(Read first – enjoy the photos at the end!)
A delegation of 7 people visited to reconnect, continue to learn, continue to strengthen friendships and to support the two small communities that they partner with.
They arrived in the early afternoon so we made a short visit to the Door of the Devil. It is an ancient site but it also has a recent (ugly) history and now is just plain beautiful. You can climb two of the precipices for an incredible view. From here, we go to our guest house Casa Antigua and settle in for the night. We walk to a delicious restaurant called El Sopón Típico. And this is enough for travel day!
The next day we visited historical sites in San Salvador. (See prior blogs for full info about what we see and learn). After a buffet lunch at the artisan shops we were able to make personal purchases as well as purchasing goods to sell at the Latino Fest that is celebrated every September in Des Moines. From there, we drove the two + hours to Berlín. It took a wee bit longer since they are doing lots of road repair on the Pan-American Highway.
The next day we visited the massacre site of El Mozote (see prior blogs), the Museum of the revolution and the “Living History Farms” of a guerrilla encampment. This takes all day!
In the evenings, we filled bags with medicines (Tums and acetaminophen), towels, toothbrushes, toothpaste, Neosporin, band aids, and a couple of toys for the following day’s door to door visits. We also filled large tubs with rice, cooking oil, 5 bags of spaghetti, sardines, salt, sugar, cookies, lye, coffee, soup base, soup, matches, powdered milk and a bag of hard candy. Laundry soap and bleach were bagged separately.
We also spent every evening in reflections; de-briefing each day and trying to wrap our heads and hearts around all we have experienced.
The best part of delegation visits is the time we spend with our families in our partner community. In this case, there are two communities. We visited Casa de Zinc first. This is a community struggling with some organizational and inter-community personality issues. These are things we cannot solve, but we do encourage them to try to resolve their differences and work together for the common good. This is often the mantra of the Pastoral Team. In almost every community, there are cycles of great organization/unity, mild internal divisions and sometimes seemingly insurmountable dysfunction. Zinc is struggling. But we have hopes of a return to unity. Casa de Zacate struggles with internal divisions but have resolved some problems by creating a committee of the families who want to work together. They formed the committee after defining its goals in front of the entire community and their Directiva (elected leaders). Everyone was invited to join this committee. 14 families chose to do so. We learned later that one of the committee leaders actually went door to door the following week to personally ask every family if they wanted to reconsider and join the committee. So Trinity is supporting that unified committee after many serious conversations regarding their fear that we might be creating more problems within the community if we continue to work with only these families. We were assured by the Pastoral Team as well as the leadership of the committee that the divisions are there (and strong) and their partnership will not make it worse. Nothing is being done over the heads of the Directiva and all families were invited to be included. The problem is, sometimes people only want to receive things – and not be a part of the development of their own well-being or the well-being of the community. Sadly, the reality is, there are precious few organizations who will work within a community that is not unified and not willing to ‘do their part’ for a project. Doing your part might entail a couple of days of labor for the construction of a school room, or community house (or whatever). Doing your part may be pitching in for the cost of delivery of a gift (like large water tanks, fertilizer or latrine parts). That might be 50 cents or a dollar. Doing your part always entails attending your own community monthly association meetings, paying the dues as voted upon within your community and participating in community works – perhaps clearing sides of the roads of weeds or clearing trash/weeds around a community building. Community requirements has nothing to do with working with the Pastoral Team, rather, these are the national requirements for an ADESCO – the legal organization within a community.
One of the requirements that the Pastoral Team has is that you may not sell your gift from your partner church. If you receive a large water tank and sell it – you are off the list for a year. After that time, you might be able to reintegrate, but only if you are committed to respecting those expectations.
The reason for those expectations: The Pastoral Team knows that churches work hard to raise funds for the works and projects in their communities. Everyone needs to respect that effort and put value on what they receive by making good use of whatever they receive. Seems simple enough. And definitely not unreasonable. That is just being a good steward of your resources.
Back to the delegation. We had meetings with each Directiva on separate days. And we were able to meet ALL the 14 families of the committee in Zacate. There they explained a bit more about how they are choosing to operate. There is a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and síndico. There is no real translation for ‘síndico’ so I call it “all things legal.” These are the ‘Directiva’ of the committee. However, they have decided that everyone should have an equal voice. And many people spoke during this meeting!
We always have lunch in the community – it is just too far to go back to the Pastoral House (it takes about 40-45 minutes to travel the 5 miles). The Pastoral Team always cooks or oversees the cooking so our sensitive tummies don’t suffer!
An exhausting but marvelous thing we try to always do with delegations is to visit every family in their home. It is a way to really get to know everyone. We update the community census with any new additions (babies!) or people who have moved away or died. We ask about the children and their studies. We ask about their crops – which after over a month without rain – during what should be the rainy season! – are dried up and will produce nothing this year. Nothing. Talk to me about global climate change! We ask about their health. We also take a family photo which gets printed and delivered to the families on subsequent visits! And we present a gift from the delegation (see above) and the church. It is hot, dusty (and right now it should be muddy) walking up and down rocky, dirt, slippy paths, but worth every step! We offer our prayers, our love and friendship and everyone pours blessings on everyone. It can be very emotional!
On the last day, we always throw a party! We buy four piñatas and fill them with candy. We bring in juice and cookies and share with everyone. We laugh, communicate as best we can and sob when we have to leave.
This delegation was awesome. They all had great hearts, great compassion, great love, and great senses of humor. They played and teased the ladies of the Pastoral House and the ladies teased right back. It is a true sign of love, friendship and trust when you can express that kind of silliness with each other. There was much laughter and lots of affection all around. But of course, seriousness when necessary. They had great questions and incredibly insightful reflection times.
We miss them! I feel blessed to have been able to accompany them once again!
Enjoy the photos if they ever download!