Latin America

Small Things Count (Even Shelves)

Small Things Count (Even Shelves)

G.O.D. International sent three families as representatives to El Salvador this February. The Johnsons, Reyes’, and Watsons recently moved into three houses and are currently making them into homes and getting to know their neighbors. Michael Johnson, an accountant for G.O.D. International and skilled in working with his hands, shares a moment when a seemingly small task evolved into an opportunity to help three fatherless boys tackle their first construction project.

 

Winter Mission: 23 Representatives in 4 Countries

This month, Global Outreach Developments International will send out 23 representatives (as well as 7 guests - friends who are helping us meet our short term objectives) to our four focused regions of ministry: Latin America, East Africa, India, and South East Asia.

Some will begin their cultural immersion experiences, while others will be continuing the work already begun there, pushing us closer to the long-term strategic goal of a 'transplanted community' in each of these four regions.

A transplanted community contrasts the traditional paradigm of sending out missionary couples, or short-term teams to implement programs or projects. Instead our regional teams (or small communities) will relocate to a settlement owned by the organization, where the team can model behavior & innovations (such as responsibility for neighbor, interdependence, generosity, solar energy, bio-intensive farming, etc.) necessary for the transformation of the larger communities to which they are ‘planted.’ We call this being 'a people, within a people.'

Three ladies (Brittani Collinsworth, Breann Bennecker and Leafa Vagatai), all students of the Institute for Global Outreach Developments International, will spend 6 weeks in the Philippines, participating in what we call an “immersion.” An immersion describes a 5-7 week trip in one country that allows an individual to immerse in the culture, language, beliefs, and needs of the people native to that place. All of our regional team 'members' (or future missionaries with our organization) are required to spend 2 immersion trips (of 5-7 weeks) in the country, as well as a 3-6 month 'semester abroad,' a 6-9 month 'occupational development term' and 1-year 'project implementation term.'

This is coupled with extensive biblical and missiological education, an occupational focus, and language study. In sending individuals to these regions, these expectations are at the forefront of their stay. In addition, Gregg Garner will join the ladies in Philippines and attempt to locate the settlement plot for the G.O.D. Southeast Asia hub--a main geographical starting point where G.O.D. Int’l will be based in this region.

Michael Davis, Michael Johnson, Jeremiah Watson and Mitchell Buchanan are in El Salvador, continuing the development of the plot of land the team is leasing there. Projects include painting, electrical, and plumbing of the homes that will house full-time representatives from G.O.D. International. We are very happy to have Michael Davis' father and father-in-law, join us in the work, as well as experience El Salvador, its people, culture, and need, for the first time.
In Uganda, 3 Kenyan and 3 Ugandan cooperatives of G.O.D. Int’l will meet Gregg Garner, Cameron and Colin Kagay, Skylar and Rylan Aaseby, Ashley Moore and Jordan Miller to celebrate the relationships God has orchestrated and sustained over the last decade, as well as cast vision for the future.

Two couples from Iowa Falls, who, through a prolonged friendship with members of G.O.D. Int’l, wanted to get a better look into our international work, will join the team, as will Vern Aaseby (Skylar & Rylan's father). This team will have a dual focus: one, to mark the lot lines for the 7 acre settlement and begin the construction of a triplex which will serve as an itinerant housing unit for volunteers; and two, allow first-timers to Africa to witness the need that exists, primarily through prison, hospital, slum, church and school visits and by spending time with our cooperative families.

Gregg Garner will also join the December, India 'Immersion team' consisting of Nick Moore, Laura Voight, Rebekah Davis, Leah Thress, Kelly Jobe, Taylor and Heather Maute (and children) and Rosemary and Nick Sherrod. While there, Gregg will assist the team in locating a settlement plot; the India hub.

