David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

First Christmas in El Salvador

In November when we arrived, Christmas decorations were going up in malls and city plazas. Overall few homes are decorated with strings of colored lights. The malls and municipal parks and boulevards are the largest decorators for Christmas in the city.

Visible signs of Christmas disappear as we leave San Salvador. Absent big city budgets and large malls, the small towns of El Salvador look the same at Christmas as in the middle of August. Among the rural poor the best evidence of Christmas is handmade decorations for home and church.

On Christmas Eve, we joined Bishop Gomez, the Lutheran Bishop of El Salvador, and his family for their traditional celebration. It was a quiet conversation of adults until all of the grandchildren arrived. Then the action began with opening presents, playing together and much joyful noise.

Fireworks exploded throughout the neighborhood. As the night continued more family and friends arrived. Mrs. Gomez had sandwiches and beverages ready. There was lively music and dancing. At midnight we formed a prayer circle to thank God for his abundant blessings and mercies during this past year and to ask his protection and blessings for the coming year, very appropriate for all our lives.

The prayers were accompanied by loud fireworks. After the final Amen, we went out on the upper porch to watch the awesome multiple aerial and ground displays throughout the neighborhoods of San Salvador. This local custom is legal and very dangerous. The smell and smoke of gunpowder was thick. As the fireworks slowed down, we enjoyed a wonderful feast of turkey, rice, salad and cake.

What a great first Christmas; we are safe, healthy, well fed, and grateful to God for these blessings. But to be honest we missed our family and friends. We enjoyed new customs, but missed our Midwest traditions. We knew before we left that some things in life can’t be duplicated. Therefore, to all of you in “the old country” and in our hearts and thoughts and prayers, we love you and we miss you.

David y Nancy

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Difficult Reality

Last week, we were invited to join a Salvadoran ngo as global representatives for distribution of building materials provided through international relief donations. This ngo recently distributed donated clothing and bedding to 150 families in La Libertad.

On Monday, we traveled to San Francisco Chinemeca above Lake Ilopongo with narrow winding streets on hilly terrain, 2100 ft above sea level, population 8575 spread across the hillside.

We began at the “command center”, a home where materials were stacked and small tables served as information desks. A community leader was preparing lists of names of those who would receive supplies. We were briefed on the families, the destruction, and the process of reconstruction of lives and homes.

Stacks of 2 x 4s and 2 x 2s for posts and roof supports, piles of corrugated aluminum sheets (3 ft x 8 ft) for roofing and siding, and bags of fasteners were being sorted for 12 families. Amounts supplied varied based on the size of the family needing shelter.

Then we visited the home sites. The devastation caused by mud slides is difficult to describe because it is so severe. Not only are homes lost but often the land under them is gone too, making rebuilding impossible. These families must seek new locations. The November storm had a multiple affect – continuous heavy rains compounded by rain pouring off roofs onto land and homes on the slope below.

One family willingly shared with us the remnant of their former home and their makeshift home on a neighbor’s lot. This shelter of branch supports and black plastic sides and roof measured 6 x 12 feet for a family of 6 and held a double bed, a cook top and 4 shelves of possessions.

As we passed the supply center on our way back to the city, teams were loading materials onto a truck for delivery. One man rolled laminate sheets and carried them on his back up the hill.

While there is devastation and sorrow, there is also hope for the future and new beginnings. Solidarity and respect are evidenced in the attitude of “it is not only your loss, it is also our loss.” Community members are working together, caring for one another, helping each other with temporary housing and rebuilding.

Being included in this project was an honor and experience that deeply touched our hearts and spirits. The forces of nature are beyond human understanding but response is within our created beings and capabilities. We assured the community leaders that we would share their stories at home in the US, that they would not be forgotten.

The effects of the storm are no longer significant in US newspapers but please know that funding for recovery is still urgently needed. Support can be sent through Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran World Federation, Catholic Charities, and the Center for Interchange and Solidarity (Los Olivos CIS, P.O. Box 76, Westmont, IL 60559). If you send a donation, clearly designate it for El Salvador Disaster Relief; otherwise it will go into a general fund and will not be put to immediate use.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Summer Break

Mailed Dec 20 2009

Our first school term (4 week session) ended at 12:22 on Friday; 38 minutes later we were escaping the city on a mini bus to the volcano Bocaron near Nejapa. It last erupted in 1917. Evidence of the lava flow to Nejapa is still visible. The city of Nejapa celebrates the eruption annually on August 31 by throwing oil soaked fireballs at one another – not your typical commemoration or Main Street event. But the crowds love it!
(See http://www.metacafe.com/watch/2065504/fireball_festival_2008/)

On the drive up the mountain we passed crowds of workers on the sides of the road waiting for transportation for either themselves or for their daily pick of coffee beans. Further up huge flat bed trucks were coming down with full loads of coffee in sacks that seem impossible to lift, yet men carry them on their backs for long distances.

After a 35 minute drive up hill we stopped for coffee at the Miranda café on one of three coffee plantations on this volcano. It also offers canopy tours where you strap on a harness and slide on one of 9 cables between mountains over lush forests, either holding on for dear life or taking in the view (see www.elsalvadorcanopy.com)

At the top of the mountain, we walked through a tropical forest enjoying cool fresh air, brilliant plants, majestic trees and a clear sunny sky. At the edge of the volcano is a platform for looking deep and wide into the crater. There is evidence of the “cone” growing and while this volcano is dormant, it is not dead. Many fissures expel steam in and around the coffee plantations. Hearty adventurers can take a 2 ½ hour hike down steep and rocky trails to the bottom which also means a 3 hour hike back up. It is not on our to-do list!

Today is Monday, the first day of winter in the USA but just another summer day here. Last night brought an unusual hard rain and wind storm which we are certain frightened many people living in make-shift shelters as a result of the Hurricane Ida damage. We have an amazing story to tell you about our experience today but that will wait for another entry.

Four days until Christmas – God’s blessings to all of you as you celebrate with family and friends. We leave tomorrow morning for San Jorge, our new community, return on Saturday and will write to you then.

For our new journal recipients go to http://oslcslinde09.blogspot.com/ for prior entries.

David and Nancy

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Bus

The bus is a window to the people and life of El Salvador. For 20 cents one can ride anywhere in the city. It is a great system with many buses and many routes. For each trip, we plan to travel light – only money and whatever needed for that day. This week we traveled to new areas in preparation of documents for our residency visa.

A bus ride in the central city includes vendors entering the bus to sell sweets, preachers who have a captive audience, beggars and petty thieves. This week a young man got on the bus and begged for money, walked down the aisle holding his cap out. Everyone put coins into his cap. The first time this happened, we did not. He approached us a second time and I noticed the smell of alcohol. Nancy had bus fare coins in her hand and dropped them into his cap. He thanked Nancy and left.

Attire on the bus has a wide range – old women wearing the seller’s multi-pocketed apron, well-dressed business people, women with bags and baskets on their heads either for selling or going home from shopping, casually dressed moms with children, poorly dressed people of all ages, young people in uniforms of banks and restaurants, and more.

The buses travel through zones of heavy traffic and raw exhaust pollution, zones of cooking and produce smells (even raw fish – that’s another story!), zones of street “hawkers” and noisy crowds, loud music, gang graffiti, and fascinating architecture – both good and bad.

