El Salvador

El Salvador

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Update from Karen Hooper

Our final day in Rio Frio; emotions, heat and time were bearing down on us as we hurried to finish projects! (why does everyday seem hotter than the last??) As we talked in our devotions about being the women God created us to be, the question was asked:  what was the hardest thing for you this week?  For my ladies, it was not about the sewing projects (maybe they were not hard enough, Julie??;)   - instead, it was about saying good-bye, the companionship and the simple gathering of women that cared about each other and laughed together. Thanks to my intrepid translator extraordinaire, Patricia, we were able to do all the above as a group! (xoxo)

I  am so thankful that God had my eyes wide open to His hand in the details this week.  We  were going to hold the graduation ceremony and ribbon cutting at the unfinished sewing centre (aka. out in the hot sun).  But He sent rain just as we were going to head over - this resulted in us staying at the house we were set up in.  The ladies had the chairs set up on the porch in rows before you could say pronto, and we were ready to go ...with 2 pastors and 2 women (Carie and I) lined up to speak the potential for a long ceremony was apparent!

Encouragement, exhortations, and hope for the future were talked about.  For me, Philipians 1:6 was a verse that just encapsulated this week:  "that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus".  Our team fully believes that the work in Rio Frio has only just begun.  This is a community that exudes a spirit of unity and desire to move forward.  The people are hard working and have a hope for the future.

Each group leader then had the opportunity to present a sewing basket to their ladies that was filled with a Spanish Bible and all the "fixin's" to start a small business (pictures to follow). This was an opportunity to publicly share how proud we were of what the ladies had accomplished and how they had impacted our lives and hearts.

We all herded over to the sewing centre next door to have a ribbon cutting ceremony in which Pastor Pastor (no typo - that is his name!) offered a blessing on the women and the centre as the workmen were installing the metal roof!

Our afternoon groups doubled as the morning ladies didn't want to leave - even with more rain coming!  Good-byes and hugs and "mucho gracias"" was said again and again.  One of my morning ladies had waited all day to find a time to pull me aside with Patricia and share with us the turmoil in her private life and ask for prayers.  We prayed with her for God's guidance and wisdom as she makes some hard decisions.  A reminder to me that human relational struggles are similar all over the world.

I want to take this opportunity to share how meaningful the sponsorships were.  To have a lady in Canada take an interest and send a card and picture to "a name" in Rio Frio was really hard to grasp for some.  The baskets and the daily hot lunch were such a gift.  They happily had their pictures taken in response and dutifully and lovingly filled out cards for Bethany ladies in return.  Thank you for your generosity; it added a lovely element to the week.

In closing:  Philemon 4-7 (paraphrased) " I will always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I have witnessed your faith in The Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.  I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.  Your love has given me great joy and encouragement because you, sisters, have refreshed our hearts. "

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Update from Julie Tiessen #3

The last few days were every bit as intense as the first ones, and we wondered how they could possibly get any fuller.  For me, every day I was pressed to the limit physically and mentally, but somehow managed to get through with an abundance of good humour and energy from beyond the volcano which tours over this region.  By the end of the week the translators were congratulating me on my language-learning capacity, and I was feeling it was a shame to have mastered all this sewing vocabulary and not return!

The ladies were so eager to finish as many projects as possible in the week.  Some of mine even took them home to complete hand sewing and topstitching since a few had sewing machines, or their mothers or grandmothers did. Or they sheepishly brought their projects out during our devotionals to work on hand-sewing or stitch-ripping, and I nodded an okay since I wondered how else we'd ever get done at the rate they were going.

Our group got three projects done: 1) a jean pocket organizer to use up the hundreds of jean pockets leftover from the jeans they use at a quilting centre to make quilts, 2) a small zippered pouch which some of them are now using as a little purse for their money and cell phones (yes they market cheap pay-as-you-go knock-offs to the ends of the earth!), and 3) a purse tote with handles that loop through each other and a lining with pockets.  They all agreed that the small pouch was the hardest and we later had a good laugh about how they were so frustrated at certain points they wanted to tear it up or throw it across the room!  We all sympathized with Brenda, the pastor's 17-year-old daughter who is pregnant and therefore uber-emotional.  She was at the point of tears several times this week.  Others who were more confident raced ahead of the group and then had to do a lot of stitch-ripping when they got it wrong ... note to self: bring a truckload of stitch-rippers next time!

