David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Reflections

While celebrating Christmas in West Bend this year, we can’t tell you specifically what’s happening in our former communities, but we know there are a modest number of colorful lights, artificial trees and nativity scenes that went up in early November. San Salvador - Many organizations support Christmas by two practices, one is to pay employees a 13 month pay check and the other is to provide generous vacations in December. It’s common for the family receiving a 13 month bonus to paint their house. This is a signal to the neighbors that they received a bonus - a little showy but tradition. On Christmas Eve the city comes to life with fireworks set off by residents. You can also hear the occasional sound of gun fire mixed in with the fireworks. In the morning many residents create sand paintings in the streets. We were in the van taking Pastor José home from preaching at Resurrection Church. We had numerous detours as neighborhood streets were blocked by local artists developing large scale pictures using colored sand. They were all beautiful sand paintings, but the artists on the street did not look friendly as they were shirtless, unshaven and just looked too different to approach to take pictures. Concepcion Batres - our community in the east has colored lights up in the Central Square. A few homes will have 2 foot artificial trees, many with flashing and twinkling lights – it’s quite an impression. Piedra Azul – is known as the church of the slide because it is located high on a hill and one can take a long stairway down or slide down on concrete slides. The children love it! This is a very poor community. On the 23rd, Bishop Gomez officiates at a worship service with many confirmations and baptisms followed by a great meal of chicken, rice and more. On Christmas Eve day, an all-day soccer tournament for the youth sponsored by Oikos includes eighteen local teams from the surrounding communities competing for top recognition and prizes. The members of these teams are from communities of our mission work. One day we were walking home from the market when a young man working construction on a building yelled at us - “hey you guys were at the soccer tournament.” We said yes. He said “I was a player from San Rafael Oriente and I saw you there.” We won’t be there to cheer at this year’s soccer tournament but it’s a great event and we hope to be there again in the future. It was the first time we needed to rely on acquaintances rather than friends for our safety and it worked out well. Enrique Senior and his son Enrique Junior took care of us. They are both in the Oikos program of community development and are both success stories. Enrique Senior took us home in his pickup truck. The truck had a speed limit of 25 mph giving us time to talk. We asked him what is different about Christmas for his family. He said they have the traditional Christmas chicken sandwich before going off to work in the fields. The traditional chicken sandwich is the highlight for the day. So we were blessed and protected in good hands with strangers. We were safe in one of the most violent countries in the Western Hemisphere. But now our grief is for our own county and the continued violence that takes place in public and private places. It’s unsettling that schools have become the site of violence while being the center of innocence. We all need to become involved to solve this problem. Christmas blessings – Feliz Navidad David y Nancy