David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Drive

Highway 2 runs across El Salvador east to west. We pick it up near the airport which is south of the capital San Salvador. It’s a 2 lane road with traffic markings similar to those in North American or Europe. The road is very busy with semi-trucks, pickups, buses, cars, cattle, men on horse back and ox carts. Passing through pueblos, vendors are on the sides of the road with locally grown produce, both domestic and wild.

We pass over the first bridge that spans a major river. There are always trucks in the river bed loading gravel to make bricks at a local brick yard. Off to our left is a range of volcanoes that extend to our new home town and beyond. It can be a clear day except for the clouds that paint the volcanic mountains with ever changing imagery.

The region becomes more focused on agriculture as we proceed east. We pass giant John Deere tractors, some with attachments, also some older Ford tractors. We stop for cattle that have filled the road. We beep and they moo, continuing slowly with their cow strut to the other side.

We near Usulután and slow down for speed bumps. Vendors approach our truck with candy, fruit and locally grown cashews. These nuts (here called seeds) are unsalted with a richer taste than the ones offered by Mr. Peanut. Locally made wood furniture is offered on the side of the highway here and across the country. Some of furniture is very ornate and others are very primitive.

In Usulut├ín the highway splits into one-way streets. Many older buildings have survived the past earthquakes. In the old center are a town square park, a cathedral, and much commerce. We see a CITI bank and at the end of town a Wendy’s and a Pizza Hut. They are packed for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are also hundreds of small cantinas.

We are still on Highway 2 heading east to Concepcion Batres. We pass large trucks filled with campesinos heading to the fields for a days work. The sugar cane whose harvest was just completed is already 6 feet tall in some fields. We pass over a bridge with the Rio Batres below, our marker that our community is just ahead and we make a right hand turn.

Children pouring out of school take over the street. We follow slowly behind. We make our final turn and follow a herd of cattle for a block. Then we are to our casa, our new home for the next 2 years.

David y Nancy

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Project Update

This writing is on Mothers Day in El Salvador (Monday May 10). Schools are closed and some businesses have the day off. As a national holiday, the pace and noise of daily life in the city is lessened. May 10 is also 6 months exactly of our time here in El Salvador.

Following is an update on projects we have been working on since we started in solidarity with the people of El Salvador.

Four years ago, the students of Holy Angels School, West Bend, WI collected $1,000 for books for the public school at La Granja. A year later, West Bend Sunrise Rotary donated another $1,000 allowing for each student in the public school to have the full range of text books for their studies in grades K thru 9. The benefit of these gifts has provided awesome results among the children, including their staying in school until graduation and some continuing to the second level, (high school) for professional development.

On Thursday we learned the text book program has become sustainable. With modest support from the government, they are able to allocate funds to replace older books or purchase a new series of texts. They could not have acquired the initial texts with their usual funding. But a hand-up (not a hand out) has allowed this school in a community outside the major city to greatly advance the education of rural children.

Five years ago, Our Saviors Lutheran Church West Bend implemented a scholarship program. On Sunday, we worshiped with our community at Fe y Esperanza. After service 14 families received scholarships for 39 children. This support has had significant impact especially with the young girls of the community who commonly drop out at the 6 grade to work, care for their siblings or have babies. This program provides the families alternatives so the children can remain in school and the youth can focus on careers.

Last week, Pastora Ana Rosa, the coordinator of the eastern region of the Lutheran Church, Danny, the local coordinator from Volunteer Missionary Movement, and the Slindes signed the agreement that binds us together into shared ministry for the next two years. What does this mean? We are missioners with Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM) which has placed us with the Salvadoran Lutheran Church (ILS) which has placed us in the region of the east to be in solidarity with all people in this region.

Volunteer Missionary Movement focuses on relationships before projects, thus we will begin in accompaniment with three pastors having multiple communities, missions and churches. While our skills and talents focus on education and community development, we remain flexible on providing support and encouragement for issues most important in the lives of the people of the communities.