Most members of this team will also be participating in their second immersion experience, and for this reason, will be doing increased research in their spheres of occupational focus. Leah and Heather will be visiting maternity wards. Kelly and Rosemary will be working with womens groups and visiting and surveying the university in Lucknow. Nick Moore, Laura, and Rebekah will be visiting health care centers, Taylor will be researching sustainable horticulture, and Nick Sherrod sustainable housing. The team will be participating in Hindi language classes and other cultural lessons.


A common refrain around our organization is that “we are more than just a school.” As we break between semesters, we utilize the term “Winter Mission,” and as you can see from the above synopsis, that is no exaggeration. We really are on mission. Our care and concern for the poor and marginalized, compels us to go, care and do our best to help— making long term commitments to see qualitative change.

We ask that you please join us, in prayer and hope, that we can represent God (make his name holy) and initiate his ideal (kingdom come) in areas of such desperate need (where they are simply asking for daily bread) (Mt. 6, Lk. 11). Please pray for our safety, our protection, and the Lord’s favor as we venture to do what he has put in our hearts—develop communities who model the ethics of God through healthy individuals and families who live in peace with one another, exemplifying the fullness of life we believe God wants for all of his children.

Written by Laurie Kagay

Summer Interns Embrace Opportunities to Serve in El Salvador

After journeying almost 2500 miles south from Nashville, this year’s Students Living a Mission interns from G.O.D. Int’l didn’t miss a beat in jumping in to embrace the people in communities surrounding San Salvador, El Salvador. Having developed a children’s educational camp called Camp Skillz that they facilitated in Nashville for marginalized children, the interns translated this into Spanish and provided a dynamic week of educational activities for the children in a community called Sitio Nuevo.

Outside of the Camp Skillz, the interns assisted in building projects on the property of G.O.D. Int’l in the community of Sitio Nuevo where homes are being built to house our development workers.

The interns stayed in host homes in the local community where they became more acquainted with families and the home life in Salvadoran culture, and even had the opportunity to do work alongside locals in their daily responsibilities, like cooking, carrying wood and landscaping their properties.  This has assisted greatly in helping our organization at large to develop a rapport with the people in Sitio Nuevo.

Interns were also given the opportunity to visit a local orphanage where they spent time interacting with the 50 boys and girls who call it home.  The interns had the opportunity to sit and learn their stories as well as encourage them with a production of skits and songs.

Due to a variety of circumstances, schools in El Salvador are often without enough teachers.  Due to this reality, the interns were able to spend a day assisting in a local school teaching English classes and interacting with students.

On top of assisting with the school system, the team was able to learn how to identify public issues that exist in various small communities and what the causes were for these issues.  Interns were introduced as to what it really looks like to come alongside the poor and marginalized and empower them to transform the environment in which they live.

Over the course of their time in El Salvador, the interns also accompanied the band UnNamed Servant as they play different venues in El Salvador on their summer tour. They assisted the band in setting up and tearing down equipment before and after the shows.  As the band ministered to the people through song, the interns had the privilege of engaging those who listened and were eager to learn and see justice done in the world around them.

Continue to pray for this summer’s interns as they have debriefed from their time in El Salvador through facilitating a week of service projects  in North Carolina for those in need in the city of Raleigh and have now made it back to Nashville.

