Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 27th 2010 – Funeral

Just got back from an internment.

The father of a friend of ours died yesterday and the burial was today. Antonio (our friend) is from El Recreo. His father Julio (the deceased) was from Montañita (both about a half hour from here).

The procession had to pass the Pastoral House so we waited to join them as they went by. They came from Montañita and were going to Alegria.

The procession of truck loads of people arrived about 9:30 and we were ready. The truck was on the street ready to go. We all hopped in and joined the caravan. It so happened that Antonio was hanging onto the back bumper of one of the large cattle trucks full of people. We invited him to join us. Blanca squeezed into the back of the cab with Cecilia and Miguel and Antonio sat up front with me. I’m glad the timing was right. We might not have seen him had we joined the caravan sooner … or even a couple cars later.

There were at least 4 large truck loads of people (at least 40 per truck) and probably 20 smaller trucks and cars. All full of people. Don Julio was well loved.

It took about 30 minutes to get to Alegria. Normally, it is a 10 minute ride. But we were following the casket, so we traveled slowly and with respect. Most of the vehicles headed straight down to the cemetery, but Antonio needed to go to the church first so we took him and waited while he spoke to the priest. Then we also made our way down the hill to the cemetery.

It had been raining all night and was still quite cloudy (and being so high up in the mountains, we were often in the clouds). And it sprinkled off and on. Everything was a muddy mess of course. We parked and found our way with all the others to the gravesite.

The casket was already there as were most of the family and seemingly most of El Recreo and Montañita!

The tradition here for many is to wait for the casket to be lowered into the grave and then for the friends of the family to cover it back over with dirt. Just before it got lowered, a small group of women started singing. (Pescador de Hombres – Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore – one of my favorites). When that song was over, Jesus said a few prayers and a short reflection. Then he sang. He sang alone and it was quite beautiful. Normally people join in when a song starts. No one did for this one. When the song was done, the men (about 10 of them) carefully lowered the casket into the grave using only man power and two lengths of rope to guide it down gently. And then they started to shovel the dirt taking turns among them. It took at least 45 minutes. The whole time it was being covered, everyone sang again. Just a variety of songs. When this was all done, Antonio (the deceased man's son) thanked everyone for being there and invited all to the first of the 9 rosaries which will start this afternoon.

Entre tus manos, está mi vida Señor.               Into your hands, is my life Lord
Entre tus manos pongo mi existir                      Into your hands I put my existance
Hay que morir para vivir                                           One has to die to live
Entre tus manos pongo yo mi ser.                     Into your hands I put my life

Si el grano de trigo no muere,                              If a grain of wheat does not die
Si no muere, solo quedará.                                    It it doesn't die, it will only stay
Pero si muere en abundancia dará                    but if it dies, in abundance it will give

Es mi anhelo, mi anhelo creciente,                    It is my longing, my growing longing
Cual surco contigo morir                                        In some trench with you to die
Y fecunda será la simiente, Señor,                    and fertile will be the seed, Lord
Revestida de eterno vivir.                                      Clothed with eternal life

Saturday, June 26, 2010

June 26th 2010 - Hoarding

I think I have a better understanding of the concept of ‘hoarding’ things.

We just completed another 7 day round of no running water which means that our pila levels go down very quickly. So we conserve our water as much as we can. We know it will eventually run again so we don’t worry TOO much. But we hang on to our laundry and hope for running water tomorrow. We use less water to bathe; we cook things that won’t require lots of dish washing; the plants dry out (the ones not in the rain). Now logic would tell you that we should have some sort of water collection system from our roof during the rainy season. But no. Although I did plant that idea in the head of Balmore on Thursday – who said … yes… it could be done. All we would really need would be some sort of tube or PVC pipe fitted to our gutter leading down to our main pila.

So back to the hoarding concept: I often wondered about the ‘let’s go to Sam’s Club and stock up concept.’ The obvious is that it is cheaper to buy in bulk. And I admit I was guilty of it to some degree when I had children in the house. I did roll my eyes when I counted 42 rolls of paper towels in a friend’s garage storage shelf once …

Hoarding water. 7 days without running water. The sheets, towels and blankets from the last delegation couldn’t get done and have been sitting in piles. All our personal laundry has been piling up. (Good thing we hoard clothing!!)

