Showing posts from 2013

Capacitación Christmas and Recovering from a Volcanic Eruption

Today the San Miguel volcano spewed forth a great cloud of smelly gas and hot ash.  Tonight, families from the small towns, little farms and coffee plantations on the sides and the skirt of the volcano are sleeping in nearby shelters.  As the next few days pass, assessments will determine the status of crops, of trees, of animals, and of homes.  At this time, thanks be to God, there has been no word of human casualties. In the dark night, away from their familiar beds, children and parents and elders are no longer planning their New Year's Eve fiestas, but instead are worried about the added economic strain that this disaster will have upon them and are no doubt fearful of additional volcanic or seismic activity.  When we celebrated Christmas in El Salvador in 2005 (see Capacitación  Christmas I and II ), one of our goals was to work with Salvadoran Lutheran Church leaders to develop fun and meaningful Bible School experiences for kids using music, art, drama and games.  One

Capacitación Christmas II

This is a continuation of the story  Capacitación Christmas  . . . During the registration process, participants had been divided into four groups.  Following worship, the groups each went their separate ways, to each of four different activities. Part II:  Story Time Story-telling with illustrations Story time included three different ways of experiencing the Parable of the Sower from Luke 8:11-15.  The team first introduced vocabulary from the story, talking about words like "parable."  This was fun for the team because while teachers in the US usually need to explain what the word "sower" means, the Spanish translation used the word "farmer" which is a familiar word.  We really learn a great deal from each other when discussing vocabulary! Acting out the story Next, the story was told in simple language, using large illustrations which the team prepared ahead of time.  As a reminder that the story is more than just a tale but is the Word

Capacitación Christmas

For my kids, "Take Your Child to Work Day" was not a unique and rare occurrence.  Back in the days when I served on a church staff, I depended on my kids to help out - a lot.  No doubt they have fond memories of getting dizzy going round and round big tables collating and stapling documents and setting up classrooms for Vacation Bible School. I recently found a video of the boys as young teens marching in a local July 4th parade.  They were dressed as Moses and Joseph.  "I can't believe you got them to do that," my husband said. year...when we suggested to the kids that we spend Christmas vacation in El Salvador where they would help to run a Vacation Bible School Training seminar for Salvadoran pastors and lay-leaders, they stepped up to help.  And they were not alone -- a group of youth ages 10 to 20 joined adults from our church to put on a big Salvadoran escuela bíblica. We arrived in our sister church community on Christmas Day and shared a big

Green Bean Casserole

It is not likely that when indigenous peoples of North America and European settlers sat down together to give thanks, they had crock bowls filled with green bean casserole topped with fried onion rings at their tables. It is likely that green beans were among the fruits of the land gathered during bountiful summer harvests.  It is one of the foods which originated in the Americas. People in Central and South America have eaten green beans for centuries.  Green beans made their way to Europe in the ships of 15th century explorers.  Green beans were expensive and rare, gained culinary popularity in France in the 1600's and eventually made their way into Midwestern USA casserole dishes with mushroom soup and onion rings. Thanksgiving dinners give honor to many fruits and vegetables which are native to the Americas, In El Salvador, green beans are very often prepared with eggs.  This is one of our favorite dishes served at Casa Concordia in San Salvador.  Although I don't ha

Sweeper Prayers

"What should we do with this big sweeper?" I asked my husband.  I had been cleaning out the garage, giving things to our grown kids and loading up pots and tools for the urban greenhouse project.  "Sell it?" he suggested over the phone. We bought the sweeper just after we moved into our house.  Pulling it along behind our tractor mower has helped us gather up mountains of leaves and too-long grass over the years -- much easier than raking all of that stuff into the compost pile. Now, I just wanted it gone.  Once we made the decision to downsize, to move to a smaller place in the US so we could spend significantly more time in El Salvador, I was eager to begin the process. So, I wheeled the sweeper down to the bottom of the driveway.  I tiptoed my dirty, garage-cleaning self into the house and grabbed a piece of scrap paper, a black sharpie and some blue painters' tape.  I wrote a note: We will gladly accept a donation for this sweeper to support ministry i

