Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What we eat here...

I've been asked by a lot of people what we eat here. Many people are under the mistaken impression that the local cuisine is spicy and similar to Mexican food. In fact, the typical food here is quite bland compared to what we are used to from the States. Beans, rice, and tortillas are staple food items for the people here. To have meat with a meal is a rare thing and usually saved for special occasions.

One of the foods El Salvador is famous for is pupusas. A pupusa is a thick corn tortilla that has been stuffed and fried. Most of the time the ingredients they are stuffed with are beans or cheese or a combination of them. There are also various greens or edible flowers that they place inside of them or sometimes even various meats. They are served with a tomato sauce and 'curtido' (a pickled cabbage slaw) on the side and eaten with your hands. Our family loves pupusas and is blessed to have a standing invitation to the home of sister Reina every Sunday night for her marvelous pupusas.

Our family has our own variety of tortillas and beans and cheese that we eat on
a regular basis at home. We buy a brand of tortillas called "Rapiditas" which are thin flour tortillas that come with 10 in a package for $1.00. We also buy foil pouches of refried red beans and a white cheese called "quesillo" that is similar to mozzarella cheese. We spread a layer of beans on half of the tortilla, put a small slice of the quesillo on it, and roll up the tortilla. Then heat them in the microwave for a brief time and they are ready to go. Monte and Erin prefer theirs with a little bit of hot sauce (similar to Louisiana Red) and we also like them with a side of Latin cream (like sour cream but waaaaaay better!) to dip them in. Our family eats these as a meal at least 4 or 5 times a week. It's a convenient meal and economical as well. I have to say, I never thought my family would be happy with a meatless meal as often as we are, but we've found it to be very satisfying. And if we have some lettuce, onion or tomato handy we add it in as well.

I have found that we are much happier with our beef products if I buy them in San Salvador when we make trips there. The ground beef I have bought in La Palma would never turn brown no matter how long I cooked it. So now we buy it in San Salvador, baggie it into smaller portions, and freeze it.

We do have special occasions when I have fixed things like lasagna and poppy seed chicken but because the ingredients for these are more expensive, we limit how often we enjoy them. And then when we do get to indulge in them, we really appreciate and enjoy them.

My own personal cooking skills have had to expand and adapt to the environment. It's quite pricey to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts here so it's better to buy a whole chicken or a quartered chicken and do the work yourself. The chicken I bought to cook for Christmas came with a bit of a surprise.
I bought it from a lady in town selling chickens out of the back of her pickup. She sat on the curb with a notebook tracking sales and another lady was in the pickup with a large 50 gallon drum filled with a slurry of ice and freshly butchered chickens. I asked the lady with the notebook if the chickens were fresh and she said yes--they were killed that morning--and that they'd still be warm except she'd placed them in the ice. She had the lady in the pickup hold up a big one for me to see and said the smaller ones were $8 and the larger ones were $10. I told her I'd take a big one and she double bagged it for me and I headed home. I knew the chicken still had the neck on it but was surprised to find when I got ready to cook it that there was a little more than the neck still attached. Luckily I had Monte here to assist in removing the rest of the head prior to cooking the chicken. Then Monte also removed it from the bones so that I could make it into a casserole. This was one big chicken and the meat from it more than filled a 9x13 pan when Monte removed it. I will definitely buy more chicken from this lady if I see her selling them again.

There's a man who comes to town once a week to sell fresh seafood caught that morning at the coast. We've bought from him several times--shrimp or fish fillets--and he now will stop at our house if we don't come out and he'll make sure we don't want anything that week. His seafood is very good and he's very courteous and helpful. If we ask for two pounds of shrimp he'll bring the scale to two pounds and then usually throw another handful in for free. He usually comes on Saturdays but he came on Friday before Christmas because of the holiday. We wanted to buy a fish fillet and some shrimp to put in the freezer. As I went out to his truck with him, I took freshly baked cupcakes for him and the guys who work with him. In return, he gave me four whole fish--one for everyone in our family. One of the guys in the truck scaled it and gutted it and placed them in a bag for me. I wasn't sure how to cook them exactly but was able to google and come up with some answers.
We washed them, floured and salted them and placed garlic and onion in the cavity and then fried them. I made some 'typico' rice to go on the side and we had a delicious lunch. We will DEFINITELY buy these fish again and next time will make more of a 'salsa' to stuff them with using onions, garlic, green peppers, and tomatoes. But it was a fun cooking experiment and a delicious one as well.

We have all lost weight while living here. Partly because we walk nearly everywhere--and it really is usually uphill both ways! Partly because we are eating less food than we used to. And partly just because there is not as much of a variety of food available. No Braum's or Culver's here. No Babe's onion rings here. No Big Macs here. Our family plays a game sometimes when we're craving food from back home. We each imagine that we're back home and go through and choose our entire meal including appetizer, main course, sides, dessert, and beverage and they can all be from different places. Today I'd pick onion rings from Babe's (the one on North Main street cause they're the best) and an Asian Salad from Del Rio and a raspberry lemonade from Olive Garden. Dessert? Anything yummy and chocolatey will do. :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

An opportunity...

Okay, I apologize. I've done a horrible job at blogging lately. The reasons are numerous, but mostly just that things got hectic around here and my time was spent in other areas. I need to be more diligent about making sure I post something a few times a week, even if it's just a photo of some of the things going on. For those of you who look regularly to my blog, I'll work harder on doing that.

To catch you up, we had a group from the States here the first full week of December and enjoyed having them with us. My dad was in the group and stayed with us instead of at the hotel with the group. That was fun for all of us, as we got to have more time with him. The kids enjoyed it especially because most mornings he walked to the hotel to have breakfast with the group and the kids took turns joining him for his early morning walk and for breakfast. There were multiple evangelism opportunities that week, with lessons going on in La Palma, San Ignacio, and in Ocotepeque. We also got to make another trip to Chuntrun (see if you don't remember where that is) with the group and had another chance to love on the kids and women there. During that time we became aware of a situation that we want to try to help with and I'd like to ask you to be praying about it.

This is Dora. This beautiful girl graduated from 6th grade last November. (School years here run from January to November.) Because school in Chuntrun only goes to 6th grade, this 14 year old girl has completed all of the school she can. It is an hour or so for her to walk into San Ignacio to go to school and it's just too dangerous and time-consuming. So, her lot in life is to work at home helping her parents with household chores and childcare of her younger siblings and wait for the time when she will have babies of her own--probably sooner than most of us would wish for her. She made good grades and would like to go to school but doesn't have the opportunity because of where she lives.

After we returned home that night we began talking about Dora's situation and whether there's any way we can help. The Christian school here is expanding next year and adding 7th grade. As we began to talk about options, we realized we have enough space to be able to house her here during the week and she could return home to her family on weekends. This would mean opportunities for education and a life beyond what she'd ever been told was possible.

Three of Dora's aunts are members of the church in San Ignacio and I spoke with them. I told them what we were offering and that it would include a place for her to live during the week and all her meals included, free schooling, free school supplies, and clothing. (We believe we can find people who would be willing to help with the funds for her scholarship and expenses so we made these promises based on that belief.) The aunts were very excited about this opportunity and said they would talk to their brother, Dora's dad, but that they were afraid he would say no because he needs her to help with household duties and childcare.

Sure enough, he and her mom said they wouldn't allow it. We have not yet had the opportunity to talk to them personally--all communication has been through the aunts-- but we are prayerful that we can do that soon. We realize that if they do refuse, there is nothing we can do, but we would like to at least have the opportunity to meet them and to let them meet us and talk to us before we walk away from the chance.

Dora was here last week (at the church building in La Palma) while all the kids from Chuntrun came in to get new shoes paid for by various donors from the States. While here, we could see something different in her eyes. She was looking around and talked to Ruth a bit, and seemed very interested in things. I held back tears several times as I watched her taking things in and noticed her surveying the school building and our family. She knows about the opportunity that we have offered her, and she knows that so far her parents have refused. To be quite frank, the emotion I felt was anger. I was angry at her parents who are selfish enough to deny their daughter a chance for a life beyond having babies and hard labor. If that's what she chooses, I could accept it, but I can't, I HATE that she doesn't get a say in it--that she is forced into that life! I know it happens all around the world every day, but this is a time when we have a chance to change it. We are offering her an education and a way to change her life and her family's life and her parents won't even consider it.