This morning I woke up to a dripping sound from my bathroom! Hooray! We seem to have water. I quickly got up and turned the faucet on full blast to fill my pila and took my clean up in case the water got shut down early! Sometimes city water only runs an hour – but that is rare. It usually runs 4 or 5 hours every other morning.

Then I gathered up my clothes and went downstairs to ‘start a load’ (one at a time by hand with a soap ball and potato brush). It took over an hour. But I got all my clothes hung up on the lines in the back yard to start drying. But of course, it’s been raining all day so my clothes are getting a nice LONG final rain soft fresh rinsing!

So the faucet was open full blast in the large pila attached to the main house – this is where we do our laundry and dishes. And it was filling as I did my personal laundry and Cecilia washed the 13 or so blankets from the last delegation. We washed. It filled.

And when we took a break from laundry – and the pila was full … Cecilia got some big tubs out and filled them. And several big water jugs got filled. And a big barrel we have got filled. All the small buckets got filled.

And we are hoarding the water.
And it’s been raining buckets all day, too.

We should be good for a while.

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 12th 2010 – Compañeros Visit Last Week

Sorry for the long week without a blog… but I had a small delegation here. Three from the Compañeros group visited us. They are the coordinating committee in Central Iowa for the Our Sister Parish mission. Each volunteer member is a representative of their church who has a partner/sister relationship with a canton (village) here in Berlin. (Although not all of the churches who have partner communities here in El Salvador attend the monthly meetings). There are about 8 people who consistently show up. And 3 of them are from one church!! The hope is always that there will be at least one rep present from each church. This way, the churches can better see the bigger picture of the mission, bounce ideas off each other and help provide the support the Pastoral Team needs. Partially it is the concept of ‘many hands’ but also, we think it is important for the individual churches to have a better understanding of the entire mission. There is more to the overall mission than their individual church/community partnerships.

The Compañeros group assists the Pastoral Team with their support of the economic development projects that the Team is involved in and the huge variety of works that are done independent of the partnerships.

Anyway – 3 representatives of Compañeros were able to come and sit face to face in meetings with the Pastoral Team. It is such a joy for that to happen. It solidifies the mission. It helps both groups to realize we are all working with the same vision: always God first. That is number one. Serving the poor of Berlin is side by side with the first.

Some of the conversation was difficult – but in the end I believe our bond was strengthened.

It was a good week. The Compañeros members typically are their church delegation and mission committee leaders so they have lots of background and knowledge of the mission. They also know and love the members of the Pastoral Team. There was lots of laughter and friendship shared this past week. And of course, that makes the more difficult conversations easier.

We visited 2 cantons for 2 of our delegates who have a partnership with them. They were able to touch base with their communities. Get a mini- face to face report of the recent projects and work being done. And of course, greet and re-kindle the friendship.

We walked to both San Lorenzo and Alejandria - two communities in which some members of the Pastoral Team live. Now our three Compañeros know the daily walk of some of our Pastoral Team volunteers. Not easy walks!!

We visited Ilobasco and San Sebastian – two towns famous for its pottery and woven goods respectively.

We had several meetings – getting updates and planning for future water filter work, getting updates on the future school in Brisas del Sol … putting our heads together to better all our work with delegations and the communities.

The week FLEW by!

One of the Compañeros (Joe) stayed behind. He is a part of the St. Boniface church group and they will be here tomorrow. He made good use of his time by being here for both delegations with a little time in between with his Salvadoran family.

So that is it for now. I need to get my head ready for the next group. It might be a slow blog week while they are here also …

Maybe I’ll at least try to post some pictures each day… just to give you something to look forward to.

Friday, June 4, 2010

June 1st 2010 - Santa Cruz Fertilizer Delivery

For anyone who doesn’t know Berlin (and for those who do … you can skip this paragraph!): There are 17 dirt floor communities within the Berlin municipality. Of these 17 smallish communities, 8 of them have a partnership with an Iowa Church. We call them ‘Hermanamientos.’ And the communities with church partners are taken care of – if we get a solicitude from one of them (for a retaining wall, a modest community building, help repairing a church, fertilizer, etc.) we communicate that need to their partner church in Iowa. And quite often that need gets taken care of. ** The relationships are way deeper than just the “things” that the Iowa churches help with! A great friendship and brotherhood develops over time.