Night Tales

It is late in the evening.  Moths flutter by the light bulb.  The white plastic chairs are gathered in a circle.  The door is open to let the heat of the day escape from the house.  This is story time. "One time, I was walking through the woods, and I heard something beside me.  I stopped and looked, but I did not see a thing.  Then I kept walking.  I sensed something by my side.  Then," the teller gasps... Just then a cockroach starts zooming around the room like a hummingbird playing pinball off of our heads.  We all gasp and swat at the warm air as the teller says, "I saw it -- it was the white cadejo. " The other women in the circle nod.  They had all experienced the presence of the white dog.  "The white cadejo walks beside the woman, protecting her from danger.  One time, when I went to the river to do the laundry, the white dog was with me." A husband speaks up.  "I have spied the black cadejo  from the corner of my eye.  He has follow

Four Boys

Today I was meandering through some old video files, looking for some footage of singing in El Salvador, with the goal of finding audio for songs which we could sing with our congregation on an upcoming "El Salvador Sunday."  In the meandering, I came across a video entitled, "Four Boys." Click. The title appears.  This is one of the videos we created as a promotion for the scholarship ministry we coordinate with our sister church community.  A boy's first name emerges in white letters on a black screen, and then the image transitions to the face of a teenage boy.  He's wearing a Tazmanian Devil t-shirt.  The camera follows him as he shifts nervously from foot to foot.  Subtitles appear as he talks.  "I'm [complete name].  Greetings to the brothers and sisters at [sister church name], especially [boy name] who is sending help to me.  What I want to say...what I want to thank you for the help that you have sent me, and take care of yours

¡Feliz Quinceañera!

"Be sure to have a cake.  Usually there is a cake.  We couldn't afford a cake, and we were a little bit sad about that, but it was OK, right?  The cake should have layers and be tall and pretty like a wedding cake." We had a cake.  And balloons, lots of balloons.  And streamers and pink tablecloths and pink sparkly stuff and a princess in a pink dress and pink lemonade. From the beginning, we had planned two quinceañera celebrations to honor our fifteen years together as sister churches:  one in El Salvador and one in the US.  Even though we were sad to say good-bye to our Salvadoran friends at the end of our time with them, we had some fun together planning for the party "in the north."  We probably would not have dancing.  We would decorate using colorful balloons and streamers just like the Salvadorans had done.  And there would be cake. The party in El Salvador was planned by the community, and we had sent some funds ahead of time so our friends coul

Papa's Crosses

The quinceañera party for our sister churches ended with good-byes in the pathway that marks the boundary:  one gang territory over here, the other over there.  We walked from over here and up the hill to over there and settled into the van for the ride back to our little hotel.  We were tired from the heat and celebration and emotion of the day.  We all felt it - a little sadness in our hearts that one family, and one fifteen-year-old girl in particular, had been left out of the celebration. The girl is a friend. Some of us have known her all her life.  Some of us only knew her from photographs and stories.  One of us, one of our quinceañera princesses, has known her for a year.  The two girls met last summer, and in one of those mysteries of friendship, the two girls grew close.  Heads together all the time.  Giggles.  Sharing little secrets girls share when language doesn't matter.  The quinceañera party was something the girls dreamed about and as it became a real planned ev

Partying Beyond Boundaries

The quinceañeara celebration processed from the church to the community center.  There are no words to describe how unbelievably hot it was in that building.  It was like being in an oven, so hot that we could hardly breathe.  Yet spirits were high and so was the volume of the music!  Everyone posed for photos with everyone, and then it was time for the special dance.  We couldn't quite catch all of the words, but the song was a traditional quinceañera song, and all the belles of the ball with their escorts took to the floor.  This dance was rehearsed!  The girls twirled from boy to boy with their big skirts swishing and swaying -- it was like watching a Disney princess movie. After the dance a series of tables were set up end to end and covered with white cloth.  It was time for the feast of chicken and rice and tortillas.  As we finished eating, a hip hop dance group from the community performed.  The photo-taking continued for a while and then families said their farewells and

