Our next stop (after the gate at San Andres) was at the grocery store in El Congo where a very practical team of women picked up the fixings for a picnic lunch of ham sandwiches and orange drink. We took the tree-lined highway to the lake, driving down into the ancient caldera and the lake shore. The public park we had hoped to access was closed, so we paid a fee to enter a private beach adjacent to the public area. Hopefully the government will keep its promise to reopen the park so that the public can continue to enjoy this Salvadoran natural treasure.
We gathered on the boat dock for a time of devotion. It was a pastor's dream...a fisherwoman standing in a rowboat near the shore, casting her nets and pulling in the fish. We read from the Gospel: Jesus calling his disciples to come, to follow him, to fish for people. Pastor Santiago asked the Where is our lake? Where do our little fishies swim?”
“In [our community],” came the reply.
“Who are the little fishies who need to be caught? What are their names?” It took a moment, then someone said, “Vanessa.” Someone else said, “Karla.”
“OK,” said Pastor Santiago. Vanessa and Karla are two among a group of 6 girls who are “in the streets” of the community. It was clear that all of our friends know these girls who either do not have parents or whose parents do not attend to them. “In the streets” means that they are at risk of being recruited by the gangs or harmed by the gangs. They do not have food. They are at risk for prostitution and may already be working “in the streets” to survive.
“What is the net that we will use to catch these girls?” Pastor Santiago continued.
“The Sewing Cooperative?” suggested Sonia.
“Yes, good example,” said Pastor Santiago. The conversation continued, identifying other fish and other possibilities for nets. Pastor Santiago said several times that each one of us has a job from God: fish for people. It was practical. It was real. Fishing for people is not meant to be a metaphor. Jesus wants us to go out there and really care for the lost ones and to take practical actions which change lives. We concluded our worship time by singing the "Lakeshore" song.
Next, it was time to go swimming. The majority of the group of about 40 people from the community had never been swimming before. A few had bathing suits. Some swam in their clothes. A few were too afraid to try so enjoyed sitting in the cool grass and watching the kids splashing in the shallows. The water was cool and wonderfully clean! It was a lot of fun for so many who never had a chance to swim before! We brought a blow-up raft which provided lots of fun. Next time we will bring extra swim suits.
At lunch time the grocery team gathered to make sandwiches: white bread, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato and salad dressing. Each sandwich was carefully wrapped in a napkin, and when it was time for lunch each person received two. There were special ones without the fresh veggies for those with sensitive northern tummies. The sandwiches were delicious.
A couple of the women looked a little worried. "Are you OK?" I asked. "I'm nervous," one whispered. "Me too," said Julia, "I've never been in a boat before." As it turns out, no one had been in a boat before. I thought about how at home the landscape is generously dotted with lakes left behind by long ago glaciers. It's hard to find a person, city or countryside, who has not seen a lake, played by the lake shore, ridden in a boat, or gone swimming. Sometimes we just take things for granted.
We clipped through the water at a pretty slow pace, but fast enough to enjoy the occasional bump and splash of waves and to feel the wind whipping through our hair. Half-way out the driver accidentally killed the motor. The ladies panicked a little, worried we would not make it back to shore. Soon we were on our way, and we made it back just fine.