Written by: Brett Madron

Learning to Keep Our Eyes Open: Sara Davis Reflects on Her Time in El Salvador

When I came to El Salvador to spend a summer immersed in the culture, I had not yet committed to serving in Latin American long term, nor had I developed a particular area of expertise so that I would even know HOW to serve the people here. Because of this, much of my experience in El Salvador has just been taking it in--observing needs and experiencing the culture firsthand; much of my experience in El Salvador has consisted of merely seeing and experiencing. I knew that it was possible to come to this place and still not see the reality that exists here. I made it one of my goals to keep my eyes open, no matter what things I was confronted with. As might be expected, most of my activities have had to do with interacting with women in El Salvador. I have cooked meals with Carmen, a neighbor who spends hours of her day in a hot, dark kitchen cooking over an open fire. She laughed at me as I awkwardly patted tortillas into shape and nearly cut a finger off dicing potatoes in my hand, as she doesn’t use a cutting board. I have walked and talked with Sonya, a 13-year-old in the midst of the transition from girlhood to womanhood, already taking on responsibilities far beyond her years. Sonya's school attendance is sporadic, as she often works in her family's corn fields and looks after her two younger sisters in the afternoons. I have played soccer with girls who would be my peers, and marveled at their endurance. I’ve participated in a seminar on self-esteem for women in a co-op, and listened as they expressed with embarrassment that they couldn’t participate because they’d never heard of the term self-esteem before. I have watched as women in their 20s signed their names by dabbing ink on their thumb and pressing it to the paper, because they could not read or write.

Who knew that just the choice to keep one’s eyes open could become so impactful? As my heart grows heavy with the knowledge of the needs of these people, I am driven to God’s word. I find comfort and strength in the words of James, who says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

These moments are precious opportunities to be made mature and complete in the LORD, not lacking in faith, but ready for those challenges that lay ahead. I don't want the difficulty of the things I have witnessed to lead to fear and despair, but rather I believe with the writer of the book of James that with faith, I can persevere and even become a helpful friend to these people. Such hope believes that with the guidance of God's word we can be a transformative people, taking an active part in building a new reality for these women and children.

Report from the Field: Working Encounters

We have arrived in El Salvador, and returned to our property to continue the work we started last summer, building the homes that we will soon occupy full-time. We will continue to work on the homes for the next 3 weeks, accomplishing as much as we are able.  The work on our future housing  here in Sitio Nuevo will continue after we return to the United States.  We recently hired three men from the local community who have been working with us during our time here, and will  continue to work on the homes  until November.

Although one of the workers we hired is young, he has been working in construction for the past 5 years.  He is only 21 years old, but he and his three siblings (the youngest of whom is 16 years old) have been surviving as a family absent of a mother or father.  Both parents live in the United States. They left their children in search of a more prosperous life.  Our friend has chosen to work hard in order to support himself and his siblings, rather than joining a street gang like many abandoned children do who find themselves in similar situations.

Broken families as a result of immigration to the United States is a significant issue in El Salvador.  In our short time here, we have encountered many families that lack one if not both parents.  Many look to the West as a source of escape from their difficult lives in their native country.  Often, it is the men who depart leaving behind wives, children, and extended families. Women are often left to fend for themselves, and it is common for grandparents to raise their grandchildren in the parent’s absence.

As we see these families, broken by the demands of culture, poverty, and circumstance, we know that the problem has many layers, and many sources.  Our hope is that as we move into maintaining long-term presence in the area, that we will be able to better understand the contributing issues, and begin to find practical alternatives to these practices.

Written by Michael Johnson

Development Team Begins Summer Project in El Salvador

This summer, G.O.D. Int'l’s Latin America team has a small team on the ground in El Salvador for 6 weeks.  During this time, we will continue building at our property in Sitio Nuevo, host 1 group of students joining us for a week of service, and host the arrival of the GOD Int’l Summer Internship team. We made considerable building progress last summer, completing a shower/bathroom facility, as well as nearly completing the first home.  This summer, work will begin to complete the first home, as well as lay groundwork for 1-2 more homes. We anticipate that in the near future we will have families living in Sitio Nuevo for extended periods of time, and adequate housing is an important need to fill for these hopes to come to fruition.

SLAM El Salvador 2012 is June 19-25.  SLAM is the student ministry branch of the GOD Int’l. During this week, we will host the team in the local area, facilitate service opportunities, hold Bible studies, and invest into the lives of these students who are joining us for the week.  We are thankful to have this opportunity.

