David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Monday, November 28, 2011

Alambre Graduation

Last week the winds returned after a long absence. At night the cool mountain air pushes down the sides of the volcanoes into the flat lands of Usulután and San Miguel. The cool air is also very fresh. It removes the acidic exhaust from the traffic of highway 2 and the soot from sugar cane fires that burn all around us all day 5 months a year. The breeze pushes the curtains up to a 45 degree angle allowing the first breathable air of the year to fill our bedroom.

It’s Thanksgiving Day. Principal Walter and his acompañara arrived at our home at 6:15 for the ride to the mountain high school of Alambre. We rolled the windows down to enjoy the morning air. After passing a sugar cane truck pulling out of Batres we had the highway to ourselves. We asked Walter if the air is usually this fresh in the morning and he says no - today is special. It’s special because it is the graduation of the Kindergarteners and the 9th graders of Alambre. He invited us last week when we were together purchasing more school equipment. His cell phone rings; the store in Usulután tells him the 20 desks we ordered last week are ready for delivery.

We started on the highway, then on to a secondary road and the final trek on the horse path, the only trail to the community. We have been here before and dread the ride. It is 45 minutes of nonstop shaking, twisting, jostling of our bodies. We arrive green, but safe.

Walter drives to the house just above the school, the family home of Walter’s acompañara. She is 1 of 12 siblings 6 brothers and 6 sisters. Two sisters are in the final stages of dressing and grooming as they are the music leaders at today’s mass. After spending 2 hours with the family we join the community at mass. The large church is full and there are as many outside participating from the edge. The sisters and the 3 piece band are giving glory to God today with amplification.

After mass we go to the school. The computer room contains displays of student art work. There are about 40 displays in 6 categories. We are asked to choose the best. We hedge until we realize we aren’t leaving until we decide. Yikes. We select the top two and the graduation procession begins to a variety of taped classical music. The students process to the traditional Wedding March, the entry of teachers and “honored guests” is to the March of the Toreadors. It makes us laugh inside.

The children come forward as their name is called to receive their diploma containing many official names, but their name is the largest and most important. After the distribution of diplomas, we are given art work from one of the youth. Then we present the English/Spanish New Testaments donated by our financial planner to all the teachers, principal and a member of the Directiva, nine in all. They are delighted and the teacher who is the MC for today’s event gives the audience a homily on the value and importance of God’s Word for our lives. We are impressed by his openness and sincerity.

At this elevation Alambre is above the ozone layer so it’s not only hot, but the intense glare of the sun makes it difficult to see. We walk to a large rural home of adobe brick, low ceiling and no windows where lunch is being served, chicken and rice with two tortillas. We have eaten this meal 400 + times. At lunch David turns from light green to dark green and needs a time out.

Back home in Batres we say good bye to Walter and make plans for the final January purchase of more desks and more computers and computer desks for Alambre.

Many of you donated money for these purchase of desks and WB Sunrise Rotary for the computer equipment. We took pictures of some of you while at home and gave these to Walter. He is making a display of your pictures at the school. It was an honor to represent all of you at this wonderful event.

David y Nancy

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ending and beginnings

After two weeks in El Salvador, we are preparing to return home. These have been productive and busy weeks completing details remaining from our absence, building new relationships and exploring future project possibilities. Our mission is completed with much satisfaction. Our time back has been better than we expected.

Time together with the church team is more fruitful as they share their stories of the activities of the past three months. After Sunday worship in Puerto Parada, the pastoral team came to our house for coffee. We sensed much excitement as they talked about all that has happened in the past three months. Their excitement is contagious, their world has changed moving from fear to hope and those hopes generate dreams for a better future.

Pastor Julio told us that the expansion of the church in Llano el Coyol has resulted in increased attendance. Last March it was outside standing room only. The addition to the building provided room for everyone to be seated and worship together. Now it is back to overcrowding as a result of more youth joining in worship.

