Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Juanita's story

FEAR, a word that has come up a number of times in our home.... I've been thinking a lot about it lately. Our oldest son Isaiah has been having trouble at night going to bed because his fears have gripped him so tightly that it has been consuming him. As a mother, we never want our children to have such fears, but what do you do when you can't 'make' it go away? What if in your world, you can't make the physical fears just disappear and say they don't exist?

We have had so many changes in our world the past 2 months, but especially the last few weeks. I know that this is a terrible thing to bring up, especially for our friends and family who have had to endure a very cold and long winter, and we are NOT complaining, but the heat has definitely been a change. It takes its toll on everyone especially the women and children!! lol Annah was wishing for the snow and wanting some relief from the heat the other day.

School has been another adjustment, and we are so proud of the kids for their attitude and ability to slide into another group of kids and pick up with their schooling. Isaiah and Annah's teacher, Edwin says that they are an answer to prayer because he has been hoping for a way to further his english and so now every friday the grade 3's, 4's and 5's have English class with none other that Miss Annah and Mr Isaiah!!! :) We cannot get over the overwhelming kindness and generosity of the kids at school. They have been showered with little gifts and these things they call 'tazo chips' all so they can play and be included in the group.

The sounds that we hear are new! Its not so much what we hear as it is when we hear it. For example, let's talk about the garbage truck. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that we have garbage pick up here. Because we live on a corner we get garbage picked up on M,W,F and on the other days T,Th,S also get the pick up! This is amazing for someone who gags at the smell of garbage and can get rid of it every single day! The teeny issue is that to let you know they're coming they bang on a piece of metal with another large piece of metal clanging to all in hearing range that they are near! I wish you could hear it... its something else! Still, not a HUGE problem you might say? Well, 2 days ago they came at 3:45 AM!!! And most other days its anywhere between 5 & 6 AM.... Why not put it out the nite before you ask? Because the dogs tear it apart and spread it as far as they can. Another great thing for a gagger!! I'll say no more on the issue. Except that when the garbage isn't being picked up the army is running by singing their song!! Also between 5 & 6, just when you've fallen back asleep from being woke up from the clanging!!!

The presence of the army is seen everyday. They are many, and for the kids especially, its different to see guns everywhere you go. Some of them even wear a black ski mask to intimidate even more! Here they are seen as protection and are very friendly to everyone passing by. They are doing their job, well I think. It's just that we never see guns at home.

A new Home, which has been a huge blessing. We live in a great duplex, with the McAllisters below. Its safe, clean and in a great location. The hospital, police station, church, market, school, central park and Super Selecto (grocery store) are all within a 5 block radius.

New rules for driving apply! Like when you want to make a left hand turn, it's a good idea to shoulder check over your left shoulder because chances are good that someone is still going to try and pass you on the left! People pile into the backs of the trucks here like we pack cattle into a truck! They are hanging off everywhere, and not just in town but down the highways!! Its common to see a couple of people just sitting or laying on top of a huge load of bricks or produce on a flatbed just cruising down the highway! I wish I had a picture to show you!

Honking is a given, people are always honking! Sometimes to just say
'hello', or to let you know they're there, or 'please open the gate' or "I am going to drive over you if you don't get out of the way!!" Carie and I took turns driving to the capital yesterday, we did very well and only had a couple of angry honks!!!

Smells. This is an entire topic for me. As I mentioned earlier I gag a lot, and I am getting better! But I do miss our clean streets, and no littering bylaws! When we came back from a field trip on friday, as we neared San Vicente the kids and parents started unloading their garbage out the bus windows!!! Sometimes the smell is a bit much and combined with the heat, smoke from burning garbage and the cheese and meat in the market, it can be a bit overwhelming at times.

Why tell you all this, and what does it have to do with fear? Well for some, I can just hear you say, "why would you ever want to go there? Are you not afraid?" My answer of course, sometimes yes, but compared to the fear others live in each day, these things are not something to fear but only to get used to!

