Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Simple Things

We are now without a delegation – it has been 2 weeks full of very wonderful activities.  The first group came after only 3 weeks back from being in Iowa for my son’s wedding and we only had three days in between the two groups so I haven’t gotten much done.  Such is life sometimes in the Pastoral House … and I wouldn’t trade the time with our delegations for naught. 

I could write volumes about the past two weeks with our two groups but I’ll be brief. (haha)

The first delegation was only 2 people – from MY home church of Heartland Presbyterian Church in Clive.  Heartland has been in a partner relationship with Tabl√≥n since 2001.  They come twice a year.  This trip, there were only 2 people – but the small size of the group certainly did not ‘minimize’ the quality of our time and activities!  I posted a photo album on Facebook with some of our highlights.

The second delegation was a brand new group.  There were 10 of them plus the two RUMES (PCUSA’s Joining Hands El Salvador) coordinators.  The delegates were from New York and by ‘chance’ … ‘fate’ … God … they made a connection with RUMES.  And RUMES – God bless them – decided we at the Pastoral House could potentially serve their needs as a mission group as well as benefit our communities. 

It was a fabulous four days with this group.  They provided workshops in two elementary schools with a healthy eating and dental care focus.  They also did a biblical re-telling of the Good Shepherd.  Each of the 3 workshops had different age appropriate and hands on activities.   I put a photo album up on Facebook (check out my home page) so you can have a pictorial account of their time here.  It was fabulous (in my humble opinion).

So … here I am today – they left at about 8:30 this morning.  I’m feeling a bit like a zombie (but in a good way) and trying to get a few things done – things that don’t require tons of concentration but important pieces of work nonetheless. 

Aminta and Margarita came to help with the post delegation clean-up and laundry.  With 12 people there are lots of sheets, blankets and towels to hand wash!  As I was working at my desk I heard their chatter and their laughter and the gentle whooshing of their work in the water and suds and bed-clothes.  Very lulling actually – but I managed to keep my eyes open.  I cannot take a nap knowing that the Pastoral Team and our ‘support staff’ - who are also quite tired - are so busy with their physical work.

The tin roof serves as the 'clothes dryer' - there is minimal sun in Berlin during the rainy season.
Putting things on the roof means they will dry in one day potentially!


Late morning, we got a visitor.  Margarita’s daughter Cesi came by.  She didn’t want to be home alone so decided to come and spend the day here since her mom was here working.  She is always a welcomed face.

It was almost lunchtime and the tortillas had not arrived yet … and the ladies asked me to make pizza for supper and we had no cheese.  So I offered to go to the market for the tortillas and look for mozzarella cheese.  Cesi (Margarita’s daughter) accompanied me.  It was a pleasant walk with her.  I think she is 10.  And she is a delightful, charming, sweet, bright, polite (think of all the good personality traits you can and that is her).

We went to several stores and finally found the cheese – but no pizza bread.  French bread will serve fine so that was not a problem.  We found the tortillas.  Then I decided to buy a machete for Mike … and by the time we were done, Cesi and I walked for almost 45 minutes. 

We got back to the house and we all had a simple lunch – mostly eating leftovers … and me just a tortilla with some cheese.  We all continued our various tasks. 

A while later, Cesi came into the office to show me something: a very cool seed pod.  She told me to squeeze it so I did.  And I jumped!  It ‘exploded’ in my fingers and curled into itself and dropped its tiny seeds.  How funny.  We both laughed.  Then, of course, I had to find out which plant produces this fun toy!  They look like impatiens on steroids … very simple flowers but about 4 or 5 feet tall! 

So we spent a little time looking for more pods and me taking pictures and Cesi explaining all about this incredible bit of nature.  Add ‘fine and patient teacher’ to her list of qualities.
The pod has 'seams' - those split and the 4 or 5 sections curl tightly after you squeeze the pod.
Such and incredible piece of nature!

Cesi is an incredibly young person!


It’s been a lovely day.  But now it is 8 p.m. and I’ve had my bit of pizza and now I think it is time for me to go to sleep!  

Post note: I really do miss our delegations when they leave.  I am so blessed to have the opportunity to work with and share time with some very incredible people!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Most Generous Hearts

I’ve only been back in El Salvador since the 6th of August – having had the joy of being present at the wedding of my son Thom and his new wife Kayla.  I am such a lucky mama.  And Thom is a lucky man to have found a partner such as Kayla – and as an added bonus – he has a whole group of “out-laws” who are absolutely fabulous – from his actual in-laws to the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins … And poor Kayla is stuck with us haha!

Anyway.  I’m back here now and within 3 days we hosted a small but mighty delegation from my own Heartland Presbyterian Church in Clive.  It was a varied and interesting week which flew by.  I posted lots of photos in an album on facebook so please go check them out. 