Christmas decorations are evident everywhere; it is strange to have 95 degrees and see snowmen and icicle lights in stores and homes. We had two nights that got down to 70 and people were complaining of the cold. We saw sweaters, winter jackets and wool hats on the bus. We had on typical summer clothes and we loved it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


The bus system had been a complete mystery to us. However on our first day of classes we took the bus to and from school. We now have used 5 different routes to get around San Salvador. It is important to plan ahead when riding the bus to have a couple of dollars to hand over if robbed and to only carry necessary money.
The bus trip from downtown San Salvador was a missed photo opportunity with narrow one-way streets filled with vendors and buyers. The driver maneuvered through tightly crowded passages as night fell. We returned home much later than planned.

We experienced our first earthquake last week. The tremor was long and hard. Everything shook, especially us. The internet reported the center just off the coast of Sonsonate 40 miles away as 5.9 on the scale. All of San Salvador felt the quake.

Having legal identification in your possession is crucial. Yet with the risk of robbery carrying your passport seems irresponsible. Recently police stopped our van as we returned to the city from our rural community. Nancy did not have her passport but our Salvadoran friends in the van clarified our status. We were allowed to continue, but now that we travel alone we make sure that we can prove that we are legal immigrants. Nancy could have been taken into custody.

The black rain has begun. The sugar cane fields are burned before the men cut the stalks and load the flat bed trucks with mountains of sugar cane. The cane stalk is dry, over ten feet tall and highly combustible. With the strike of a torch, the field becomes an intensive inferno with the flames spreading faster than a man, woman or child can run. The black powdery ash rises thousands of feet into the air, travels many miles and rains down when it starts to cool. Last weekend our city neighborhood was “rained” on and the season is just starting.

Our first Thanksgiving Day in ES was different. School and homework as usual, with a special dinner of beef roast stuffed with vegetables, mashed potatoes, spicy avocado salad, and rolls; very delicious and celebrated with our host family.

The rooster: Each neighborhood has a rooster that should be eaten. Our rooster is just one yard away. He begins his morning call at 3 am and continues at intervals until 1 pm. Nancy has a theory that the rooster knows everyone’s name. Each call by Mr. Rooster is directed to an individual by name. My wake up comes at 5:45 - Nancy’s comes at 6:15.

It has been a good second week of our lives here. We look forward to the next.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Starting School

On Monday, school began with a bang – first an assessment test. We told them we were beginners but they wanted to know for sure. It was quite thorough – we convinced them! We have an excellent teacher and the rule is no English. We are her only students at this time. She gave directions and explained introductory conversation in a language we do not know. We learned personal presentations for 3 hours and then went to another class to introduce and tell about ourselves in Spanish. These adults have had 4 years of speaking experience and are at CIS for more skill development. They asked us questions (in Spanish) and then introduced themselves. It was an intense experience. Back to our room to begin learning personal pronouns.

Done at noon – lunch break – the next class began at 1:30 to study culture, personal health and safety, communication guidelines, and our hopes for this class. Usually this class is done in Spanish, but it is only us two beginners so we converse in English with Spanish where important for cultural understanding. We took trips this week via city buses to two ngo’s and a botanical garden, learning our way around the city.

This first week of learning has been intense emotionally and mentally. The pace is consistent, the expectation high and the method difficult. It is very difficult to learn to communicate when you do not know the vocabulary or the grammatical structure. We think of it as sitting our 4 year old grandson down, speaking to him in Spanish and expecting him to obey and respond. It can’t happen. Therefore there is much self study and nightly review of class work. The pronunciation and remembering are the biggest challenges. There is not enough time in the evening to process the day’s lesson.

But the good news is that we survived the first week and are preparing for week two. It can only get better!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The start of our new life

The 6 boys from Casa Concordia loaded our 8 suit cases into the pickup truck, jumped in the back, and we were off to our new digs. We arrived 20 minutes later just outside San Salvador in Mejicanos, were greeted by Margarita, her university son Omar, and another student Casey is from New Mexico and is working on his Ph.D. in the political science and international relations of El Salvador. Most conversations are in Spanish and Casey is bilingual.

Our bedroom is on the second floor of the guest house (tiny but comfy) located in the back courtyard, with complete (cold water only) shower/toilet facility, meals and house keeping provided. It takes 4 keys to enter the house from the street to our room in the back court yard. The first door is the street door into the garage area, the second is the door from the garage into the home, the third is for the patio door and the fourth is into our room. Yet the neighborhood is safe. A large shopping plaza is two blocks away. There is a beautiful soccer/futbol field close that is used for many games happening at one time, and for national teams to use for competitions. In the early morning, it is used by walkers, joggers, runners and exercisers.

The side walk by the soccer field is filled with street-vendors selling food, clothing and house hold items. We are warned never to eat from these places since the food items lack proper storage practices. Some street vendors sell vegetables grown in the city along the river banks. The rivers receive all the city sewage and the growers water the plants with the river water. However local grocers have high quality fruits and vegetables to purchase.

We both sleep well, the street is much quieter than Casa Concordia, but we awake to our new alarm clock, the neighbor’s rooster.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nov 22 09

After the encounter, delegates visited their sister church communities on Friday and Saturday. Dinner talk at La Casa focused on the delegates sharing their stories about their time in the community, sharing achievements of the communities, and also opportunities for delegates to use their gifts and talents in these communities.

We visited our community on Saturday to celebrate the baptism of 7 boys and the promotion of 5 students to high school. We would consider this a graduation but in El Salvador that term is often reserved for higher levels of education.

It was an exciting time as the youth (4 girls and 1 boy) received recognition for their faithfulness in learning. They are all continuing on to high school, a major and more difficult step for learning, transportation, and risks. This is a major change for the community we first visited 6 years ago.

As spokesperson for the youth, Elmer told of the motivation and inspiration the students have received from their scholarship sponsors. He also said they were glad to be held accountable to earn good grades. In our world, $70.00 is a small price to pay for one year of education. Most of these students have been faithfully supported for 5 years by their sponsors. This is truly a successful and worth while project to empower poor families to send their children to school.

Let us all consider the ways we can encourage children, youth, and families to have a vision and hope for a better future.

In two hours, we move to our host family; we begin immersion school tomorrow. We are not sure of internet access so do not be surprised if you do not hear from us for a while.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nov 20

After we returned to Casa Concordia from San Jorge, our friends from the Greater Milwaukee Synod arrived. The somber atmosphere we have experienced was replaced with joy as hugs and laughter were shared in this festive reunion. Lay people from around the globe and Bishops from Mexico, Central and South America, and Europe arrived for the Encounter II held by the Salvadoran Church (SLS). The purpose of the encounter is to strengthen relationships with global partners to support the SLS as it continues its mission to uplift the poorest of the poor.

After intensive meetings Monday thru Wednesday, on Thursday we split into three groups and traveled to different communities in three different regions. David traveled to Cara Sucio which is a community with various global partners and various projects in members of the community, i.e sewing groups, raising chickens, corn grinding.

Another community David visited shared the current struggle they are having with the local political structure that wants to open a dump next to their water supply. We believe this is the 7th time our attention has been brought to the issue of dumps and mining poisoning the local water supply. Organized citizens can make a difference, but at the risk of their lives.

Nancy visited three communities with strong programs for youth and children. Two of the communities have concerns of no water source other than a gray river or water only during the rainy season when their cistern fills. Both communities need wells for a consistent and clean supply.

