Sunday, May 22, 2011

fed a thousand people or made a relationship stronger?

" We feed a thousand people today"sounds better to donors then "We hung out and developed relationships with a dozen people today" This is a quote out of a book that I am reading called,  When Helping hurts by Brian Fikkert. It struck me pretty hard when I read it, wondering how true it really is. This quote causes me to weigh the importance of relationships versus the importance of tangible "stuff". Although in no way am I saying that  the house building aspect of our year isn't important too, I am here to tell you that we are going to fall under the second category most of the time because we feel like God has put us here to have long lasting relationships.

Now that I am done lecturing myself, I would like to introduce you to Pimpa!! Pimpa was one of the first friendships we made upon arriving in El Salvador. She lives in Las Brisas (where World Partners built for a number of years), and is one of the only people from there that still attends church. We had heard through the grapevine that she makes the best pupusas in town. We also learned that she is a single Mom to two beautiful daughters, Guadelupe 13 and Marienela almost 3.
She is trying to make ends meet by selling Atol every afternoon at the Desvio. The Desvio is basically a v where if you drive one way, you head to one side of the country and if you turn the other way you head to San Salvador. Atol is a hot drink made from cornstarch, milk, cinnamon, coconut and other flavors. It is actually quite delicious. Pimpa carries this drink on her head from 2 in the afternoon until 5 selling cups of it for $0.25 a cup.

After hearing about her pupusas, we managed to invite ourselves (remember 12 people in all) to her house so that she could make us some for supper. Well, the rumor was right!! They were amazing. We starting asking Pimpa lots of questions about why she doesn't sell pupusas since she is so good at making them? She told us that she used to sell them, but that she ran into a large medical expense, and health costs outweighed her ability to purchase ingredients. Since that day she couldn't afford to buy enough corn, beans, and cheese to get going again. That got us thinking. We really feel a connection with Pimpa and wanted to help her in some way that would not just be "charity". We started spending a fair bit of time with Pimpa. 

We had her and her girls over to our house for a meal, and as I wrote in a previous blog, we went with her and two other ladies to the river to help them wash their clothes and hang out for the day. We prayed for her and asked God what he would like to see in her life. The answer we received included having her write up a business plan for what it would cost to restart her pupusa business. In order to get going again, she needed a grand total of $70 for materials. We decide to lend her the money with an agreement to pay us back $10 every 15 days.

Yesterday, we were invited back to Pimpa's house for lunch. After eating she brought out her business plan, handed us $10 and asked us to sign off on recieving the money. We were so delighted to see God's plan coming to fruition and we know that the light that Pimpa shines on her community is a bright one and that He will use her for great things to come. After the money is paid off, we also want to sit with Pimpa and encourage her to save a portion of her profits.

Here in El Salvador especially, it seems that a lot of people don't think about tomorrow. They only think about today.  In some respects this is a good thing and we can learn a lot from it.  Our North American attitude is usually based on worrying too much about tomorrow and not living in the beauties of  the day. In another respect it it is devestating to live this way. If an emergency comes up, it can throw a family into a downward spiral of poverty. As Stuart asked the other day, "How do we find the balance of forsight and planning while still living in the moments of today, and not being filled with a stress and worry about tomorrow?" We hope that by showing Pimpa that she can take the money that she would have been paying us and putting it away for the future, that she will be successful no matter what is thrown her way. Very cool to see.
Basilio and Daniel working on a house

We have been spending a lot of time also in San Antonio lately.  Trent had a run-in with the American Army that you may need to ask him about, but mostly it has been peaceful and we are really getting to know the people in the community. As you read earlier, we have been building houses there as well. We have a 4 men crew of locals that we hire as much as possible to build the houses and whatever else we can think of to keep them employed. These are good men, which, sadly, is a rare find here. Basilio is the forman of the crew and with the help of Trent's leadership they are now skilled labourers and can build a house themselves in one day!! They are all so thankful to have the work, so much so, that they are now looking for ways to give back as well. Basilio was in San Antonio the other day doing some repairs on a house, when he overheard one of the community members talking about their thirteen year old daughter that had a major operation on a hernia a while back. She was having lots of pain and problems. Basilio was so touched by the story that he offered to pay for the ultra sound. The cost of an ultrasound here is about 2 times a daily wage, so that is a pretty generous offer! He phoned up Trent and asked him if we could take her and if  he would deduct money off his next payday to pay for it. We were so touched to see people in the community helping each other.

So this is why we are, and will often fall into the second category from above. The little stories shed light onto why making those long term relationships are so important to us. We know that in the long run these stories, that are little moments of success to us, are huge in forwarding the Kingdom of God.

