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. :)

A Bible class restart...

Sunday morning was the first time in many months that there has been a Sunday morning Bible class for children in La Palma. Jose had various problems with the teachers and felt that it was not working effectively so at 9:00 everyone (adults and children)came into the auditorium for Bible class and afterward is the normal 15-ish minute break for snacks, etc. Then everyone assembles into the auditorium again for worship. By the time worship is ending, the children who had been there since 9:00 are getting very wiggly and squirmy and being able to hear the preaching was very difficult over the noises and the distractions around. Jose asked me and Ruth to undertake starting over the Bible classes for children and we did that this past Sunday. There is a Betty Luken flannelgraph set here but the flannel figures are in disarray and it's going to take some time (and I'm going to recruit some help from local moms) to get it in order. There are also various boxes of curriculum and materials that I need to sort through and put in order so that they can be used. So I have spent the last couple of weeks getting some beginning plans put in place and will continue to get them in order for the months ahead. For now the class is for ages 5-10. As we get further into it we may break the ages into more than one class but we're starting from scratch so one class worked best.

I opted to start--where else?--in Genesis as we re-started the Bible classes here. So this Sunday was the story of Creation. I used 7 styrofoam plates and each one depicted what was created on the corresponding day. The kids were familiar with the story as most of them were children of members here. They enjoyed going through the story with the plates, though. (You'll notice in the picture that my son is the one not paying attention--I think he was making a face at his sister for taking a picture. *sigh*) The other students were eager to participate and listen. To review I handed plates to different students and put them in the wrong order at the front of the room and had the other students rearrange them to make the days in the correct order. Then I had a printed color page that they colored and then glued little pieces of crepe paper that I'd cut to make 'feathers' for the bird. Here Jessica proudly shows her finished paper. You'll notice that behind her, they're using their chairs as tables to color on. We're using one of the "spare" school classrooms (Teresa also uses it for English classes.) and were able to bring over small chairs from the church but don't really have any tables to use. The kids here are so adaptable and don't mind at all sitting/kneeling on the floor to color and sharing handfuls of crayons from a giant baggie with their neighbors. Not a one of them complained about the situation. :)

We also sang a few songs--I don't know that many of the children's songs in Spanish yet so we had to sing fewer than I would have liked. I plan to incorporate some of the older kids in the class in this effort next week and have them help me lead the songs because they know them and they love to sing. All in all, I think the class went well. The kids enjoyed it and Ruth and I enjoyed our time with them as well. Norma helped us this Sunday but is not going to be available to help every Sunday right now because she travels to San Sal on Saturdays for college classes and comes home Sunday mornings. Whether or not she can help depends on whether she can catch the early bus to La Palma. (Ruth even enjoyed coloring a little while! LOL)
The current plan is to get the class established and get the children used to being in class and sitting and listening and being in class. As that happens, we are looking for some of the members who would like to step into the role of teacher and will train them and gradually hand over the responsibility to them. Please be in prayer for the children's program here as it restarts and as we train the future leaders of it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A sweet surprise guest...

In Ephesians 3:20 Paul says that God is able to do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." This morning I received more than I could have asked or imagined. God gave me a wonderfully sweet surprise blessing.

I had already dressed and was ready for church and the rest of the family was getting ready. I had finished making tuna salad for lunch and had just started a pot of coffee to brew when I heard a knock at the gate. It was just before 8:00 and church doesn't start till 9:00. Some Sundays, Reina has sent a warm loaf of quesadilla (think of a sweet cornbread-like cake) to our family and I imagined that it was her or one of her children standing outside the gate. I slipped on my shoes and hurried to open the gate, imagining the sweet warm quesadilla that I was sure awaited me.

To my surprise, I opened the gate to find sweet little Selena waiting outside. Her beautiful big, expressive eyes twinkled and she smiled up at me. She was already in a dress for Sunday and told me that she was ready for church and thought that she'd come visit for a bit. She said she even already had her offering with her and eagerly held her hand up to show me her two dimes and explained that one was for her and one was for the offering. I asked where her mom was and she said she'd gone to go sell meat this morning and would be at church for services later. I asked if her mom knew she was here and was okay with it and she said yes, so I ushered her to our house.