David y Nancy

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November 16

We need to move forward and leave the story concerning the devastation caused by the recent rains with this closing comment. Nick, a volunteer from North American, traveled with the Bishop on Wednesday to visit the epi-center of the mud and rock slides. He stated that this zone of this planet is “dead” and he would tell us more when he is up to it.

On Thursday we left for the Eastern agricultural zone to visit with communities for our future assignment. These communities of the east have the same mountain range as our Rockies that extend all the way through Central America. The terrain is rough with numerous rivers and streams beds. In one community, we parked the car at the edge of the road and walked through a pasture, down a steep grade into a river bed for a quarter mile to the community. In another, we rode in a 2 ton flat bed for 35 minutes off the main road to the community. In another, the paved road ended at the sandy river bottom and drove in the river bed for two miles to another community.

A meeting with the community members indicated a common interest for ESL and computer training. Neither of these is offered by the public school system in this zone, but it is offered closer to San Salvador. Time and time again we witness the dedication of the Salvadoran parents to the education of their children.

The Encuentro has started so we are into more learning about our new environment. We are well – we are busy - and we will right again when possible. Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 11, 2009

Dear Friends

We arrived safely and with great peace. Our current home is Casa Concordia. This is a multi-purpose residence for college students, a United Nations safe house, a sanctuary from the local gang violence, and a guest house for visitors.

Trinidad is the manager of Casa Concordia. Her married son, Jorge, was assassinated last week. He was a self employed transport driver. Other drivers were jealous of his success and hired a gang member to kill him. It happened in a busy market where traffic was stopped. His wife was with him and witnessed his murder.

The immediate family is now living at Casa Concordia for the protection it provides. The wife is a target since she is a witness and their four children are targets for the family to remain silent.

With the immediate and extended family in mourning, the mood at the residence is somber. The facility also is the epi-center for the Lutheran Response to the catastrophic
loss of lives, homes, and livelihoods. Daily accounts of the dead, loss of homes, farms and livestock are reported. The prospect of going forward for the survivors when the future has been decimated is very sobering.

Tomorrow we go to Usulatan for 2 days and nights to visit our communities and begin learning. We will send news again this weekend.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

God celebrated the return of normal standard time with a beautiful sunrise. The sky was a brilliant red with gray clouds at 1000 feet. The brilliant red was reflected on the lake making the sky and water as one. After a few minutes, the sky above the gray turned gold changing the lake from red to gold. A few more minutes passed and the sky and glistening lake separated, just like at creation.

It’s a week from Tuesday when we leave for our mission. Our immigration papers are in order, banking arrangements are pending and our schedule from next Monday through the second week of January 2010 is complete. For most of November and December, we will be in a San Salvador Immersion School and living with a host family.

I just read a new book My Business My Mission by Doug Seebeck and Timothy Stoner. Their organization, Partners Worldwide, fights poverty through partnerships. They have a 20 year track record of assisting local residents establishing businesses in Africa and Central America. Their business plan is based on prayer, scripture John 15:1-15, hard work, never give up and take care of the poor. My prayer is for the pastors I will be working with, that I can clearly share this vision with them and that they can embrace “business for mission” for their members. This will provide members sustainable income to counter malnutrition and provide for better family hygiene practices.

Our blog is active again. If anyone wants to be deleted from the email and follow on the blog, it’s http://oslcslinde09.blogspot.com/. Get back to us this week.

David y Nancy

Friday, October 30, 2009

October 11

It’s just under 30 days before we depart to El Salvador for 2 years. The days are full of excitement and anxiety. On August 1 we started a 90 day count down to departure that entails legal, financial, taxes, documents for residency, doctor/dentist visits and fundraising.

Last week we had a meeting with Julia, the executive director of Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM). We learned more about our placement. Our local VMM contact in El Salvador is Danny. Danny and Bishop Gomez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church have a placement for us in the Eastern Region under the leadership of Ana Rosa.

Ana Rosa has responsibility for 6 churches that are served by Pastors Julio, Miguel, Alejandro Hernandez, Pedro Vigil.

The churches work closely with OIKO Solidaridad on environmental issues involving the watershed of the Rio Grande in San Miguel. They also have a chicken project and an agricultural project in Piedra Azul and a shrimp farm in Puerta Prada. The Germans have a strong present in this area having started NGO’s INKOTA and PROCOMES. The three names can be googled to view their web sites. They all have a focus on food security, environmental issues and education to mitigate the risk associated with the hurricanes, tropical storm and earthquakes.

We will also need to have a series of meetings with these leaders for our specific responsibilities for the next two years. It does not seem realistic to serve 6 church communities; therefore we need to commit to a set of written goals between us, the community and VMM. The church communities have housing options that we will investigate when we arrive.

For those of you receiving an email from us for the first time, our journey to El Salvador is our response to the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and his endless blessings on our marriage and family. We have two beautiful grandchildren who we will not see for a year. Our children have agreed to release us to El Salvador as they know this is a call from God. We are giving up our participation in an amazing community where volunteering is a way of life. We are also giving up travel, the arts, and many friendships.

On the other hand, just imagine what we will gain on this journey. Just imagine what God has in mind for the next two years!

David y Nancy

September 16

Our move to El Salvador is in November.

After a great deal of prayer, many meetings here in the US and also in El Salvador, Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM – our sponsoring organization) has a placement for us within the Lutheran Church of El Salvador. We will be in the vicinity of San Jorge in the state of San Miguel.

We will be working with Pastor Julio’s congregation and others of the Eastern Micro-Region. Bishop Gomez and VMM have worked together on this placement. Bishop Gomez feels that our presence can help strengthen the Lutheran Churches in the area.

Our plan is to travel to El Salvador the first week of November to visit the community. Then we return to San Salvador for an international gathering of Partner Churches, then eight weeks of Immersion School. We will be in our community in January 2010.

This placement is very exciting for us. While we have met Pastor Julio and Nancy has visited his church, somethings are familiar, but a whole lot more is unknown and offers much excitement.

The people of El Salvador are very gracious and open; building relationships should come naturally. The Lutheran Church in El Salvador ministers to the poorest of the poor. We hope and pray our time with them will bring improvement in their community through better health practices, education, job creation, and spiritual encouragement.