GOD Int’l’s Summer Internship program includes 2 weeks in El Salvador, some of which will be spent in the area surrounding Sitio Nuevo.  In the weeks leading up to their arrival, we will prepare to host their arrival, and participate in the first portion of their time in El Salvador, prior to our return.

This summer’s plans are made with the understanding that our impact and influence in Sitio Nuevo will be limited until we are able to be present there on a more ongoing basis.  Each aspect of our activity this summer is designed to further efforts from last summer, and to endeavor to provide opportunities for ongoing service in the coming months and years.

We are thankful for the opportunity we have to cultivate this small patch of land that the LORD has entrusted us with.  We will develop it as best we know how, all the while knowing that the people we find along the way are the true goal.

Salvadorans Discuss Violent History and Hope for Peace

No ‘tengo esperanza ‘, ‘I don’t have hope’ responded a 77 year-old Salvadoran woman to a question of about her hopes for the future of El Salvador.  An ex-advocate and activist, Berta started a women’s organization in hopes for change after the Civil War here in El Salvador - but it no longer exists. She shares similar hopeless sentiments with others in El Salvador, sentiments that are products of broken lives, broken hearts, and broken people.  Berta has lived through losing three close family members including her husband, her daughter and her son who all died fighting against injustice. She shared her story to an assembly of students and volunteers here at Centro de Inercambio and Solidaridad (CIS). Her speech was contrasting highlight of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accords, which took place in January 16, 1992, marking the end of 12 years of armed conflict.

On a national level, another event taking place in memory of the signing of the Peace Accords 20th anniversary was an apology given by Mauricio Funes, the President of El Salvador, on behalf of the Nation for the massacre of Mozote (a municipality of the department of Morazon), which occurred in 1981.  An  apology didn’t seem to suffice for many brutally killed, including 140 children.  The Civil War may have ended, but the people of El Salvador, Mozote, and individuals like Berta, are still hurting. They are still looking for peace.

Twenty years removed from the signing of the Peace Accords, a younger generation and I, discuss the idea of peace in the English and Social justice class I facilitate at CIS.  Many of the youth here lack understanding of their history even though it is recent in El Salvador’s past. The Massacre of Mozote has only just begun to be publicized this year. This generation, though sheltered from the past, recognizes an unrest that remains in El Salvador due to human rights abuses, inequalities, economic instability, gangs, and the highest violence rate in all of Central America. Not much seems to have changed in regards to peace for this country.  ‘The Peace Accords are just some good ideas on paper, we continue to fight many injustices here in El Salvador, we are still at war’, declared a student who shared a similar disposition with Berta. After 5 months here I have also felt an overwhelming sense of hopelessness at times, and  have struggled with the idea of peace as a reality in El Salvador. In moments of complete doubt and  attitudes of indifference or apathy,  I remind myself, I know it’s possible.  I hold fast to the biblical education I have received. Jesus offers an alternative to this hopelessness, not only for his historical moment but for all historical moments, like this one today for El Salvador. Jesus was someone that lived out peaceful solutions of non-violence, equity and right relationships. I recognize there are many obstacles, and that peace is not a one time event, rather a process, a process we all must be involved in and strive for. The students are right, peace cannot be achieved by putting hope in a list of reform policies on a piece of paper. Peace can be achieved through people. We ended our class brainstorming ideas of how to make reparation and peace practical in our lives through generosity and right relationships. They expressed hopes they had for their children, families, communities, and their country. I hoped with them.  I hoped Berta will live to see a better El Salvador. I hope our discussion will be seeds for change. And, I hope, my words don’t just remain as hopes on paper as well. I hope.

Written by: Natalie Musche

Demonstrating Unity and Hope in El Salvador

I’m constantly amazed by the opportunities the Lord continues to give us as we make ourselves available to Him.  This past January, Rafael Reyes and I had the opportunity to partner with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in the facilitation of their multi-national ENvision conference in El Salvador.  Around 150 students between the ages of 18 and 30 attended the week-long conference.  We were thrilled when we were asked to lead worship for the event because we knew it would allow us to meet students from all over Latin America.  I’d like to share a few aspects of our trip that impacted us.

