We have officially jumped head first into our work for the week. This morning, we have taken endless trips up and down the narrow paths carrying bags and buckets of gravel and sand down to our work site. Some of us have been mixing cement, some preparing rebar, and some hanging out with our new little pal, Daniel, who is 5 years old. He is a feisty little fellow who insists Matt is a girl and who loves telling stories to us.
We have several church members, enlace staff members and pastor Carlos working along us as we transform a pit into a community resource.
The beginning of the day was full of walking materials down to the site, mixing concrete, and helping move the project along. By the time our team left, over half of the concrete work on the bottom of the pool is done! Margarita, one of our translators from Enlace, said that we were making awesome progress today! Even Pastor Carlos commended us on our good work!
Fun moments of the day included Audrey almost falling into the existing tilapia pond while being an active member of an assembly line, Sara tripping and falling on an ant hill, and numerous hilarious language mistranslations. You’ll be glad to know- we made it through today with only small scratches, and lots of adventure!
Part of our team went on home visits today with Pastor Carlos. We visited four different homes, all with different stories. Along the way, the ones that stuck out held elements of God’s goodness and faithfulness that I’ve never even imagined.
We met one of our new friends, Francisca, at one of the homes that is on the pathway to the tilapia pond worksite. She was at her son’s house with her mother, Transita, daughter Maria, and granddaughter, Monica. She was so gracious to us the whole time we were with her, and she even walked with us to a few of the home visits! While we were with her, we learned some pretty amazing things about her life and story.
Francisca and her mother, Transita, work daily selling charcoal to make a living. Transita is 99 years old, and will turn 100 in August. Every day, Transita and Francisca walk 10 kilometers into Panchimalco with 50lbs of charcoal, catch a bus, and sell their goods in San Salvador. On a good week, they each make $6 a day. But with all of the costs of the bus ride and materials, they usually walk away from an 8 hour work day with $4 each.
In spite of this, Francisca still attends church and believes. At one point, her son was killed simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He left behind a wife and 11 children. Francisca and her family are working to expand their home so that this family can come join them, as they are living in a 4m x 4m space at present. Maria’s daughter in law works to support her children through selling bracelets and tortillas – and the real miracle is that all of the children still attend school!
God has been good to this family. Would you join me in praying for provision for Francisca and her family so that they can add on to their house to make more room for their family?
Another story we were privileged to hear was that of Rosa Elba, a 54 year old woman who lives deep in the jungle off of the road. It took us approximately 10-15 minutes of decently intense hiking to reach her house. Once we got there, we were met with immediate hospitality – she pulled out chairs for us, and was open to sharing her story with us.
She didn’t take God seriously until she learned about the work that Pan de Vida church was doing inside their community. It is like Bill Hybels’ classic phrase says, “The local church is the hope of the world.” Through seeing physical needs met in the community, Rosa Elba came to the church and now loves learning about God.
For a living, she travels to two different houses per week when asked and she does piles of laundry. On a good day, she will work from 6am to 4 or 5 pm and walk away with $4-5. Her husband is a gardener and makes $5 a day. Together, their income supports both of them as well as their two daughters who live with them.
All around their property were signs of life – gorgeous trees of all kinds – almond, lemon, mango, coconut, avocado, and banana! Rosa mentioned that her favorite part of living at her home is the fresh air and safety of the region.
Angelica seemed pretty typical when we first met her. We walked into her house, through a narrow corridor, and emerged in back, where we were able to chat for a while. She shared some of her story with us about how she does construction work on roads and sidewalks, but hasn’t had the opportunity to work lately.
When Claire stepped forward with our gift of a bag of basic food supplies, Angelica immediately broke down into tears. It took us all a little by surprise, as one minute she seemed okay, and the next, she was crying! It was just like what Pastor Carlos had said – meeting the spiritual needs of those in Panchimalco is important, but so is meeting their physical needs.
As we stood there and took in the holy moment in front of us, we asked how we could be praying for Angelica and her family. Would you join me in praying for provision for their family, growth in Angelica and her husband’s marriage, and for Angelica to have more opportunities to come to know more about God?
As we walked away from Angelica’s house, Pastor Carlos’ nose picked up a glorious fragrance – none other than the smell of freshly baked sweet bread. We followed his nose to a local bakery, which to Lalo’s joy and delight, was just like the ones his grandfather used to use.
While we were enjoying the bakery, the rest of the team was getting ice cream and enjoying the sights, smells, and shade of the old tree downtown Panchimalco. After we met up with them, we walked a short way to a place that was once a trash dump, but since has been transformed into an artist’s paradise. Inside were paintings, sculptures, gardens, overlooks, and many other gorgeous pieces of art! We walked around for a while, and ended the tour with a look into a place of reflection. It was once a community clothes washing area, but is now a place to be still and reflect on the traditions and past of Panchimalco. Lining the walls were photos of life in the 1980’s, preparing for festivals, and some of everyday life. It was a sight to behold!
Tonight as we debriefed, the team was quick to give out kudos in regards to enthusiasm, tenacity, flexibility, and encouragement. Today it took us a little bit to get into a groove, but once we found it, we nailed it. It is so fun to look and see how God is bringing this team together – not just for us to help those around us, but for us to see the world outside with His eyes.
Tomorrow brings new adventure, a new day, and a new opportunity to be Christ to the community of Panchimalco!