We will resume our blog as we prepare for departure. Touch base with us at http://oslcslinde09.blogspot.com/

Saturday, May 9, 2009

May 7 Final report this trip

This morning I woke up and my right leg was like Arnold Schwartzeneger's and my left leg like Jackie Gleason's. I don't know what bit me, but all was better by the end of the day. They both looked like Jackie Gleason's. Tonight Nancy and I had our farewell dinner with Dan and Toby, two missioners to the Salvadoran Lutheran Church. Dan from Illinois has served for two years and Toby from Germany for 6 months. They will be missed by the nationals and also by the visitors to Casa Concordia.This afternoon we met with the new mayor of Nejapa. Our goal was to secure her support for continuing the Rotary project. While waiting for the meeting to start, we were able to reconnect with many municipal employees who have become personal friends through this project. Church partners as well as Rotary partners came for the meeting, thus we had good representation from the project partners.The mayor agreed to continue supporting the project so can go full steam ahead. We are so pleased and relieved. Our next hurdle is securing the funding from Rotary International. We will work on the application during the next month at home.During our visit, one of the children here at Casa Concordia showed us her art work. Her talent was a wonderful surprise which we greatly admired. We learned that several more children here also are artistic. We wanted to purchase some of their work for fund raising at home for Salvadoran ministries, but the children would not sell it. Instead they gave it to us to use for that purpose. How gracious of them! We leave for the airport tomorrow morning at 9.30 am - arrive in Milwaukee at 10 pm. We are looking forward to being home again. We are very excited that our son Micah and his son Noah, our grandson, arrive in Chicago on Monday evening for a week long visit. Pray us home safely,David (and Nancy)

May 6 Report

Hello family and friends. Another good day with much action. First a follow up from last night. The meeting with our partners of Club Rotario went very well with closure and a new beginning. We really enjoy working with the men and women of this club, both professionally and personally.Wednesday is the traditional day of the Bishop and the pastors. We look forward to these gatherings because we have many friendships with these pastors. We renew relationships, catching up on their lives and their ministries. Bishop Gomez told them of our move to El Salvador to be of service in a community. They are excited about this news and many have offered their spiritual and vocational support, even though we will not be in a Lutheran community. This is true solidarity.Today was an historic time for us. Two pickup trucks of people, both in the cabs and the back beds, traveled one hour to Peidras Tontas (close to El Paisnel), then off the highway about 15 minutes into a very rural setting. The country side is a beautiful open expanse, fertile land, organized development could be a reality. The land has not been tilled in 20 years thus many native trees grow in the fields with larger ones along the edges. The land is being made available from the government through an ngo. The community will have 180 homesites in this region with land reserved for a church, a school, a community center, and a clinic. We were greeted by a community leader when we arrived. We asked about the water. Years ago two wells were dug only to find lead dominated both wells. The lead is pollution left from past gold mining. A Chinese ngo provided help to construct 11 homes and also run a water line just under 2 miles from the mountain to the community. That is the current source of water for the current community. We don't know if this will be sufficient for the proposed additional homes. Much mining in the past has left contamination throughout the country. Mining continues to be a threat to the health of the people and the land. There is currently a $70 million lawsuit against the government because the people will not tolerate more mining and the mining company is suing the government for breach of contract. We have many questions about this development. We are looking at this through North American experience, laws and culture. Practices are different here. If one buys a piece of land, there is a risk of squatters settling and it is very difficult to remove them. Therefore purchased properties are wrapped in barbed or razor wire by the owner. This is prevalent throughout the country and it is disturbing.Tomorrow we meet with the new major of Nejapa, the municipality in which the Rotary sanitation project is located. The former mayor was a very supportive with manpower, transportation, equipment and lodging for the engineering students. We need the partnership with the new mayor of a different political party for the project to continue effectively and efficiently. Please keep praying.Then we pack for departure on Friday. We'll give you an update tomorrow afternoon about the meeting results.Buenos noches,David and Nancy

May 5 update

As reported we moved to Casa Concordia, the Lutheran guesthouse, on Saturday. When we arrived, a Sunday school training program was under way. We joined the class and then had the afternoon for journaling and resting in a peacful environment.Sunday, the Bishop picked us us up and took us to the mother church, RESURRECTION. Here we reconnected with many friends and had lunch together. In the early afternoon, we traveled with Pastor Abelina to our companion church, Fe y Esperenza. This is also the community of the Rotary hygiene project.The public road needs much repair, the drive into the church and the grounds need much repair, and the plumbing has not yet been connected. Two soccer games were underway, one in the pasture having three cows grazing. The cows didn.t mind, neither did the kids. After an hour of soccer, the kids came into church for worship. They made the place very warm.After the service at Fe, we were invited back to San Salvador to Pastor Marina's home for pupusas. We returned to the area of Resurrection church. Resurrection is in the heart of the ghetto. The Lutheran community also operates a homeless shelter in this neighborhood. The Lutheran Church is the church of the poor and what better place than the ghetto. We are aware of the Lutheran Church protecting children and helping women turn their lives around. Glancing out the window of the bus, the streets are full of litter... the children, adults and street are visibility dirty. Some adults sit on the side of the street in a daze making one wonder if they are fully functional or maybe they should be cared for in a facility. Others are preying on one another for their own selfish interests or desires.We pulled in front of a gate which opened into a beautiful courtyard. We were welcomed and enjoyed the company of our hostesss and other members of the church family.On Monday morning, we attended the pastoral team worship service at Resurrection, which was followed by a special informational meeting about the repatriation of refugees to land in El Salvador which is being reclaimed by the campesinos.The government is slowly releasing land that it took from the peasants during the war and is making resettlement available. Tomorrow afternoon we will visit this land, now named Piedras Tontas, translated Stupid Rocks. We will walk this land with Pastor Chimita who is the head pastor of the churches in this region. We hope to learn of what the living conditions will be like when the community is built, their access to water, the forestation issue, and areas where outside support may be needed. While this community will not be established as a Lutheran community, it is the hope of the church to build a worship and gathering facility as soon as possible.Last night ended with a birthday pizza paryt for David at Casa Concordia. It was great fun for the children and the adults as we celebrated a milestone (65 years!). Tonight we go to another meeting to close the Rotary paperwork for La Granja and to begin the next phase of the bridge project.This morning at Rotary we learned that El Salvador has more suspected cases of El Gripe Procine. A comment was made that if someone sneezes and then oinks, there is a problem! Humor in the midst of fear can be a good thing.Updates follow tomorrow evening.David and Nancy

May 3 3rd upate

Today the news confirmed two cases of swine flu in San Salvador. We also hear from friends that incoming flights from south america have all the passengers wearing surgical masks. We plan to purchase our own for the flight home on Friday.This week I have discovered the difference between city and county cucarachas. The county ones have a nice crunch to them when stepped on....the others you don't want to know.On Friday we visited 5 families in our community. Each one has a story that begins with the last civil war. All these families and thousands others were displaced during the civil war. Suchitoto and Morazan are two places that saw intense fighting. The soldiers killed guerillas well as civilians. Refugees moved to safe places provided by various churches. Los Jardines de Colon is unique in that it was started by the refugees and the Catholic church became involved later.The spirit of those people who moved and established this community remains today. They are strong in faith and in a commitment for a better life for themselves, their children and their neighbors. On their own, they have established global partnerships, constructed buildings, and developed programs for youth, women, evangelism, catechism, and pastoral ministries. Their first priest did not appreciate their chapel, their self sustainable programs, their independence. They are still in conflict with the regional Catholic hierarchy. Maybe having Lutherans in the community will go over big with the current priest! We visited 5 families, one of which is an elderly woman was one of the original settlers, one is the natural medicine lady, one is a church leader in her 70s who has 11 children with several and their families living with her. Many generations living together is very common here. Three of these 5 families have at least 3 generations in their home. VMMs representative Danny will continue to look for a house for us. Now that he has met the leaders of Los Jardines, he can work together with them to meet our needs and expectations.On Saturday noon, we moved to Casa de Concordia. By chance we found the same cab driver on the street who had taken us to Rotary on Wednesday. It was a good surprise and he has said he will be our driver any time we need him... just call. Isn't that divine protection!Tomorrow is a busy day but we will have time to write in the evening. Buenos noches. Hasta manana.David y Nancy