I want you to meet our good friend Juanita! Juanita is 44 yrs old and lives in a small 2 bedroom house with 3 of her 5 children and 1 grandchild. Juanita's husband was shot while at work driving a bus exactly 2 years ago. Why? Because he was told he needed to pay the $3000.00 for the deeds to his house. He had already spent years paying this off and when it came time to get the papers, they said they'd never paid and wanted the money! Of course they couldn't pay this, so they shot him. 38 yrs old, 5 children, 2 grandchildren, and a wife left without work. The bus was full of people and the police were called, but because there is such a fear of what might happen if they stand up and make a statement of what they saw, not one person stood up! So the police can do nothing. Juanita has had little work since (and what she had paid very poorly) She is often afraid to be in her house for fear they might return! She is always looking over her shoulder. She was very nervous around the anniversary of the shooting last week that they might return... Thankfully, nothing happened. When she came to work in our home 3 weeks ago, she was so thankful to have work, to be able to do what she loves..... cook (which we are all thankful for) :) and be in a home that feels safe to her. The other day she apologized for being late, because when she went to leave her house there was a drunk man outside her door and she could not get passed him! She is lovely and is great with the many children we have and we all love having her in our homes. I can't think of what it would be like to have this kind of fear? Do I look over my shoulder ever? No. Do I wonder where I'm going to get food to feed my family? No. Do I hope that my child won't die because I can't take them to the Dr knowing they have Dengue fever? No. Have I ever wondered if my husband is not going to come home at the end of the day? No.
She was sitting with one of the kids helping them with their spanish one day when I noticed she was holding the book very close. I wondered if maybe she couldn't read, but then quickly realized that it wasn't because she didn't know how, it was because she couldn't see! We were able to take her in to see a Dr and have her eyes checked! She now has a pair of bifocals and a smile on her face!
She also has such huge faith. However after her husband died she did not return to church. Pastor Jorge would ask her everytime he saw when she was coming back. All along this time she continued to pray. She told me that the night before she started to work with us, she spent the night on her knees praying that she would find some work, so she could feed her children. She said God answered her prayer with a resounding YES when the very next morning we went with the Pastor's wife Maritza to find her in the market and ask her to come work with us. She left what she was doing immediately and followed us home!! Two weeks ago she met us at our house on Sunday and came with us to church. To see her eyes filled with tears and her heart filled with the holy spirit that day was an amazing sight for us all to see. This is her story, and she is our friend. We have many more stories like Juanita's and people we want you to meet.

So what do I really have to fear? Not too much. And when I do, there is nothing I can do but give it to my Father. We all have fear, it just looks different. We were not made to live in fear and there is very little that we can do on our own to get rid of it! Maybe by hearing what other people fear every single day, may make our own fears seem not so bad.


one more thought...

Volcan Chichontepeque
(we live in its shadow)
hello again,

just had one more thought i wanted to add to the last blog. we also want you to use your gifts, talents, abilities and passions while you are down here. we are experts in very little, but with all of us together we are experts in a lot of things. from farming to building and healthcare to daycare you are experienced in many things that can help down here in so many ways. so start thinking of the things you would like to bless the people of el salvador with and let us know your thoughts so we can start planning together! we are excited as we think of the good we can do together...
quick facts about el salvador:
population - 6,822,378 (plus 12 white people in san vicente)
31% of that number lives on less than $1 per day.

in other words 2,114,937 people live on less than $1 per day. imagine that! it would take a full work week to buy a vente low fat vanilla latte... puts things in perspective to think of this way, for me anyway.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

visit jefferson

hello again. well now that we have internet we can actually communicate a bit better. you can expect the blog updates to come on a regular basis... but don't hold your breath. things never go that smooth in central america it seems! we know of a lot of people wanting to visit us this year. family, friends and many who want to minister to the poor of el salvador along with us. this is exciting for us and we look forward to it with great anticipation. in order to accommodate everyone, we need some info from you and to let you know our thoughts...

first, our questions:

1. we would like you to email us if you are interested in coming down. also, let us know a rough or detailed timeline of when you are thinking of traveling.


2. please let us know what you hope to do while you are here and why you want to come.

second, our thoughts:

1. we hope to establish a number of goals for ourselves over the next few weeks. we really want you to join in with us in that ministry. we hope that sharing our journey here will be what makes the trip special.

2. we would also ask each group to raise money to go towards building a home for a family in great need while you are here - we are asking you to ask others, not to pay more of the cost out of your pocket. the cost of a home is $2700. when you return home you will have lots of people who contributed asking how your time was and hear the stories about the family you helped. whatever you come up with financially is fine, we simply want everyone to do their best at trying to raise the funds. we will take care of the rest!

