Nuevo Renacer, El Salvador

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Look at Enlace

Having visited El Salvador a few times, I always prefer fall trips because water has blessed the ground and everything is lush, green and saturated with life. On the other hand, March in El Salvador is hot and dry. Really hot. Really dry. And this was the case on my recent visit, and I have to admit, after a few hundred shovel loads with dirt & sand glued to me, I was not exactly rejoicing unceasingly.

But after my work, I spent the weekend with folks from Enlace and was treated to tours of a few places being impacted by their devoted effort. And as I was shown village churches, a community library, water projects, stove projects and other fruits of God’s goodness to these communities, I was humbled into a state of awe. First I was touched that our God is actively caring for the poor through the sacrificial work of the churches in El Salvador and Enlace. The Bible says that God will look after the poor, but it was so touching to see that reality in so many different life-impacting projects. It seems that something right is happening here. It also seems more churches in El Salvador, as well as around the world, could learn a few things from this model.

But more than the details and logistics of the development work happening, I was quieted by the people I encountered and their thankful spirits. They seemed to be bubbling over. In El Tinteral, there was a simple satisfaction in what had been accomplished since the earthquakes of 2001 and a tangible sense of hope that pervaded the air. Or maybe that was just the giggles of the children all around us?! In the Enlace office, time was dedicated to deep prayer for the work of God’s hand and Bible study, and there was a great sense of joy for God providing. Pastor Miguel from Las Delicias shared some words at his church and literally every statement was awash in praise to God. There was no pride, there was just amazement at how God was supplying their needs. (I enjoyed what he said so much that I went back again just to hear him praise God all over again!)

And as I look back, I realize that the work of Christ via Enlace is lush, far more than any physical shower could produce. Yes, March is hot and dry, but nothing can quench the life-sustaining living water that is in Christ. And that is so obvious in the humble, self-sacrificing model at work. And as an added bonus, it is transforming lives and entire communities! And as if that weren’t enough, it also renewed me. It gave me a greater vision of the God I love and serve. It gave me more hope. And I can’t wait to head back and learn more about our great God through the faces of El Salvador’s poor. Although it doesn’t quite seem right to call them poor, when they are so filled with the presence of God.

And in his beautiful concise way, David says it so much better then me in Psalm 34:1-8--

I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my
My soul will make its boast in the LORD;
The humble will hear it
rejoice. Magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together. I
the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to
Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man
cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his
troubles. The angel
of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and
rescues them. Taste and see
that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man
who takes refuge in Him!

And truly I feel blessed to taste and see indeed how rich God’s people are
through His wonderful work in El Salvador.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Nayli & Me

Just look at her. It is any wonder why I go to El Salvador?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

october 2006 team to Nuevo Renacer

raymundo & jose annibal

Well, just look at their faces. What can really be added to that?

We just thank God that He allows us to share in the laughter and joy of the life of Nuevo Renaçer.
They teach us how to respond to all life brings with great smiles on our faces.

gaby & kevin like to color now

Both Kevin & Gaby are shy.
Really, really shy.On our first visit to the village they were never apart and rarely joined our games and crafts.They just watched.And they never smiled —ever. On trip two, they played a little, but were still the most reserved kids in the bunch.

This visit was different.

Upon entering the village on day one, we called out their names from the cattle truck and waved hello. From that moment on, they were part of all that we did. Their smiles were huge, the giggles were infectious and joy had clearly begun to replace fear in their lives. That is the difference that love in the Lord’s name and a real hand out of poverty can make in two children’s lives.

jose's beautiful face

Veronica & her husband joined the village after our first visit. So we met their family for the first time on the March trip. Both of Veronica’s children, Jose & Vladimir, had extreme cleft palettes. This made eating extremely difficult and Jose was under-nourished and cried almost nonstop.

Upon our return in March, we prayed for this small family and we shared with Agros photos of the children & asked if there was anything that could be done for this family. Agros was able to work with a separate organization and get someone to provide surgery for not only Jose and Vlady, but for a few other families in Agros villages.

