Welcome back! I promise you I was not just taking a break during our newsletter hiatus. During the last 2 months I have been translating for Now is the Time (the mission team which I used to come with in the summer), preparing my house for my guest, Madeline, who will be spending a month with me and working at a malnutrition center, and taking multiple trips out to Solola preparing for the program I'll be starting this fall. With the help of local leaders, I have visited 45 families in the area, and I still have 6 to visit. Of those 45 families, 21 have been approved for full-inclusion in the program. Others may receive partial assistance.
The main focus of the program is to break the cycle of poverty. The best way to do this is through education. The idea is to either get the children in school, keep them in school, or get them back in school. However, if their bodies aren't receiving the necessary nutrition or if the children are always sick from their living conditions, the education received won't be as effective. So, there is also an interest in improving their nutrition and hygiene standards.
The majority of this work will be done through the help of donors who feel a desire to help these people; this includes the money that you as a church donate through the mission fund each month. Additionally, if you have friends or family members which might be interested in sponsoring a family, please get them in contact with me!
Finally, I want to share a few stories from my visits, one funny one and one a little more difficult. First I'd like to share with you the story of David. David is only a year and a half old. He is the youngest of four children. The oldest, Carlos, is 16, finished 7th grade, and works during the harvest (and at other odd jobs when they can be found). Wendy, age 12, also finished 7th grade and now works full-time making crafts to sell. Floricelda, age 8, is in second grade but helps her older sister make crafts in the afternoons when she gets home from school. This is just some of the information I collect about each child.
When I arrived at their home, Wendy and Floricelda were busy with their work. Carlos and his father were away, and their mother was cooking some beans for lunch. David was toddling around grabbing onto the yarn which his sisters were trying to weave into their baskets. However, they all sat down to chat when I showed up with my small group of translators and community leaders. As I worked my way down the sheet filling in information, we shared a nice camaraderie. David was pleasant and cheerful. However, when I said, “And David doesn't do anything yet because he's too little” (in Spanish, of course) and put a line through the space where I note if they work or study, he let out a howl which made most of us jump. “Okay, okay,” I said (in Spanish), “David works in artisan work as well with his sisters” and wrote through my crossed out line. He instantly burst into a smile which made us all laugh. As we got ready to leave, Floricelda gifted me a little basket; she said, “David wants you to have this to remember what good work he does.” We still call it “David's basket.”
The other story is much more sobering. While trying to find one of the houses—there aren't really addresses—we ended up visiting the next-door neighbor of the house we wanted. It was not hard to get confused. The house we visited was made of metal. It had metal walls and a metal roof. Outside we met Maria and Elena. Maria is a widow with two children: Juan and Elena. Her husband committed suicide a few years back. Maria couldn't support the family; so she sent her children—now ages 10 and 11—to work. She tried to get Elena a job making tortillas, but the people at the tortilleria said that she was too little and couldn't make tortillas good enough to sell. (I believe I was told that Elena was 8 at that time.) Juan sells gum on buses. They have no electricity or water at their home. Their “bed” is a few wooden planks on cement blocks; it has no mattress. They cook over an open fire on the other side of their room; the only way for smoke to escape is through the door or at the corners of the room where the metal sheets don't come together completely. Fortunately, they own their land, and they are able to rent some of it to a potato farmer just to have a regular income.
The Care and Keeping of a Missionary
As I enter the next phase of the ministry which God brought me down here for, I'd like to take the time to thank each and every one of you for the support you have given me. Without your prayers and financial support, I might have given up a long time ago. As we enter this next phase, I ask that you keep me and these 21 families in your prayers. Please share this ministry with others who you encounter as we'll need 21 sponsors. The full program outline is available upon request. I'm still working out a few final details; so any thoughts and suggestions (as well as questions!) are more than welcome. Keep me in your prayers as well for my health and that God removes any roadblocks which may show up.
Remember that I update my blog as well at http://GringaOnTheGround.blogspot.com for additional stories and updates which don't always make it into the newsletter, and also I love to hear from you; so feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you are all having a safe and wonderful summer!