The Chicken Dance

The little altar table was set up in the center of the church.  It had a white embroidered cloth over it, a small clay bowl, a wooden cross and a candle.  The blue plastic chairs were arranged in a big circle around the altar.  Women from the community trickled in.  Adelmo brought his guitar.  A few children were playing outside the door.  The dogs wandered in and out.  It was hot.  One of the women left and came back in a couple of minutes with a big bottle of Coke and little packs of sweet bread. The women chatted about embroidery and the pastor reached into a white plastic Super Selectos bag and pulled out a slipper.  It was in-process of being crocheted with olive green yarn.  The ladies were a little sad that craft time would not happen this week.  Instead we were having a meeting.

It was a good meeting.  We ironed out many details of the Family Wellness Fair that would be happening in about ten days through the efforts of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church and our companion synod and sister churches.  Women volunteered to help with the kids' areas, to get things ready.  There was a big discussion about toilet paper.  We agreed the sister churches could buy that.

This year marks a transition from running a Mission of Healing, which included educational charlas or discussions, spiritual healing, and reflexology, physical exams and pharmaceuticals to a Family Wellness Fair focused more fully on education.  Together, the Salvadoran and US healing team has been working toward this transition for several years.  As the medical system in El Salvador has improved for people in small communities, the need for direct care from our team has decreased.  The church is working with local clinics to bring people into the system which is available to them every day, not just one time each year.  Together, the Salvadoran and US team has created plans and resources for more than 20 educational charlas which include spiritual healing, stress management, reflexology, diabetes education, heart health, HIV and sex education, and prentatal/baby care.  We are working with the government, the Red Cross and other agencies.  This year, the fairs will take place in 4 communities on 4 different days.

The pastor in charge of health and wellness ministries for the Salvadoran Lutheran Church shared the positive words we had received from the local clinic earlier that day.  The physicians and their staff are extremely excited to have support with education and preventive medicine.  The women listened, and slowly warmed up to the new model.  The discussion about toilet paper happened as the women wrestled a little bit with the new format.  Sometimes, internal struggles come out in funny ways.

"How do you feel when you haven't bathed?" asked the health and wellness pastor.  "Do you feel less energetic, weighed down, not yourself?  How do you feel after you take a bath?"  She stood up.  She shook herself all over.  "You feel great, right?  You shake your feathers!"  All the women laughed and agreed.  "Preventive medicine is like that.  You learn something.  You go to the spiritual place.  You get a massage.  You will feel great.  You will want to shake your feathers."

She asked if anyone remembered the chicken dance.  Now, of course, everyone reading this in the US is thinking about that silly dance you end up doing at a wedding reception with a bad DJ.  That is not the "Dance of the Chicken" which the pastor had in mind.  A couple of people knew parts of it:  shake your wing, shake your leg, wiggle your bottom, lay an egg.

I did a little search on YouTube to try to find a video of this dance.  I did find a video, though it is slightly disturbing.  And, I will say, that if you search Baile del Pollo you will find many very strange videos.

But, in the end, with an agreement about who would buy the toilet paper, where the learning stations will be set, who will be helping out where, and how we will all be shaking our feathers after participating in the Family Wellness Fair, we are ready to go.


  1. Neat to hear about how your wellness fair has progressed. I am struggling with how to support health systems that are already in place and still find ways to be of use myself. I'm sure you would have a lot to teach me!


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