So in the next week, I am making arrangements for me and Ruth to go back to Chuntrun for a day. The ladies there asked me to come back again soon, and this is a chance to hopefully meet Dora's parents. The plan is that we will go back and have a Bible study there for the ladies and be able to visit all the homes there as well. At least one of the sisters from San Ignacio has said she'll go with us. Please be praying as we make these arrangements. Be praying for a safe trip and for open hearts and for Dora's parents to make the best decision for her.

In the meantime, we have put out 'feelers' to find other girls who are possibly in the same situation as Dora, and have come up with a couple of possibilities. We are in the process of talking to their parents and at least one is very interested. If this happens, it will mean some changes for our family, but imagine for a moment the different it will mean in the future of these girls. They've thought their whole lives that 6th grade is the last grade they can ever study and after that, they have babies. That's it. Now, they're presented with options. They're welcomed into a family with a mom and a dad and they become part of a church family and are introduced to Jesus Christ. Their entire lives and eternal future could change with this decision. Gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes to think of the possibilities. School starts in about a month here so arrangements need to be finished in the next couple of weeks if this is to happen. God seems to be opening doors for this work and we would ask you to please be prayerful of these opportunities and help us to be attuned to His will in all of this.

Dios le bendiga,

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ladies Day in Guazapa

In trying to get things 'caught up' on my last post I had to skip over some things from the last few weeks that I think some of you will be interested to read. The Saturday after we returned from San Salvador I joined two ladies from here and three ladies from San Ignacio to go to a ladies day in Guazapa (whaa-zahp-uh) which is south of here. We got on the public bus just after 7 a.m. to go there. It cost $1.50 for each of us and I enjoyed the experience. Because I get carsick I told them I wanted to sit near the front and when we got on, the very front seat was open so Deyci and I took it. At various stops along the way, vendors get on and walk through selling drinks, snacks, bread, even freshly made french fries with ketchup and mayonnaise. I had taken water with me but was able to buy some delicious burnt sugar peanuts from one of the boys who came on selling things.
The driver often kept the door open for ventilation so I was able to get pictures like this as we drove along. That is sugar cane but I'd never seen it with the "blooms" on top--Deyci told me that means it's ready to cut. (the blooms are hard to see out the door but look just to the sides of the door) I didn't have any carsickness issues on this ride--partly because I wore my bracelet to prevent it and partly because the bus makes so many stops that it can't take curves nearly as fast as the other vehicles sometimes can and do.

None of us knew exactly where the church building was in Guazapa but it's not very large so we got off kind of in the middle of the city and began walking and asking people. The ladies are always very protective of me so I never felt unsafe. They always put themselves between me and any strangers we meet on the street and even held my hand as we crossed the highway to make sure I stayed with them. We managed to find the church building just a few blocks down the street and arrived just as it was beginning.
The ladies at Guazapa were very impressive--they had a number of them to took turns leading singing and prayers and all seemed very confident as they did so. The speaker was from the San Salvador area and we enjoyed her class very much. After the first class was a time for snacks and they served us a traditional French bread roll with refried beans and cheese inside. I have come to love them very much and they are quite filling. They also served coffee with them and it was soon time for the second class to start. It was also a very good class and was followed by lunch. For lunchtime, they gave instructions for us to remain seated and they would bring the plates to us. It consisted of chicken, rice, salad, and a tortilla and was good but my favorite part was the beverage. They served the drinks in bags--a typical practice here--but mine was an orange drink that was one I'd never had before. It was so refreshing that I could have easily had two or three of them. (Guazapa is noticeably hotter and more humid than La Palma because La Palma is in the mountains.) The drinks are all poured into small plastic baggies and tied up kind of reminiscent of a water balloon. To drink them, you bite a very small hole in one of the corners and suck the drink out of it. This sounds (and seems at first) a bit precarious, like you're going to spill it everywhere but you eventually develop a feel for it and are able to drink part of it and hold the bag containing the rest of the drink without spilling it. It's quite a cost-effective way to serve drinks, far cheaper than buying disposable cups.

After the meal was over
they had one of the ladies from Guazapa get up and ask questions of all the ladies in the audience. We each had to answer a question and in response, we all got a pretty coffee mug as a prize. We had planned on coming home on the bus but Marvin was there with his van so we all piled in and he took us home. We enjoyed singing together in the van for most of the trip home. I snapped this picture of Estella as we were singing. It is now the dry season here and we have only had a small amount of rain in the last two months. The amazing thing is, there are trees and flowers blooming now that it is dry season that didn't bloom during the time when there was ample rain. I am enjoying seeing the brilliant colors that continue to surprise me. This whole hillside was in bloom.

During our lunch, the ladies and I talked a lot about our upcoming ladies day. They have lots of ideas now on what to expect and how to improve our previous plans. A group of ladies was here today at the building cleaning and making preparations and more will be here tomorrow. One of the projects we were supposed to work on today was assembling keychains that will be presents for all the ladies who attend. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) there was a lack of communication and they were not ready today but should be ready tomorrow morning. We have much work to do in the coming days and the ladies here are ready and excited about it.

Catching up...

I've gotten very behind in blogging in the busy-ness of daily life. As I spoke of in the earlier post, Ruth and I attended the funeral of Andrea. It was a very nice service, with her Sunday school teachers getting up and saying a few words about her and with two women singing typical children's Bible school songs. At the end, Andrea's grandma got up and spoke. And she reminded us all that God tells us we are to always be thankful. She said it's very hard to be thankful in a time like this but that God tells us to do it. What a lesson there for all of us!

After the funeral the trek to the burial began. We were offered a ride in the back of a truck with a group so we accepted it. (Note to self: next time, just walk--the starting/stopping while standing in the back of a truck is much harder on the body than just walking) This picture is of the procession headed to the burial. The lady walking in the front of the procession in the white shirt and black skirt is Andrea's grandma.

Please continue to remember Andrea's family in prayer. I'm hoping to get to talk to her grandma this week and invite her to our ladies' day this Saturday. (more on that in a minute)

The following Monday was Monte's birthday and we were happy to help Reina surprise him for his birthday. She had asked me weeks earlier about fixing a meal for him for his birthday. She fixed her delicious chicken tamales. I'd gone that morning and paid for a cake and arranged to have Jose pick it up and take it to Reina's for me and then he called when it was time to come and said that Reina needed to talk to Monte and that it was important. Monte was onto the game at this point but he went along with it and we enjoyed a delicious meal and birthday cake together.

The following Thursday our family went to San Salvador overnight. We needed to get away from the stress of things here and just enjoy being a family together for a bit as the upcoming weeks will be filled with others coming to visit us. We were able to use hotel points of Monte's to reserve a nice hotel and enjoy sitting by the pool. The water was so cold that only Nathan did any swimming in it. Ruth and I enjoyed some live music being played in the outdoor area of the hotel that night. The following day we were able to go see the new Harry Potter movie--in English with Spanish subtitles. It capped off our little getaway and we were able to quickly shop for the food items we can't get in La Palma and head home.

We've started a new outreach/ministry here in the last few weeks. The kids here are on break from school for two months. This means a lot of free time for a lot of them. Monte and I have started showing free movies on Wednesday mornings in the church building. We buy snacks of some kind to give the kids and their parents that come and we show a movie with a spiritual message. So far we've been showing some of the Max Lucado kids' movies like Hermie the Common Caterpillar and the kids are enjoying them. We sing a few songs with them and have a prayer before they leave and of course invite them to come back on Sundays. One of the kids who has been coming is Cristian, a little boy who lives right next door to the church property but has never come to church here. He was so excited about a free movie and loved it and was in Sunday school the following Sunday. We pray that this will be a way to reach Cristian's family and others like them. Last week after the movie several of the kids played soccer and basketball in front of the church for almost an hour. It's good to have the facilities being used and the time the kids are playing gives me time to visit with the adults that come with them. (Does anyone in the States have any Max Lucado or Veggie Tales DVDs that you're not using anymore AND that have a Spanish language track? If you do and you're interested in sending them for us to use here, please let me know.)