One of the more exciting aspects of the week was working with other musicians.  We teamed up with three musicians from El Salvador to form a worship band for the conference.  This made for a really unique worship experience as we led songs in both Spanish and English every session.  It was amazing to observe everyone singing (or at least attempting!) in both languages.  Needless to say, our worship times were filled with humor, tears and many powerful moments with the Lord.  Despite all of our limitations with language, the power of music and friendship brought us together to demonstrate the unity we share in Christ.

Early in the week Rafael and I saw a need for the students to have a designated time everyday to share and debrief what they were learning and experiencing.  After speaking to the conference leaders we were given a time and space after every evening session to meet with a small group of students.  This quickly became the highlight of our week as we invested ourselves into this group of about 12 every night, sometimes until one o’clock in the morning!  We talked about the Bible, mission work, family and our hopes for the world.  We were all invigorated and challenged by our time together.

Besides working with the conference, we were able to reconnect with several of our friends in Sitio Nuevo, a small rural town outside San Salvador.  After spending a morning walking the neighborhood and checking on the land our movement recently began developing, we treated several of our friends to lunch and ice cream in Suchitoto, a nearby town.  Everyone was really happy to see us and looking forward to this summer when we will be returning to work in the community!

Written by: Britt Edwards

 

 

Good Soil

El Salvador is a small country the size of Massachusetts with a population of about 6 million.  This small land mass is One of our neighbors, Carmen, gives us a tour of her fruit trees.mountainous in the north and sandy along the pacific coast.  Land that is good for farming and livestock is high in demand and low in supply.  The Salvadoran capital sits along the infamous Pan-American highway.  This road stretches from Alaska to Argentina, enabling shipping companies to distribute goods to and from Latin America.  Latin America’s land and people have been a major source of resources for North American consumers, especially concerning basic goods such as fruits, vegetables, sugar, cotton, and coffee.  El Salvador is one such region that boasts fertile land, large textile factories, and flagship distribution centers for corporations like Haynes, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi.For the Salvadoran farmer, land is a priceless commodity.  Having the opportunity to farm a fertile piece of land in order to sustain both individual families and entire communities is the responsibility of rural Salvadoran farmers.  Many farmers have resorted to farming on hillsides because the flat land is being filled with factories, mills, and refineries.  Yet those who are willing to farm the mountain side are also in danger of losing their land.  Mining companies from the North are currently in bidding battles with the Salvadoran government in an effort to mine the mineral rich land on the north side of the country. Mining is not a new business in Latin America.  The Spanish conquest was rooted in the hope of finding gold and silver.  So much so that the Potosi Silver Mine in Bolivia is still known for being the site of over 8 million mining related deaths as people were forced to dig silver from the ground in order to be shipped back to Europe.  Today mining is still dangerous for the workers, the fertility of the land, and the purity of the water tables. With all these entities stacked against the rural Salvadoran farmer, we as a movement desire to work alongside these farmers in rural communities in order to ensure that their land produces properly so that they can be fathers and mothers who do not fear a day when they no longer have fertile land to farm.  We are studying ways that people can build houses out of cheaper materials with the best use of space so the rest of their land can be utilized properly for farming and living.  We are also learning how to dig wells that are safe and produce necessary amounts of pure drinking water for the communities we serve with.  The people of El Salvador are good soil and ready for the seeds of education and land development to be planted in their hearts.  They do not need to overthrow the large corporations, rather they can learn to better utilize and diversify their own small plots so that as communities they can provide what they need and not be afraid of the giants in the land.
____________________

written by Matthew Parker

 

Living and Learning: A 12 Week Immersion with Salvadorian Midwives

By: Elise Buckner

"Elise with a Midwife"

Over the next three months, I will be joining a group of midwives who work in Suchitoto, El Salvador and the surrounding rural areas. During this time, I will learn from their many years of experience while attending pre-natal appointments, births, and post partum check-ups.

