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: http://ruthinlapalma.blogspot.com/2010/11/happy-late-thanksgiving-and-happy-black.html . 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.