At last January’s youth retreat we counted 130 in attendance and know of another 30 youth not present. What an overwhelming number of young people to nurture and mentor. Salvadoran society can be very abrasive. In the church they experience different values for a better life style.

The church team also shared about the visits of three delegations to Usulután. We had looked forward to these visits to meet new partners and learn more about their history in supporting the churches of Usulután. Edwin shared that as a result of these delegations four US churches and one synod will be working together to develop a strategic long range plan for church and community support.

These newer church partners are appreciating the trust and confidence of the leadership team. It has taken us longer to earn their trust. Part of the issue is who we are. They only know sister parish relationships and that’s not what we are. We are missionaries for social justice with our focus on community development. How does that fit into their world? It didn’t at first so we have worked diligently to build trust and a sound relationship.

Reflecting on early meetings, we understand the suspicion the leadership team had towards us. After hearing stories of their past experiences, their early fear and distrust was for self protection. We have been able to break that barrier and be welcomed into their confidence. Our relationship with the church leaders has matured. They also had time to consider our previous 21 months working in mission with them. They told us how grateful they are that we spent time with them and for the results of our efforts.

We continue to partner with Oikos. Pastor Julio has decided to accept the work of Oikos in his church communities. We look forward to seeing church members in these future Oikos community development meetings. We have been praying for this Church/Oikos relationship since we arrived. We are so pleased this idea came from within. This is significant progress.

The past few weeks have provided us with another perspective on closure. Mission work does not end. We will remain open to another form of service in the future. We are confident of a new beginning.

We wish you all a blessed day for Giving Thanks. We will be at a meeting with the parents and children of the Alambre school to celebrate our partnership and the graduation of the 9th graders.

David y Nancy

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Consecrated for Return

On Reformation Sunday our Pastor consecrated us for our return to El Salvador. Pastor asked us if we as missionaries will commit to Godly promises and behaviors and we responded “Yes, with the help of God”. The first two questions our Pastor asked were familiar, but then he asked “will you look for the face of Jesus among the people you are serving?” That is a spiritually and emotionally challenging question.

We planned to stay in El Salvador for 10-14 days, but after a blizzard of emails regarding the after-effect of the storms and the pending tasks we need to complete, we will stay for three weeks. We will be purchasing desks and school supplies for Alambre and will be meeting with the directors of another school in Canton Guadalupe. We will also have first time meetings with mayors of two different communities on issues of infrastructure. Much of this activity will be in accompaniment with our partner Oikos Solidaridad.

We are attending two more local Rotary Clubs with the hope of building partnerships to address food and income security issues. These meetings will help us plan for short term mission trips in 2012 and 2013.

We have been home for 3 ½ months. We email our church partner team regularly about our medical delay, but the information does not trickle down to the congregations. We received an email from a friend who recently visited in the churches we serve. The people asked her, “where are the Americans, they left us, they have abandoned us”. It was good that we heard about this lack of communication, so we can work on restoring relationships when we return.

We fear the people will expect too much from us. We are Americans; in their eyes we have it all. Initially we plan to stay at a local hotel allowing us to assess damage to our home and clean up the 3 ½ months of dirt. We will also be aware of the presence of cockroaches, bats, spiders and other unwanted and creepy creatures.

We are alone in the east. Many in our community admire our being alone. They smile and greet us, overall cordial. But alcoholism, drugs, unattended developmental disabilities and now the recent desperation rampant throughout the country creates the need for extra caution for us.

The Executive Director of Oikos recently emailed us “The rural population is disintegrating and its social composition is gang-like due to the lack of food, income, and jobs.” With the recent rains, the situation is worse.

The need is great, the responsibility is humbling, but our God is an Awesome, All Powerful, Abundantly Grace-giving God. We pray to continue walking in His Way, His Truth and His Life. We said “yes, with the help of God, we will look for the face of Jesus among the people we are serving.” We return to fulfill that promise.

David y Nancy\