David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Thursday, April 18, 2013

To Usulutan

A page from our Journal that we are publishing from home: We are still enjoying the afterglow of being in the community for the past 4 days. Now we’re headed to Usulután for the delegation to see our former community and visit three projects our church funded while we were in mission. We received excellent final reports of the projects so we wanted to see these successes personally. We left San Salvador early Tuesday heading east to the Orient, El Salvador’s bread basket. Our first stop was the hardware store in Concepcion Batres. The store front is freshly painted and it’s striking. The store is now double its square footage since inception and has an “L” shaped glass counter separating the supplies from the customers. Future plans include using the large yard to store brick and concrete products. We walked to the molino for the delegation to witness how important a molino is for the community providing fresh ground corn for the daily diet. Three members of the staff of Oikos meet us at the molino. Oikos has a full day planned for us so we quickly board our transportation and head south out of town where Concepcion Batres is very lush green due to the high water table. A middle aged couple trained by Oikos provides us a tour of their 3 acre plantation of maracuya, pineapple, and papaya. First they cleared the land of the coconut trees and harvested the wood for making fences and trellises for the plants. The couple share responsibilities with the man managing the garden and the woman arranging the sale of their produce to vendors in Usulután. A second small plantation a short distance from the first has a family raising papaya and squash. The family spokes-person is a woman who explains the sales of produce in Usulután and how the income is used to support the family. See both on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXoZnGlqpCA We return to Concepcion Batres for lunch, then it’s back in the vehicles heading north to San Jorge to enter the dry, dusty river bed and begin the ascent up the volcano towards St Julian. This is familiar territory for David y Nancy. Oikos takes us to another family benefitting from our funding and they demonstrate the methods used to grow crops on the volcanic slopes. The man thanks Our Savior’s for the financial support. Our next stop is in a community of very poor families. Their project is just under way and they seek funding to expand. 50 women are here to tell us about a future project of chicken coops for their families or for their neighbors. The community has 10 chicken coops and needs 30 more. They tell us about how much they love to work in agriculture and more chickens would offer meat, eggs and cash when they sell eggs. Their poverty is striking and their needs touch our hearts. See this on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuPcja-QeOU It’s getting dark and it’s time to leave. We are sweaty, sun burned and caked with dust. We stop at the office of Oikos for a presentation from Guillermo and after questions, we head to the hotel. It was a very hot day and we are too exhausted for dinner. We return to our rooms to shower and retire. With modest amounts of funding together we have changed the lives of families and communities. Salvadorans are hardworking people, they just need a “hand up” to get started. We have good stories to tell our faith community when we return. The next day the delegation leaves early for the airport. We return to San Salvador for 5 more days. David y Nancy

Monday, April 8, 2013

Delegation Arrives

A page from our journal that we are publishing from home: With suggestions from members of our delegation and members of our faith community in Nejapa, it was mutual agreement to spend four days in the community and not schedule other activities on this visit to El Salvador. As Juanita said to Nancy in November “now you only visit us when you come”. With that in mind, we determined to focus on strengthening our relationship together in as many ways as possible. The delegation’s flight arrived on time. David, Nancy, Pastor Abelina, Luis our translator, Juanita and Denora from the community were at the airport to meet them. We drove to San Salvador stopping at an overlook of the city. The air was surprisingly clear. We checked into our hotel, walked to the supermarket to purchase bottled water and visited the mall. We found a Salvadoran buffet for an early dinner. One of our members was ill with airplane fatigue and stayed behind to rest. Later five of us visited Bishop Gomez at his home. The next morning our traveler had improved with the night’s rest. We boarded the mini bus and were off to the community. We arrived and were guided into the church where the community was assembled to welcome us with clapping and singing. As the day continued more groups of children and youth sang to us. We walked the community’s dusty roads to visit the homes of students receiving financial support from members of our church. We were graciously received at many homes being offered drinks and snacks. The second day followed the same pattern. From the hospitality we experienced in their homes to the two days of lunch together in the community, the generosity of these very poor people is humbling. The women cooked soup and vegetables in large metal pots over wood fires, along with the traditional tortillas. Nancy usually finds a beak or claw in her soup but this time she found a small soft-shelled egg. After lunch we assembled in a big circle to learn about new projects. The presentations began with a song by a community leader; then we learned about programs sponsored by USAID including computers, woodworking and guitar lessons. Elmer from our faith community was the key of this effort by completing the initial application and subsequent interviews with the government. They were impressed with Elmer’s leadership and he is now the director of this program. However they are missing aspects of funding for instructors, cost of electricity and security. They asked us to consider helping with these items. To qualify for the program, the two communities had to demonstrate their willingness and ability to work together in total cooperation. When we first visited these communities in 2004, there was violence, verbal abuse, gang evidence was visible. Fast forward to the completion of the 7 year Rotary sanitation project in which the student engineers from the University of Wisconsin organized the people into work groups, teaching them new skills and developing new leadership among the women and men. The community told us they would continue to develop their new model to sustain improvement of these two communities. Now they are beneficiaries of the USAID nonviolence program. On Sunday we left the hotel early allowing time to see a few major attractions on the way to worship. We visited the national monument to Jesus “El Salvador del Mundo”, the city park having the wall dedicated with the names of Salvadorans known dead and missing from the civil conflict, the national cathedral downtown where Archbishop Romero is interned. After worship at Resurrection Church, we ate lunch with the Bishop and then back to the community for worship and presentations of bibles, financial support for education and many other gifts for all age groups. On Monday after a group visit to the top of a local ancient volcano we returned to the community to drop off parents and children and say goodbye. Our hearts came together in these brief four days because we all contributed to the planning, making it one of the most meaningful experiences for all of us. David y Nancy