The Big Day

The day for the anniversary celebration had arrived!  We arrived in the community before 7:30 AM so that our two quinceañera princesses could get their hair done by the expert fancy hair stylist in the community.  They spent a couple of hours getting their curled and sprayed up-do's and then changing into sparkly pink and poofy dresses.  All over the community, girls were donning their pink and pastel-colored dresses -- dresses which had attended proms and weddings ten, twenty or thirty years ago, dresses which had traveled to El Salvador a month before the celebration, dresses now expertly re-fashioned to turn excited teen girls into beautiful flowers.  As the girls giggled and fussed with their hair and dresses, teen boys polished their black school shoes and walked around nervously in black dress pants and white or pink button-down shirts. Adults hovered around the church, adding finishing touches.  A few days earlier, the church had been dressed in a fresh coat of lilac paint

This is your Daily Bread

"This is your daily bread.  This is your daily bread."  There is a voice in my head, and these are the words. Daily bread.  Give us this day our daily bread.  As people of faith, we pray this prayer every day, perhaps several times in a day.  We ask God to provide us with what we need to sustain us today -- shelter, clothing, food, and water. As a person of privilege, I have never passed a day without having adequate shelter, clothing, food or water.  I have always been given daily bread.  Sometimes I marvel at God's creativity in providing daily bread.  I have upon occasion found myself without food, through my own fault in forgetting my lunch or not planning properly.  I work in communities where the struggle for daily bread is real, yet, in these communities, I am always fed.  Someone shares a sandwich, a piece of fruit, or a tamale.  An invitation is extended to a community meal made from reclaimed food.  "This is your daily bread." We had been walking


In two days, ten of us will head off to El Salvador to celebrate the quinceañera of our sister church relationship.  For the majority, this will be the first time they will visit our sister church community.  There is a lot of excitement and anticipation floating through the air! The last days of packing before a delegation trip always seem like a bit of a rush.  Today was errand day - a day to get all of the finances, paperwork and stuff ready for the trip.  At my feet, sits a great big suitcase with donated yarn and fabric and crayons spilling out beyond the zippers.  Behind me, the kitchen table holds a giant celebration card made from foam board and filled with signatures and messages from congregation members written in shades of pink and purple.  When the glitter paint is dry, the card will hopefully go into the suitcase.  What else is on the kitchen table?  Letters!  Stacks of envelopes of all sizes which contain letters and a few small gifts for children and youth.  Tonight

Think Pink!

During the first week of August 1998, two churches officially became sister churches.  This year, we celebrate our fifteenth anniversary together.  How will we celebrate?  With a big pink quinceañera! It all started with a trip last summer when a teen from our US congregation befriended a teen from our El Salvador congregation and they realized they were both turning 15 in the next year.  The idea for a joint party together this summer, complete with pink dresses and all the fanfare, was born.  The adult leaders in the mix realized this could be a fun opportunity to celebrate our sister church relationship and the quinceañera anniversary party became a real plan. Dresses filled the Fellowship Hall In the US, we gathered pink dresses.  Prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses, lacy and shiny, poofy and sparkly. Moms and daughters gave away dresses which had been lovingly cared for in the backs of closets.  One young girl and her mom shopped at second hand stores on a pink-dress scave