The Pastoral Team tries to help the communities without a partner whenever they can. One community needed chairs for their committee meetings and church services. And we were able to help out. In another community, their church roof leaked – actually, it was an ‘organic’ roof made of large tree branches with large leaves which were propped up and resting on a tree trunk frame. They asked for Lamina (large 4x8 sheets of corrugated aluminum) to make a proper roof. We bought 18 lamina sheets to cover their church – and you need to know that this particular church has no walls and had just a compact dirt floor. They had raised enough money within the community for some cement for their floor - but could not come up with enough for a roof. And we were able to help.

We sometimes ask the Compañeros group if they can help (see the website of Our Sister Parish). But we usually try to provide assistance on our own. We have a coffee project you’ve probably heard of: Don Justo Coffee with Dignity. If you drink coffee, you need to be drinking Don Justo and giving it away as gifts to everyone you know and promoting the daylights out of this coffee because the proceeds from this project come back to the Pastoral Team to help those in need! For example:

Santa Cruz is a little community that has no church partner. A couple months ago, they presented us with a solicitude asking for a 20 gallon barrel for each family to collect rain water. There are 42 families. The barrels cost about $18 each. We searched and searched and called around quite a bit and could not locate 42 of these barrels. So Oscar, the Delegate of the Word in that community went back to the community and they talked it over. They said … well … how about a little sack of fertilizer - with the idea that with the extra crops they would have (God willing) from that help, they could each buy their own barrel in 4 months after the harvest.

Oscar brought this idea to the Team, and the Team agreed it was ok. So we made the arrangement to buy 42 – 100 pound sacks of fertilizer. We got to deliver them on Tuesday (see the photos below). THIS was paid for with Don Justo Coffee proceeds! So KEEP ENJOYING YOUR DON JUSTO!

We also decided to give each family on of the many 5 gallon water bottles we had left over from the Water Filter project. So they at least have that to store some extra water!

I like the people of this community. They work hard and are very humble. Some people were very surprised to see us. But not all. One lady asked me excitedly (like she was waiting for us!) … ‘Do you like atole’ (this is a hot and thick corn based “coffee”). I said I did. She pulled me inside her home … brushed off a chair for me and told me to wait… and she came out with some steaming hot atole. She cooled it down for me – see the photo below. It was sweet and quite delicious. It’s hard to describe the flavor. It’s very subtle. It doesn’t really taste like corn but it does. She then went back inside and scrounged for more cups so Otilia, Cecilia and Alejandro could have some. I drank mine all up and gave my cup back so Cecilia could use it because she only had 3 plastic cups.

A little bit of excitement. Although NOT very exciting. When we got to the fertilizer store one of the truck tires was flat. So we had to wait while Cruz (the driver) drove to El Triunfo to get it repaired. Luckily, the store owner let Cruz use his truck to drive it to El Triunfo (about 15 minutes away by car ... at least 45 minutes by moto-taxi!) We sat around for about 2 hours waiting for Cruz to return from getting the tire repaired. Not fun. But what can you do. I did a lot of people watching and chatting with the Directiva president of Santa Cruz who was helping to load. It’s fun to get to know people a little better. One walking belt/wallet salesman stopped and chatted a while. He had been in the states and seemed excited to be able to talk to someone from his old home. I love to hear people's stories.

June 1st 2010 - Santa Cruz Fertilizer Photos

Loading the bad tire into the truck of the fertilizer store owner (left). He let Cruz use it to go replace the tire. VERY nice of him! Granted... we buy a heck of a lot of fertilizer from him!

Me pretending. Not sure I could even change the tire on the little pick up truck!

Cruz (white t-shirt) helping to load.

Insert your own caption here.

President of the Santa Cruz Directiva ... he looks about 12 but is quite eloquent.

I just liked this picture

Oscar (Delegate of the Word of Santa Cruz) helping out

The thumb print

The strength of the women here always amazes me.

The woman who offered us ATOLE (a sweet and thick corn based "coffee")
Here she is cooling it for me. She didn't want me to burn myself!

June 1st 2010 - Rain Damaged Roads

Just a small mud hole. It is actually about a foot deep.

This one was quite 'oopy'


Deep ruts. Especially on the curves and steeper parts

Lot of fallen limbs. Some substantial.