Every time we looked at either of these children in October, or the smile on their mother’s face, we realized how much God cares for each individual and how prayer and trust can impact an entire family.

francisco & randy like to shovel sand

Lots of sand. Truckload after truckload of sand. The work was hot, dirty and well, sandy. But it was also a great opportunity to stand side-by-side and get to know one another. And that is a big key of the Agros model. That we offer financial support, but more importantly, that we come along side the village, work with them and encourage them from the trench.

It was amazing to watch the men respond to how hard our team worked, how dirty we got and how much we desired to connect with them. Even folks with the smallest knowledge of Spanish were able to connect once they had a shovel in their hand!

panteleon gives us a song

And Randy and team returned the gesture with a song created for the village.
A rough translation of one verse is:

Nuevo Renaçer
The place that my God made with love.
We dreamed about schools
We dreamed about harvests
We dreamed about the children
Who play under the sun.
While the gringo dreams about getting a goal.

A goal, as in football.

It was beautiful to be able to accept Panteleon’s song for us on our last trip and being able to give this in response was another great way that God used the many gifts of the team to spread His love for the village.

rachel & evelin walking along

One of the greatest joys of our trip involved playing, singing, dancing, 3-legged racing and just loving these kids. Barb, Lu, Jessica and Rachel caringly worked on puppet skits, songs, crafts, games and every day gave all of their goofiness to the kids.

And the kids responded. It’s amazing how quickly children will open up, accept what you have to offer and give you back so much more.

But our time with the kids actually impacts entire families. Gaby & Kevin’s mom, Marta, has never engaged a ton in the programs we offer, but that changed on this trip. On the last day she asked to speak and shared that the way the team treated her kids was a blessing to her and she thanked us. In return she promised to pray for our safe return and that God would bless us.

barb crafting with the ladies

One of the exciting areas of this ministry is our Women’s Program. Each time we go down, we spend time with the ladies, share stories of husbands, children and life. (I always tell them a lot about my family: Pearl & Oly.) We listen to them and we pray for them. And each time, the Lord creates a deeper bond between us. This trip the ladies even showed some of us how to make tortillas from scratch!

Typically we do a few craft projects to keep hands busy while we talk. This past trip Barb showed the ladies how to make beautiful frames for the family portraits that Kristen and I captured. Frame designs were up to the ladies and it was great to see each woman’s creativity come out in her unique design. Just as each woman was uniquely created by God and is loved for exactly who He made her to be. It is an honor to share this truth of Christ with the ladies and they remain in our prayers daily.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I have to start with the land

So, the bottom photo is the road into Nuevo Rencer in March and the 2nd photo is 2 weeks ago. Yea, so March and October are pretty different in El Sal.

In the states, we recognize seasonal differences as an opportunity to celebrate holidays and a excuse to buy new clothes. When we drive everywhere in our cars, stay inside most of the time and own gortex suits for the times we choose to be out in it, the seasons don't mean a lot.

In El Salvador, the seasons mean the difference between life and death. For farmers, water is the key to financial health and to a village with no running water yet, the hand of God via those puffy cumulus clouds is imperative. And yet, the villagers seem to so often takes things with an accepting grace, rather than forcing their will on the situtaion.

It rained on our first day of work and pretty much put work to a halt. But so much happened while we got so little done! We crowded into homes, hung out and waited for the storm to pass. It was one of the best times of connecting. Rosa taught some of us how to make tortillas from scratch and we met Mariposa, the precious gift goat. Carlitos showed me his room and eventually we all just talked on the front porch as the rains slowed. There was no getting around it, no umbrellas or rain boots --just a natural pause in the work caused by the hand of God.

Maybe next time it rains really hard in Portland, invite a friend over for tea and just take the time to enjoy the moment. I bet something special will happen that you would have never expected from such "wasted" time.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

home . . .


say a picture says a thousand words. Well let's hope that is true and can tide you all over until I get some time to put my thoughts together.

In short, I heart El Salvador.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

words to live and work by . . .

Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can do only as much as God makes us able to; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be.