The biggest thing I am working on right now is the ladies' day that is coming up in La Palma this next Saturday. We're making plans for 150 ladies and this is the first venture of its kind in La Palma. The ladies are very excited about it. I'm quite nervous about it because I am teaching at it--without a translator. I've taught classes before without a translator but they were small classes, never standing in front of an auditorium without a translator. I know, though, that "I can do all this through Him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) So I'm trying not to stress too much about it. Of course, I would appreciate your prayers for that day. I pray that what I have to say will be what they need to hear and that God will help me to find that right words in their language.

In case you are interested in our Thanksgiving meal, Ruth posted some pics and wrote a little about it here: . I am working on a post to tell you a little about our normal food here. It's something several have asked about so I'll try to answer that question soon. Have a blessed week--I'll try not to go so long between posts next time!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A rough couple of days...

The last few days have been so exhausting for me. I knew they would be physically, but we've had some unfortunate surprises that have added emotional stress, too. On Wednesday, Monte went to San Sal with a group of men from here and two large trucks to pick up a shipment that had arrived almost two weeks ago from the States. It had 18 crates of donated items for the school, the church, and the community. There are wheelchairs, clothing, bedding, baby items, toys, computers, and more. Due to some small glitches, they didn't arrive back in La Palma till 8:00 that night and we were able to get the crates offloaded from the trucks. We arranged a group of men to meet with us yesterday morning to begin the process of emptying the crates and sorting, storing, and distributing the items in them. We worked all morning yesterday doing that and everyone pitched in. The sun was out and was intense so we distributed waters frequently. Nathan became very skilled in using a cordless drill to remove screws from the crates and help disassemble them. Ruth was very helpful in both transporting items from the crates to the appropriate areas and also in taking photos of the process.
By the time lunch time arrived, we had the crates all emptied and were exhausted physically. Monte, Ruth, Nathan, Teresa, and I headed for a nearby restaurant to sit down and eat some lunch. After lunch we headed home and make a quick stop at a little ice cream store. While ordering, Monte's phone rang and he couldn't understand the person on the other end so he handed the phone to me. I said hello to them and that I was Lori and could I help them. On the other end I heard a crying woman who said, "MizLori MizLori" several times and proceeded to tell me that she was Andrea's grandma.
I immediately knew something was wrong and asked how Andrea was--she'd been in the hospital last week. Her crying grandma informed me she'd died that morning. I told her we'd be there as soon as we could as my own tears began to flow.
Our group met Andrea several years ago when it was discovered she had a congenital heart problem. There were many attempts to get surgery for her but the response was always that she was not a candidate and that her life would be short. She outlived the doctor's expectations and was always so sweet and happy. About two years ago our group was here and several of them took her to the beach and a nearby private pool as a sort of a "Make A Wish" for her and her family and she loved the day. We'd see her in town occasionally and sometimes her lips would have a bluish tint to them because her heart just wasn't pumping as good as it should have been, but she always had a sweet smile on her face. She turned 7 this past August.
We waited for Jose to arrive at the school and then he, Teresa, Ruth, and I headed out to visit. (Monte was teaching last night at church and needed to finish preparing his lesson.) We took mototaxis to her house--in an area that would easily have been over an hour's walk from town for us. I hugged and cried with both Andrea's mom and grandma and we even met Andrea's great-grandmother. Her mom was so sad to have lost her daughter but she said she knows that Andrea is no longer in pain and that she was blessed that God loaned her Andrea for 7 years.
The time after death is handled much differently here than in the States. The body is placed in a casket, often with a glass top, and placed in the home for everyone to come and see. So when we arrived, little Andrea had been dead less than 6 hours and was there in her home in a white casket. She was dressed in the fancy dress that her mom said she had picked out to wear to her kindergarten graduation which would have been next Tuesday. In her arm was a Barbie. There were four tall pillar candles burning around the casket. Families and friends here often take pictures of the dead while they are in their caskets and several were doing that when we arrived and as we sat there more did so. At one point, Andrea's brother (maybe 11 years old) walked up to the casket and looked down at her quietly. He stood there for a brief time, hand on the glass, and then turned and went back outside to play with his friends. At one point we watched Andrea's grandma turn on her cell phone so that it would give better lighting on Andrea for a family member to take a picture of her. Eventually a family member brought in an extension cord to hang a light above where her little body lay. This was Ruth's first time to experience how they handle death in El Salvador and I know it was very difficult for her but she handled it very well. Last night would have been the "vela" where family and friends come and gone throughout the night, with Andrea's family feeding the crowds that arrived. Because of the distance and our exhaustion from the morning, we were not able to go to that. But Andrea's grandma asked me if I'd accompany them today to the burial and I of course agreed.
Jose offered to loan chairs from the church but Andrea's mom said the mayor's office was sending out a tent and chairs. By the time we decided we needed to head back to La Palma, the mayor's truck was arriving and they told us we could ride back with them, saving the cost of a mototaxi.
Today will be the funeral for Andrea. It will be around 1:30 and then around 2:00 will start the procession to the cemetery. The custom here is that the casket in the back of the funeral truck will lead the procession. There may be some cars to follow it, but most people will walk behind the funeral truck the distance to the cemetery. The church where they will have the funeral is on the outer edges of La Palma so it will be close to a 2 mile walk, I'd estimate. It will be a demanding experience, physically and emotionally, but we will be there.
Please be praying for Andrea's family as they deal with the emptiness and loss of her. We will do our best to minister to them in the coming days. Please pray that God will show us what we can do to best accomplish this.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Trip to Chuntrun

Some days there just aren't enough adjectives to describe the things that you have experienced. Last Saturday was one of those days. I've actually started several times to write about that day but to find the words and do it justice seems such a daunting task that I postponed it. I'm going to attempt to tell you about it, knowing that any description will fall significantly short of what we really experienced.

My family got to join Jesus, Josue, and Carlos on a journey to Chuntrun. This is a remote rural area outside of San Ignacio (which is 5 minutes from us) accessible only on foot. Jesus drove his pickup as far as he could and then we got out and hiked a half hour on very primitive trails to our location--the elementary school. This picture is labeled with the school in the distance and the bridge at the river down below. We first walked a rock/concrete trail down to the bridge before being able to head up to the school.

I rode in the cab of the pickup with Jesus for the first part of the journey with everyone else in the back. During this time and the rest of the day, I learned some interesting facts about Chuntrun and the people from there:

**There is a group of 10-12 brothers and sisters from Chuntrun who have studied with Jesus and become Christians and worship at San Ignacio. They attend regularly on Sundays, walking approximately 2 hours each direction--even in the rain--to attend. DID YOU CATCH THAT? They regularly walk 2 hours to get to church! Sun, rain, wind...they walk to meet with their brothers and sisters and to worship God. It's THAT important.

**One of the members, Natividad, even attends Thursday evening services because she tells Jesus that "her soul needs to be fed." She sleeps Thursday nights at her sister's house in San Ignacio and returns home on Fridays.

**Natividad became a Christian after her sister, Virginia, was baptized in La Palma and invited her to study the Bible. Several of us from the States studied with Virginia and worked to improve her house in La Palma before she became a Christian--those of you who were there will never forget that experience. Natividad is now faithful and invited their sister, Maria, to study and she, too, was baptized and is a San Ignacio member. Natividad has also invited multiple friends to study the Bible and there have been baptisms as a result of those studies.

**There is no 'official' running water in Chuntrun. There are several springs from which the people get their water. Some have tanks where they collect rainwater also.

**None of the homes there have electricity. The school has a solar panel that powers the single light in the classroom.

**The school at Chuntrun is K-6 and meets in one room. I asked what the kids did after that, thinking they went to San Ignacio, but Jesus said that they just don't go after 6th grade. He said it's just too far and too hard.

**The teacher at Chuntrun lives with a family there during the week and on the weekends goes to her own home in Chalatenango, several hours away. (Reminds me of Little House on the Prairie)

**All the families in that area are farmers. Mostly beans and corn. Because the children are destined to be farmers, by 6th grade they've received all the education they will need for this and school beyond that is unnecessary.

**There is no store in Chuntrun, not even a small tienda. I asked Jesus if there was even a tienda to buy Coca-cola because in La Palma there's one on almost every corner. He said no, not even one for a child to buy candy. Any groceries they need are purchased in San Ignacio.