3. we are working on approx. costs for living expenses for visitors: accommodations, meals, transportation, etcetera... we would love to be able to foot the bill for all of you while here, but the reality is we cannot afford to host groups and cover those costs as we ourselves are living with help from others!

4. we are thinking that about a week plus or minus is a good length of time to come, so consider that when planning. let us know and we can figure just about anything out though!

finally, please know that we truly want lots of visitors. we look forward to sharing our world down here with all of you.

Kerrie with Jefferson and his mom

on another note, we just finished up five houses today. 5 in 3 days with a team of 10 people from BC. we were able to build for a family which has quite an amazing story so i thought i'd share that one today. Jefferson is a 9 month old boy who lives in the village of san antonia where we will be focusing our ministry this year. in november a team was here and left money behind to take him to the doctor because he has hydrocephalus (water under the skull). without the money to pay for medical care there was little doubt he wasn't going to make it too many more weeks. his head was easily twice the size it ought to have been. our friend pastor jorge took him in to the clinic here in town. here is the note he sent us back in november...

I would like to inform you that we took the 5 month old child to the Pediatric clinic for the consultation in San Salvador with dr. Fernando Moreira Mendoza who is the pediatric surgeon. It was a MIRACLE as we got their at 10am and he examined him immediately and spoke with us and also asked how we met Jeferson Antonio.

The doctor was touched by God and closed his clinic early to help out. He moves his other consultations to 3:00pm and he joined myself and Jeferson to the Benjamin Bloom hospital. He spoke with the director of the hospital and he ordered the operation for Jeferson on Tuesday November 23rd.

The consultation cost was $100 but he did not charge us at all and he also said that he would take care of everything. We are grateful as this happened through the glory of God.

fast forward a few months and jefferson has had the surgery. completely successful! and too top that (if possible) the doctor paid the whole bill! not one penny spent to save his life. yesterday we finished framing his house, today and tomorrow they are working on the concrete floor. so i just can't help but think what a different story would have been told here without a bit of help from some regular joe's from canada who decided to take some time and some money, maybe even sacrifice some stuff or an all inclusive and help this family out. i can't help but wonder what kind of difference it will make to have a "non-dirt" floor and a 'non-leaky' roof for a 9 month old recovering from surgery on the brain! i have a hard time imagining... the things we never consider going without are commonplace here. doctors, medicine, surgery, shingles, floors... we are concerned with carpet or tile or hardwood, but never with the sub floor beneath it! so it was a good couple days. it's emotional to see that family working away on the blocks and concrete for the floor. their eyes are full of joy and hope. a good day. thanks for reading and letting me share this story. hopefully you'll get to meet jefferson this year if you're one of the ones hoping to join us this coming year! below is a picture of our door. drop by sometime! (just let us know when)


this is a shot of the springs and frame of basilio's truck. he drives four guys and all the tools in it each day to work with us- half hour one way. amazing what rope can do! i think it would even be more amazing to see what a welding machine could do!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This is Major Tom to Ground Control

We're stepping through the door,
And we're floating in a most peculiar way,
And the stars look very different today.
  Sorry for the lack of communication over the last couple of weeks.  Our Internet capabilities have been sketchy at best.  In fact as I write this I still don’t have a way to put this on the Web, only hopes that someday I can share these words with you.
                Well we made it!  Thanks be to God.  We arrived in San Vicente, El Salvador on the evening of February 26th, after a fairly uneventful bus ride from Antigua.  Apart from the driver not having an excellent sense of which route to take we arrived around 6 p.m., 5 hours later than we assumed,  at the same hotel that the short-term teams has been using for the past few years.  It is comfortable, secure, and easy but can become expensive quickly, so our first priority was to find suitable housing for the twelve of us.  Shortly upon arrival, we were greeted by Pastor Jorge, his wife Maritza, son Jorgito, daughter Jackie and her husband Oscar, our new family (don’t worry old family I’ll think about you from time to time).