- Archbishop Oscar Romero, from his last homily, March 23, 1980

Romero was the Archbiship in El Salvador that spoke loudly for the poor. He was murdered during mass in 1980 and is considered by many the straw that broke the camel's back and began the war in El Salvador in the 80's. So thie words carry the truth of someone that has lived them out to their fullest extent.


“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 5:3

I don't think this can truly be understood until one has spent some time with the poor. That can be in El Salvador or just outside Portland. But it never ceases to amaze me how people who struggle so dearly for the smallest things, have a joy, a kindness, a patience that I may never obtain in all my life. And their small village has a sense of community and home that actually draws me to return again and again to experienece the fullness of that community.

Now, I don't want to paint this too simply, there are many weapons of poverty: alcohol, drugs, abuse, illiteracy, hopelessness, etc. These things weigh down on the people in Nuevo Renacer as much as any place and we do see a small evidence of their presence when we visit.

And yet, despair has not consummed these people. Instead they move forward; they toil; they laugh; they thank God for what He has provided thus far. And with thankful spirits they are satisfied with the day. And whenever I am in El Salvador this is something I study and I ask God to increase in me.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

land is cool

Land--- an important piece of the road out of poverty for folks in Central America. Every time I glance the horizon in El Salvador, I am so amazed at how beautiful this place is and how hard it will be to get where the villagers are heading. And then I am impressed again by their commitment to a new future for their familes. Pretty awesome.

These two pictures are of pretty much the same spot from October to March. Yea, so rain makes a big difference.

tin can sweet home

Each family has a small red plot number indicating their land and their future. Each time I saw one of these numbers I was touched by there deep significance. Each little cement piece was a physical reminder of homes being built, water to come, crops grown and a future with hope. That is pretty cool for a tiny number.

So, our goal was to build about 20 of these homes. Well, this one was done when we left. ;) And lots of frames where ready for the house building process. We thought the metal would be hot, but Dr. Angel's daughter designed them with natural ventilation and the sun actually reflected away from the metal. So they were quite cool. Goes to show what I know!

jocelyn is my friend

Well, Jocelyn calls us the "dos gorditos" which means 2 pigs. Not exactly the best start to a friendship . . . And yet we find a way to have more fun than two people that speak different languages should! She is strong and funny and I am so excited to see her again soon.

kids are cute -- REALLY cute

I could pretty much paste these pages with TONS of pictures of beautiful, intelligent, funny, sweet, wonderful children from the village, but here are just a few. Gavi & Kevin are two of the kids that I connect with most in the village. They are very shy and introverted, but when they smile it is simply amazing. I cannot tell you how cool it is to simply watch these kids grow healthier, bigger, smarter simply because of the opportunity for stability the Agros model offers. And I cannot wait to see what happens when these kids are grown. I am so thankful that we get to keep returning to this village and walk along side these lil peanuts for many more years.

the universal languages

OK, so anyone
that has ever travelled anywhere outside the US knows that soccer is pretty much the world sport. And once again the soccer game between our team and El Sal was a highlight. And yet, each time I get to be a part of one these games, I am still touched by the ability of the playing field to make all men equals. It's simple really: two teams, a hand full of rules and a black & white ball. And yet the connection that happens between the guys is simply amazing! There is a pride that comes out in the villagers that we rarely see and a joy in the entire community. I'm just glad I'm good with a camera and I get to be team photographer rather than kill myself running that field!

Equally, song has the ability to cross all barriers. Panteleone kept his promise from trip 1 and wrote a song in honor of Agros and the work we are all doing together. Gerry even made his way into the song by name. It was a beautiful gift that each of us will value for a long time.

my team

Each trip there is a unique opportunity to find yourself a world away from home with 20 other folks. We all vary in age, occupation, style, temperment, etc. and yet each trip we join together to go serve a tiny community in rural El Salvador. And as we journey together through language challenges, sweat, hatred of early morning roosters, fear of the La Esperanza road, etc., we become a family. Short-lived and yet so sweet. And the nice part is that we remain connected through the church and through the years, as only those on a mission together can share. I feel blessed to know each one of the folks in these photos and I only hope one day you will be in one of these photos as well!