We arrived at the school grounds in Chuntrun where the class was to be held and Jesus set things up. A handful of children were there and they told him others were coming.
Sure enough, we began to see other children pop over the top of the trail, some of them with mothers joining them. Jesus pointed out the one room building of the school where grades K-6 have class and there is another building that is a 'kitchen' of sorts for preparing/serving food/snacks to the children. There were concrete tables and benches under an awning and that is where the class was held.

Jose first led several fun songs with the kids and then told the story of the baptism of Jesus by using homemade flannelgraph-type figures cut out of construction paper. As he added a figure he would use a glue stick to attach it to the base paper. Every few sentences he would stop and ask a question about what he'd just told and sometimes he'd give a sucker to the child with the correct answer. The children were completely engaged in his storytelling and so were the mothers.

After the story, Jesus had a set of paper cutouts just like his storyboard had. Glue sticks and glue bottles were passed around and the kids got to each recreate the story to take home with them. It was obvious as we helped them that the children had little experience with glue and glue sticks because they didn't seem to know how to open the bottles or how to twist up the sticks but they learned quickly.

After that Jesus led a few more songs and then a prayer and it was time to leave. Jesus had brought treat bags for each child that contained a juice box, a pack of cookies, vitamins, and parasite treament. Our family added a plastic toy animal and a piece of bubble gum to each treat bag. Ruth and Nathan helped distribute the bags to the children as they left the table area. The kids all hung around and drank their juice and kicked around a soccer ball for a while before heading home.

We had also taken two baby carriers/carseats with us and there were two moms there with young children who were very happy to receive them. They don't use them for the carseat here as much as a safe place to keep a baby in the home or for sleeping. They're quite expensive here and the families are always happy when we can give them one. We had also taken some foam bedrolls to give out and were able to give one to each of the mothers who came.
These are very simple, thin rolls of foam padding but they make the families who receive them very happy--some families use them on the floor to sleep on, others use them as blankets, and some just use them as extra padding on sofas or chairs.

The trek home was quite tiring as it was very hot by that point with the sun pounding on us. We talked several times on the return trip about how surreal the entire morning had been. The people in Chuntrun live a very hard life but for most of them, it's all they've ever lived. I felt almost ashamed to know that we were returning to a home where we would all take warm showers that night and that we could turn on faucets and water would come out and that if we wanted a Coke we can walk about 10 yards to a tienda and purchase one. We are so blessed. While we are living here, our family has given up some of our comforts from the United States, but we are well aware that we're not living in the most extreme of circumstances. God has blessed us and we know that, but sometimes we just need reminding.

One of the things our family talked about most is the fact that the Christians in Chuntrun are willing to walk 2 hours one-way to church every week. As a mom, I know there are times when it's chilly or rainy in the United States and it's hard to motivate yourself to get the kids ready and load up the car and drive the 5 or 10 minutes to church. And that drive is usually in a climate-controlled vehicle, protecting us from the elements. So to think about taking your kids on a 2 hour hike to church in the rain is humbling. And the people there do it every week.

The day was an exhausting one in so many ways--physically, of course, but mentally and emotionally as well. I find the contentment and dedication of the people of Chuntrun to be inspiring. We are so glad we got to experience it and Jesus told me he will be going back in a few weeks to study the Bible with some friends of the members there and we are invited to join him. I can hardly wait to go again.

*****You might also want to read Monte and Ruth's perspective on the same trip. You can read Monte's at:
and Ruth's at:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Home visits...

I went with Jose to make some home visits yesterday. There was definite walking involved, perhaps what might even be described as hiking. This picture is one I snapped while we were out. It is of four kids who were gathering some pieces of bamboo from a trash pile. I don't know what their plans are for the bamboo, but it is likely for supports for their home/roofs. I found it saddening to watch them digging, some of the barefoot, through the pile of trash to pull them out and take them home with them. The fact that you can't see the terrain behind them gives you a sense of what the area is like where we were--quite steep and rough walking.
The second visit of the day is one that I'd like to ask you to be praying for. We went to visit Morena's family. Morena comes to the school here everyday during their recess/snack time to sell snacks to the kids. Her husband, Alfredo, was severely injured Tuesday night in what they believe is an attempted suicide. He was taken to San Salvador to the hospital but the family thought it was best for her not to go at this time. She had a lot of family at the house with her and welcomed us graciously. We were able to sit and visit and let her tell us her story and offer our support and prayers but situations like that leave me feeling very helpless. What do you say to a woman whose husband tried to take his own life less than 18 hours earlier and is left to sit at home and wonder and worry how he is doing. We prayed with the whole family before we left and they seemed to welcome that. Before we left, we hugged on the women there and it was one of those times when you just hope to impart some strength and healing through your hugs and whispers of love and support. We have not yet heard any word today on how Alfredo is doing. Please be in prayer for him and for his family in the coming days.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Trip to San Sal...

We left Tuesday morning to head to San Salvador for the purpose of renewing our visas. To pay someone to drive a family of 4 to San Salvador starts at $50 so we opted for public transportation this time. There is an express bus that runs from La Palma to San Sal about 7 a.m. It makes a few stops to let off people but no others get on the bus. Because of this, it costs $3.50 each--more than twice the cost of a regular bus. The buses are of a better quality and considered to be much safer. We decided to try this, since it would only cost our family $14 for the trip. I'd communicated with Carmen, who lives in San Salvador and had opened her home for our family to stay there, and she'd arranged to have a taxi driver friend of hers, Pedro, meet us at the bus terminal. We got on the bus and sat as close to the front as we could. The ride down the mountain is quite curvy and can cause carsickness in anyone prone to it. Nathan, Ruth, and I all took motion sickness pills and wore some electronic bracelets I have that help with motion sickness. With these bracelets, I have successfully ridden loop-the-loop roller coasters and even the Tony Hawk ride at Six Flags without getting sick. However, I think our driver may have thought he was in a race as he headed down the mountain at breakneck speed. Nathan and I both wound up throwing up before the road straightened out. The man on the bus in charge of taking the money walked up and down the aisle passing out plastic bags to those who needed them--a sign we were not alone. Luckily, I was already prepared with both plastic bags and a wet washcloth for such an event.
We got off the bus at the San Salvador bus terminal and Carmen and Pedro met us there about 5 minutes later and we headed to the Immigration Department. We had to get passport-sized photos made to accompany our applications, but I knew that there were several booths across the street that specialized in this so we waited to do those till we arrived. The booth we used for this had a pet parrot there that loved to say, "Hola!" over and over and that supposedly liked to sing. The girl working there would sing La Cucaracha to the bird, but the only thing the bird would sing back was, "La Cuca..." and then cut off. It was great entertainment while waiting for our pictures to be ready.
As we arrived at Immigration, we were able to meet with Jessica, who I had met with before and was very helpful. I finished filling out our papers and paid the necessary fees and we were fingerprinted and told to return on Thursday. Jessica said her boss was not in the office through Wednesday of the week but would be on Thursday and has to okay all renewals. She kept our passports--standard practice while waiting for renewals--and gave us temporary papers stating that we are applying for updated visas and we headed on our way.
Because I knew there would likely be a 2 day wait we'd planned to stay with Carmen for two nights and do a bit of sightseeing while in San Salvador. It was actually cheaper than making two trips to San Salvador and gave our family a bit of time away from the 24-hour demands that we are often faced with when in La Palma.

