Buenos noches! Tonight your friendly blogger is me: Kim Grissom. If you had asked me yesterday if I was tired, I would have said yes. If you had asked me yesterday if El Salvador was a trip everyone should take, I would have said yes. But tonight, I think the answer to both questions is unequivocally yes, definitely. Kathy Bassett is a former mission co-worker here in Berlín and is now traveling with delegations during a transition period between mission co-workers. Last night she told us that at some point we would reach our absolute low in fatigue and then we would get our second wind. Tonight, I am exhausted.
This morning the pastoral house filled with the entire pastoral team as we prepared to go to Casa de Zinc, the first of our sister communities. As a first-timer to the mission here, it's very difficult to put into words today's experience. As I stood in the back of the Kia truck, looking over the rack and ducking branches, I finally understood what a rainforest mountain looks like. The brown, dusty road snaked around hairpin turns up the mountain into some of the most remote country I've ever visited. Alejandro knew where every bump, gully, rocky spot, or other obstacle on the road was, and he slowed down, avoiding or rolling gently over each. It was the first of several moments today that pointed out the privilege I live with in my normal life. You know, when you can afford a new tire, or to fix your alignment, or whatever damage may "routinely occur" to your vehicle, you can hit potholes, not slow down for bumps, and then complain about the road conditions the county, city, etc. is responsible for. It's privilege that says "time is money" or that justifies beating up a car because we're in a hurry. Alejandro babies that truck, and because he does so, he won't have to complain that they don't make vehicles the way they used to. Today was the first day I ever wondered if it wasn't that they don't make drivers the way they used to.
As we pulled up to the community center in Zinc--six posts and a metal roof that they bring their own chairs to--we were greeted by a welcome sign and the whole community with smiling faces. Beautiful children, grown men who hugged us each in turn, and women who had already begun preparing us a snack, all dressed in their very best. They recognized Betty and Maurice, greeting them as old friends; two of the children stuck close to Betty's side for the rest of the morning. After introductions all around, we met with the directiva, the community's leadership, and they filled us in on what is going well, the kinds of problems they are facing, and their ideas for future improvements and projects. For instance, some of them have begun raising tilapia in tanks or plastic-lined, hand-dug pits. Most of them are in relatively good health. The children that are school-aged are going to school.
Then we spent the rest of the day going to each family's home. Families dressed in their very best greeted us, often welcoming us into their corrugated tin--lamina-- and black tarp home with swept dirt floors and yards. Each thanked us for our presence, the partnership with Trinity, and we took time to personally present them with a gift from our churches. (We have four churches represented in our delegation and all contributed to the gifts we gave.). Their eyes lit up at the cheese, a special treat. They listened carefully to directions about how to use acetaminophen and antacids. They were thrilled to see the school supply packets for each child. Our church members donated $35 per family which represents about a month's income for these Salvadorans.
Today was humbling, it was life-changing, it was eye-opening. I was hot and dirty and bug-bitten, but I have an entirely different perspective. The best thing about this mission is the relationships. We went into their homes and treated them with dignity. The mission itself is all about helping them organize and find their voice. By all accounts, Zinc showed amazing progress on that path today. In the past they have struggled to come to agreement, work together, make decisions as a community. But today their organization showed in the way they facilitated and made decisions regarding our visit. And our relationship continues and they assured us they will wait for us to return again.