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...


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