We were able to visit the San Salvador Zoo, the National Museum (anthropology museum), eat at Burger King and Pizza Hut, and enjoy a bit of shopping while there. Nathan enjoyed playing with Carmen's neighbor boy--they kicked a soccer ball in the street for hours. And we just enjoyed time at Carmen's relaxing. Carmen is well-traveled and it was great to visit with her. Her son Napo was able to come and visit for a while, as well. He has helped with the La Palma work and is also-well traveled and was able to share insight and advice with us. Carmen made us a delicious meal of chicken and potatoes on Tuesday night and was very helpful on our entire visit. Pedro was very helpful and took us wherever we needed to go in the city. The traffic in San Sal always amazes me. The roads are not marked as well as we are used to and it seems as though one can drive forever and still have a huge expanse of city in front of you.
When we go to San Salvador, there are things we stock up on because they aren't available here. Among them are: ground beef (available here but is not very good quality--stays red even after cooking it), cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, Latin cream (similar to sour cream but much better!), American pancake syrup, peanut butter, and various spices/seasonings. This trip I also was able to find Dawn dish detergent which was thrilling to me. The dish soaps here have not done as good a job as I am used to in removing grease and to have the quality and familiar smell of Dawn back in my kitchen makes me very happy.
I'd spoken with Joel, a friend from San Sal who has helped with the La Palma work on countless occasions, and we said he could drive us back to La Palma on Thursday. I called Jessica at Immigration about 9 a.m. and she said the visas weren't ready yet but to call later. We met up with Joel that morning and made a quick trip to the beach at La Libertad.
We got to walk out on a pier, through a fish market, and watch how the fishing boats are let down into the water by a motorized crane. In the fish market, we saw seafood of all sorts, and Nathan got to pick up a small hammerhead shark. We spent some time walking on the shore and enjoying the beauty of the area and then went to a seaside restaurant to eat at a table overlooking the ocean. During lunch I called Jessica again to see about our visas. She was not available but her co-worker told me to come back tomorrow morning and that they'd be available then. I didn't like that option so we decided to be there around 2:30 (their office closes at 3:30) in person to inquire if they were ready, thinking it will be much harder to tell me in person to come back tomorrow. And I was completely ready to pull out all the stops and beg for them to process them that day so that we didn't have to find somewhere to spend the night. In the end, when we arrived, Jessica smiled and said that our visas were ready and to have a seat and she'd be with us shortly. A half hour later, we had visas in hand and headed out the door.
We headed to HiperPaiz (owned by WalMart) and got our needed groceries and headed back to La Palma. Joel spent the night with us and Nathan enjoyed having someone new to play video games with. :) He had to return Friday evening to San Sal to attend a family event.
Thank you for your prayers for our visa process and for our safe travels. Our trip to San Sal was a success--we obtained our visas, relaxed a bit, and returned home safely. I'd like to say that next week will be a 'normal' week but we're not really sure what 'normal' is, since we never entirely know what each day has in store. But it is a week in which we will resume a more normal schedule and plan to be in La Palma all week. It's sure to be a great week. :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Brother Modesto

There's been several things happen lately that I need to blog about but tonight I only have time to mention one of them. Last week Nathan told me that one of the pieces of playground equipment was broken so I went and checked it out. It was the monkey bars and the top part that the kids hang from had come loose because one of the pieces of wood that supports it had rotted. I asked Jose about getting a brother to repair it and he said he would ask for volunteers on Sunday. Brother Modesto quickly volunteered to help out and showed up later in the afternoon (we hadn't expected him to react so quickly!) to repair it. He first had to remove the old and rusty nails from the equipment. Monte went and brought
him a drill (two actually, because the battery on the first one died) to help with the removal of the screws that were in it. Shortly after this second picture was taken, the wooden piece came free and before they could catch it, the wooden beam hit Modesto in the forehead and the metal rod hit him squarely on the bridge of his nose, splitting it open. I retrieved the necessary first aid items and we bandaged it quickly. He didn't let a little blood stop him from working.
Modesto is one of the men that Monte and Jose have been working with and encouraging to step up as a leader. He is attending faithfully and eagerly stepping in to help in areas where he can. Tonight we were elated when he led his first public prayer in the services. After church he commented that it was very short but we assured him that he did fine and that the length of it is not important. We are optimistic that he will continue to grow in the Lord and become a stronger leader in His church.
Our family will be heading to San Salvador on Tuesday morning to renew our visas and then to hopefully do a bit of sight-seeing/touristy activities. We don't have any definite plans made yet, since our time schedule will depend on tomorrow's meeting with the immigration department. I would ask that you be in prayer for a safe journey and also for a quick and easy process with the visa renewal.
One more prayer request is for the people of Central America in the coming days. Tropical Storm Paula has begun dumping rain on the Central American countries and they have already suffered with flooding and landslides so more rain is a very bad thing. They have lost a great deal of their crops which will cause a tremendous financial impact on the area as a whole later.
Thank you for your prayers. We serve an awesome God.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blustery Day

Remember the story of Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day? That's kind of how it's felt around here since last Friday. The winds are tremendous. Evidently this is the norm for October--high winds. And on October 1, it became summer here. There are only two seasons here--summer (dry season) and winter (rainy season). I don't know how this fits into the fact that there is still an Autumnal Equinox, or at least I think there is. Our family has discussed it at length over meals and we don't understand it, we just know we've been told that now it's summer and that the rains should pretty much only at night now.

The winds are blowing the banana trees so hard that even the locals seemed distrated by it Sunday during church. When I put our laundry out to dry yesterday I used twice the normal amount of clothespins to secure them. But the plus side is that it didn't take very long for them to dry with the combination of sun and blustery winds. Thankfully, we live in a very secure house and have no worries about it blowing away. I know there are other homes in town that are not as immune to the winds.

The winds at night are actually quite cool and I'm working on finding some heavier fabric to make curtains for the kids' room. It has north-facing windows and at night the wind comes around the windows and makes it quite breezy and chilly in there. Next week we will be in San Salvador working on renewing our visas and I hope to find suitable fabric then.

Just wanted to update you on the change of seasons and weather here. And thinking about Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, you know what tomorrow will be here? "Winds-day!" :) Hope you have a blessed day!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sister Felicita

Monte, Jose, and I got to go visit Sister Felicita this morning. Her property was damaged in the recent rains and we hoped to go assess the damage. Those of you who have visited her know that getting to her house is no small task--we definitely got our cardio workout in for the day. :) First you climb a steep road, then you level out briefly before descending 98 concrete steps to her house. Some of us have jokingly called it the "Eternal Staircase" because when you're trying to ascend or descend it, it seems to go on forever.

What we found when we arrived is that the land in front of her house had begun to wash away. She had put out plastic tarps to prevent any more from eroding but there was only a narrow place to walk to approach the front her her house. In this picture, she and Jose are standing on the front porch assessing it.

She also told us she'd had problems at the back of the house. This is the view at the back. Again there are tarps to prevent further erosion. She said that one of the nights this past week she'd been out there in the middle of the night bucketing mud away from the house as it ran down the hill.

She also lost a shelter that protects her washing and laundry area this week as the land behind it gave way. She'd had help yesterday in replacing it and it is now sturdier than before.

She has spoken to the mayor's office about help in building a rock/concrete wall in front of her house to prevent further erosion and is on a waiting list for that. Jose is hoping to speak with the mayor's office and see if he can get her moved up the list in light of the current situation. At some point, Jose says she needs a concrete drainage ditch built behind the house as well, in order to keep the water channeled away from it.

Felicita is a sweet Christian lady with a cheerful spirit. This is a picture of her her shoes that she made in the sewing class when the group was here. She often volunteers to help clean the building or with any other tasks that she can do. Even though there was nothing we could do to help her today, just going to visit her and letting her know we are thinking of her is a support to her and she said she was happy we had come. She has two daughters still at home, and unlike many people in the country, she still has a home that is standing. The damage to El Salvador and all of Central America from the recent rains has been devastating. And we are now reading of the dangers of disease that will be present after the flooding subsides, in addition to the food crisis from the lost crops. Please be in prayer for the relief efforts as the people rebuild and specifically be in prayer for Sister Felicita.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hiliana: SuperNurse

This is a picture of Hiliana. (pronounced EEL-ee-ahn-uh) She is a nurse in La Palma and is one of the kindest, most generous people you can ever hope to meet. Nursing is the perfect profession for her and she has been a blessing to the La Palma efforts for years. When the team was here a few weeks ago, she used her day off to help see patients along with Nurse Dea. She frequently uses her time off to make housecalls on patients and make sure they have what they need. When Monte was having problems with his leg shortly after our arrival, she made several housecalls to check on him and make sure he was taking care of it properly and that it was improving.

There are several boxes of medical items that Dea left for Hiliana to take to the clinic and tonight was the first time our schedules had matched for her to come and get them. She arrived and we began going through the items to decide what she could take tonight and what she'd need to return to get on Monday. As we did, I mentioned to her that Alma's mother (Alma is a member of the church here and employee at Hotel La Palma) has been having blood sugar issues and asked if she knew her. Hiliana said she didn't but asked if I could call her. I got Alma on the phone and Hiliana spoke with her. When she got off the phone, she said that Alma was coming here and would be here soon. Hiliana wanted to be able to get more information about her mother and to give Alma some of the insulin syringes in the supplies we had given to her.