I commended them for their perseverance through our second and third projects, which they agreed were NOT beginners level (won't say told-you-so to our fearless leader but...) I also sincerely thanked them for helping with Cruz, one of the older women who appeared to have a learning disability, making my job much harder.  Some of the quick ones would start to just do it for her, but I explained that we needed to be patient and allow her to learn at her own pace.  We worked through it together and somehow managed to help her get all three projects done by closing time Friday ... okay, so at 4:45 when she got a call on her cell phone I quickly buzzed away to finish the handles she had pretty much botched!  I was pouring with sweat by the end but we all yelled hooray!!!  I was so flustered that I totally forgot about photos of their final project, but they each insisted on photos with me on their cellphones in the depths of my slimey-ness, but honestly I looked that way the whole week, compared to most of them who hardly broke a sweat even wearing jeans!  With very hard water my hair has turned to hay here, and there is absolutely nothing I can do with it (good luck to my hairdresser who will have to perform a miracle next week!). Diego, one of the hunky young translators, said he liked my hair and that they call it the "California look" here, but I think he was just being kind.  I couldn't wear contacts and see to thread the machines so I wore glasses that constantly slid off my nose along with the pouring sweat and grime, and clothing was a terrible inconvenience that got soaked through by our treck on foot each day to and from lunch ... up a gradual hill fraught with rocks, flowing rivers of raw sewage and mounds of animal poop.  Garbage was everywhere, as there is simply no place to put it ... so they seem to have foregone the 'don't be a litterbug' campaigns in the schools.

My girls thanked and thanked me.  I gave them food treats I'd brought as a little reward for their efforts, but I could not out-give them.  Throughout the week they brought me exotic fruits that we don't even have English words for, and treats like deep fried plantain filled with a sweet gelled milk and covered with sugar (which she had just purchased on the way and insisted I eat while it was warm)... I guess this is their version of Timmy's Boston cream!  A decade as a missionary in Russia eating what we called 'road-kill shish-kebab appears to have given me a stomach of iron as I have had no problems all week.  A couple of them made me colourful beaded 'blingy-bling' for my hands and wrists, probably taking pity on me for having none (as advised, I left all my rings at home).  They are so poor, yet they come out of what we would call 'forts' put together with sticks and tattered plastic sheets, corrugated metal ... garbage mostly.  And yet they look so lovely and give so sacrificially... it is very humbling.

I will let our leader Karen write about the 'graduation' ceremony, so will close this post saying a very sincere thank you for your prayers, which have amazingly sustained me.  My doctor was very against me coming, due to having Chronic Lyme Disease contracted from our guard dog as missionaries for a decade in Russia.  My natural killer cells (immune) are dangerously low, but I felt God had paved a way for me to come, and your prayers have made it possible ... with a little help from El Salvadorian coffee and the adrenaline that has been coursing through my veins all week, making sleep almost impossible... running on 4 hours per night and making it through brutally full days (footnote: don't call me before noon next week!)

One last project we somehow managed to accomplish on the final day in our morning and afternoon groups was making three extra jean pocket organizers for the three local families that went above and beyond to help us ... the family with an indoor pink flush toilet across the 'road' (again, a term I use loosely) from the makeshift sewing centre that has no bathroom; the family with the metal home built by an earlier team where all the cooking was done outdoors and we converged with 60-80 people each noon hour (including niños), and a local pastor who was our tireless smiling gopher all week!  We presented our creations to these three very appreciative families.

In conclusion, it has been an AMAZING week and it was hard to answer my ladies who asked when I could come back.  They want to stay connected on Facebook!  So I will keep posting photos in my albums (DougandJulie Tiessen).