I was able to meet all 25 midwives who are part of the Asociacion de Parteras (Association of Midwives) for the first time within my first week in El Salvador. The women welcomed me by introducing themselves and allowing me to share personal hopes for my time with them. After our introductions, the midwives continued with their monthly meeting allowing me to listen and participate when possible.

Starting June 9th and continuing through the summer, I am living with a few of the midwives from the group, alternating between their homes. While living with them, I will join them in their daily tasks. Whether those tasks be washing laundry by hand, cooking meals, attending prenatal appointments, or waking in the night to attend a birth, I will be there with them learning.

In Genesis 3:16, God gave woman the responsibility of bringing forth life by bearing children. Midwives are those privileged to be ‘with women’ as they give birth.  I am blessed with the opportunity to come along side midwives as they support women bringing life into this world.  A summer of excitement, challenge, and growth awaits me, and for that I am thankful.

The Arrival: Ready, Set, Go!

We have arrived in El Salvador and are ready for a summer full of service and hard work.  We have two major external objectives.  First, we are preparing to develop our land in Sitio Nuevo (New Place).  We will be building a house and a bathroom structure this summer.  Our second objective is to facilitate 3 weeks of service for over 60 youth, from 4 churches located throughout Indiana and Ohio.  Their partnership with our team in El Salvador is crucial toward the development of the land and the initiation of service opportunities in Sitio Nuevo and surrounding communities.

Last summer our team spent three months in El Salvador.  This allowed us to work on language, learn the local culture, and meet new friends.  The experiences of last summer have propelled us into deeper friendships and the opportunity to develop our land in Sitio Nuevo.  We are currently working to acquire needed building materials, networking with local builders, and reconnecting with old friends as we settle into another summer in El Salvador.

Coming back, we are full of diverse emotions.  We are excited to be here, yet we know the needs of the people and the responsibility we have as the people of God to meet those needs.  As we follow after Jesus, we hope to have the effect on individuals and communities that He had through his teaching from Scripture and daily interactions with people in need.  The development of our land in Sitio Nuevo does not stop with the buildings.  The development of the land will ultimately become a place for people to find hope, life, and opportunity for education as we image God here in El Salvador.

Written By: Matthew Parker

Audio Interview with Rafael and Anna Reyes

Rafael and Anna Reyes have each been participating within the community of GOD Int’l for 5 years. They have both traveled to Latin America with our movement, but not yet with one another. They, along with their daughter Sarieli, plan to spend 7 weeks in El Salvador this coming summer. Click below to listen to the full interview that was featured in the winter edition of the LA Voz.

What Break? We’re on a Mission!

Many years ago, our movement stopped referring to the time between semesters as 'breaks' and began using the term 'mission'. This new verbiage is definitely more reflective of our activity and attitudes on G.O.D.'s Latin America Team. Our community is more than a school and our community members are more than students. L.A. Team members will be taking advantage of the brief one month stretch between the fall and spring semesters to focus on a wide array of activities outside of formal academic study.

Three of our team members will be traveling to Ilopango, El Salvador January 2-9 to further our team's plan to purchase a plot of land. Many team members will visit family and reconnect with friends. And two team families, the Roufs and the Arroyos, are even welcoming new babies into their families this December.

In addition to these momentous occasions, our team is hard at work making our vocation happen. During this time without classes, we are driven by our commitment as a team, working to serve the poor and underprivileged in El Salvador. This month allows us some time for personal study in areas of interest such as health care, agriculture, and literacy methods. Furthermore, we will continue making strides in our pursuit of Spanish, gaining fluency step by step or, for some team members, learning to become better teachers of their native tongue. Our team members are even involved in various community service activities such as facilitating a Women's Bible Study and ESL Classes for our neighbors.