While we waited for Alma to arrive, Teresa pointed out that one of the teen girls (teen class was going on at this time) seemed to be getting bronchitis. Hiliana had her come out and asked her about her symptoms and did her best to listen to her chest without the help of a stethoscope. After assessing her, Hiliana said that she needed some antibiotics and tylenol so I ran to get amoxicillin and tylenol from the medical room.

Soon Alma arrived and Hiliana got more information about her mother's condition and tried to help her understand a little more about her mother's blood glucose monitor. It was given to her by the chef at the hotel but the instructions are all in German so she had some difficulty understanding how to properly interpret the results. (I'm working this weekend on locating Spanish instructions on the internet for it and hope to have them to her on Sunday.)

Hiliana is such a tremendous help to us and I feel better knowing that if my family has any medical needs she'll be there for us. And she'll always be wearing a huge and sincere smile as she helps. The people of La Palma are fortunate to have such a caring nurse working in their clinic and community.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A wonderful afternoon

You know the encounters that you sometimes have with people and that you just feel like it somehow changed you? I had one of those this afternoon.

Jose and I went to visit Ana, a single mother of four children. One of these four, Ezequiel, has had leukemia for 3 years and she has to take him to San Salvador every other day for chemotherapy treatments. We'd been told by the mayor's office that she sews to make money and that she knows how to use a sewing machine but does not have one. The mayor's office was hopeful that we could help her with this. The mayor's office helps her with her bus fare to get to and from the hospital for chemotherapy treatments--isn't it wonderful that they know they can call on the church to help with needs like this?

So Jose and I went to assess her situation and find out if she really could sew and if a machine would benefit her. We'd been trying to get to visit her for a few days but due to the heavy rains it wasn't feasible because they live up a hill and the roads were bad. This afternoon Jose said that there was a lady at the school who lives near Ana and that if we could leave right now we could go with her in a car and then take a mototaxi home afterward. I told him I needed time to grab my purse and camera and change my shoes.

The trip to her house was a bit frightening because the roads were so bad from the rain and the back roads are terribly muddy. The last hill leading up to her house is quite steep and the driver had to take a run at it to get up the hill. As we headed up it, Jose asked the driver if the road was slick from the mud and the answer was, "Yes." Yikes. They let us off in front of Ana's house with a steady rain still falling. The path leading down to her house is made up of chunks of rock kind of like flagstone strewn all the way down it. There was water trickling down various places and mud everywhere which made the trip down a bit unnerving. I had put on my Keen shoes in anticipation of such a trek and Jose was there to help as well so we made it down safely.

We were greeted with hugs from the children that nearly knocked us down and smiles that were as genuine and cheerful as you could hope to see. They welcomed us into their home and pulled out chairs for us to sit and visit. Someone in the team that came a few weeks ago (I think it was Mindy) left me a bag of bubble gum and I had grabbed some before I left the house--the kids loved that and tried their best to blow bubbles for me. Anita is the oldest and she was working on her social studies homework when we arrived. She was copying some graphs from a book into her notebook at a table that was so dark I could hardly read what she was doing. Jonathan is the next one in the family and he has an unmistakable charisma about him--you want to sit and talk with him and hug him. Then there's Ezequiel who is quite happy and playful despite his illness and treatments. And then there's little Sarai. She is a sweetheart and hugs far tighter than her little arms look like they can.

As we visited with Ana and she showed us some of her sewing work. She does hand embroidery to make money for the family (I bought one of her embroidered tortilla covers) and also showed me a skirt that she's in the process of making for Anita. She's making it all by hand and without a pattern. She received a class several years ago where she learned to sew and later a class to repair sewing machines. As I looked around, though, I realized that she did not have electricity in her home. She confirmed this and said that she knows someone who has a machine and sometimes goes there to use their machine. I told her that she could come and use our machines when she needed them--that she just needed to call ahead to arrange a time and that perhaps she could help me with repairs when needed. She said she'd be happy to do this. She then said that she used to have a treadle sewing machine (powered by using a foot 'pedal' instead of electricity) but that someone robbed her home a few years ago and took the machine but left the base. She then showed us that she, indeed, still has the base for the machine. I informed her that I think at least one of the machines we have here are able to be adapted for a treadle base and I will be checking into that. She told me she sits in the doorway of the house to sew--the house has only one window so beyond the door it was quite dark. I asked if she sews at night and she said she sews by candlelight in the evenings.

I am working on figuring out which machine can be used with her treadle base and we will need to find a belt for the treadle base as well. Because she travels to San Salvador regularly and knows about machine repairs I believe we will not have problems getting a machine fixed up and useable for her. She and the kids are probably going to be at church this Sunday. There are not enough words to explain what it is like to see someone who is living in a home with no electricity and burdened with frequent bus trips for a sick child and trying to make ends meet by sewing to earn a few dollars. There are even fewer words to tell how it feels to see that person and her children cheerful and happy. "Overwhelmed" or "inspired" come to mind. Maybe even "shamed" for ever having complained about anything and for not counting my blessings often enough.

As Jose and I headed home, we tried to call for a mototaxi but none of the ones we knew were available when we called them so we decided to walk. The rain had let up by then and we took a different way home so we didn't have to go down the steep hill. Here's one of the roads just to give an idea of what the back roads are looking like this afternoon. (For those of you who've been here before this is the side road off the highway near the police station--if you keep going right you go to Ana/Triny/Claudia's old house.) That steep hill in the background is one of the ones we descended on our way home.

The Minister of Education of El Salvador has declared no school in the entire country for the rest of this week due to the heavy rains. Many of the rural roads are unsafe. Jose says there are no problems with the main highway right now and that we can know this because the buses that run to and from San Salvador are still running and mostly on time. It has rained steadily almost all day today and it was a cold rain--Ruth and I wore long sleeve t-shirts all day. The reports say this is the wettest rainy season in 60 years in Central America. It should be ending soon, they tell us. I hope they are right. Although I now have an indoor clothesline (Thanks, Art!) it's just not as efficient as drying them outside in the sun and we haven't been able to do that since last week sometime.

Please be in prayer for Ana and her family, especially for the health of Ezequiel. I'll be sure to post when we get a sewing machine working for her. :)

Counting my blessings tonight...

Philippians 4:19

We serve an amazing God. This week I’ve been reminded of Paul’s writing in Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply all your needs…” This past week I’ve had some future needs of mine met and I can’t help but smile when I think about it.

You see, I entered a contest on Facebook last week. It was sponsored by Lenox (the fine china company) and the guidelines were quite simple. It had to be a 4-8 line poem and had to end with the name of one of their china patterns. The first day I found out about the contest I spent time in the evening working on a poem for it and submitted a few.

Today it was announced that I have been selected as their first winner in the contest and will receive eight place settings in the pattern of Batik. This would be a huge win and big excitement for me anytime, but the current timing of it is especially wonderful. You see, when we moved here, we put some of our things in storage but got rid of a lot of things that didn’t have any particular sentimental meaning to us. Among the things we got rid of was my dishes. I didn’t want to have to worry about wrapping and storing them and was able to find someone else who could use them so I was happy to pass them on. I figured when we returned I’d find a set I liked at Goodwill, a garage sale, or a simple set from WalMart. While here, we are using plastic plates that my mom purchased at Goodwill before we left and what dishes I would have when we returned just wasn’t a worry.

But as the winner of this contest, we will return to a set of Lenox Batik dinnerware. We will have dishes for 8 people in this pattern, which normally costs $99.95 per place setting. In the past, my entire set of dishes didn’t cost that much. I am excited about the win--I did some jumping and hollering and perhaps even some dancing when I found out I’d won--but as I began to think about the verse in Philippians, I couldn’t help but smile and think about God taking care of us and supplying all our needs…both spiritual and physical, both now and in the future, long before the need even arises. Isn’t God good?

