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:


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