Postscript: after one more subsequent gecko sighting, running from under my bed to under Karen's, the geckos seemed to have gotten the memo and have 'vamoosed' from our room and even from the restaurant here, so thanks for praying them away since crawly things are not my forte, to put it mildly ... my mom Marjorie knows this only too well and wrote that she could hear my screams from Stoney Creek!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Update from Rebecca

So yesterday didn't get a blog, well it did but it wasn't very good. It basically said there were two of us with all the kids and they fought and we didn't have enough attention to go around, it was exhausting. Dinner was fantastic though, we talked waaaay too late and Julie's gecko friend made another appearance. Today we had tons of help with the kids and only like 7 kids in the morning and maybe 15 in the afternoon, nowhere near the amount we had had before! I felt bad because the help ended up bored but it was nicer for Diana and I! Since there were less kids and the women are now all finishing their projects Julie and I switched for a bit and I got to teach her group how to make knot bags. It was cool to be on the teaching end but I don't think teaching is one of my strong points, I tend to summarize steps which doesn't help the women learning. We managed to avoid the rain on the drive home but hit crazy, weird traffic from construction being done. After dinner we hit the town! Stopped by a fresh popsicle place with fries which was fantastic and then walked up the clock tower. It was crazy high and I forgot that it rang and almost had a heart attack when it did because we were like 1 meter away from the bells. Now I think we have a bit more prep to do for the final day/fiesta. Also I learned that a siesta is a nap, I always thought it was just another type of party, like a fiesta but I was totally off. Apparently my 18th birthday party was a napfest....it was the best napfest ever minus the napping My ignorance of the Spanish language has caused a lot of good laughs this week.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sewing Day 2

Whoot! Today was great! Last night we had an insane thunderstorm, it was so windy and pouring rain for over an hour, crazy stuff! This morning I was more coherant than yestarday which was good and our ride to Rio Frio was awesome and a mini worship session because Carlos (one of the guys) brought his guitar on the road. When we got.there we set up, rounded the kids up and one of translator's daughter, Diana, got a crash course in translating, since we were down one and she translated the story of feeding the 5000. It was a fun, totally new and interesting experience for both of us. After the kids did their colouring and I showed some square knot bracelets but it wasn't as well received as the beaded one but they still loved colouring, playing catch, frisbee, baseball (we used our hands instead of a bat), and just running around. By the time lunch came around Carlos didn't want kids, Gustavo seemed to have adopted 2 for the day and the Carly (I think that is her name) had done manicures and we were all ready for a break! Lunch was fantasic again, as usual! We had a good rest and went back to do it all over again. In the afternoon Carlos did the story, I am not totally sure what it was but I think it was about different cows and a pastor and one left and the pastor looked for it and brought it home. He had kids act it out and they loved it which was awesome! Then they coloured, some did knotted bracelets, Diana made one up herself and a bunch of them loved that one and a few sid the square knot one. I learned that boys tend to catch on quicker after you show them something once or twice whereas with the girl that I taught it took verbal instructions and demonstrations which made for a more interesting time. The kids were fantastic, we were basically completely cleaned up and packed away 15 minutes early which was fine because the women sewing are super efficient so they were ready to go resulting in perfect timing! We got a little breal before getting back in the truck! There was a storm heading in as we were leaving and I thought it would be great if it rained, like a pre-shower, but that isn't how things work in El Salvador. It was super windy (plus driving down a highway), then it spit a bit (felt like pellets because of the speed) and then it poured. And kept pouring. We were soaked through in about 5 minutes and cold for the rest of the ride. I thought it was fantastic about 15 minutes after being soaked because really there was nothing else to do but enjoy it. Us Canadians were more worried about being in a metal truck but the El Salvadorians were worried about getting sick. When we got back we had a few minutes before dinner to dry off, then we ate, did some prep for tomorrow and Carrie took us to the local ice cream place, amazing ice cream! Julie eats like a tank! We went to the grocery store after and we got sunglasses, Julie's from the other night were gone but we found other ones and much more. Upon arriving back we unpacked our one lost bag for material for tomorrow and was interupted by a friendly, curious gecko on Julie's bed. Julie started screaming for a shoe, she just kills things that get in her way, and after we determined it was only a small gecko, no larger than a pinky, she still screamed, while jumping up and down, "Can you get a shoe?!" Then Julie (Trussel) put it under a glass and possibly hurt its leg and Julie still screamed, "Can you get a shoe now?! You've already maimed it!" But we saved.the little guy and put him in the hall and we all just about peed ourselves laughing. "It's cause I didn't pray!" was Julie's reason, she hadn't prayed today that God would keep the geckos in the restaurant where we ate instead of the rooms. The gecko had pooped on the folder used to remove it from the room and Karen's question was "Do you have to declare gecko poo when coming back into the country?" and the rest of us were classified as tree huggers by Julie because we didn't want to kill the gecko. All in all it was a crazy, hysterical day and there are pictures to prove it!

