David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Grant Implementation

Prior to our arrival in El Salvador to implement the food security projects, we had been in communication with Benjamin Alas sharing the components of the projects. Without time to have a pre meeting with Benjamin, he developed a presentation that was rolled out to the pastors, church staff and visitors. Following the office presentation, we all traveled by van and truck to view recent agricultural projects completed by Oikos. Again the beneficiaries were able to share with us the impact these projects bring to them. In Piedra Azul, we were met by 100 women eager to tell us what was on their minds. This placed us at the base of the active volcano but now in the rainy season, clouds blocked the naked eye from viewing the gases emitting from the volcano. The three of us sensed a weak response so Benjamin suggested the three of us meet to review what occurred and how to improve the next meeting. We spent a day developing a strategy. Benjamin also met with Bishop Gomez to get confirmation of his support for the projects. We met again at the end of the week to develop a second presentation for the pastors in the region. We played a more active role by presenting the different responsibilities each of us has in these projects. Pastors Julio and Donal caught the vision for their communities. By the end of the meeting all the pastors indicated support for these projects. They continue to meet to develop a formation document on how they will work together in cooperatives. This is new and difficult for their culture. We left the east to be back in San Salvador for Sunday services at Resurrection Church. After service ended Bishop Gomez offered us lunch and two other families were invited to join his table. We learned that one family had two sons fleeing El Salvador to get away from gang violence. They claimed to be on their way to Mexico, but their goal is probably further north. Also two teenage girls from another family shared they were looking for a safe house as their neighborhood is controlled by gangs and they are not safe. We looked for the girls days later at the safe house but they had not checked in. We shudder when knowing someone from Central America is on their way to the North. A recent online article reported on the 200 plus bodies found in Mexico. They determined the Mexican gangs dealing in illegal migration were sending a message to the coyotes of the lower Americans. Over 200 lives lost over a message. Immigration also is linked to prostitution. Here in Wisconsin the authorities are starting a crackdown on pimping. According to an article in the Journal Sentinel, the authorities have recorded messages between pimps and clients in which Mexican and Salvadoran teenage girls are available for prostitution. Slaves 150 years after slavery ended, just because they were born into poverty. It all becomes so tragic; there seems to be no place to begin to stop the injustice. These issues of poverty and its consequences make us committed to the work of Oikos. When we accompany Benjamin in visits within the volcanic zone, residents recognize Benjamin’s vehicle and hurry to the road side to say hello and engage in conversation. The work of Oikos has made thousands of families sustainable and has reduced crime in their communities. This is just what we hoped for when writing for this grant. Issues here at home are just as complex. Heroin use is epidemic as well as unattended children living in isolation. There is an abundance of ministry for churches, service organizations and community volunteers seeking social justice. David y Nancy

Friday, May 9, 2014

Coffee Finca

The story begins at the middle of the civil war. Families living in the refugee camp at Fe y Esperanza were anxious to move back into the interior. They were resettled into the community of Panchimilama. Discovered by the military, the air force bombed the camp, injuring two relief workers. The frightened refugees asked to move again. The Lutheran Church has property on Lake Ilopango that borders the states of San Salvador, La Paz and Cuscatlan. The lake is 28 square miles. It is in a caldera (volcano basin), is the second largest lake in the country and is located immediately east of the capital city, San Salvador. It has a scalloped 330 ft. to 1,600 ft. high rim. The refugees were resettled in this property and started a modest coffee finca (farm). Their time there was short and they left before the peace accords were signed. David was invited to join David Carceres, Pastora Norma and Pastor Dimas for an assessment of the property to determine the value and if it could become a source of income for the Salvadoran Lutheran Church. We pick up the two pastors in Soyapango and then drive down the inside of the dormant volcano to the lake shore where we hire a boat to take us to the property. We are the only ones on the lake because it’s the rainy season and storms can develop in minutes. The lake is surrounded by two active volcanos. Sulfur bubbles are visible and noticeable by their odor. We arrive at the finca after an hour boat ride. Pastor Dimas shares the history and the current reality of this place. Two elderly men live on the property and manage the yearly harvest of the coffee. They pick 500 pounds of coffee cherries, loading two horses for the climb up the side of the property and into town. We walk the property left and right to realize this place is huge; we stretch our necks to find the property extends all the way up the mountain side. This is raw land with former roads and buildings vanished from past storms. There is no water or electricity. Three of us are here for the first time and we have a lot of questions. After an hour of questions and answers, it’s time to climb the side of the mountain to view the coffee plants. It’s hot - I’m wearing jeans, way too hot for this climb. After 30 minutes I ask where are the coffee plants? – “just ahead“ our guide responds. It’s another 15 minutes and I need more breaks as the land has many rocks that move under your feet, causing leg fatigue. We reach a point where we stop to view the lake below and realize we cannot reach the top today. The ground is very fertile; we are surrounded by fruit trees (we stop to enjoy), flowering plants and herbs, butterflies and song birds. We go as high as we can and then begin our descent going another way. It’s worse than the walk up and our guide is cutting the trail with his machete. We return to the men’s home and are served warm coffee which doesn’t taste very good. It’s getting cloudy and we hear thunder behind us. We must get off the lake before a storm moves in. We push off for the return and see rain is coming down the mountain, following us across the lake. The engine is at full speed and as we enter the unsheltered part of the lake, the waves become swells and splash into the boat. The motorista begins a zig-zag route to maintain speed and keep the waves from splashing on us. The thunder continues but now the storm is moving to our left. We arrive at shore an hour later, dry, hungry for a late lunch and our return to San Salvador. Here is a 9 minute video of our walk into the finca. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42nLDCi7lY4