Monday, January 18, 2010

Return to El Salvador

Posted by Terry McNichols
My husband, Ken, and I are on my 4th and his 3rd trip to a small village in the middle of El Salvador.  We are leading a team of Journey With A Village (JWAV) participants, a combination outreach of our local church and Agros, International.  Our village, San Diego de Tenango, is made up of about 125 people, originally displaced by the long civil war.  These people were exiled in a Honduras refugee camp for years before returning to land purchased by Agros.  They work the land and will someday own their piece of land outright.  Agros is dedicated to land ownership and sustainability. 

My first introduction to Agros was as a volunteer in their local office.  Over the course of two years, I became a cheerleader for the type of work being done and began to get excited about joining a team.  When the opportunity arose to participate with my church, I jumped at the chance.  Ken was a little slower to jump.  In the past he hadn’t really wanted to give up treasured vacation time for hard work in a hot and muggy place, so I decided to go on my own.  I had a lot of fears about the unknown, but had read enough about the JWAV service trips to know a little of what I was getting into.  My main fears had to do with my own physical stamina.  Would I get enough sleep?  Would I be able to do the work?  Did I really have anything to offer?  Would I be a hindrance to my team?  Would I be able to keep up?  Was I too fearful of the risks
involved?  Could I handle the intense heat and humidity?  Was I too old for such an adventure?

And what an adventure it was!  Our team sleeps in tents in an open community center at the village.  We share one very-appreciated shower and a self-composting outhouse.  On our first visit the villager adults were a little shy, leaving us alone unless there was a planned activity.  The kids, however, were another story.  From the early morning to lights out we had a swarm of kids, watching our every movement, hoping for someone who wanted to play.  And play we did!  It didn’t take long to realize that my gifts were in areas I hadn’t yet explored.  Although I wasn’t much help on the road repair crew or digging ditches, it turns out I am very good at bubblegum blowing!  And checkers!  And puzzles!  And making tortillas! And before long, I found I was also good at connecting with the people of the village, learning to love them over the course of just a few days! 

My husband heard my stories and saw my pictures and was convinced to join me on trips #2 and 3.  He is equally in love with the villagers and they love him.  He is the musical pied piper, connecting with the musicians (and children) of the village and anxious to return.  We can’t wait to see the new well that has just been dug to provide much-needed irrigation water and to see the steps toward sustainability – the new chicken coop, gardens and livestock.  We can’t wait to see how the village women are doing with the new craft project they’ve taken on.  We’ll hug the new babies, play with the kids, and converse in our limited Spanish with patient elders.  And we will add new names and needs to our ongoing prayer list!

And that long list of fears?  I now know that I can put aside the fears for the joys of the experience.   The villagers gave more to us than we could ever repay and I hope that I will never be “too old” to give back in the struggle to end poverty in the world in some small way.

No comments: