El Salvador · 8 Days · 17 Moments · December 2018

First Mission Trip: El Salvador

10 December 2018

My Last Day in San Salvador Part 1: Technically we spent half of it at the beach! Late rising, then ran down to the beach for low tide. It was still beautiful. I found a spot where the tide was rolling rocks down the beach leaving little sand trails. I also found one pretty shell. Back to the house for breakfast and swimming. Then we packed up and went to lunch at Beto’s in La Libertad. Very fresh seafood. We each had civeche. I had queen conch; David had shrimp; and Kathy had white fish. We also had fried balls of mashed yuca filled with shrimp (can’t find the menu to tell you the name). To drink, we had limeade, not lemonade), mine with basil and Kathy’s with mint. The view was stunning! Then back to San Salvador.
Final Day in San Salvador Part 2: I’ve said a couple times that the traffic is terrible here. Really, it’s the drivers. My husband, KC, worked for ODOT for over 30 years in transportation safety. One of his coined phrases was, “expect stupid “. You have to do that here or die. A driver will be in the right lane and turn left or vice verse. A car will be “parked” on the side of the road (aka in the road) and then take off without a care of traffic. But, the worst situation was the road construction coming back from the beach. Flangers were nearly nonexistent as was signage. A major freeway is being constructed where there once was a two lane road. They had us slipping into lanes right, and then left. It was always hard to tell if there was a flagger and we had the whole road, or if there was oncoming traffic. God bless Kathy for doing the driving. I never want to drive here! Kathy took me to a vendor market to buy souvenirs and gifts. She did all the price haggling for me.

9 December 2018

Day7 Part 2: At the beach is an area where sea turtle egg rescue is being done. After the beach, we came back to our accommodations and took a swim in the pool. Their home compound has concertina wire on the top of the wall, and they have two big dogs to help discourage intruders. Right before we headed out for dinner, I took a quick jaunt back to the beach for sunset. David’s hip has been bothering quite a bit so he elected to stay home. Kathy and I went to El Vikingo for dinner. A couple from Belgium owns and operates the place. The menu is very eclectic. We started with a Thai dish of fish cakes with a rice wine vinegar dressing; then Kathy had chicken pad thai and I had 1.5 pounds of ribs (no, I didn’t eat it all!). Back to house, we visited with our hosts and then headed to our casa for games. We played Rummikub; Kathy won four games in a row! We get to sleep in A/C tonight!
Day 7 Part 1: Today’s agenda: 1) church 2) beach We attended church at the Union Church of San Salvador. It is Ecumenical and all are welcome. The service - worship and teaching - were in English though there were some Salvadorans present. Many folks from the American embassy attend this church. The teaching was on the rapture (pre or post?). Thoroughly enjoyed it. Then we went to Lacalaca for lunch - Kathy and David’s favorite Mexican restaurant in San Salvador. Kathy and I had a dish that was very like nachos with el pastore, and a corn soup. David helped with the nachos and had a burrito. Super good food! After a quick stop at Walmart for a swimsuit for me, we headed to the coast. There is an American couple here who runs a sort of B&B for missionaries. Each missionary is allowed to stay 10 nights free per year. They charged us a nominal fee for me. We checked in, changed into swimsuits and headed across the street to the beach.

8 December 2018

Day 6 Part 2: Everyone was in their Sunday finery. That’s different for everyone who came, but the underlying message is that they were honored to be invited and wanted to honor us too. For some families, the dress clothing they wore was likely the only set they had. They might have even had to borrow some pieces. Such lovely people.
Day 6 Part 1: The big day has arrived. Pray all goes well and everyone has fun. Pray for the families coming in from the country that they arrive safely and on time. Folks are arriving, the picture booth and craft table are set up. Dessert is here! Lunch is coming. The day is beautiful. All will be well. Family pictures; kids and families making crafts; team building exercise; lunch (Panes con Pavo with chicken); a message from Luis Mario about the meaning of Emanuel. He closed his message with the parents praying for their children and then the children praying for their families. It was the most moving and beautiful thing I have ever witnessed. Judith, Maggie and I prayed with each family. God is good, all the time. Presentations were made and cake was eaten. Today was one of the Hope House lady’s birthday. What a wonderfully exhausting day.

7 December 2018

Day 5 Part 2: Finished shopping, drug it all home. Wrapping presents and filling stockings for the party tomorrow, while listening to Mariah Carey’s Christmas special on Netflix. (Find Christmas music where you can!) Then we started calling out favorite Christmas songs so I looked them up on YouTube. Here’s the party schedule for tomorrow (yes, it’s in Spanish). That doesn’t include set up and take down. I asked Kathy to read down through it so we could make sure we get everything together, and she started reading in Spanish. We’re pretty tired. And then Kathy is supposed to sing at a Cookies and Caroling event in the evening (and I need to watch the Army-Navy game and the Timbers win the soccer playoffs). Insight into El Salvador: don’t throw the toilet paper in the toilet.
Day 5 Part 1: We slept in, ate a breakfast of leftover pupusas, then divided the tasks and headed out for a day of errands. First Kathy and I met with a friend of hers who makes jewelry to find some treasures for the women of Hope House. I might have bought something for myself. After more shopping, we hit the food court for lunch. Kathy suggested Muuucho Carne. Yes, much meat! Really, it’s called El Lomo and Muuucho Carne is more fun. The slab of beef Kathy got was impressive. I had pollo with veggies, avocado and cuajada cheese. Wonderful. Had to bring some home. Traffic here is terrible! I might have said that already. Changing lanes is frightful. Ladies use their wiles by leaning out the window, making eye contact with the driver you’re asking permission from. Waving and batting eyelashes may be involved. Kathy has me try it a couple times and it works. Then be sure to wave and say gracias. We’re at Price Mart. Look familiar?

