**SORRY FOR THE DELAY in posting this! We didn’t have internet last night!
Today was a day full of new experiences, meeting new and interesting people, and starting home visits.
The first house team barber shop visited today was full of great stories. The mom of the family, Julia, was very welcoming to us, and even shared photos of her family with us! For the past 12 years, Julia has taken care of her grandmother, Maria, who is 96. After Maria got sick 12 years ago, she lost the ability to speak and understand speech. While we were there, Julia cared for Maria by taking her to the restroom, doing her hair, and giving her some water. There were a few kids running around the house, named Jose and Eric, who we later found out were Julia’s nephews.
Julia has five kids, two live and work in Seattle, one is in school in Santa Ana, and two are young and in school in the area. We asked Julia many questions about her family, and found out that she and her husband have been married for 22 years, but she hasn’t seen him in seven years, as he is working in Michigan and can’t come back. She even pulled out a few photos to show us of him, which was fun!
While we were there, Serena and Danae had a fun teaching moment with Oscar, as they reviewed numbers with him. They also taught Jose, Oscar, and Erwin how to play the line game, and brought out the kids’ competitive side. Eventually, the games morphed into soccer, which Luke played with the boys for a half hour or so.
While team Barber Shop was hanging out with Julia and family, team Carrot Pumpkin was busy building a stove for Rosa Imelda and Joe Mendez. The team had some great conversations with Rosa while installing the stove. Rosa has five kids, two are in school, and make special trips to Santa Ana on Saturdays to learn more about computers. On days when the kids don’t want to make the long trip, rosa reminds them of the long term reward that comes out of education. When her kids ask her why they live like they live, Rosa explains to her kids that they were born into it. Her motto through all of this: out of suffering, we come out winning. Jessica, the older daughter, has a scholarship to school, which allows the family to pay for her younger brother Luis’ tuition. Rosa will go to great lengths to make sure her kids are provided for. Even to the extent of qgiving her kids food and taking none for herself.
Rosa’s youngest daughter is named Jennifer. The team found out today that the one year old loves to play with chickens, but the end result isn’t always fun. Instead of being playful, Jennifer somehow manages to strangle them. Rosa is working on teaching Jennifer to play nice with fowl. 🙂
The second stove that was built today was right next door to Julia, and was for Roberto, who is the father of our little friend Oscar that team Barber Shop met earlier while building a stove for Julia, Maria, and their family. While the team was there, Oscar showed them three relatively new puppies, which we promptly fell in love with, and Serena threatened to take back to the states with us. As the project was wrapping up, Oscar walked in, saw all three puppies being held, and demanded that we give them all back. When we didn’t understand what he said, he went off and had a loud, fitful cry just out of view, mourning what he thought was the loss of his puppies. When we tried to call him over to let him know that we weren’t going to take the puppies, he refused to budge. He barely even said goodbye. I’d call that a chink in the coffers of a therapy fund. Hopefully he will be get over the gringo-induced trauma soon!
Today at lunch, we met the local pastor that Enlace is partnering with in El Progresso. His name is Pastor Orlando and he has been at Puerta de Cielo (Doorway to Heaven) Assemblies of God church for one year, four months. He has been married to his wife for 50 years, and asked if we could keep her in our prayers, as she recently had cancer in her sinus/nasal region and just had surgery. Her face is still swollen from the operation and it will take a while to recover. Pastor Orlando had to drive to San Salvador to be with her, which is why we met him today instead of yesterday. She has been in the hospital for 15 days so far.
After lunch, Pastor Orlando took a team of us (Scotty, Erica, Danae, Luke, Jayger, Erwin and myself) out into the community to hear some stories, deliver some much needed food, and to see how Eco stoves are making a difference. At each house we visited, the pastor told us a little bit of the family’s story, let us ask questions, and then we had the opportunity to pray for them. Each of tese families had been identified as in need by the community leaders, and all of them had received Eco stoves already. Below are a few of their stories.
The first place we visited housed a lady named Gladys, who has six children. Her family struggles because they don’t have sufficient funds to live. Right now, local factories aren’t employing people. So that leaves Gladys and her family to making due by planting and harvesting corn. To survive, they eat a simple diet of rice and beans, and they go pick berries. As much as possible, they use the resources that surround them. One of the big issues is that they can’t find milk, which means that the infants end up breast feeding longer than normal.
Even when they find work in the fields, the salary per month is only $100. The cost to feed their family for a month is $250, which leaves them with a $150 shortage. The gift of food we brought will help them eat for at least a week. This is a huge help to them!
Before we left, we asked Gladys if we could pray with her on any requests she had. She informed us that she has a heart issue, and they unfortunately can’t afford the medications. If you think of Gladys and her family, please pray for provision and Gladys’ heart!
The second house we visited was one of the coolest places so far. The man of the house, Hector is 49 and he has two sons, ages 8 and 9. He plays a unique role, as he acts as both mom and dad because his wife left him. Due to juggling those roles, Hector doesn’t have time to take on full time work, as his boys take priority. At one point, Hector was able to get into the states illegally in order to support his kids. It took him a month to walk through Mexico and into the USA. Once he lived and worked in the states for about 5 years, he applies for residency, but was denied due to lack of proof of persecution back in El Salvador, which was in civil war at that point. Even though Hector had to return to El Salvador then, he was still able to make enough money and come back as buy a pickup. He does his best to provide for his family. Since he didn’t have a house to come back to, he worked with a friend to build the house he currently resides in. It is one of the most creatively built houses I have seen! Without any prior experience, he simply jumped in and built whatever his creativity could muster. Even his bathroom is creative, as he dug out an area of an embankment to keep it in.