I offered her a chair at the table and explained that the rest of the family was still getting dressed and would be out momentarily. (I popped my head in to their rooms to let them know we had company.) Selena and I began chatting as I poured her a cup of coffee. I knew she drank coffee because she'd had some here on Wednesday night. She informed me that her mom allows her to have sugar in it but that she's not supposed to have "too much" sugar in hers.

As she and I enjoyed a few minutes in the kitchen before the rest of the family came in, I just kept looking at her sweet face and thinking how much our family has fallen head over heels in love with her. She has such expression in her face and I've never seen her without a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye.

We invited her to eat breakfast with us and at first she wanted to refuse but I insisted. She enjoyed her meal and was very proud to show all of us her offering she'd brought for church. I haven't been able to stop thinking all morning about how I went to the gate expecting to find a quesadilla but God had certainly given me a much sweeter and much greater blessing.

I took a quick picture of her this morning sitting at the table showing us her offering.
Aren't you glad we serve a God who blesses us beyond what we can ask or imagine? I am.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Friday morning was a parents' meeting at the school. From what I can gather it's a monthly meeting where the parents come and the teacher meets with the parents of their class as a group and lets them know what's going on and can answer any questions. When it was time for the meeting to begin, Lilian and Norma stood at the gate to the school/church with a list of the students and their parents' names. As a parent would arrive, they were to sign their name on the list to indicate their presence. I looked at the list and thought you might like to look at it as well. You'll notice that some of the parents have a beautiful and fluid signature, some of them "sign" by putting their initials, and some of them used a fingerprint instead of signing. Norma explained to me that those who use a fingerprint are those who cannot write. Those using intials have a limited writing ability. (I blurred the written names intentionally.)

I know that illiteracy is a problem here. More than once on flights to and from El Salvador I have filled out customs/immigrations forms for the person sitting next to me because they could not write. Most figures that I've seen show that the illiteracy rate among adults in El Salvador is around the 20% mark. However, as I looked through the folder for the parents' meeting and saw page after page with thumbprints instead of signatures, it still shocked me and I hurt for them. These are mothers who cannot enjoy reading a sweet love note that their child makes for them or be able to write a note of encouragement to their child and stick in in their backpack for them to find the next day. These parents cannot correspond with their child's teacher through notes. These same parents, though, are making sure their own children will not miss out on these things.

As I looked over the thumbprints on the page, I recognized several of the moms from church among them. And several of them are the same moms that I see walking to and from school every day to escort their children to and from school. They know that school is important and they are willing to expend time and physical effort to get them there.

As a parent, I'm always impressed at the dedication of the parents and students in getting to school. Most of the kids at the schools here in La Palma walk to school. Some have to ride a public bus into town which means paying about 35 cents each way and then walking the remainder of the way to school. In the past years, my own children have ridden school buses that picked them up at the front door, or some years walked a few short blocks to and from school, or were driven to and from school. The years when they walked to school, when it was raining (or snowing/icy) I picked them up from school. The students here don't have that option. If it's sunny they walk, and if it's rainy they walk. Here's a picture I took about a week ago of a group of the kids in the afternoon classes arriving in the pouring rain. Some had umbrellas and some did not.

Education is important and the parents of these students know it. For this reason, even in the pouring rain, they walk to school.

(Sidenote: There are, however, some families who cannot afford all or part of the money that it takes to send their child to school here. One of the programs that the church has in place is a sponsor program where you can help offset these costs. If you want to know more about this program, you can email Ralph McClurg at rmcclurg @ mo-net . com and he can get you the information you need.)

As important as school education is, though, I know that the spiritual education of the children here is even more critical and is a big part of the focus of Monte and myself. Our Sunday afternoon classes for the youth are growing and the kids seem excited about them. But this Sunday is when Ruth and I start teaching Sunday School classes here as well. Here's one of the little guys I hope to have in class. This is Kevin and he's got such a darling smile and loves to peek around corners and pews at me and give me a huge smile and twinkle those gorgeous eyes at me. :) His mom is not a Christian but comes to church regularly. I am working with Jose to set up a time to study the Bible with her.

Please be in prayer for the ongoing efforts here in La Palma as well as the new ones that are beginning. Great things are happening here and we're excited that God is allowing us to be a part of them.