May 2 2009 2nd update

Winter has arrived in El Salvador. Its terrible. Its only 90 degrees between 12 noon and 3, the rest of the time its in the 80s. Tonight the wind chill is 70 degrees. On Tuesday the rains started. At night it rains very hard causing flooding along the streams and low roads. Today Saturday it sprinkled most of the day, partly sunny and partly cloudy, very humid.We arrived in the community of Los Jardines de Colon on late Wednesday. Jardines is a mini San Francisco, having very little flat land and many steep grades with homes built into these steep grades. Entering the community we drove across a stream. That very stream washed away a number of homes during hurricane Mitch. While these homes are not rebuilt, there are shacks and shelters. The people have been encouraged to relocate throu government programs but they will not leave. They are in extreme danger from the next stormsWe spent two nights in the home of a single mom, Marta, and her 15 year old daughter, Marjori, who were gracious and enjoyable company. Marjori is in her first year in high school, receives a scholarship from their sister community in Cinncinati. She hopes to attend the university to become an administrative secretary. Her day begins at 5.30 to get ready for school, she leaves for the public bus stop at 6.30 for an hour ride to her school. She usually gets home around 7.30 for dinner, homework and bed at 8.30.Marta is around 40, works an 8 hour day leaving at 7.30, returning around 5.30. She works in a factory, sometimes working seven days a week. Her 19 year old son does not live with them but has a job in a city nearby. First nights dinner was eggs, beans, tortillas. Breakfast was beans, tortillas, coffee. Second nights dinner was pasta with bean sauce and a roll. Very basic but good meals. In order to keep her electic bill at $7.00 a month she does not have a refrigerator. It is important to realize that while life is frugal, guests are received with hospitality and warmth. The rain at night was so hard on the metal room that we could not even talk to each other and we briefly lost power. The roof leaked in three places. It was an exciting evening.We will write about other members of the community in our next message.We are safe ' we are healthy ' we are blessed. David and Nancy

April 28 2009

We arrived Monday safely and on time to very hot weather. Two airlines arrived at the same time, ours from Houston and one from Newark, New Jersery. From a total flight population of 500, 8 of us were foreigners and the rest nationals. Our passage thru customs and immigration went quickly. We observed all the airport workers wearing medical masks as a prevention against the swine flu. It is not here but there are wisely taking precautions.We were able to talk about the political climate. The pending inaugurations are May 1 for the municipal and June 1 presidential.There is much distrust of the current governments transition to the new party. There is much tension. We will keep listening.This morning we were able to attend another Rotary Club meeting in the city itself. The Club is 15 years old, 30 members present, all are excellent English speakers and very gracious to us. Each of us was given the opportunity to share about our clubs and Rotary projects. It was a great moment to be an ambassador form West Bend. We will meet with them next week to discuss psrtner possibilities in the future. They have active Interact and Rotaract clubs and are eager for international relationships.It is only 10 am and we already have an amusining incident. The Club met at the Radisson Hotel, a large venue for assemblies and varied action. One event was a special training for hair coloring specialists. Two young women with the craziest hair styles and colors followed us as we left to invite us to come and be models for their skills. Based on what we saw, we thanked them for their offer but declined. We can only imagine what we would have looked like on our return home.Enough for now. Hasta proxima vez (until next time)David y Nancy This afternoon we join a fellow missioner Danny to his church and community for a large gatherinmg of all his sister parish and country partners . . . another great learning experience for us.Tmorrow we attend the Rotary meeting with our familiar Club and will work on documents for the final report of the Noon sanitation project. Then we leave for two days and nights in our new community.It is another very hot sunny day today. It is almost 90 as we write. Our bedroom last night got down to 80. We took 3 showers yesterday and we only have cold water. The effect lasted for a little while

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Our El Salvador Journey

Before leaving in January 2009, Nancy received $2,000 from the Sunrise Rotary for a support of a roofing project in El Salvador. The $2,000 was combined with other Fundahmer grant money and has provided for 16 new roofs for the homes of the most disadvantaged in a community of Morazán. What is remarkable is the neighbors are supplying wood and other materials to help their neighbors have new roofs. People who have little are sharing with others who also have little. Pictures attched.

More good news is the completion of the West Bend Noon Rotary and Engineers without Borders (EWB) sanitation project in La Granja. The student engineers mentored the residents of the community to carry on with this work after the students returned to school. Hundreds of volunteers completed the laying of pipe in March and have connected the facilities of the former Refugee Camp (Fe y Esperanza) to the system.

We leave for a brief visit in El Salvador at the end of April to work on several important concerns:

We now need to complete the documentation required by Rotary International for submitting a final report. This process requires details on the project outcomes and also an accounting of how the money was spent.

We will meet with the leaders of Los Jardines de Colon to learn more about the community and to begin building relationships before we move.

Because of the political party change in the January election, we need to meet with the new mayor of Nejapa to ensure the ongoing success of next phase of the sanitation project to be financed by West Bend Sunrise, District, and International Rotary.

We will take time to be with our brothers and sisters of the Lutheran community to deepen our friendships and our shared love of Christ, and to say goodbye to Tobias and Dan. Tobias and Dan leave in May after serving out their assignments. They will be missed by many.

We will also reconnect with fellow missioners of VMM - Danielle, Danny, Laura, Jennifer, and Angel and hopefully revisit some of their communities.

It will be a very meaningful trip. Please keep us in your prayers.
David y Nancy

Thursday, March 12, 2009

March 12 Reflections

42 days after returning from El Salvador, it is preparations, preparations, preparations.

With the reality of moving into the new community in El Salvador comes the responsibility of what will our presence add to the community and each of the 30 BASE families. When we arrive, our starting point is to begin discussions with the leaders and community residents to become aware of their needs. What are they looking for or expecting of us? Many of the older residents can’t read or write. Younger moms drop out of school to start families. Often times the men are working far from home.

If the women want to start a micro business, they need to learn to read, write and develop math skills. If the community wants to organize the youth into sports, technical skills or gardening, where do we get the materials to begin? If they want to start a chicken project, do we start with a chicken or an egg?

And for Nancy and me, how do we prepare ourselves to be able to meet their expectations. Nancy and I have started visiting the West Bend Library to identify books to read in many categories. The subject matters are many due to not knowing what the community will identify as their common needs. Yesterday we met with Kandi O’Neil to learn of resources stored on the shelves of the 4H. We hope this will be another major resource for us.

David y Nancy

February 19 reflections

Sitting in church our first Sunday back, I realized it was my first worship in a month without a translator. Here I am free to enjoy God one-on-one. It made me realize how many of God’s creation still need translators to learn about the amazing death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whether children, neighbors, fellow workers, or friends in America or El Salvador, all need a translator to understand the love of Christ. Be a translator for Christ.

Our weeks back at have been spent following up on emails from friends in El Salvador, new emails from Salvadoran NGOs looking for grant money, following the email updates from the Rotary project in La Granja, finding time to tell many interested friends and family about the January journey, making plans for our summer departure to meet the requirements in El Salvador, and making plans here for our home and personal matters. It’s all become overwhelming.

We have met with the Directors of the Volunteer Missionary Movement to continue developing plans for our departure. We do not have a solid departure date as yet, but we are all working towards that goal. One responsibility I brought back was designing the community lodge and kitchen for the community center. This will be our residence for the two years in El Salvador. Another responsibility is to begin our fundraising of $10,000 for our support of our service for the two years

When we left, I told Nancy I had quit all of my volunteer activities here in West Bend. What a misconception! I am busier than ever with all my organizations and have in fact taken on a new one. Withdrawal is going to be very difficult.