Udate from Julie Tiessen #2

Okay, this blog will be short and sweet, as I must get to bed since 6am is now less than 5 hours away.  But it's actually the most important as it's about the MAIN reason we are here ... not just for the sewing, but to build into these women's lives through our daily devotionals with them.  These times have been SO blessed, and they tend to go way past their allotment, which is awesome!  Women's lives are being touched for eternity ... we are seeing it through tears and laughter, which transcend cultural and linguistic barriers as womens' hearts have a way of speaking to one another.  They are fully entering into this experience soaking it up like sponges.  What a privilege to bring God's words to these eager ladies!

Today we also told them about their sponsors from Bethany, the women from our church who chose one of their names from our list (which Carie had sent well ahead of time) and provided money to pay for their week with us at the sewing centre.  When we presented them each a card with the woman's photo on it, they were delighted and immediately started pouring over the Spanish translation (again, thanks to Rina!). Some of them will need help with reading them and also in filling out a similar card for us to take back to our women.  They were a little shy about writing and having their photos taken (just like OUR women!) but they seemed tickled by the idea and sincerely thankful for the opportunity these sponsors have given them to learn a skill that will help them support their families.  Our small team of five counts it a privilege to be the hands and feet of Christ, showing them his love in a practical way.

Nighttime prayer: God, please keep the geckos out of my bed and in the restaurant where they belong :)

Update from Julie Tiessen

Now it's later and my heart has slowed down to a rate where I can actually think again, so I will attempt to write my blog.  We have had two very full days of teaching sewing projects to the incredibly thankful and eager [read: bulls in a china shop] ladies.  It's been wild and wooly!  Most are quite young, 17 yrs and up, with few over 40 (although they look as old as our mothers due to their difficult lives).  Many are single moms as men tend to leave, especially since most can't afford the $3 marriage license and the trip to San Salvador (the capital city) to get one, so commitment is low.

Each day we get done with the first group by noon and hike 1/2 km up a muddy road (accompanied by chickens, pigs and patties) to the home where lunch is made by local women.  Our team distributes meals to the 60 women (morning and afternoon groups) plus all their many niños, our translators and Rebecca's childcare helpers, then we sit down on cinder blocks to inhale ours before the stray dogs come around.  We pray for the food energy to kick in as we hike back down the rocky road to the makeshift sewing centre, drenched from the wet sauna called El Salvador summer, but smiling and waving "Hola" to the afternoon ladies who are waiting for us (good thing we watched Dora!  Actually, a Guatemalan woman named Rina from Bethany graciously taught us Spanish as her ministry every Monday night starting in June).

On the first day, my group got their hanging jean pocket organizer completed and were SO proud of their accomplishment!  It was a learning process for all of us ... a steep learning curve for some of the women and also our translators ... especially the young guys learning sewing vocabulary and getting used to our English idioms (i.e. this next step is a piece of cake!)  By the afternoon group we are more prepared to team-teach the same project for the second time.  But by then it is unbearably hot and even the El Salvadorians are sopping up their dripping faces with cloths.  I am so thankful for the fan by the window and the screeching ceiling fan ... not to mention the lights to disperse the bats in the morning when we turn them on, since the roof doesn't sit snug on the cinder block walls (today's bat count: five).

Right from the first day sewing machines started breaking down, mainly due to the bulls (as per above). There are 2 industrial machines and 7 home machines.  The El Salvadorian sewing teacher is kept busy full time repairing and re-threading them.  Most of the ladies are scared of the industrial ones because they appear to have only one speed: Breakneck!  But they must learn, so I am making my women use them for basting, when a straight line isn't mandatory.  Line ups for machines inevitably form and sometimes tensions rise when a group feels like another group is hogging too many.  We are all learning patience and it's back to "Sharing 101."  But nothing can squelch the enthusiasm of these ladies, who get teary when they talk about how grateful they are that we came: "Nobody has ever come to us" they say.  They're probably right, since the 'town' of Rio Frio (I use that term loosely as it's more like a village minus the quaintness) might as well be Timbuktu.