Thank you for continuing to follow our journey and support us even if  we just hung out with a dozen people today working on our relationships.


Monday, May 9, 2011

House #1: Edgar, Flor, Fernando & Kimberly

allow me to introduce to you a very special family. Edgar, Flor, Fernando & Kimberly live in San Antonio Caminos on the old train line. i see a lot of beautiful things about this family. the joy i feel in their family is well above the norm. the smile on flor's face seems to light up the world and fernando their son is something pretty special. now eight years old, fernando had a very high fever when he was young which unfortunately caused some brain damage resulting in some disabilities. he is bound to a wheelchair and has limited abilities of speech and general motor skills, but the joy he exudes is astounding. when you sit down beside him his face lights up and he answers your questions in short bursts "bien!" and "Si!" His eyes on the other hand say, "i am so happy to see you! i am filled with joy in my heart because you are here spending time with me!" and "i love my life and this is a great day!" it is never a burden or a chore to spend time at this home and last week we spent a fair amount of time with them building a new home.

the morning we started building, our family was reading about king david and the fact that God looks on the heart, not on outward appearances. we chatted about fernando and it was a cool moment as we talked about what place fernando has in God's ranking system. he has some difficulty outwardly, but i think that little heart in there is one of pure gold. one that loves and has joy and thinks the best of others... i was glad to see the lights come on in my kids eyes as they realized the place fernando has in God's eyes, in God's economy...

daniel, teresa & seth goldstein (carie's brother and family) came down last week to visit and help out in our ministry down here. it was fun for all of us to see someone from home, especially since they brought down little gifts from home for all of us! i was the proud recipient of 5 peanut butter cup chocolate bars. it's funny the little things you miss when away from home... daniel & theresa not only came to work hard helping our efforts, but also graciously supplied the money to pay for this home. so, we showed up on site with the crew from san filipe (basilio, roberto, noe & miguel) who have become quite proficient at the building process. they are close to understanding every part of the building process now and i look forward to the day stu and i cannot be onsite and they do a house without one "white guy" there to be the "boss"! the ground was quite hard so the hole digging was tough slugging, but we had lots of help from Edgar and other family and friends which was good to see. we really want to see the men step up and too often they aren't around to help as i believe it's sometimes too hard for their pride to swallow taking this gift from us. kerrie-lynn said that she was impressed with Edgar for sticking around after their firstborn had this fever. with so many absent dad's in this world, this family again shines some light in this little village. once the holes were in, the rest seemed to fly up without a hitch. the kids were on easter break so they were all out there with us. the guys built, the kids played with the kids in the village and the ladies visited and continued with some interviewing of nearby families. ellis spent the better part of the day up in a tree wacking fruit out with a stick (when not up a tree he was drilling holes into the ground with a 5/16" driver and a makita drill), elias played cars with fernando, kade & ben ripped around and played some soccer in the pasture behind the house, winnie & annah searched for goats, cats, horses, puppies or any other type of animal that they could pet, while isaiah helped out with the building quite a bit (predrilling holes, measuring and holding material in place). by the end of the day their was a sweet new house standing ready for a concrete floor.

a couple days later we returned with a couple house warming gifts and did a little key ceremony. when teams come, the key ceremony is a big event with one hundred plus people coming out, but even with just our 4 families standing in front of their 'almost finished' home, it was quite moving. stu said a prayer, daniel said a few words and handed the family the keys. we took pictures of all of us, then seth & fernando posed for some pics! those will be ones the goldstiens will cherish for some time i think...

we build two more this week with the boys from san filipe and we'll share their stories too. outside of building, we are kept busy filling in cracks for pastor jorge, meeting with the mayor two days back to back, helping a single mom start a small business, connecting with some street people, and helping our kids stay on top of schoolwork and spanish. on a final note, if you could, offer a prayer for our friend juanita. her house is bought and paid for, but is under risk of losing it to the previous owner because she never received the deed (kerrie-lynn shared her story in a previous blog). eviction has been threatened and the other morning she came over in tears... her and her youngest daughter have spent a lot of time with us during this time. we have a lawyer and others helping to bring justice to this situation. we are often blown away by the chaos here in el salvador. the lack of order and an honest system. we are so grateful for life in canada and hope in small ways we can work to restore things to the way they ought to be down here in san vicente, el salvador...


after building a house, there is always a line up of women hoping that they will be the next family for a home.....

after the house is built, the concrete is then mixed by hand and poured for the inside

violet's happiest moments are when she can ride with her head out the window