6 December 2018

Day 4: Today, after “helping” shop for necessities for Saturday, I’m at Hope House helping make craft kits for the party. I’m working with one of the ladies of the house who doesn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Spanish! We each have our phones out using a translation service to get it done. Where there is God, there is a way! The first picture is what we found online. The second picture is our finished product. We just need to add a star. For dinner, we made pupusas. Last night’s were from the store. Judith cooked the frejoles and salsa; Lupita made the masa; and Lidia made cordito (coleslaw). David made the pico. Lupita showed me how to assemble the parts. Kathy video taped. No one complained and most had seconds. Can’t wait to make them at home. Kathy tells me there’s a pupusa food cart in The Dallas. See my videos on FB to see how it’s done! One more busy day until the party!

5 December 2018

Day 3 Part 2: We’re home from our day’s deliveries. What a blessing to see how open and loving these families are. Kathy shared a Bible study with each family, kind words about them and their daughter in the program, and we prayed together. At least two of the families have lost someone to gang violence. The pain is still very raw. These families are poor. I did not take pictures, and I wouldn’t share if I had. But everything you’ve seen in movies or documentaries of impoverished communities is represented here. We have one more delivery tonight. Then Thursday and Friday we’ll be making final preparations for the Christmas party. For dinner, I had my first taste of Salvadoran food - pupusa - masa filled with beans and cheese and served with a local coleslaw and salsa. So yummy!
Day 3 Part 1: We’re delivering the other five Christmas baskets today. More general El Salvador info: Public transportation has been privatized. It consists of buses and trucks, running on a fairly reliable schedule. They don’t seem to over charge which is fortunate because lots of folks can’t afford to own or operate a vehicle. But a couple scary things: 1) the trucks are open so folks are standing or sitting on the sides. Lots of fatal crashes involving the truck-buses. 2) Gangs rule the buses. One of the Foundation workers told me she was robbed twice, assaulted once, and witnessed a stabbing.

4 December 2018

Day 2 Part 2: Both families have younger girls they’d like to see enter the Women’s Hope House. Unfortunately, 1) there is room in the house for only one more lady, and 2) the house is already under-funded by $2,000 a month. So let me pause and make a pitch for everyone reading this to make, at a minimum, a onetime gift, but ideally, a monthly donation. What else did I see today? Several women carrying loads on their heads. I’ve seen it in movies but not real life. There’s more. I’m too tired to remember right now! Okay. I’m awake and we’re back out in the community. There are armed guards everywhere because of the gangs. Stores and gated communities employ “vigilantes” to guard their businesses and homes. And a nod to my sweetheart: there are roundabouts everywhere! Movie and bed! Goodnight
Day 2 Part 1: Today we delivered food baskets to a couple of the Women’s Hope House ladies’ extended families. They are lovely, humble people. I witnessed some of the most sparse living conditions I have ever seen. One property didn’t have power. Their sole income is agrarian, and they support an extended family of four households. We carried their food basket and a box of school books about a mile down a non-serviceable road, across a nearly dry creek bed, and up the other side through the cane field. In order for the family to come to the Christmas party Saturday, they have to walk that mile, and another out to the main road to catch a bus. The second delivery was a bit easier in that there was passable roadway all the way to their house. They had power, chickens and dogs. They insisted on serving us lunch (we were trying not to burden their small income). They made a flavorful vegetable soup and served it with a freshly slaughtered chicken.

3 December 2018

Day 1 Part 2: Luis Mario was acting director while David and Kathy took a sabbatical and now is “Juan of all trades”, including teaching the Bible at the Women’s Hope House. The meeting opened with a brief Bible study and then prayer. What a blessing it was to get to hear these Godly people petitioning God for each other and for the women and girls under their care. We broke for a meal and then dove into the heart of the work - planning for the upcoming Christmas party. I should mention that Judith only speaks Spanish and I only speak English. Fatima and Luis Mario speak both quite well and translated for us. David speaks some Spanish and Kathy is very fluent in Spanish but doesn’t trust it. After the meeting, everyone broke off to go out and complete their preparation tasks for the party. Tomorrow we are delivering food baskets and formal invitations to the families of the Home ladies. Kathy and I shopped for decorations and such.
Day 1 Part 1: Arrived in San Salvador. Getting through immigration and customs was easy. Kathy was right on time to pick me up at quarter to 7 am. The drive to the Porter house was educational. Traffic was heavy and the drivers are wild. Motorcycles split the lane and cut off cars. Lots of pedestrians along the roadside on very narrow shoulders. Kathy said to not be surprised if I saw a man on the side of the road peeing, and so I wasn’t when we did. We got to the house and I was introduced to David and Fatima, the woman who runs the Girls Club. After being shown to my room, and giving Kathy her treasures, I took a nap. Then up at 10:30 for a staff meeting. Folks in attendance at the meeting were Kathy and David, Fatima, Judith and Luis Mario. Kathy is the head of Hope for Families. David manages the finances for all the enterprises. As I said, Fatima is the manager for The Girls’ Club, but also a graduate of the Women’s Hope House. Judith is the manager of the Women’s Hope House.
Day 1 Part 3: I also had my first visit to the Women’s Hope House. Three of the women were there, two with daughters. A perfect home in that it had a bathroom for each bedroom and a large kitchen. Nine people live there. Two of the ladies were doing school work, while the other made decorations for the Christmas party. Then we came home to dinner and a movie. Kathy and I both fell asleep by 9. Off to bed!
Day 1 Part 4: Forgot to mention we had an earthquake my first day here. I didn’t feel it because I was in the air still but we noticed an aftershock about eight hours later.