Thursday, February 19, 2009


We leave this morning (Janaury 27, 2009 posted later) for Fundahmer and our visits to our potential communities and projects. We do not know if we will have access to internet, so if you do not hear from us for a few days. so not worry, just continue to pray for our needs and God's riches for our journey. Please keep praying about David's journal - still not recovered.RECAP: Our visit to the AgriCenter on Saturday was an excellent training experience for the church and community leaders as they develop their vision for their communities.Sunday was spent accompaning Bishop Gomez at worship in the city of San Salvador and then to a rural community to celebrate 8 baptisms and 3 confirmations in a small church packed to SRO. Then to dinner with him and his family at a pupuseria on the mountain overlooking the bright lights of the wide spread city of San Salvador.Monday we went to La Granja for a final look at the project to see its progress with community volunteers and a local selected foreman. It is amazing what an extraordinary accomplishment ordinary people can do when their hearts and minds and strengths are dedicated to its purpose.On this side of the highway, they are working in narrow roads at a deeper construction level with incredible obstacles. When the trenching began on the first lateral street, the road material was sand and dirt. At the first intersection at the main road, the content changed to large and huge volcanic boulders. If the trencher were not being used, it is doubtful they could remove these by hand. The pipe laying continues at a good pace with the end of trenching and the final manhole for the turn to the bridge line in sight. They must somehow remove all these boulders because they cannot go into the trenches - they would cruch the piping.Community volunteers seem to be very happy about this project for the health of their families because the men, women and youth labor together in the heat and the difficulties. Those who are waiting for the next part of the project in 2010 work to bring it closer to their homes because they have the hope and vision of this reality for their future.We are now getting goodbye hugs and blessings from the chilren (4 boys and 2 girls so far) at the Casa. They are so beautiful as they leave for school--- fresh and crisp in their white shirts and blouses and dark pants and skirts. They smell so good and we smell like Vicks and are in our pajamas. What a memory we leave with them! We have enjoyed living with them these past and fast weeks and treasure the interactions with us, their Casa family, and the other guests that have passed through.We need to close and finish packing up for our taxi. God bless you as you come and go. We{ll write if we can - if not, Hasta Saturday.David and Nancy

Home Again

We arrived safely home at midnight after a long but uneventful day. Everything went as hoped – an easy ride to the airport, on-time and smooth flights, magnificent daytime cloud and evening ground lights displays. We turned on the water, turned up the temp setting in the house and went to bed. Our goal this weekend has been to sleep and we are accomplishing that. Slept 19 hours on Saturday - sleep and Superbowl on Sunday. We both feel a little energy returning today so we will tackle a month’s worth of mail and look at our calendars for February.

We did manage to bring some warmth with us to raise the temperature above freezing this weekend. Hope you enjoyed that - maybe it will happen again today.

On Thursday afternoon, we visited a community called Los Jardines de Colon, a city outside the city of Colon which is ½ hour from San Salvador. The city has 800 residents, many streets, houses packed close together. At 6:00, school children and men and women returning from work were pouring into the city. This community has access to bus lines and decent roads so employment is not an impossible challenge.

We saw the lot where the leaders want to build a community center and home for workers of the center. They have ambitious plans and are eager to get the building project started. We also visited several homes to look at the style of construction. The homes were the basic cinder block style with the kitchen on the front or back porch, a corridor living room, 2 small bedrooms, two windows to the front and an open entry to the back yard.

This city also has large homes and yards that are attractive. We did not get to visit those. So it appears that there is a variety of income in this city.

Because our visit was unscheduled, we did not have the opportunity to meet with community leaders to learn more about the women and youth programs that are established and what their goals and needs are. While there is still much unknown, we have accepted the request to live and work in this city. The main project will be the construction of the community center and the “guesthouse” which will be our home. Another project will be to begin an urban organic garden to teach about nutrition and self-sufficiency for food supply.

As we visited the rural communities, we realized the isolation these required was more than we could commit to. While a city placement is far from what we had expected, our desire continues to be to serve as best as we can. Our skills and gifts will be well used within this community. Our starting time is May. Many details here must be finalized in a short time. We thank you for your support on our January journey and ask that you keep us in your prayers as we move forward.

David and Nancy

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday, January 27

We leave this morning for Fundahmer and our visits to our potential communities and projects. We do not know if we will have access to internet, so if you do not hear from us for a few days. so not worry, just continue to pray for our needs and God's riches for our journey. Please keep praying about David's journal - still not recovered.

RECAP: Our visit to the AgriCenter on Saturday was an excellent training experience for the church and community leaders as they develop their vision for their communities.

Sunday was spent accompaning Bishop Gomez at worship in the city of San Salvador and then to a rural community to celebrate 8 baptisms and 3 confirmations in a small church packed to SRO. Then to dinner with him and his family at a pupuseria on the mountain overlooking the bright lights of the wide spread city of San Salvador.

Monday we went to La Granja for a final look at the project to see its progress with community volunteers and a local selected foreman. It is amazing what an extraordinary accomplishment ordinary people can do when their hearts and minds and strengths are dedicated to its purpose.

On this side of the highway, they are working in narrow roads at a deeper construction level with incredible obstacles. When the trenching began on the first lateral street, the road material was sand and dirt. At the first intersection at the main road, the content changed to large and huge volcanic boulders. If the trencher were not being used, it is doubtful they could remove these by hand. The pipe laying continues at a good pace with the end of trenching and the final manhole for the turn to the bridge line in sight. They must somehow remove all these boulders because they cannot go into the trenches - they would cruch the piping.

Community volunteers seem to be very happy about this project for the health of their families because the men, women and youth labor together in the heat and the difficulties. Those who are waiting for the next part of the project in 2010 work to bring it closer to their homes because they have the hope and vision of this reality for their future.

We are now getting goodbye hugs and blessings from the chilren (4 boys and 2 girls so far) at the Casa. They are so beautiful as they leave for school--- fresh and crisp in their white shirts and blouses and dark pants and skirts. They smell so good and we smell like Vicks and are in our pajamas. What a memory we leave with them! We have enjoyed living with them these past and fast weeks and treasure the interactions with us, their Casa family, and the other guests that have passed through.

We need to close and finish packing up for our taxi. God bless you as you come and go. We{ll write if we can - if not, Hasta Saturday.

David and Nancy

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Greetings to all you faithful friends,

We send an early message out today since we are staying around our base camp and resting. We have been experiencing some health issues that have concerned us but got relieving news, in a way. San Salvador is located in a low elevation, in an old volcanic crater, like Mexico City. Our US comparable would probably be a valley between two mountain ranges. The wind blows but the air does not really go anywhere except around and around. This time of the year, the sugar cane fields are being burned and harvested. There is much fine and large ash. The heavy pollution from the busses, trucks, and cars hangs in the air. The dry dust and dirt is everywhere. You can wipe a table and 5 minutes later, you can write your name on it.

