Monday, April 26, 2010

April 26th 2010 – Our Technical School Students

Remember that Leap of Faith we took as a Pastoral Team in January? Deciding to send Alejandro to a 2 year Mechanic school and Tito to a 2 year English Education school?

I figure it is time for an update.

And it is good news. I like a happy ending – and even though we are far from the end of their journeys, we are doing ok so far. And the young men are doing VERY well in their studies and when I see them I can see an almost physical change in their demeanors. And Tito’s English is improving – his vocabulary and pronunciation was always pretty good – but now he is less hesitant. And Alejandro has been doing practical work – hands on work in addition to class time and he is really enjoying it. It appears to come easy for him.

Alejandro’s grades are 8’s and 9’s. That is equivalent to B’s and A’s.

I don’t have Tito’s semester grades yet but he brought me a folder full of his work including his midterm exam which he earned an A+. We can’t ask for much more than that.

But of course, we do ask for more!! I need to tell you that the times we have needed some help here at La Casa Pastoral, both young men have not hesitated to lend a hand. Even helping to load fertilizer into a truck one day, and all the things we needed to schlep to a community for a celebration on another day.

They are both very grateful to be able to further their educations. I will ask them to write a message. Tito’s in English of course!!

So where do we stand financially?

We’re building the fund little by little thanks to many very generous people! And I want to thank them publicly here (just first names to not be intrusive to their personal lives):

So THANK YOU to Mike, Tom, Andy, Scott, Carl and Brenda, again Mike (as a birthday present to me, how cool is that!!), Sandy, Marcia and then Nick (who gives monthly!).

We have paid out so far – between January and the end of April:
For Tito: $352 – which includes registration, monthly tuition and transportation.
For Ale $421 – which includes registration, monthly tuition and transportation.

It is a little less for Tito because his family said they could pay the tuition every other month and the transportation cost to San Miguel is less than to Usulután.

So how much more do we need?
In all we need about $1,658 more to complete the year.

How much do we have in the Tito/Ale fund right now?
We have $1,102

So for this year, we are only short $556.
We’re not doing too badly with our leap of faith. We should never have doubted! We think God has been using you all as his angels.

Now … we have to keep praying for funds for the rest of the year and then pray anew for NEXT year!!

Tito (red shirt) and Ale loading the truck for a community celebration.

Tito and Ale loading fertilizer to help us out!

Alejandro in his work jacket.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 25th 2010 – New Life

I received a text message last night at 12:04 a.m. It was from Otilia – a member of the Pastoral Team who lives up in San Lorenzo (about 2 miles UP the hill from here).

It said: Hola amiga. Lo siento mucho por que no va a poder estar con Fátima en estos momentos por que ya es muy noche!
(Hello friend … I’m so sorry because you can’t be here with Fatima In these moments because it is already very late!)

From this I figured that Fatima had gone into labor. Darn! I was hoping to be with them. But midnight is not the time to be traveling unless it is a dire emergency. So I texted back that my thoughts and prayers were with them and how sorry I was also to not be there. And that God would protect them! I was praying for their safety and that there would be no complications – they were at home delivering.

Then I decided that I should NOT selfishly pray for the baby to not come till I could get there, but decided that that would have been rude! I remember the pains. I wouldn’t wish extra hours of that for anyone! I was tempted to wake up Blanca or Idalia and ask if they would go with me to be there. But I decided against that, too. I know they would have said yes… but again – it really isn’t a good idea to travel that late at night and I also knew they had a lot of commitments the next day.

Then again at almost 1 p.m. she texted:

Amiga …. Todavía no a nacido el bebe pero cuando nazca le avisaremos.
(Friend … the baby has not been born yet, but when he is born, we will notify you)

And again I debated to wake up the ladies…

Then again at 4:32 a.m. she texted:
Ya nacio el bebe!
(The baby is born!)

Then she called me! And I heard the loud lusty cry of a new born baby! He has a great set of lungs! I told her I would be up there first thing in the daylight.

