Showing posts from June, 2011

I Can't Believe I am Packing Beanie Babies

The title says it all. I can't believe I am packing Beanie Babies. So, if you have read the story about the Beanie Baby Disaster , you will certainly wonder why I would again consider packing a suitcase full of Beanie Babies for children in El Salvador. Well... the Youth Center in Guazapa has a very good program called, "Toys Not Arms." About five years ago, my friend Greasy and I were present for the first anniversary celebration of the Youth Center. Recently, the pastor wrote to me remembering this special connection, and she humbly asked if we could send some toys for an upcoming month of anti-violence activities. The Toys Not Arms program will be a part of the overall program, and the anti-violence sculpture will be expanded and renewed. Over the years, I have seen evidence that the Toys Not Arms program has been present in various communities as part of greater anti-violence initiatives. These initiatives seem to make a difference when the church, the schools, t

The Beanie Baby Disaster

We were going to El Salvador to stay in our sister church community for the first time, and we had some ideas. The plan: 1) Three of us as the healing team would work with the local health department to run a small clinic in the church for a few hours each day for 3 days. 2) Four of us as the teaching team would run a Vacation Bible School event during those same hours in the school. The VBS plan was made jointly through email. We worked on the details - taking our home church's summer VBS theme, translating some basic lessons and songs into Spanish, developing some art projects, planning special treats and collecting a few surprises for the children. We packed our suitcases with the supplies we needed and off we went. The school teachers were more t han generous in opening up their classroom to us and giving us a couple of prime time hours to work with the kids. It didn't take us long to realize that our lesson plans were not clicking with the kids. Translating into Span

Special Ones

For those of us who hang out at Lutheran Churches, and lots of other churches too, summer brings VBS (translation: Vacation Bible School). This year our home church in the US started the summer off with a one day VBS designed for special needs children and their families. It was a beautiful event, run by volunteers from age 14 through 74, some with expertise in working with special needs children, and all with a heart for this new ministry. We heard over and over from the parents, "This is such a great experience; there are very few opportunities like this." It was great. Great for parents to have a little personal time outside under the trees or chatting with one another. Great for each child to be accompanied by his or her own new teacher friend for special time in music, art, recreation and games. Great for everyone to gather together for a Bible story. Great to be in a safe place where love was oozing out all over the place. I have been thinking about what the par

First Fruits

A long while back, one of us told a story. Every now and then, one of us retells the story... A little group of visitors had come to our sister church community - a first visit. While they were at the church, a farmer named Luis came carrying a bag of beans: beans which he had planted, tended and picked, beans which were the first fruits from his field. Luis presented the beans, the offering which he brought to the church, as a gift to the visitors. This was a gift of hospitality, a gift of gratitude, a gift of first fruits. This is one of those little stories which has become a part of our sister church history - the collection of tales and adventures we pass along from one visitor to another, from one who visits in person to another who visit in stories. A long while back, a Sunday School lesson emerged from the telling of the gift of first fruits, and a simple art project was designed to help children and families to share the story at home. Every now and then the story is reto


We arrived in the evening. It was dark. It was raining. The main cobblestone road in the center of the small community was all dug up. For the community, this was good, a result of a sewer project which would carry away the dirty water and latrine waste to an appropriate treatment place. For the late-night walkers - not so good. We navigated our way along the trench, stepping on rocks, tip-toeing across slippery boards which covered unknown depths. We had our backpacks slung over our shoulders, our umbrellas or flashlights gripped in our hands. We looked like a colorful line waddling ducklings, following our swiftly walking leaders. I was following Nancy at the back of the pack. I am short. Nancy is really short. We came to a narrow board which traversed a big hole. The board did not look sturdy, so our Salvadoran guides (who had ushered the rest of the line safely into the house and who were now standing beside the hole) told Nancy to jump. There was no way little Nancy coul

Something to Think About

My trash gets picked up once a week. This is a luxury. My family is pretty intense when it comes to trash. We reuse every piece of paper with a little blank space. We recycle every scrap of cardboard packaging and mail. We compost all of my organic kitchen waste. We use non-recyclables for art projects or other purposes. We free-cycle. Still, we put out a little bag of trash each week, and it is taken away, and we do not have to think much about it after that. We hang out at a local church that tries to implement good trash practices too. It's a little more difficult in an urban environment, especially when recyclables do not get picked up regularly. But scrap metal is a source of income, and free-cycling is very easy with so many neighbors. The multiple bags of trash get picked up once a week, and this is a luxury. In our sister church community in El Salvador, the luxury of trash collection and disposal does not exist. The people there do not have legal title to their l