Showing posts from March, 2014

A Place for Them

Before the sermon, the children are invited to head off to Sunday School ( escuela biblica) .  They file out of the sanctuary through a door in the chancel area.  Their teachers follow them.  Their room is tiny - a storage closet, really - about 5 feet by 8 feet.  Two tables and a bunch of little chairs hold about 12-15 children and 2 young adult teachers.  Soon the strains of their singing are competing with the pastor's preaching, and a mom closes the metal door with little bang.  Even though the door is closed, the worshipers can hear the children acting out the Bible Story, giggling while coloring, and eventually singing the "go-to-song when the sermon is running long."  That song is catchy, and sticks in your head even while you are concentrating on the sermon... era un crocodilo, un orangutan... The congregation has been working for a long time to find a Sunday School plan that works.  Back in the old days, when the church was a little tin and bamboo structure, Su

Election Day in El Salvador Part 4

If you are following the twists and turns of the March 9th presidential election in El Salvador on Tim's El Salvador Blog , you know that five days after the election, the ARENA party is contesting the declared victory of FMLN candidate  Salva dor Sánchez Cerén.  As an observer, I do not believe that there could have been widespread voter fraud.  The checks and balances of the system seem to make it easy for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to review the voting process as is being demanded.  My hope is that during this drawn-out process, that those who are working to build peace, to build relationships among people and to grow a just society are the victors. Here are a few final images from election day... Our "super-official" car sign which allowed us to park nearby and identified us as neutral observers. Fire-fighters (following an ARENA bus) on their way to fight a grass fire. Two little girls, learning about the voting process. Youth in Santa Tecla

Election Day in El Salvador Part 3

As the Supreme Election Tribunal announced the victory for Salva dor   Sánchez Cerén of the FMLN, the ARENA party continues to argue that there was election fraud.  During our observation time in three different locations, we did not observe fraud.  There were a few voters turned away for not having the proper identity document.  There were a few disputes over marked ballots, but the voting table personnel came to reasonable conclusions.  As the final outcome continues to unfold, I will continue to share the photos and stories from our observation experience... As  voting began at our first observation site , the flow of voters was slow and steady.  "I think we will have fewer voters than in the first round."  We heard this phrase frequently.  It was very fun for us to begin our day in a place where friends from our sister church community were working, watching and voting.  The young people were especially proud when they tracked us down to say, "I voted!" Aft

Election Day in El Salvador Part 2

Be began our day as election observers in a small town north of San Salvador.  The poll workers arrived before 5:00 AM. As soon as the police arrived we were ready to go, opening up for set-up just after 5.  The process of setting up is coordinated by each voting table group.  Groups set up their areas (in classrooms, since we were at a school) and table-by-table receive their voting boxes.  The team carefully opens the box, inventories the contents, and sets up for voting.  The polls open at 7:00 AM.  Here are a few images from the opening process at our site: The police arrived a few minutes after 5 AM and were greeted by the voting table teams, the vigilantes (members of each party who are assigned to watch at each table), and party affiliates.  The affiliates set up information tables outside the polling place to help voters to find their assigned voting table numbers. Table teams waiting to receive their boxes. The vigilantes keep an eye on all aspects of the proce

Election Day in El Salvador: Part 1

On March 9, 2014, I served as an international election observer through FECLAI - Foro Ecumenico Consejo Latina Americana de Iglesias (Ecumenical Forum of Churches of Latin America).  I was part of a team of about 70 Salvadoran and international observers who were invited by the forum of churches to observe the second round of the election for the office of president of El Salvador.  As of this moment, the preliminary results indicate that the FMLN candidate, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, has been elected as president.  The election results are disputed by the ARENA candidate and party. Our team of four observers, made up of two persons from El Salvador and two from the United States, observed the voting process in three locations.  We will compile a detailed election report over the next 24 hours which will be submitted to FECLAI.  The FECLAI report is then shared with the Supreme Election Tribunal in an effort to improve the electoral process.  It is also shared with the citizens of El S

Off the Beaten Path: The Thermals at Santa Teresa

At the conclusion of a Mission of Healing, we are always very tired.  Each year we try to dedicate one day to rest and recovery.  We call this our "tourist day" and usually we seek out a source of water.  We have found that floating in a pool or taking a boat ride or relaxing on the beach helps us to recuperate our energy after a week of absorbing our brothers' and sisters' stories, burdens and illnesses.  The Salvadoran members of the team have encouraged us in this practice.  Sometimes they join us, but often, they send us on our way so that we can enjoy the beauty of their country and can unwind together without the burden of translation. I had heard about some hot springs from a friend, and when I asked the Salvadoran pastors about the possibility of going to some hot springs to relax, they agreed that the Termales de Santa Teresa  was the place to go.  It was a pretty long drive out to Auachapan from San Salvador, and the final leg offered up some pretty extrem