Central America

Hammocks and stove installations

We've been in El Salvador for 3 days now. And we are loving it. The people, the hospitality, the food, the natural beauty, the freshness of the fruit, the vitality of the churches! We arrived an hour behind schedule on Saturday evening due to delays in Dallas. We stepped out of the airport in San Salvador to have our glasses and cameras immediately fog up from the humidity. Welcome to Central America during rainy season. Though it was only 7:30pm, the streets were dark already as the street lights weren't on from communities not paying to keep them on for drivers. We had to take an alternate route to our hotel to give way to a night 10K race taking place. That gave us ample time to cheer on the runners! We arrived in time to grab dinner and head straight to bed after a full day of traveling.

Breakfast found us overlooking a gorgeous pool and the San Salvador volcano. After getting our fill, we hit the road for a 3 hour drive to San Miguel (a state in El Salvador), which would be our home for the week.

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We quickly settled into our hotel, changed for church and grabbed a good bite for lunch. We went to church in the Abelines community, where we would spend our week installing eco stoves in a number of the families' homes. Church was packed and the speaker volume was cranked to the max. The church was much more conservative than most of us were used to, as the men sat on one side and the women sat on the other, both however were equally involved in the service. After much music and announcements, we introduced ourselves to the church. And then I had the privilege of preaching. I'm not sure what it is, but I love preaching with a translator.

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And it is always such an honor to be able to share the Gospel with brothers and sisters in Christ in another country and culture who speak an entirely different language, but with whom I am family! After church, we headed back to our hotel for a quick dip in the pool before dinner and then bed.

This morning we had breakfast and were on the road before 8am. On our way into Abelines, we passed by what has become my favorite waterfall as we went up up up...

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After arising at the first beneficiaries' house, we got a lesson in building eco stoves by Eduardo, whom we learned can seriously fix anything and everything with practically nothing. One of the leading causes of death for women and children in El Salvador is smoke inhalation. The typical method for cooking in El Salvador is over an open flame in an adobe home (which, if you've ever been in one, you know they don't breathe). This causes many children and women to get sick, a lot. And it's easily preventable with a different stove. The eco stoves are made out of local materials and pipe the smoke out of the homes. They can have anywhere from 2-4 burners on them (made from the pans already used by the women to cook) and use much less wood than the traditional way of cooking, saving the family lots of money that can then be used in food or clothing. After our first one was complete, we all stood outside waiting for the white smoke to rise from the newly installed chimney, and there it was! The stoves only take about 2ish hours to make. Here's our first one in the making:

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We will spend the next 3 mornings building stoves in the homes of those identified as the most in need in Abelines. As well as visit homes for food distributions in the afternoons.

Please keep us in your prayers throughout our week here!

Way up into the mountains

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Today took us higher, and I mean higher, into the mountains! IMG_0285

We visited several communities in an area that used to have the highest child mortality rate in Central America. Until recently, there was no clean water, sanitation, access to a clinic nor electricity. All that has changed since ENLACE has been working with the local churches and communities in this region.

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Water is now available (though plans are in the mix for more access), latrines are available for many of the families (though many more are still needed), there is a clinic in the region and even a couple of satellite classrooms for students to attend a school at so they don't have to sit under tin roofs propped up on rickety wooden poles.

Lunch again was fabulous today! (The food here in general is AWESOME!)

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We had bean soup with fresh avocado, mango and of course some delicious homemade corn tortillas! (I could really get used to these tortillas!)

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One of the unintended consequences of being up so high in the mountains was the sun on this pasty Minnesota skin that hasn't seen sun in over 6 months.

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Today's adventure into the mountains was made complete with a ride on top of the land rover partway down the mountainside. The soreness of my backside will remind me of that unforeseen highlight for a few days. :)

I can't believe our time here is practically over. It has been amazing to see all the fabulous things that are taking place in this Central American country amidst the seemingly impossible challenges to overcome! The people here are incredibly hardworking and hospitable. After seeing all that transformation that is taking place trough the partnerships of the local churches and communities in the regions ENLACE is working with churches, I am so thankful their goal is to work with a church in each municipality in the country! May it be so!

El Salvador, I will see you again soon!

Into NE El Salvador

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Today, we got to travel to the North Eastern part of El Salvador. It was about a 2 hour can ride through winding mountains, past street vendors and with the local volcano (no worries it's been in active for years) in our sight most of the way. IMG_0239

We were able to visit a local clinic that had just been completed this past January and now serves about 16,000 people. Before this clinic had been completed, everyone in the area had to travel to the nearest bigger city and hope that the clinic there even had the medicines they needed. Usually it didn't. Through the partnership between the local church ENLACE has been working with and the local community, the clinic we visited today is constantly well stocked and Sufi isn't for most of the people's usual needs.

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We then traveled to see a water tank that a local church and community are working diligently on improving. The infrastructure is in place and fully functioning for the water to get to people's homes but the tank is beginning to crack and is too small. As more people have moved into the area, the tank hasn't been able to keep up with the demand for water in the neighborhoods it supplies. So they are hoping and praying that soon they will be able to build a bigger tank and fix the one they have. This will be done more quickly through partnerships with people and churches who can capture the same vision the community has and has a desire to come alongside of what's already happening there through the community's initiative.

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After visiting with the local water committee, we headed to a community called El Platanar where we had a fabulous lunch if homemade chicken and amazing corn tortillas!! After lunch, we got to hear about how the church we were visiting used to think that they couldn't help people outside the church because they would become 'unholy'. But after working with ENLACE they realized that one of their roles in the community is to meet everyone's needs, not just the Christians. Now they are working with the community to help build a walking bridge that would connect one community to the other. During the dry season people are able to get from one community to the other in 10 minutes. But during the rainy season, the water gets too high in the river bed and people have to walk around which takes about an hour. It was so awesome to hear how this local church is partnering with their community to help make the community better for everyone!

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Better end here. We're off to dinner in a few! So looking forward to tomorrow!

En Route to El Salvador

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There's just something I love about traveling! Perhaps it's the people watching or the excitement if the destination or the new foods and sounds and sights. Or maybe it's the old familiar sounds and sights while en route to a new destination. Like today for example. Our layover was in Dallas, TX. And since Texas was the homeland of my youth it's always like going home whenever I'm there. Today, I couldn't help but have lunch at Pappadeaux's-one of my family's favorite seafood places since forever. I had the usual: crawfish étouffée and it did not disappoint. Even though we were in Dallas for only a couple of hours it was still nice to be home for a short while and get my Texan seafood fix! The afternoon flight to San Salvador, El Salvador was stunning. I got to sit in my fav-the window seat. The plane walls are a great pillow for afternoon naps and I always love to look out the window when I need a break from my reading (I started 'The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us?' on this flight). Today's sky scenery also did not disappoint.

All in all it's been a wonderful day of traveling! I'm excited to see what our destination holds for us!

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