    Sunday was a day to go exploring for our new home.  Oscar returned bright and early to go for a run with Trent and I.  He had mentioned something about this the night before, but I really didn’t believe he was serious (with the heat here you drip sweat when sitting, let alone dodging traffic through the streets of the San Vicente).  Anyway, it was a good chance to catch up with Oscar and get the legs moving after being cramped up in a bus the day before.  Later we all walked to Central Park and climbed the clock tower.  You get quite a view from the top of the surrounding area.  There was a mix of emotions from the kids; some didn’t want to open their eyes because of the height, others were ready to climb over the railing for a better look (I love seeing this world through my kids eyes as well).  We ended the day in a service at Pastor Jorge’s church (El Primer Templo Christiano), where we were welcomed as the church’s new missionaries.
                Monday morning we hit the ground running (actually walking and driving because we had learned our lesson the day before).  We gave ourselves a list of three things to try to accomplish for the week: 1) Find a house or houses that would work for the two families, 2) Find a vehicle (walking works well within the city but the majority of our building work will be in small towns outside the city, so a vehicle becomes essential), 3) Find a school for the kids.  We figured that if we could get at least one or two of these items knocked off the list by the end of the week we would be in good shape.  Well by Tuesday we had rented a house, put a deposit on a truck, and had the kids registered in school, to begin the following week.  The Lord has provided!

                We live somewhere in San Vicente?!  I know our house number is 28-A but I am a bit unsure of the actual street address because street signs are few and far between here.  I do know that we get garbage pickup everyday because our house is on a corner  (garbage gets collected in one direction Mon-Wed-Fri and the perpendicular direction on Tues-Thurs-Sat.  This alone is worth its weight in gold).  When people ask where we live, I usually just tell them that we live across the street from the offices of FMLN, the communist party in El Salvador.  I guess depending on who is in power; this could be a good or bad thing, but so far they have been nothing but friendly to us. 

Our house is really more like two houses in one, with each level having its own kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms.  It is clean, spacious, and functional, and I bet that if we drew a point on a map minimizing proximity to things like the church, the grocery store, the market, etc., we probably would have put a star on this house.  It is ideal in so many ways, but probably mostly in the fact that we live together but can have defined family space.
 The following weekend, a team of group leaders arrived from across Canada in order to build a couple of houses in a new area of El Salvador, to build relationships and communication, and to define some vision and goals for the World Partners organization going forward.  It was great to see some familiar faces from home, and to put faces to many of the names that we have heard over the years.  We spent 3 days in Victoria, Las Cabanas building and providing a free medical clinic to people from this village (supposedly one of the poorest in El Salvador).  We are exploring new opportunities for teams that will be coming down in the fall.
                But it was a busy week at home as well, as we rented an unfurnished house, we continued to set up our house with furniture and appliances, and Carie and Kerrie learned how to wash clothes all by hand, and then we decided it would be better to give someone else a job by paying them to do it!! Then all the kids (with the exception of our youngest Violet) began school.  They are attending La Escuela Adventista, a small private school not far from our house.  Uniforms are required so we bought material and had a local seamstress whip them up for us.  They look pretty cute in their sky blue pants and skirts and white shirts.  I’m just not sure how long those shirts will remain white, but they sure looked good on the first day.   School starts at 7 a.m. for the older kids and goes until noon.  Winnie, Elias, and Ellis are all together in Kindergarten, and they attend from 8 a.m. to 11:30.  There is no English in the school, except for an hour on Friday mornings (and I heard that Annah and Isaiah were teaching their classmates last week) so I know that our kids should be fluent by the end of the year.  Everybody has been excited making new friends and getting back into some form of a routine.  We are extremely thankful for a good school, with excellent teachers.
                And know our so called ‘work’ or ‘projects’ begin, but even as I write these words I realize that these things have begun long ago, and more often than not the important things we do are simply the small things.  Maybe my work (our work) is to say “Buenos Dias” to the neighbour 6 or 7 times day as I go in and out of our house for various things.  Maybe it’s to hand a juice box to the little girl that has been peeking in our door all morning.  Or maybe it’s to help another neighbour clean what’s left of his house off of the street at 11:30 p.m. because it blew over in a freak wind storm this afternoon.

                I leave you with some words I love from Henri Nouwen, speaking about his thoughts on our mission in this world:
                More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them.  It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence.  Still, it is not as simple as it seems.  My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets.  It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.  But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.