeping in and eating breakfast at 8 (which is an improvement on our 6:45 breakfasts this past week!). As we have been saying all week, this is the hard life of a missionary.
Up next: much needed showers, dinner, and maybe even another game of Bananagrams!
Photos from today:
Here is video of their initial dance and then one of their final dance:
The first dance
The last dance