Monday, October 20, 2008

Greetings from El Salvador!

Hola amigos! We made it safely to El Salvador on Saturday. At the airport we met up with Luis Fernando, our Habitat for Humanity assistant coordinator, who piled us in to a van for our ride to Santa Ana. On our ride, we got to see both the extreme wealth and extreme poverty of the country. San Salvador has a very wealthy section with three large upscale shopping malls in a row and a very Americanized feel with a Citibank tower, familiar fast food, familiar advertising. That section of San Salvador, with a population of 2 million, was small compared to the middle class, working class and un- or under employed sections of the city. On our drive we observed home constructed of just about anything- tin, scrap lumber, plastic sheeting, cardboard. They try to keep the side of the major highway clean and neat, but you didn't have to look far off the highway to see why we are here.

After a great night of sleep on Saturday, 4 of us took off walking at about 7:30 a.m. on Sunday morning to see if we could get a sense for the city of Santa Ana. The hotel we are staying in is in a pretty commercial zone, but not like in America. The shops are more of a street market setting. So, I'll get the embarrassing part of my day over right now- I fell into a manhole in the middle of the street that didn't have a cover. We were crossing and looking at the street signs and down I went. I didn't go all the way in, but my right leg went in all the way. Fortunately, I ended up with only a bruised up knee and some scrapes. Whew! Here are some pictures of the market:

After breakfast, the team went to Cristo Rey Lutheran Church to attend services. This was an experience that I couldn't have predicted. The church was tiny and in a fairly run down building, but was really full of life. It was the pastor's birthday, so the women and children put on the service. It was amazing. The sermon was all about social justice for the poor and similar themes. Addressing poverty was at the heart of this church as many of the members were un- or under employed and living in difficult circumstances. The pastor gave some closing remarks in which he said that there are many pictures of angels, but that today there were angels of heaven in the church. When we realized he was talking about us, there wasn't a dry eye among us. He then asked for a show of hands in the congregation of about 50 of who was going to help us at the build site on Wednesday. About a third of the hands went up, which was incredible. Here are some pictures from the church service:

That's all for now. Today, we will be going to the work site. There was a slight change of plans because of the heavier than normal rains. So, instead of working on a community center as we had planned, we will actually be working on 2 family homes with the families who will own them. Even better. Hasta luego!


Dale said...

Brilliant that you're there and doing a great thing. Look out for those big holes in the street - ouch!

Mnmom said...

MG! Sounds like quite a change from the Lutherans we grew up with - all bland and vanilla. Stay away from the manholes! I think that's why I love you so much - those things happen to you and me all the time. We aren't the perfect people who repel dirt and embarrassing street accidents.