We have been breathing in an unhealthy mixture that is affecting our throats, sinuses, and noses. We got advice today about a medication that will provide relief. We took our first dose this morning and are already feeling a little better. We plan to sleep today to regain energy. Dan, a US friend here, says this is a typical condition in January. We cancelled our visit with Club Rotario this morning since we did not think that blowing, sneezing and coughing would make for welcome company. We plan to attend next Wednesday.

We have been reflecting on solidarity and accompaniment - their similarities and differences. As we work in the communities, participate in the electoral process, talk with our brothers and sisters in faith, and experience life in the city, we are becoming more deeply aware of these crucial components as they relate to ministry and service in the Kingdom of God. We have much to learn.

We were able to catch a small part of the inauguration on tv yesterday. We are eager to go to the library and read all the news in English to appreciate this historical event. The people of El Salvador are very excited about this change in the US and what it might mean for the good of their country. We must all watch closely as policies and practicies are initiated for Central America.

We close with a wonderful encouragement that our West Bend friend Nancy sent to us this morning: I Samuel 7:12 - ''The Lord has helped us thus far.'' And we know that He will continue do do so! Thank you, Nancy. Thank you all for your responses and insights. Please feel free to forward our messages to those you think will be interested in knowing and praying. We appreciate your kove and prayers - we know there is an army of angels around us, both seen and unseen.

David and Nancy

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday 1/20

Our Greater Milwaukee Synod Election Observer delegation left the Casa this morning at 5:30. As you know, we have had an excellent time with them and many great experiences together. Tim was in much pain this morning but determined to make it home. They should be on their way from Houston to Milwaukee at this time. We look forward to hearing about their journey to the nort-land.

Before we left on this trip, we discovered a website that presented excellent information about sustainable agriculture projects currently going on in El Salvador. We shared this information briefly with the synod leadership team last week and asked if they would like to discuss possibilities. They were very interested in considering how these projects could help them strengthen their own for the communities. Eight of us met this morning for in-depth conversation and visioning. We will visit this particular farm in La Paz and then determine the next step of a business plan. So we will go on a field trip on Saturday! - does anyone know how to sing The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round in Spanish?

The Bishop is having a End of Election celebration for the national and international observers this evening. It should be a great fiesta, with food, music and many conversations (and hopefully some cervesa). We both are having sinus crazies so our throats are not as clear for talking as we would like. It won't stop us from enjoying but it might shorten our time at the event. We'll still be able to hear the music from our bedroom.

We want to tell you about a remarkable volunteer, Tobias, who is residing at Casa Concordia during his 6 month stay in El Salvador. He is 20 years old and from Germany. The government of Germany annually sponsors young people to visit ES for service work and relational experiences. This year because the January and March elections have had serious warnings of violence, the sponsoring organization said they would not stop him from going, but because of the potential danger, they would not fund his travel or stay. He did his own fundraising. and arrived 8 weeks ago. He has learned excellent Spanish language skills in that short time, speaks English very well, and of course his native tongue is a joy for the German Lutheran pastors located here. Toby volunteers his time translating documents, serving at Casa Esperanza, the homeless shelter in an impoverished neighborhood in San Salvador. His responsibility is to inteact with the shelter visitors and increase their self-esteem through simple human contact. He assisted the Lutheran Synod of ES with the preparation for the observers and he also was an election observer. We greatly enjoyed having him join our delegation for some of our special meetings and events. He is honest, innocent, very bright, and committed to making the world a better place in any way he can.

For those who are interested in the weather report - the weather is changing. The mornings are now very cool, almost chilly. By 3:00, it is very hot and uncomfortable and then drops quickly around 6 and requires a sweater or jacket when riding in the back of a pickup truck. At least for us it does - the locals are used to this and wear short sleeved shirts regardless of the change.

We'll keep in touch
D & N

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday 1/19

On Friday, our message concentrated on election observation. We continue that information today. On Saturday, our delegation visited the campaign headquarters of the major parties and also had an excellent conversation with the former ES Ambassador to the United States. He is a brillant and perceptive man who provided insight for us into his country and its hopes and fears. He is a true diplomat.

We also went to the polling sites where each of us would be working on Sunday so we could have a feel of the environment. As mentioned, we were assigned to city precincts. Our site (David & Nancy) was the fair and convention grounds, a larger facility with many buildings. Our building had 160 voting divisions with 450 ballots in each. The word division applies well because while it is not technically correct, it reveals an aspect of power and control. People cannot vote where they live - they must travel to places according to their last name. The husband and wife have two different last names, so they might have to go to the A place for one and the R place for the other. This requires transportation which is not always available and on a day when the city is congested with thick and slow moving traffic, it is almost impossible for both to vote. The Ambassador commented on this situation: for him and his wife, it is annoying but they can do it because they have a car and a driver and the time. Others do not have that privilege. He believes effective voting will not change until there is municipal/local voting.

We arrived at the fair park at 6:00 to witness the setting up of the voting tables. The polls opened late at 7:23 instead of 7:00 and thousands of waiting people poured in to find their poll table at which to vote. David calculated that 7,000 stormed in in 8 minutes. It was a constant flow until 4:00. Polls closed at 5:00 and closure of table documents and counting of ballots began. To our eyes, the stacks of ballots looked very similar for Arena, the power party, and FMLN, the opposition and peoples party. It was difficult to judge who the winner would be.

The other observers in our delegation were in 3 different city locations. Each reported that their polls opened late and were also a center of crowded activity, noise, heat, and political tension. While it is illegal to campaign on Saturday and Sunday, rallies continued both inside and outside the voting facilities throughout the country. It is also illegal to purchase alcohol from Friday through Monday of the election weekend, so those who know (not us ! ) stock up before.

The results this morning were surprising in one sense yet not in another. The well-oiled machine won the election and the big change for the country will not be happening. This has serious impact on our Rotary project as the new mayor of Nejapa is Arena, and not supportive of improvments for the life of the people. We do not anticipate him supporting completion of the project with provison of heavy equipment, lodging for the students, and staff members loaned to assist in many ways. Many of the FMLN staff people will now be losing their jobs and we can only imagine other ramifications. We will need to meet with the new mayor after he is installed in May to begin to develop a relationship with him.

A prayer request for all: on Saturday evening, one of our team members, Tim, fell and seriously broke his leg. He had surgery Saturday night, should be coming back to the Casa today with expectations of returning to the US tomorrow. Home will be the best place for him but travel is going to be very difficult. Needless to say, he is in much pain. Please uplift him all the way and the two women who will be travelling with him.

We must close now. You will hear from us again tomorrow.

D & N

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday 1/16

Our time here has now turned political - we are officially credentialed by the Salvadoran government as foreign election observers. To better understand the political climate, our Greater Milwaukee delegation had a meeting with theologian Dean Brackley of the University of Central America, a Jesuit university. Dean Brackely has been in El Salvador for 19 years. He volunteered for ministry here after the assassination of 4 Jesuit priests on campus. Dean is held in high regard in areas of history, philosophy, politics, and theology.

The ruling party has been in power for 400 years. They have gone by different names but it is still the economic ruling class. This structure rules by fear, threats, and violence. The polls of many different sources show that that the population is seeking change and this election will be significant for the future of the people of the country. The elections are two phased - the voting for the mayors and parliamentary deputies (6 parties) is this Sunday - voting for the presidential candidates is in March. If the March vote is so close it cannot be decisively determined, another election will be held in May. Everyone hopes that this will not happen. San Salvador is a pivotal area so all of the international observers have been assigned to precincts in this area. That will be another story on Monday. The mayors position was won by 44 votes 3 years ago and it was very controversial! The opposition party needs to win San Salvador on Sunday as this momentum will carry into the March election.