Today, following the lead of Carie-the-missionary, I pulled in a sewing machine to my room, so at least we would have one machine for our group.  My project with the ladies was harder, so we didn't finish it in spite of mostly speedy-Gonzales types.  In addition to the machine backlog, in our afternoon group we have one 'older' woman (all of 42) who appears to be a bit learning disabled so she takes up a lot time on the machine.  By today another one of the 'older' ladies was helping her, as she has still not finished her first day's project and seemed almost entirely unable to comprehend today's.  Although my ladies were thrilled to learn how to sew in a zipper and make a cosmetic bag, they were frustrated that they did not get to finish it.  Still, they were undaunted and anxious to come back tomorrow to do so.

Tonight, our team leader Karen and I felt sheepish on the way home as we sat comfortably in the lorry cab with Carie the missionary/komakaze driver, while the rest of our team rode in the back standing (holding onto tall bars) along with about 15 El Salvadorians we let off along the way when they all whistled a stop.  In spite of Carie's best efforts to get us through hairpin-curved mountain roads back to the city of San Vicente, the dark clouds finally burst into the third tropical monsoon we have had since being here (the first one that happened during the day).  We arrived home with our three drowned rats!


Earlier this evening five of our team were together in our room doing prep work for tomorrow's projects.  Only Rebecca had posted a blog, as most of the rest of us older gals are too computerly challenged to figure out how to do this.  When I volunteered to write one, Rebecca said she could send it to her sister to post for me.  I thought one of us should write from the perspective of the rest of us who are teaching the moms how to sew.

I was contemplating what to write when I thought I saw something move by my side as I sat on the bed.  I got up and looked around but couldn't see anything (okay, so I wasn't wearing my glasses).  Not long after I sat down and resumed my work, Stephanie, who had also thought to herself that she had seen something move on the bed, declared a little too enthusiastically, "there's a gecko on Julie's bed!  (It was almost the same colour as the bedspread so it had been hard to see).

The rest played out as stated in Rebecca's blog O.o  (editorial note: I'm sorry, but the young naive gecko should have stayed outside the room where he belonged. They are rather cute when seen from a distance scampering about the walls of the indoor/outdoor restaurant, less cute when they fall from the ceiling of the indoor/outdoor hallway narrowly missing Stephanie's head the first night, but if they come in my room let it be known they will face certain death.  Let's hope this one, whom the other Julie heroically saved from it's shoe-demise, will send out the memo to all his amigos). -Julie Tiessen

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sewing Day 1

We survived day one of the sewing centre! It was some crazy stuff!! After a late night prepping and then an early morning, I was not feeling my super best going into this. The horns of busses and trucks started blaring early, working the sounds into my dreams, resulting in a state of confusion and not a great hour of sleep. When the alarm went off I stayed in bed too long having me rush pack for todah but I got everything I needed. We had breakfast, met the rest of our translators and started the trek to Rio Frio. Riding in the back of the truck is basically the only part of the day where I feel cool and not sticky, I was almost so cool I wanted a sweater! When we arrived all the women and children were there and readh and we scrambled to finish setting everything up for them. In the morning I had about 12ish kids, probably more though, but thankfully I had awesome people helping, some teens from the local church and of course a translator! The morning kids were super outgoing and stuff which is awesome but difficult when trying to keep them entertained. I love playing with kids but keeping kids entertained is not my favourite thing to do. At one point one little boy looked so tired/faint so I picked him up and ended up playing frisbee with another group so I got my workout doing squats with a kid on my hip, I am so sore! I was so thankful....I stoppped writing mid sentence to help with prep stuff and am not totally sure exactlt where that was going but basically everything was awesome, I think I could have been going towards lunch though. Lunch was fantastic, we served all the ladies and kids and sat down to eat and I scarfed it down like I hadn't eaten in days, they have THE best rice here, I could eat it all the time! Eventually we had to do the morning all over in the afternoon, it honestly felt like living two days in one, it was crazy. I counted 18 kids in the afternoon but I am sure we gained one or two more and I lost most of my helpers because the actually have a life to attend to but the kids were a lot calmer which was fantastic! We read a Bible story, they all coloured (even the boys) and then they all made beaded jewelery (even the boys!), it was great! One kid was always crying/wimpering but thankfully it wasn't contagious and it wasn't to bad :) When the day was finally over we piled back into the truck, I was really hoping it would rain for a preshower, and had a nice cool ride back to where we are staying. Dinner was fantastic, I prayed so I could keep it short so we could eat, I was worried the other team members might pray too long :P After dinner we finished figuring out the cards and now has led to finishing a blog in my room but I am off to shower and sleep because I am tired! Here are some pictures from today, they should be pretty self-explanitory, if not ask a question or two :) -Rebecca Giesbrecht