Of course, we are also preparing for our upcoming immersions in El Salvador this summer. Collectively and personally, there is much to be done to make sure that we are prepared to learn and serve as much as possible during our trips. We also must prepare to cover the cost of our trips and various other financial obligations stateside while we are away. To this end, December will be a time to pick up extra shifts or even extra jobs to save money for summer 2011.

Because we are more than students, life does not slow down just because classes pause. Our mission to love and serve continues!

Written By: Anna Reyes

Moving Forward Together

In 2001, SLAM (Students Living A Mission, our student missions program) began hosting mission trips to Ensenada, Mexico.  Flash forward nine years and the Latin America regional team for G.O.D. Int’l consists of 24 adults, 12 children, and 3 more little ones on the way.  These are exciting numbers seeing that each of these individuals and families have committed their lives to serving the people of Latin America!  We have come a long way since our week long mission trips in 2001. Now we are a unified group of people working towards transplanting our families and lives in El Salvador. This commitment, however, has come with a great amount of responsibility.

Currently, all of our team members are state-side busily training and further educating ourselves in various fields of service such as midwifery, health care, sustainable agriculture, construction, adult literacy, early childhood education, finance and administration among others.  We are striving toward that which God has placed in our hearts, to serve the poor and underprivileged in Latin America.

Before being able to invest into the people of El Salvador, we find ourselves in our current moment, challenged to function as a team of like-minded individuals.  Above all else, we are endeavoring to know God and his word.  In this process, we must learn to trust one another, so that we can carry the burden for Latin America together, knowing that it is not something any one of us could carry on our own.  We are daily tested by Jesus’ words, that those who are faithful with small things will be entrusted with much greater things in due time. We are learning how to speak the truth in love, how to keep our small commitments, and how to accomplish goals alongside one another rather than individually, as our culture would predict.

All 24 of us, ranging in age from 21 to 34, are committed to this vocation.  We believe that God has called us to serve the people of Latin America, and we are currently focusing our efforts on Ilopongo, El Salvador.  Last summer, 16 team members spent numerous amounts of time ranging from 5-12 weeks, laying the groundwork for our ministry efforts in El Salvador.  This upcoming summer we will continue to do the same as we move towards having a more permanent presence in the region.  We are excited for the challenges set before us, both in Nashville and El Salvador, and are thankful that we are undertaking them together.

By Betsy Johnson

Food Shortage: A Distribution Issue

By: Matthew Parker

Alternating years of drought and flood have created a food crisis in Latin America. The droughts of 2009 were followed by the floods of 2010.  This year alone, over 100,000 people have been made homeless by floods and landslides in Guatemala. These droughts have also affected the areas we are currently working in. Last summer while in Ilopango, El Salvador, our team met friends in a displacement village who lost their home and land to the floods.  The floods have also created a food shortage in this region.  According to estimates, half of the annual consumption of corn has already been lost due to the current floods.  The agricultural sphere of the region is in danger.

Some of our team members are currently studying agriculture, permaculture, nutrition and land laws in preparation for issues relating to land we will face in the future.  This last summer Jeremiah Watson and Marco Arroyo designed and constructed a small garden meant to produce high yields using a small amount of land.  The majority of our friends in these regions do not have a need for large scale farming development. They need to know how to make a 7ft.x 7ft. plot beneficial for their whole family.  Because of all these issues, those team members have been encouraged to study agriculture with diligence. We take the example of Jesus when he fed the people with the loaves and fish.  There might not seem like enough food for the people, but through prayer, an understanding of God’s word and proper distribution we will be able to feed the hungry through our work with the land and the relationships we have with our friends in El Salvador.