At 5:30, Fátima called… basically asking if I was coming! So I hopped out of bed (I was up before anyone else today) and went downstairs for a quick clean up – hot water running today!) By the time I was done Blanca and Idalia were puttering and cleaning and I told them I was going for a visit. They could not come with me because they were responsible for liturgy and music today at the church. So I went alone.

By the time I got there, the baby was clean and bundled up in his layette and a towel. He was fast asleep. What a BEAUTIFUL baby.

He has no name yet. So as I held him I cooed to him: ‘hola, sin nombre’ (hello, without name). Otilia said he weighed in at about 7 pounds 2 ounces. He is beautiful and looks SO alert with big bright eyes. He has a great cry, but is easily calmed.

While I was visiting, some neighbors arrived to check him out. She said it was his first cry that I heard. He was born enbolsada (in the water sack). But great grandma was ready and was there to break the sack so he could breathe his first. And his papa was there with Fatima the whole time (a rare thing from what I understand). He chose to be with her rather than get some sleep! He did manage to cat nap while I was there though.

Everyone seems healthy - but very tired.
What a gift - new life!

Oh happy day.

Look at those EYES!

Otilia and Grandbaby!

The new family

A beautiful new life in San Lorenzo

Friday, April 23, 2010

April 23rd 2010 - Frustrations and Sadness

One of the things that often frustrates me here is “process”

For example:
You go to the bank in the States and if there is no line, you can take care of your business very quickly. They can even help you if you don’t have your account number or bank book with you… all they do is pull your name up on the computer and voila. You have a question? No problem… ‘Here – let me get you a cup of coffee’ while you wait 3 minutes for the service rep.

Or. You go to the doctor’s office – again – they not only have very detailed written records on actual paper, but it is also transcribed into their computer system. They have lots of personal information – which MIGHT seem intrusive to some – they gather and regularly update addresses and phone numbers – you name it, they probably have the information.

Here is a struggle we’ve been having. We’re trying to locate a little boy with a heart murmur. The medical delegation that was here in March discovered this boy’s problem during their last clinic day in Berlin. They later found out that there is an organization that is willing to evaluate him for possible surgery when their organization’s delegation comes in June.

Our problem: we only have the boy’s first and middle name. We also have the names of two women – the women just before and just after the boy’s registration number. One of these women might be his mother. Well. Here in El Salvador they always file a child’s folder under the FATHER’s last name… whether the father is in the picture or not. So even having the name of the mother … in her record there is hardly anything. There is NO personal data like phone numbers or addresses – so there is no way to find either of them to see if this little boy is theirs.

It is SO frustrating and it is heartbreaking to think that we came “this close” to being able to help this little boy.

We spoke to the clinic director, the head nurse and the registration desk. They checked their records for the day but no referrals were made for him. They remembered him only vaguely from that chaotic day. And they did not take any information from the family, because the boy did not have a consultation with one of the Berlin Clinic doctors.

We even asked the Berlin Physical Therapy Clinic if they know him – they help children with a vast variety of infirmities … but they do not know him.

We don’t know what else we can do.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 19, 2010 – On my way back to Berlin

It was a busy two weeks topside.

I had a pretty full schedule with Sunday Pulpit talks, 2 high school classroom talks, a large PW (Presbyterian Women) Spring Gathering presentation, a couple of church Mission and Social Justice committee visits, a bible study group which they had expanded to a lunch for several different area church people to attend… a Compañeros meeting, a Social Ministries Task Force Meeting and a couple of meetings with individuals who support the mission in Berlin and a visit with the director of Habitat for Humanity who has begun work in the department of Usulután (OUR area!!). They will be building in Santiago de Maria sometime this year. I’m hoping I can convince them – and their Salvadoran counterparts – to investigate the Berlin area. Most of these were scheduled activities. A few were last minute visits that just happened to work out via connections made from some of the talks (like the Habitat meeting).

And in between I was able to spend a day helping my sister move into her new home, spend a little time with my mom, go to the Elton John concert (way cool) and visit some friends. One thing I did not get to do which makes me sad, is to attend my own Heartland Church service. But Mark sends me his sermons – a weak substitution, but better than nothing! I read it with his voice in my head.

My time went by very fast. Now I’m sitting in the Houston airport with 8 hours to fill so thought I would start with this blog.