Off the Beaten Path: Lima Limón and Paseo el Carmen

Night life?  We don't get out much. Here's the thing:  when we are in El Salvador, we are typically working with the Salvadoran Lutheran Church or spending time out in communities or generally hanging out where it is better to be inside at 10 PM and not outside wandering in the cool evening air with a delegation of 25 people.  Yet, upon occasion, we have the opportunity to venture out and try something new. My friend Deb and I met a couple of friends in Santa Tecla.  It was super easy and quick to get there via the new highway.  The cab driver dropped us off near Paseo el Carmen - a mostly-pedestrian street that is home to restaurants, cafes, small shops, bars and live music.  We went on a week night, so it was   pretty quiet and easy to meander up and down the paseo  and peek into doors and study a few menus.  The restaurant area begins near the El Carmen Cathedral, an impressive structure that was built over several years beginning before the turn of the century.  The 200

Tales of Greasy and Grubby: Babies

Today I got peed on by Messiah. OK, not THE Messiah, but by a little guy who is named Messiah.  Pants all wet, both his and mine.  Not a lot I could do but walk him over to his mom for a change, and walk back to my chair feeling a little bit icky.  I looked across at Greasy.  She is visiting and we decided to go to Bible Study together at the church where I work as a volunteer.  It seemed like old times. We used to joke when we were together in El Salvador:  "Which one of us will some baby pee upon today?"  We love babies, and we love to hold babies, and the reality is that babies pee.  We even planned to wear patterned skirts on days when we knew we would be out and about visiting families, just in case.  Lots of babies in El Salvador wear cute cloth diapers with little bears or airplanes on them.  The diapers  fasten with velcro at the corners, which is much better than pins which tend to rust.  Of course, babies do not wear plastic pants - who wants to wear plastic pan

Marvelous Moringa

A while back, I shared the saga of the Mission of Healing medications which were caught up in an aduanas  adventure .  This created quite a conundrum for the people who needed prenatal vitamins or medications to manage their pain and illnesses and frustrated our conscientious pharmacy team.  In the end, everyone received what they needed, but it did further highlight the importance of our continued search for alternative sources of nutrition and medicines. Historically we have carried medications in multiple suitcases in order to care for patients in the most economic and effective way possible.  We have also consistently sought out sources for purchasing or acquiring medications in El Salvador.  Cost has been a prohibitive issue, partly due to a lack of generics in El Salvador.  Availability and quality are also challenging. Yet, there are local sources of nutrition and medicine which were known to the ancients.  Many of the men and women in the countryside know the uses of plants

Off the Beaten Path: Refuge in the Cathedral of San Vicente

Our church-hopping strategy had worked well in the morning, so with our stomachs filled with delicious relleno de ejote  (green beans surrounded by cheese, dipped in egg and deep-fried) and armed with fresh water to ward off the heat of the afternoon, we set out down the hill, in search of the oldest church in San Vicente. We walked down a wide, paved street in an area that mostly seemed residential.  We thought it would be easy to continue our church-navigation strategy, but on the low, flat terrain we could not see much beyond the houses and trees beside us.  The paving cobbles ended, and we found ourselves at the edge of town on a dirt road, so we turned around and took a side street which ended up leading us to a soccer field.  We went through the gate and walked along the edge by the "bleachers" (well-worn and faded boards set on random cans and buckets) until we came to the other side.  Apparently the end of the soccer field also functions as an informal trash dump.

Sunday Morning Hospitality

I am sure you have all been sitting on the edge of your seats, awaiting the next installment of the San Vicente escapades...and I apologize for the long absence.  The last few months have been filled with travel and events at home, so I have not found time enough to write for the blog.  No worries -- I have been keeping up with my hand-written travel journals, so the stories are not lost!  Today's tale is not exactly based in El Salvador, but its theme will ring true for all of you who have been invited into Salvadoran homes. We woke up early, determined to find breakfast before going to mass at the basilica.  We had laid out our "nice clothes" the night before, and had mapped out possible food locations on our little guide book map.  We were very proud of ourselves as we trudged up the long hill from our hostel toward the basilica, with our clean hair, cute outfits, and hungry tummies. The basilica in Quito, Ecuador, was built in the late 1920's.  It's old Go