(P.S. In case you’re interested, the contest is going on through the end of October and you can still enter. The rules are here:!/photo.php?pid=14713333&fbid=10150253366610511&id=215318295510 right below the photo/logo. Be sure to become a ‘fan’ of them on Facebook before entering. I’d love to find out that a friend was able to enjoy new Lenox as well!)

One more detail...

There is one detail I intended to mention, but forgot, from the previous story. And it involves the actual Sunday night encounter with the family when we first went to assess the situation. Our kids were with us but due to the sensitive nature of the location of the boy's sore, we kept them out of the room where he was laying. But our kids were aware of the situation and had heard our discussion to each other and to Marcy of how bad the infection was. Before we left, Nathan pulled a sucker out of his pocket and asked if we could give it to the boy. It touched my heart that he knew the boy was hurting and that it was serious and that he wanted to find some way to help. Jose took Nathan in with him and they gave the boy the sucker.

It's a double-edged sword having our kids exposed to the things they are seeing and experiencing. They are learning about hurt and problems in the world that they mightly likely never would have seen, at least not for several years. And they see and experience and feel the hurt and pain of children who don't have shoes that fit or a dry house or warm clothes or enough to eat. This causes my own children pain and guilt and they will never be the same for having seen these things at such a young age. They are learning that we can't solve all the problems of the world, but we can help individuals little by little in whatever way we can. Sometimes helping means sharing our food with a family who doesn't have enough, sometimes it means making a seat cushion so that an old man's rusty wheelchair can be more comfortable for him, and sometimes it just means offering a sucker to a sick boy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday morning...

I don't have any pictures to go with this post but I have to post to share with you how my morning (and Monte's) went yesterday. It goes back to last night when we went to visit one of the families from church. The mom (not going to name any names here) had called earlier because her son had a problem with his skin and she wanted to know if we'd bring some antibiotics. We have access to the group's medical supplies so it's not uncommon to have people come and ask us for Tylenol or Benadryl for headaches or colds. But if they need antibiotics I prefer to refer them to the clinic. Currently we don't have any antibiotics for children, anyway, but I said we did have antifungal cream if it's a skin issue. (lots of problems with skin fungus right now it seems) So we went to check things out, thinking I'd call one of my nurse friends to fill them in and get a phone consultation.

When we arrived what was a 'skin problem' was actually a large boil/pimple/sore on her son's behind. It was approximately 2 inches in diameter and raised nearly an inch from the surface. It was hot to the touch and quite red. It was screaming "infection" to even the untrained eye and he had missed 3 days of school from it last week. I called Nurse Marcy for a consult and she said that he needed to go to the clinic, preferably that night. Mom didn't want to go to the clinic for several reasons. She said her son gets very nervous about the clinic and was afraid to go, she didn't want the doctors to get mad and ask her why she hadn't brought him sooner, and she thought that she could have a man from church come over and apply pressure to "pop" the sore open and drain it. We answered these concerns with telling her that: she is the mom and if her son doesn't want to go she has to take charge and make him go, the longer she waits the more questions the doctors will have about not bringing him in sooner, and do NOT allow someone to come in and 'pop' it--draining it in the clinic is done with clean tools and doing it at home is not safe and can further the infection.

Finally, she agreed to go Monday morning but only if Monte and I went with her. Partly she said she wanted Monte to be there to help restrain her son if he needed an injection and partly I think she wanted us there because she thought if the Americans are with her she won't get chastised by the doctor so much.

She arrived almost two hours after she told us she would and tried to tell us that he didn't need to go to the clinic because after some warm compresses Sunday night the sore opened and drained on its own. She then showed it to us and it had drained somehow but was now weeping yellowish clear fluid. I told her that she still needed antibiotics for him to take care of the infection and that it needed cleaned and covered and that needed to be done by a doctor, so she agreed to go.

At the clinic the doctor diagnosed it as an abscess and did, indeed, ask why she'd waited so long to come to the clinic. The doctor wrote three prescriptions and then sent us to the other side of the clinic where the 'pharmacy' and treatment rooms are. Mom was the only one allowed to go back with him for treatment and we soon heard a lot of yelling coming from him as they treated it. During this time Monte and I waited in one of the waiting areas and observed several things.

1. A couple kissing and groping each other in the doorway and later the waiting area of the clinic.
2. A random dog that walked back and forth through the waiting area multiple times that no one ever once tried to 'shoo' outside.
3. Numerous babies that were only a couple of weeks old there for their shots--most of them with teenage mothers. (one told me she was 16.)
4. One toddler with a croupy cough whose mother evidently knew one of the aforementioned teenage mothers of the infants because she came over to let her croupy toddler see the new baby and proceed to cough on the baby as he looked at it. No one once tried to shield the infant from the coughs.
5. A teenage boy with a hand wound of some sort that was wrapped in a blood-soaked paper towel and continued to try to text with his 'good' hand.
6. A woman made an attempt to mop the floor with a mop made from old towels at the end of a wooden handle. It was only wet enough that about 30% of the floor behind the mop was wet as she passed by. But at least it was an attempt.
7. When the nurse came out of the 'emergency' area and called for the next patient, the boy with the blood-soaked towel on his hand tried to get up and go in but the nurse told him to sit and wait his turn and called back an elderly woman who had a gauze-covered wound on her leg and sent him back to his seat.

We're still not entirely sure what the treatment of our boy entailed but it seems it involved more draining of the sore as well as cleaning and covering it with gauze. Everyone in the waiting area could hear the wailing going on. Then mom came out to get the prescriptions filled as he needed an injection of penicillin and she was sent to retrieve it. Unfortunately, the hospital pharmacy didn't have any so someone needed to go to a pharmacy in town to buy it. Monte and I grabbed a mototaxi and went to get it and were able to get a mototaxi driver who didn't mind waiting at the pharmacy and taking us back to the clinic. The cost of 5 days worth of penicillin injections was $6.75. Yes, 5 days worth--he's going to have to go back once a day through Friday for another injection.

When we arrived back at the clinic, though, the hard part was beginning. The boy did NOT want to receive an injection after the treatment he'd just received and began throwing a terrible fit in the lobby. He was hollering and pulling away from Mom and started to hit her when Monte laid a firm hand on his shoulder and told him, "No." His pulling continued but he did not hit mom. He did try to knock the medicine on the ground and they were finally able to take him back for the injection and Mom looked at Monte and said she needed his help so he went back with her. I stood in the waiting room feeling rather obvious as "the American lady with that screaming kid that's back there," as everyone stared towards me and the door I stood beside. I exchanged smiles with a sweet old lady who then laughed and told me that, "He's just afraid of shots." The lady next to her then commented as well that, "They hurt when they give them to you there" and rubbed her backside. To use the word loud to describe his hollering does not do it justice. He was wailing for all he was worth.

Monte later told me that it took three of them to hold the boy down so that one other could give the injection and that it took two tries to give it to him because he was fighting and too tense to inject it. One man held his feet, Monte held his back/torso, and mom held his head/arms. After it was all over, the boy did say Monte was still his friend and that the injection hadn't hurt as much as he'd expected it to. As we headed home, the boy was walking pretty slowly so we called the friendly mototaxi driver we'd encountered earlier and had him give mom and boy a ride to their house.

Remember, we still have 4 more days of injections to go. We're hoping today's injection goes a little bit smoother. One morning of drama is enough for a week, right?

By the way, the boy is back in school this morning (Tuesday). I saw him before school started and he was smiling and said he's feeling better today.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Our God is an awesome God

This is the beautiful sunset that we were blessed to witness Saturday evening. I took this from Ruth's bedroom window. Our God is an awesome God.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My heart has hurt for so many people the last few days. A friend back home got a diagnosis of cancer, a teacher here at the school became a single mother when she lost her husband in a motorcycle accident, several friends are dealing with an overload of stress in their lives. And then yesterday Jose came to me with little Jessica. Evidently on Friday (3 days prior) her mom had been boiling potatoes and the pot of water spilled on her arm, burning the forearm area. She said her mom had put some cream on it at the time, but that nothing else had been done to it since then--no cleaning, no more cream, nothing. While at school yesterday she had bumped it on a table and the outer layer of burned skin had split and begun to peel. My heart broke and I hurt so much for the pain she must have been feeling all weekend. This was about 30 minutes before school would end and her mom would arrive to pick her up. Jose wanted me to help him talk to the mom and tell her that she needed to take her daughter to the clinic. So as school ended I went and met with mom. I told her that it is really important to treat burns properly because they are highly susceptible to infection and that the clinic would hopefully have some good medicine that she could use to treat it. Medicine here is socialized so going to the clinic is free and any medicine that they have that you need is also free. It usually involves waiting in a long line and oftentimes, the clinic doesn't have the medicine that is needed and the patients have to purchase it at the pharmacy and many of them are unable to do this. I told her to come back and talk to me if this was the case as I wanted to make sure she got the medicine she needed. Mom and Jessica stopped back by a few hours later to show me that they'd gone to the clinic and the clinic had given her a tube of silvadine cream (what I'd really hoped they'd have!) to treat it. I told her that it was so good she'd taken her to the clinic and that this was really the best medicine she could use on the burn.