I have such conflicting emotions right now – which is normal for me. I’m really sad to be leaving my family and friends (and running water that I can actually drink, smooth roads, real stores, no dust). But I’m also happy to be going back to the people I love in Berlin and getting back into the work. We have new things to think about – a possible new community/church partnership as well as a renewed partnership possibility … and then all the normal (?) on-going work. There have been several requests for updates, the beginnings of planning for upcoming delegations as well as the normal day to day communications and activities.

And it is always chaotic when I return from a trip. The Team and I spend lots of time catching up with what has been happening in my absence. There is usually some sort of issue that needs addressing that they want to share with me as well as lots of little (and big) solicitudes that have come in… events that need to be scheduled.

When I finally land in Berlin, I won’t have much time to be sad about what I left behind. Until it is time for lights out … then I’ll get weepy for a while. I’m lucky in that I’m usually so tired by the time lights out arrives that I hit the pillow already mostly asleep! It’s a blessing sometime.
I think I will search out a cup of coffee and some internet access … maybe catch up on some emails to make tomorrow a little less hectic. Some things will have to wait of course – since my information is in Berlin – but at least I could make a dent in some of the simple communications.

And man… I need to get my Spanish back on! It doesn’t take long for me to take for granted the ease of communication when I’m in the states.

April 2nd 2010 – Conflicting Feelings

So I woke up this morning at 5 a.m. I had spent the night in the Quality Hotel about 3 kilometers from the airport. The reason I didn’t just come straight to the airport today was because I was at ‘the mercy’ of my driver. We hire a local guy to drive me. It is way cheaper than a taxi and there are no direct nor indirect buses to the airport. So I’m stuck. Not really – but my options are limited.

Raúl probably would have driven me today, but Cecilia and Blanca won’t let me go alone. One of them always accompanies us. I don’t know if they are protecting me or the truck… haha

Today is Good Friday and everyone on the Team has commitments most of the day. So I spent the night near the airport out of respect for their time and commitments. I stayed here near the airport to take advantage of the shuttle service they have. I could stay cheaper in San Salvador, but then I would have to spend $35 on a taxi to get to the airport. And some of those taxi drivers are a bit creepy. So by the time I would pay a taxi and the San Salvador guest house, it really isn’t THAT much more. Except of course, the food is way more expensive at the Quality Hotel, too. Oh well.

I was asleep by 10 p.m. last night after having a very filling buffet supper and a beer. I had spent the day reading, eating, sitting in the sun, word-smithing some of my up-coming presentations and I.M’ing Mike. I even had a HOT shower. I haven’t felt this clean since last December.

I fell asleep fast. I was in a huge (relatively speaking) room with a king sized bed with 4 pillows and a down comforter. I had the a/c going and it was very comfy. Too comfy maybe.

I woke up at 5. Wide awake. I didn’t have to get to the airport till about 10 so I was a bit upset that I could not sleep. Maybe it was too quiet. Too comfy. To clean. I think I was feeling very guilty. I cried during my hot shower. On the way down to the hotel yesterday, we drove by a community water faucet. This is a common thing here. One tap for a lot of people. And the water typically only runs a day or two a week. Sometimes less often.

And as we drove by, there was a line up of cars and trucks with water barrels waiting to fill up. Remember the gas lines in the 70’s when there was a gas shortage or price wars? Can’t remember which it was now… but it was like that. Probably 10 trucks deep.

And Blanca and Idalia were telling me about the water problems in Alejandria. They have to walk about 15 minutes to get to their river to bathe, do their laundry and fetch the water they need to consume. Really it isn’t a huge walk relatively speaking. But… since it is April – the last month of the rainy season, there is major rationing here – there just isn’t any water in the town tanks. So the neighborhoods above Alejandria are going down to their river to do their laundry and bathe and collect. The ladies get to the river by 3 a.m. and there is already a long line of people with loads of laundry. So they have to wait and wait and by the time they get to the pila, it is dirty, ucky water.

And there I was wasting ALL that water. And it is clean water. The hotel filters their water. So I could actually drink it.

I have all this because I can.
Many, many people do not have that luxury.
It ISN’T fair.