Sunday in El Salvador

Day 2 complete! We are all clean and feeling so much better and less sticky from the weather! This morning a bunch of us were up super early because of the time change, I chose to not be effected and just kept rolling over and trying to sleep. After a leisurely breakfast Carie picked us up to head over to Rio Frio. On the way we picked up some of our translators and enjoyed a cozy ride up in a truck packed with people and supplies. We arrived at the community centre where the sewing centre is currently being built beside it. A mass of women and children and a few men greeted us along with the pastor of the local church and the pastor of the Catholic local church. We set up our projects, did an introduction, had the women sign up for their projects and the trip began. The turn out was great, I have a bunch of kids and others who I get to hang out with all week which should be a blast and very interesting, to say the least, but I am SO excited! We had lunch made by the pastors sister, which was amazing and then set up where we would be working for the week. I didn't really have anything to set up so I played with the missionary families kids and tried to stay as clean and dry and cool before church as possible, only one got wet, we all had to brush some dirt off and nobody was cool, but we tried! I love going to church in El Salvador because everybody is so incredibly passionate! We were late but everybody was so welcoming and helpful when a bathroom was needed and we needed to find seats. Stewart preached about how our God is a sending God and it was a great reminder of what we are doing here and an encouragement to the people here. After church we met the mayor, greeted a bunch of the locals and started back to San Vicente to have dinner at Polo Compero (an El Salvadorian KFC). Dinner was fun, I played x and o with Elis, one of the kids of the missionary family and just had a blast. We stopped by the local grocery store to pick up somr stuff on the way back and got stared at and surprisingly met a guy from Iowa who spoke perfect English, not something you find everyday in El Salvador. Since getting back we have been organizing sponsorship cards from Canada for the women here, so not as easy as we thought it was going to be, prepping name tags and I am off to pull together my stuff for tomorrow and go to bed. Early brealfast and heading off to Rio Frio by 7 tomorrow and it has been a long day! Oh and the only picture I took on my phone was of a crazy, scary spider outside my door this morning, enjoy! -Rebecca Giesbrecht

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Prep Success!

We finished putting together all of the baskets for the women! Other than the scissors, which we will use all week, we cut all the jersey and batting and there are girly things, like makeup and nail polish, a Spanish Bible, fat squares and a sewing kit we made before we came down. We had a delicious hen, rice and potato salad type thing for dinner and of course pop :) After dinner, mini debrief and figuring out what Sunday would be like we finished up the baskets and had a lovely visit from Patricia, one of our translators. We also attempted to take the zipper out of jeans that had been used for quilts but it was brutal. Many seam rippers were broken and I completed one, maybe, with help from my mom, it was pathetic. We are off to see the centre where we will be working this week and then go to church, should be tons of fun! Can't wait to tell you what today had in store for us! -Rebecca Giesbrecht

Arriving in El Salvador

Well we made it to El Salvador! This week 5 of us from Canada flew down to join a missionary family to teach women how to sew in Rio Frio at a new sewing centre. We left at 7:30 this morning with 11 overweight checking bags, overweight carry ons and made it through customs with no extra charge and every bag made it down (except one but that will be here tomorrow). Overall it was good plane ride down, longer than I remember but with 20ish less people on the team and none of them your best friends, it probably won't be as loud. Mrs. Hooper and Mrs. Tiessen did talk the whole way down though and not incredibly quietly :P Anywho we are off to prep for the week!! Hopefully another update soon! -Rebecca Giesbrecht