Showing posts from August, 2010

Another graduation

Sometimes, a child does not have the opportunity to graduate from high school. Sometimes, a child does not have the chance to attend high school. Sometimes, a child's life takes a different path.

Mirian lives in a small home made of adobe. She helped to build it with her own hands. She lives there with her family. The kitchen is old-school, with a hard-packed earthen fire surface under the front porch area, where the bean pot bubbles all day long and the comal is ready for cooking tortillas. The smokey house is dark inside, with beds across the room, and a hammock from which the family watches a tiny TV. Mirian has had a hard life. She suffered tragic loss during the war. One of her sons died when he fell from a mango tree while picking mangoes.

One time, Mirian gave me a piece of white cloth on which she had stitched a bouquet of flowers with brightly colored yarn and the words, "hecho por Mirian" across the bottom. She's thoughtful that way, always invitin…


How do we judge the success of a scholarship program?

I think for those of us who are all about education, we might easily say that any education which young people receive will not be wasted. I believe this.

Yet, we have dreams for our children, don't we? We want our kids to do well in school, to love learning, to read well, to graduate from high school, to go to college, to be able to provide for themselves and their families, to be valuable assets to their communities.

November is graduation month in El Salvador, and last November, we were invited to two high school graduation celebrations for two of the youth in the scholarship program. The ceremonies were at different schools and on the same day.

The first ceremony had limited seating. My husband and I were given two precious invitations, which meant that the graduate's brother and sister could not come. The family felt that it was a great honor to have international guests at the ceremony, and we were very humbled by th…

Learning, Growing and Building Community

"Our community is about education. As a church and as a community, we want everyone to know that we are about education. We can hang a banner on the church saying, 'Welcome to Los Heroes, where we are about education."

Every few years we get together to do strategic planning. We figure out where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. It's been four years since our pastor in El Salvador identified our sister community's focus on education. I should say, "intentional" focus, because over our 12 years together as sister churches, education has been central to who we are and what we do together. In the past four years, there has been a "program."

In the US, we were ready for a scholarship program early on. In El Salvador, the community was not ready. After 8 years of growing and learning together, we started a scholarship program together. And during the past 4 years, the program has helped children and youth to stay in school, h…

Wear it til it Breaks

I have a rule.

If someone in El Salvador gives me a bracelet, I wear it until it breaks. Well, I actually do more than just wear it. I think about the one who gave me the bracelet whenever it catches my eye, and I try to pray for the giver at least once during each day. And when a bracelet finally breaks, I feel really sad for a bit.

Right now, I am wearing three bracelets.

One has a pattern of 4 orange beads which alternate with 2 dull white beads which used to be pink. The beads are strung on sturdy fish line and the clasp is a little silver screw-together type. It was a gift from Maria - a little expression of thanks after she and her daughters gave me a tour of her home. It was a warm and wonderful visit, with the girls showing me their bed and their treasures. It was a difficult visit as Maria pulled aside the old bed spring gate, ducked under a neighbor's electric line, and showed me the holes in the roof where the wind-caught tin was bent. I couldn't help being …

Arco Iris en Cristo

This is my favorite banner.

My favorite because back in 1999 & 2000, our traveling Sunday School road show went from class to class, Sunday after Sunday, sharing a lesson about our new sister church relationship in El Salvador. Each child in Sunday School made a little self-portrait made of felt, the littlest ones with red clothes up through the middle school kids in the violet clothes, and all those little kids were sewed onto the banner.

My favorite because we left empty spaces in the arc, slices of space waiting to be filled. We packed it into a suitcase. A secret surprise for later.

My favorite because we were graciously welcomed into the school in our sister church community to share a Bible-school type lesson with the children, and during that lesson, each child made a little self-portrait made of felt, the littlest ones with red clothes up through the sixth graders in violet.