And tomorrow (the 21st) we get to host a new group of folks who will do dental workshops in a couple of schools.   We will be in Las Delicias and Colon.  We will be with the children at the school in the mornings and with their parents doing workshops in the afternoon.  I’m very much looking forward to learning about this group – their history as well as their hopes for future work.

So – with the couple of days in between our delegations, we had some commitments: some formal (like the great meeting held in Corozal) and some not so formal.  One of the not so formal events is what I want to share today.

We were invited to go to La Llanes.  It was a social invitation.  They wanted to share some sweet corn with us.  This was an invitation out of love and friendship and gratitude.  Some of you who regularly read my blogs have an idea of who they are because I’ve written about them before.  They are a small community of 24 extremely poor families.  Most of them related - as off-shoot communities often are.  Their community is way off the beaten path and down a “road” that scares the be-jeebers out of me even when that “road” is compacted and dry – but WORSE when the “road” is wet and muddy.  Which, of course, it is now – being 3+ months into the rainy season.

Bless the Pastoral Team’s hearts … they asked Alejandro to drive us.  Now, mind you, this does not make the stretch of road any less scary.  I just get to have my heart attack standing in the back of the pick-up rather than driving.  Long story short – we made it safely both in and out of the community – me with my eyes closed and praying as we fish-tailed and danced in the 100 yards that are the worst.  Thank you Alejandro.  I taught you well. But even YOU were scared … admit it!!  Haha.

The trick is to STAY IN THE RUTS!!!!

(And for the record: I don’t mind fish-tailing in mud – there is no getting around that because there is mud everywhere this time of year.  We have a great pick-up truck with a strong engine and 4x4 and I’ve learned quickly how best to not get stuck in spite of the fish-tailing … but when you fish-tail with a mountain you can touch from the driver’s seat on one side and a long drop off within a couple of feet on the other – that is what makes my heart beat fast.)

But I digress from my original intent of this blog …

I LOVE going to La Llanes.  I love the people there.  No offense to anyone else in the communities because I have a great love for all of them – but there is something about these people.  Perhaps it is in part because they are such a small community.  And if there is an event – or you visit … almost everyone shows up. 

And from our very first visit – when we had never even met them – we felt a kinship.  They were warm – greeting us with hugs – they quickly shared their senses of humor (which here often takes a LONG time to emerge with strangers). 

So this day – this invitation to share their sweet corn – we could not refuse.  We didn’t want to refuse.   This invitation is even more special in the fact that we all know that with the drought – corn did not grow very well.  Losses ranged from 25% to 90%.   We know they suffered loss.  But they wanted to share.

Recently, I read an article shared on Facebook saying how the poor seem to be more generous in their charitable giving and generosity proportionate to their income than the rich.  Having lived here permanently for almost four years – this did not surprise me.

But the timing of this invitation was within a couple of days of this article.

We have poor in the States.  No doubt.  But not like the folks in La Llanes. 

On the table there was a ton of foods!  This food was for us as well as the rest of the community – which is another oddity: often we are invited to share a snack or a meal and WE are fed and everyone else looks on or leaves us alone while we eat (such is the custom here in El Salvador).  But here they shared with everyone in the community.  On the table:  a huge bucket of corn on the cob, a huge stack of ‘riguas’ (like a potato pancake but made with corn), atol de elote (a hot and very thick corn based drink), tamales (which I got to help make to the delight of the ladies working) and tortas (a corn based fried patty with sugar on top YUMMY!!)



Atol de elote

Tortas de elote

Was I concerned about consuming so many corn products?  A bit.  But that did not stop me from enjoying all the gifts.  We all sat around the table talking and eating.  Then a man got up and picked up a small ‘guitar’ and started tuning up.  In the corner of the building we were in (which was someone’s house that also serves as their place of worship) there was a regular guitar, a bass, a conga type drum, a ‘set’ of 2 drums with cymbols and a cowbell, and a couple of other traditional percussion instruments. 

People started to pick all those things up.  They were asking people to sing … but no one had the ‘song book’ so no one really wanted to commit to singing … but there happened to be a visitor from San Felipe in the village.  And he has a reputation for singing … (I did not know this – even though I’ve known this man for a very long time!) and he was asked to sing.  After a wee bit of arm twisting (not much really haha) – he said he would.

Within minutes the music was in full swing and we enjoyed at least 8 songs –

What fun. 

Sadly, Cecilia had a meeting she had to attend so we had to leave. 

I very often feel overwhelmed with love here:  friendship, generosity and a welcome that is deeper than I can express. 

It is times like these that make it so hard to leave. 

I have been truly blessed.