We have had two days of training for being observers. Observers have been taught to monitor the voting process with emphatic emphasis on areas of past and potential fraud. Many components of the training focused on the Salvadoran constitution, human rights, and their democratic process. We have been receiving history lessons as well as specific training. The important message we have been receiving is that our presence ensures that the voice of the people is able to be expressed without coersion or deception.

We have had many God moments today - we have met many new people who will be links for our service and ministry here. We have also reconnected with past friends and we are all happy to to be reunited, We met people from the NGO we will be visiting next week to determine our volunteer placement. It is amazing that in a crowd of more than 100 people, we have past, current and future relationships.

Vaya con Dios,
David and Nancy

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday 1/15

This message shares with you recent activities important to us. Exciting things are happening in unexpected ways,

This week we visited the orphanage that we learned about from our seatmate on the flight here. It is along the main road between Nejapa and Apopa, tucked away behind an iron gate and a high stone wall. Once you enter, the environment changes dramatically. The basis or foundation for the buildings is an large old hacienda. Additions to this building include comfortable rooms for 7 babies and toddlers, 5 young children, 7 teenage girls and 8 teen age boys. There is a large dining room and kitchen. This is not an institution - it is a loving home. Rachel and her husband Mauricio began it 5 years ago for two or three children and it has grown. They have a continuous stream of volunteers from their church in Ohio who do the building projects and help care for the children. The children and facilities sparkle in very dirty surroundings. They have one special needs child, Kevin, born with cerbral palsy. He is almost 3 years old, skin covered bones, weighs about 20 pounds, has food allergies, but alert and observant. A family in Ohio wants to adopt him but the adoption process is long and difficult from here. He needs a home and family that can provide for all his physical and emotional needs. We appreciated our time there, found it very encouraging that the hearts of a young couple can be so strong and dedicated, and look forward to a future visit to observe the growth of the ministry.

Yesterday, we attended the morning meeting of Club Rotario, our host project partner. The focus of this meeting was leadership, service, and projects. This project is the Club's largest project so far. We learned from the lead engineer from the US that if this project were to be done in the US, it would cost $2,000,000. Because of the volunteer labor and donated use of equipment, the final cost should be just under $200,000. Overall, the material costs are right on budget!

Surprizingly, I had my first public speaking experience in Spanish. I did a banner presentation to the Club from the EWB team thanking them for their support. I was terrified but it went well and they all were very supportive of my amateur effort.

Members of the Club are visiting the project site today unannounced to see the work in progress and get a better understanding of the scope of the plans accomplished and yet to come. They acknowledged there is another phase to come in 2010 and they are committed to it.

The final trenching on the east side is still being filled and tamped. In La Granja, our community side, trenching is well under way on the first lateral road. This phase of the project will be more difficult because of the density of the homes and the narrow one-lane roads. The EWB teams work today and tomorrow. They leave for home on Saturday to be ready for classes to resume next week. Many of them have told us they will be be bored sitting in lectures and at their computers, and will be wanting to get out and do some hard physical labor. The project now has a designated community leader who is supported by residents of the community. We will stop back to the site occassionally before we leave to check with him on progress and needs to keep EWB informed.

We ended our evening sitting on the correadora, enjoying th evening breeze, stars, waning moon and dinner. SORRY - We just had to tell you that! Wisconsin weather is making a big hit here - many people have commented on the cold and snow at home.

David and Nancy

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wedesday 1/14

Now that the students are back in the Casa because school has resumed, access to the computer is greatly lessened. We{ll do the best we can with messages.

Today we write about life in general. Action begins around sunrise with traffic of very loud pickup trucks and buses beginning their routes for workers and students. Voices and barking dogs add to the morning buzz. The women workers at Casa rise early and move quietly like shadows, preparing breakfast and getting ready for the day. They work past sunset taking care of family, house guests, employees of the Bishops office, and many others who come through during the day.

A truckload of food was delivered at the end of last week to prepare for arriving delegations. 50 and 80 pound backs of rice, beans, corn meal, fruit were unloaded into the kitchen. Sincce then we have frequently noticed guests of the unwanted kind in the bedroom and bathroom. We hope we do not bring any of them home in our luggage. Leaving our suitcases in the garage for a few days might help but we are not sure if these critters will die in the cold or if they are the hearty kind of pest.

Our drive to the community in Nejapa often confronts us with women, children and often the disabled begging in and along the busy city streets. The round-abouts are congested with commuter traffic. Pickup trucks full of noisy and active political campaigners add to the chaos with loud music, slogan shouting, and often jumping out of the trucks to run around in the trafic jams handing out party propaganda. They are travelling rallies. The campaign blitz increases daily as the election is on this coming Sunday. We have left one very emotional campaign behind us only to step into another intense one of a different kind.

Last night we went to the Radison Hotel to register with the TSE -Tribunal Supreme Elecciones - and receive our observer creditionals. Tomorrow the training meetings begin and we will receive our supplies and site of observation.

A closing word about the sanitation project - yesterday the final trenching to the Pan American highway was completed at 12.05 pm, the final pipe was laid in the afternoon to connect to the pipe under the highway and the east side of the project is completed! The west side in La Granja began simulateously on last Thursday so the project could continue moving. We will tell you more about the piping under the highway at another time.

We leave at 6.30 this morning to attend the Club Rotario meeting, then onto La Granja for a transitional meeting. The EWB team leaves Saturday so there is much information to share with the community leaders who will continue the work in their absence.

David and Nancy

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday 1/8

Rotary Project update from Wednesday

Nancy and I arrived at the sewer project in late morning. The 14 students and 60 community vounteers installed teh last of the plastic pipe they had on hand.

The trenching machine provided by the Mayor was taken off site to repair a water main break in the city of Nejapa.

The shipment of plastic pipe was being held at the border....not explanation given....makes you wonder if a bribe might help move this along.

The Rotary Club of San Salvador is holding up payments to our vendors citing some vague problem that needs to be revealed to us.

The volunteers are restless due to the lack of work and many took off from their jobs to participate.

The students engineers are starting contact with new vendors in the area to secure pipe for Thursday.

The volunteers have left the site. The students have crossed the pam american highway to to La Granja to work on some pre'trenching issues.

Welcome to El Salvador where the best planning can be tested by power and greed.

David and Nancy

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tuesday 1/6

Nancy and I entered the work site today. It was a very impressive site. The 14 University students and two adult mentors organized the 2 communities into 4 work groups of 30 members each. WIth a back hoe digging a 4 foot trench and man holes spaced out every 200 feet the teams begin laying 10 inch pipe and connected one home to the sewer system. The organization and rapid movement of everyone was like watching a football game......a good one.

Women, men, young people working together to improve their quality of life. By Thursday the one half mile to connect the community to the main line will be completed. Tomorrow Wednesday the mayor will join all the workers and volunteers for lunch. Since the election is a week away.......good timing.

The tunnel under the highway to connect to the community was completed before we all arrived, thus a major concern or roadblock has been removed. I hope the pictures Nancy and I took tell a story that is close to the actual experience.

It is another hot day and our bodies are still in adjustment.

David and Nancy