Welcoming Strangers

By: Matthew Parker

Jesus instructed his students to walk from village to village in order to find people willing to welcome them into their homes.  For Jesus, welcoming strangers and hospitality is a powerful spiritual characteristic.  Luke recorded this teaching, “Whenever you enter a house and are welcomed there, eat what is before you, heal the sick and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you’” (10:8-9).  Those who are willing to welcome strangers past their gates, into their homes, and ultimately share meals with them, are a sign of God’s presence in that community.

Our time in El Salvador has proved these teachings true.  We have often walked through communities in search of conversation and fellowship.  Those whom we have had the opportunity to share meals and stories with have been those whom first welcomed us strangers into their homes.  The invitation is only the beginning; afterwards encouragement, education, healing and empowerment then become possible. A few nights ago, we shared a meal with one of our neighbors and he explained the anxiety he felt concerning life’s everyday struggles.  In response we communicated the evident nearness of God in his life and his house as a whole because they were willing to be hospitable to strangers.  He concluded our conversation with a large smile, repeating the fact that he felt different and that God has blessed us and his family greatly.

We asked a woman in a poor community why she was hospitable and willing to share with such generosity.  Her smiling response was humbling, “I never thought I would have the opportunity to share my small table with new friends.”  These moments are full of life and image the presence of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Although we are strangers in a new land, we also hear Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:35-36.  We are responsible to welcome our new friends and begin the lifelong journey of love through service so that they can eat from communally beneficial gardens, easily obtain clean water, experience community in which their neighbors are no longer strangers but friends.  We together can share resources and skills in order to produce clothing and shoes that protect the body, care for one another so that the sick are free to rest and heal while neighbors support lost wages, and implement empowering opportunities for education so that prison does not become a common reality for Salvadoran youth.  This is the Kingdom of God and it begins by making friends with strangers.

Matthew 25:35-36 'For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'

Feminine Creativity

By: Ninfa Parker

As we ventured outside our normal route, Natalie and I discovered a road that we had not come across before.  The path quickly narrowed as it demonstrated the signs of soil erosion. This season’s heavier than normal rain falls have carved unsteady footpaths. Walking past a Champa (makeshift house), we observed an elderly women chopping bamboo with a machete. She was constructing a fence in order to support a large tarp. The rainfall had proven too heavy for her Champa to handle. “The waters enter my home too quickly, too fast,” Señora Rosa explained. Rosa is left to care for the maintenance of her home alone because her husband, a security guard at the nearest Mega Mall, is often gone for long periods of time. Though Rosa works tirelessly to maintain her home, the need for her husband’s help is evident.

We walked into her home with helping hands. Señora Rosa invited us to take a seat, however we rolled up our sleeves and began to help her with the fence. Using our feminine ingenuity our small group of three women constructed a sturdy fence out of bamboo and string. Working together afforded us the opportunity to share our stories. We quickly learned that Señora Rosa understands the destructive reality of gang violence which is responsible for the loss of her two sons. She relocated to the Milagro de Dios community 11 months ago after losing her previous home to a mudslide, yet she emphatically declares herself to be blessed. Though Rosa has experienced great struggle she has not allowed life’s unjust circumstances to prohibit her optimistic spirit .

Her Champa is surrounded by flowers, vegetables, chickens and ducks. Upon finishing the fence, she lit her firewood stove and brewed some coffee. The hours flew by as she walked us through her small property explaining the various herbs, vegetables, and fruits. We sat as she explained to us their hygienic, medicinal, and nutritional value. “I enjoy living among the coffee beans and corn,” stated Rosa, “I feel safe here.” Señora Rosa enjoys the tranquility of her community however she desires to see her neighbors unified. She mentioned various “small projects” such as adult literacy that she would like to implement in Milagro de Dios.  She also hopes to see her neighbors cooperate in a harvest that will benefit the entire community not just individual families.

Rosa’s ability to create with limited resources is testimony to the strength of women in the midst of daily struggles. As the people of God we hope to come alongside women such as Rosa in their efforts to unify their communities toward education, nutrition, sanitation, and agriculture.