He has a home garden from Enlace, and has been growing all kinds of veggies and fruits: Cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, papaya, yucca, bananas (there haven’t been many due to strong winds) mangoes, oranges and even some coffee. In about a week, he will be working on harvesting the corn that borders his gardens, and offered to teach us how, but we will be gone already.
His Eco stove has saved him a lot on wood. He informed us that a stack of wood about 5′ tall would last him up to a year, because the stove is so efficient. We had so much fun looking at all of the creative ways Hector had made use of what he had!
At the third household we visited, we were greeted by a woman named Guadalupe and one of her daughters. Guadalupe and her family of four are in financial need, as her and her husband haven’t been able to find steady work. In coffee season, Guadalupe travels to a nearby plantation to harvest coffee, which brings in a salary of $40. after the coffee season, Guadalupe and her husband are able to pay off their debts. This year is going to be especially hard, as a plague has hit the coffee fields, rendering only 30% of the crop usable. Her husband tried hard to get odd jobs here and there, but is still unemployed. Guadalupe informed us that the hardest times for their family are when one of their children gets sick, as they don’t have available funds for running to a clinic and getting medications. Our gift of food will enable Guadalupe and her family to eat and hopefully save up a little extra cash for times of need.
The final stop on our home visits led us to Evelyn, who is 24. She is married to a karate instructor and has a son, Alejandro Alexis and a baby. They survive by what the father makes through giving karate lessons. When he was 2 years old, Alexis began to learn karate. So far, has won 48 medals and has even traveled to Guatemala for competition! He recently qualified to go to Panama for a competition, but the government only pays for lodging and food. The family doesn’t have enough money to fly there. They are looking for sponsors to be able to go, and it only costs $450. Alexis is the jewel of the community, and has even been recognized by the national sports organization. The government hasn’t given Alexis and his family true opportunity, and this is possibly because they are a poor, rural family. We are praying for an opportunity for sponsors for him, a chance to compete in the states someday, and for healing from pneumonia. Basic drugs from local clinics aren’t working to cute the pneumonia, and family doesn’t have the money to go to a private practice.
And now for the daily funnies:
After home visits, a group of us were walking over to the house that the rest of our team was at. As we walked, we were alerted that a group of cows was coming down the road. Everyone but Erica calmly left the main roadway. Instead of casually sauntering to the side, Erica instead practically jumped into an area of trees, scared that she was a target. As the cows passed, Erica slowly emerged from the brush and was met with laughter. This instance alone is funny, but what happened next puts a cherry on the top.
As we turned down another road and walked down a hill, one of our accompanying friends named Marlo, alerted us that there were cows coming down the incline in front of us. Again, Erica reacted quickly. She darted through an opening in a barbed wire fence for protection. Instead of winning the battle with this round of cows, she was instead met with snarling dogs on the other side of the fence. Being doubly startled by that, Erica jumped back to the other side of the fence, and right into a thorny bush. Meanwhile, the cows passed by and no one got hurt.
Our second story comes from right after our first encounter with the cows mentioned earlier. The guys that warned us of the cows were standing there because their truck had gone kaput. Next thing we now, we were pushing a truck up a hill. I guess you could call it an excellent exercise in teamwork, but according to Scotty, he and Luke pushed it up all by themselves…don’t mind the rest of us pushing too…
When we were at Hector’s house, we took a great tour of his gardens. Right away, Erwin found a ripe cucumber. The rest of us tuned back into the garden tour. Next thing we know, Erwin has the cucumber in his hand and is howling it off to Hector like a prize possession. The rest of us tuned back into the garden tour. Next thing I see after looking up from taking notes on my phone is Erwin happily chomping down on a cucumber with the most us to I’ve ever seen. Lesson learned. Erwin is unpredictably awesome.
Using Erwin as a transition point, here is another random story. When we were walking up a large hill to home visits, Erwin would randomly transform himself into an imaginary motor car and start running up the hill, imitating gear changes as he went. Such a great kid.
Through the course of the week, Scotty has been wowing us with his knowledge of trees, plants, and birds. One of the birds he keeps hearing is a parakeet-type species. Unfortunately for him, he only hears it and doesn’t actually see it. When we walked onto Guadalupe’s property today, we heard the parakeet again. I looked up, saw the bird, put my camera up to my eye, and started shooting. About two shots in, I noticed through my zoom that the bird was in process of pooping. Given that I was almost right underneath him, I made a ninja move and dodged the falling bomb. Epic. Unfortunately for Scotty, the bird wasn’t a pet, so he is still on search of the elusive wild parakeet.
Last story – as we were all walking back to the church in El Progresso, a mini competition broke out between our friend Marlo, Erwin, Michelle, and Jayger. On a normal day, this would be another simply average occurrence. But today, they took it up a notch. Not only were they playing soccer while we were walking down the road, but they also played soccer while ascending hills. Not many people can do that! Marlo was so dedicated to the game that he even took a few spills along the way. Like a champ!
At present, we are out to dinner at a pupuseria with our team falling into several categories. Tere are a couple people conversing, a group over at the fuse-ball table tearing it up, and the rest of us are zoned out. We just ordered 74 pupusas, and a feast is about to commence. It’s about to get real in here!
For more photos of the day, check out the next post for a photo gallery!