It has been a little while since I shared a story about Greasy and Grubby. If you are a frequent reader of my stories, you know Greasy now lives far away from Grubby, and the two made a recent visit to El Salvador together. Greasy has a new sister church in Peru, and Grubby (that would be me) continues to be in a close relationship with her sister church community and the people of El Salvador. Although Greasy's new church experiences carry her to another place, a piece of Greasy's heart will always be in El Salvador. And although Greasy and Grubby tried on new nicknames during their most recent adventure in El Salvador, the names did not really stick.
Our idea for the recent visit was to surprise our sister church community. The community would not expect the two of us to show up together -- it took a long while for them to accept that we no longer live on the same street (much less the same state), go to the same church or travel together. This would be a true surprise. Of course our sister pastor knew. Of course our beloved Julia, one of las tres amigas knew. We anticipated that others would find out through the grapevine or Facebook, but we hoped that most folks would rejoice in this great surprise.
We arrived very early in the morning and were bustled into Julia's house (our home in the community) for a nice long visit. People started to stop by -- Julia is in a great location for that. What fun it was to watch people's faces as they noticed us sitting under the cherry tree, especially the kids who screamed with delight and ran to the gate.
We know the community well, so ventured out to walk the pathways, pausing for conversation in the shade here and there and experiencing invitations and hospitality at every turn. We visited the "mom with 8 kids." Although we now know the names of the women in the community, back in the beginning of our relationship we came up with nicknames to help us remember who was who. Now I use the nicknames when I am writing so that identities can be protected. The first time we visited the "mom with 8 kids," we caught her off-guard. She was so apologetic for the laundry and folded clothing which was piled on every surface in her tiny house. She said, "with me and my husband and 8 kids, there is just no place to put it" and we had a good laugh about it as we nestled ourselves in and had a long chat amidst the piles of laundry. This friend is the happiest mother we have ever met, disciplining her children with love, a little shake of the finger and a frown that turns quickly back into a smile, and treating her children as true treasures from God. Her baby is a miracle, a ninth child arriving late in life 9 months after her firstborn was murdered. During our recent visit, the baby slept while we sat and chatted. Our friend told us that she was learning how to make jewelry, and she gave us each a beaded necklace and some seed earrings -- a bit of bling which highly entertained the baby who woke up to join us.
A young mom and her cousin, godchildren to our families, learned how to make tuti-fruti that day as a fresh treat for us. The woman of the house, younger than both of us, has struggled to support her family by traveling to Honduras to purchase fruit and then cut it up to sell in the market. She has always been so proud and excited to serve us tuti-fruti at her home, and we remembered together the first time she introduced us to tuti-fruti (watermelon, pineapple, strawberries and bananas cut up small and drizzled with honey) in 2001 after her children were baptized. She is tired and not quite lucid. She is receiving chemo-therapy for brain cancer.
We had many visits, and many surprise conversations in the pathways on our walks, and then...there were two surprise parties at the church. Our coming had definitely not remained a secret. The family commission (divided into four women's Bible study groups) teamed up: two groups for an event on Saturday and two groups for an event on Sunday. These were beautiful parties. A welcome sign with our names was up on the wall. The first party featured a devotion time and a really yummy Salvadoran treat that I cannot remember the name of but is sort of like a buñuelo soaked in honey, served with a sweet milky drink seasoned with whole cloves (in a traditional morro cup). The women worked very hard all day to make these special treats. After we finished the delicious refreshments, we received the gift of a song. The two of us sat in our white plastic chairs, as the women and a few of their children sang to us about brothers and sisters being and working together. Of course we were teary-eyed because to receive a gift such as this really is to experience the love of Christ. With sticky honey on our fingers and our lips, we hugged and kissed and wished each other a good-night.
The second party was held after church on Sunday. Many of the women had attended workshops to learn to make beaded jewelry with pearls and sparkles and colorful beads and natural seeds. We were bedecked and bedazzled with necklaces and bracelets and earrings and small purses. Since Grubby is short, she was the first to be decorated, and being the comedian she is, did a little model-walk and twirl which elicited clapping and cheers. Greasy is quite tall, so it took a bit of stretching and ducking which provided just enough of a delay so that when the crowd called for her to do a strut and twirl, it was captured by a pastor with a quick grab of Grubby's camera. Sadly, Grubby promised Greasy never to publish these photos. The truth is that no matter how much bling you dangle onto us on a really hot day, we retain our true identities as Greasy and Grubby. After the fashion show, the women presented Greasy with a very special gift - a lacquered map of El Salvador with a traditional scene on the front, and a hand-written message on the back: For our dear friend...on behalf of Sector No. 1 with much caring and love, hoping that you will always remember all of your friends. Each name of the Sector 1 Bible Study group was inscribed below the message. Another gift of love, and a few more tears. Then, the two of us were invited to a table which was filled with fruit. Each woman had brought fruit from her garden or the market - and it was quite a banquet! Everyone was able to share in the sweet goodness. We received gifts of fruit to carry with us. There were hugs and kisses because it was time to say good-bye.