My favorite because that hot night in El Salvador, we opened the suitcase and under the light of can…

Off the Beaten Path: San Jorge

Oh, I remember this! -- a wide black dirt road with concrete steps as off-ramps...

As we drove down the "road" to the church in San Jorge, a few of us had our memories jogged by this unusual thoroughfare. San Jorge is one of the towns in El Salvador which uses a huge dry river bed as a main road into and out of this part of town. The wide sand-gravel pathway is perfect for a pick-up or a group of women with plastic containers on their heads...when there is no water flowing. Yet when the water comes, it comes flowing down from the hills in a rush, and all those who live and work and attend school along the route are trapped until the rush is gone. For some, that might mean an extra three hours or maybe an overnight at the church. There is an early warning system near the church, which can blast out a warning if a storm is coming or the rush of water looms. It did make me wonder if there would be wisdom in having a rowboat nearby.

On this day, our visit to San Jorge ended …

Off the Beaten Path: Puerto Parada

We were in Usulutan for the night and the pastor led us out to the church in Puerto Parada in the morning. The paved road became dirt and the dirt became mud and the mud became puddles and the puddles became the river. And all along the way, families were living in the water.

The river broke through the levy in June after tropical storm Agatha rained down, and the puddle lakes and streams left behind are stagnant breeding grounds for mosquitoes and disease. Released from its confines, the river now runs through three communities which remain evacuated, displacing more than 700 families. Some families refused to leave or, having no place to go, are surviving by scavenging what they can from the mud-covered corn and cane fields and by fishing with small nets.

We couldn't make it to the community on this route, so we turned around and took the other road in. We stopped at the church and heard a little bit more about the history and current life in the community, and then walked do…

Looking for answers...


The story began with a mud slide in November 2009 which brought boulders and mud and a wall of water into the community of Guadalupe near San Vicente.

Sort of.

The story really began generations ago, when families settled on the fertile hillsides and valley below the volcano. Grandparents, parents, and children, who despite the history of landslides, are rooted in this piece of earth which sustains them with corn and beans. This is home.

The government is unwilling to invest in rebuilding homes or reconstructing the bridge which is the evacuation route for the families who still live here. From a risk-management perspective this makes some sense. Yet the plan for relocating families raises additional questions. Is the lowland relocation site, which is prone to flooding, just as risky? Will the families have access to land to grow their crops? Will they receive dignified housing?

Those who lost everything are currently living in temporary wooden homes, on a wet patch of…

Off the Beaten Path: Beyond Art in La Palma

One of my favorite Salvadoran towns is La Palma. Famous for its history as a place of peace and a place of art, it's also a great place to hang out, to go for a walk, to enjoy the cool evenings and to grab a good meal.

The last time that I was in La Palma happened to be on the celebration of the patron saint day to honor the Sweet Name of Maria, which meant lots of fun and sweets in the streets. I took a walk and took a few photos, stopping for a little while in the park to write in my journal. While I was seated on a comfy park bench, a kid on a skateboard flew right over my head! What a surprise!

The treats are mostly made from cane syrup. It was fun to see all the different varieties, and to taste a few too.

A Visit to Benjamin Bloom

When children are sick, very sick or have had an accident, they can receive care at Benjamin Bloom Children's Hospital in San Salvador. Almost every family I know in El Salvador has had some interaction with Benjamin Bloom as patients or as families of patients.

Of course there are statistics...built in 1944; 382 beds, always full; 800-900 out-patient visits per day; most services are free. There is a 1-2 month waiting period for non-emergency procedures. The number one cause of death is asthma. After the 1986 earthquake part of the building collapsed. Some machines have not worked since then. Aid from Germany helped to replace imaging equipment and pumps, but now they need spare parts and the instructions are in German and the parts are not available in El Salvador. The Salvadoran government does not have funds for spare parts anyway. A well-outfitted PICU with a good record of care for preemies. There is one cubicle for heart surgery which happens on Mondays and Fridays, …