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.