The thing is, mom could have taken her daughter to the free clinic for this free medicine anytime in the previous three days. Her daughter hadn't had to suffer in pain for as long as she had. I really don't think mom was trying to be mean or neglectful to her daughter in not taking her. I think she didn't realize how bad the burn was or that it needed treated beyond the initial cream she'd put on it. The medicine that her daughter needed was free and was waiting across town--mom just needed to take her to go get it. And even if it hadn't been available at the clinic, I would have made sure she got the medicine she needed. It was all free for the asking--mom just didn't know she needed to go get it.

Reminds me of Romans 6:23 and the how the "free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." There are so many people who for one reason or another have not yet received the salvation offered by Jesus. It's free and all they have to do is decide to be obedient to him. I'm going to go with Jose later this week to visit a couple of ladies here in La Palma who fall into this category. They have been coming to church here for some time, but they are in a lost state because for some reason they have not yet reached out to accept the free gift of eternal life. I hurt for them and am hopeful that we can share what they need to hear.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hurry back...

We had a tearful goodbye yesterday as the team left to return to the United States. Much work was accomplished while they were here and in Ocotepeque. I believe today will be a bit of a challenge for my family as we try to resume a 'normal' schedule without "the other Americans" around. The kids will miss having Grandma here as well. It was great to have her as our guest for a week and we hope she'll be able to visit again while we're here. Below are a few snapshots of some of the work that was done, people that were hugged, and ways that the people here were encouraged and that God was glorified by the team's presence here. We enjoyed every one of them and will miss them greatly. Please return soon. :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So much going on...

This past Friday the team from the States arrived. Our family got to take the trip to the airport at San Sal to meet them. We got to go to a mall called Metro Centro which was so much fun. I don't think I realized how isolated we'd been living till we set foot back into a giant mall. Everything was new again for us--and a little overwhelming. We enjoyed getting to purchase some twin size bed sheets, which no stores in La Palma had, and we got to do some grocery shopping at Super Selectos. And then we got to eat lunch at a food court. I personally enjoyed an Italian Chicken sandwich from Burger King. Due to some safety concerns because of issues with the transportation system last week, we had three armed police with us. Thankfully, we had no problems on the trip.

We were very excited to see the group. Among them are my parents, some old friends, and some new friends. Saturday was a busy day with a flurry of activity on the church grounds. We had some ladies' sewing classes going on, thanks to the large amount of materials that came with the group. We had two nurses seeing patients. We had one man making reading glasses for those who needed them. We had guys working on solving audio/visual issues with the church's system and making shelves for sewing materials as well as minor repairs on our house and Teresa's house. And Monte was giving haircuts using an old barber chair that was shipped down here at some point and some clippers that arrived with the group. There were so many patients seen, haircuts given, and classes taught that no one was able to keep track of a total. We enjoyed the work and the fellowship of the day and we were all exhausted by time for bed that night. We enjoyed a meal of pupusas at Reina's after the long day. It was so relaxing to be able to have so many English-speaking friends around and be able to easily communicate with them instead of having to think about sentence structure and process all my words before I can talk.

If you read my blog about our guest last Sunday morning, you won't be surprised to find out that Selena came back this Sunday for breakfast. When I heard someone knock on the gate at 8:00, I felt quite confident of who I would find this time when I opened the gate. I'd say it might be a safe bet that we'll have a Sunday morning guest quite often, if not every Sunday from now on.

Sunday morning's class was a lot of fun for me. It was the lesson of Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden. I decided to use an object lesson with the story and set up the kids to be tempted to disobey. As I began the class I began to pull things out of my bag and told them how many things I had to carry that day. I pulled out my Bible, my camera, the teaching aids from last week, and then I pulled out a container of cookies. I sat them on the desk at the front of the room and told them that I had some cookies for a special project so I couldn't give them any to eat and I needed them not to touch them. The kids all nodded and told me they understood. At this point, I pretended that I needed to run home to get something and told them I'd be right back. I had set up for Ruth to step in at this point and tempt the kids. I had told her to show a twinkle in her eyes and ask them if they wanted any cookies and to point out to them there are a lot of cookies, but do not tell them that it's okay to eat them. She evidently did well because when I came back she looked at me and told me that only two kids did not eat the cookies. (Nathan was one of the two--he didn't know what was going on with the set-up.) I looked at the kids and could see one of them chewing. I asked what they were eating and asked if they'd eaten my cookies. I could see some of them begin to hide their cookies in their laps. I told them I was very sad that they had not followed my instructions and they began to point to Ruth and blame her for having eaten the cookies. I told them that they knew the instructions and they chose to disobey but that we'd have to move on with the lesson. As I got to the end of the lesson and I pointed out that Adam and Eve both knew they weren't supposed to eat or even touch the fruit but they did anyway, just like when they ate my cookies, the object lesson "clicked" for them. One girl on the front row gasped and several began to nod their heads and one girl pointed and smiled at Ruth as if she understood Ruth's role in the whole class now. They all agreed we have to follow God's rules and not listen to Satan when he tries to tempt us to do wrong. As the kids worked on making their snakes with the memory verse on them, I gave everyone another cookie and gave the two that didn't eat earlier a bonus cookie.

Sunday afternoon we accompanied the group to Ocotepeque. They are working there this week on the new church building with Jorge. My mom returned with us and is staying with us for the week, but we were sad to say goodbye to the rest of the group. We had planned on going over there today but due to some transportation complications we were unable. Hopefully we will go over on Thursday, when Monte is scheduled to preach there for the evening services. Meanwhile, my mom is helping to sort the donations that the group brought as well as the clothes and items that she brought and getting a taste of daily life in La Palma.

Tomorrow will be a huge day all across Central America and we will enjoy the local festivities as they celebrate their Independence Day. In the morning will be the parade followed by shows in the park by the different schools. I always love watching the Christian school in the parade and feel so proud of the kids--"our kids"--as they march by us.

I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures tomorrow and will post some on here and more on Facebook. It's going to be a long but wonderful day.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Life is full of fun surprises...

One of the things that I love about life in El Salvador is that you never know when you're going to get a fun surprise experience. (It can be frustrating at times too--like when you have a planned event and other things pop up and supercede your schedule.) Monday was a day when we got a fun surprise learning experience for the kids.

Jose showed up with a giant pole of sugar cane--several feet long. He had been out doing visiting and had picked it up and was stopping by our house to talk before church. We wanted the kids to see the sugar cane up close and Jose said he'd cut some off for them to try. He asked for a machete so Nathan happily went and got his new machete to use and Jose hacked off a section of the sugar cane. We followed him outside where he hacked at it to remove the outer layer of the cane.

He then told me to take it inside and wash any dirt off of it so I rinsed it well with bottled water. Then he used a kitchen knife and cut it down into a length of about 3 inches and quartered it lengthwise. He then demonstrated how to put it into your mouth and chew on it to release the juices and told us you don't eat it--just suck the juices out of it.

Unfortunately, it wasn't terribly sweet and we didn't like it that much. We did chew on it a bit, though, enough to get a good taste of it. While we were rather timid in our method of chewing on the cane, Jose's method was to put the whole piece in his mouth and chew it till all the juice was gone and then throw away the pulp that was left. He said it normally is sweeter but that because it's the end of the rainy season the rains may have affected the taste. Even though we didn't enjoy the taste it was a fun surprise in our day and a good learning experience for the kids. Rarely a dull moment around here. :)