During a recent car ride, I had the opportunity to chat with one of the pastors of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church. He has told me some stories in the past, so I asked him if he would tell me a little bit about his life. I took a few notes during the bumpy ride, and that night I wrote everything I could remember in my journal. Here is his story...
I was born and raised in Tonaca. When the cooperatives were there, I worked with them and then was an FMLN soldier. After the war, I was there and remember when the people came to Los Héroes*. I was a witness to that. They didn’t know me as a pastor, but as an FMLN leader. So, when I became a pastor I couldn’t serve there among my own people. So I worked at Opico and Quezaltepeque, and later helped to start a mission at Nueva Esperanza in Chalate. I have always worked with cooperatives and like that style of project. I came to Cara Sucia after Hurricane Mitch when the Lutheran World Federation set up the radio station and emergency building.
During the war, I almost died three times. The FMLN advanced, taking the communities around Guazapa. The military responded. I was in Apopa and a bomb fell on the place like a house where I was. The bomb went into a hole and exploded upwards, so that everything which surrounded me was blown upwards into the sky. My group expected me to be blown up, but I had been near a window. Maybe that saved me or maybe it was because the explosion went upwards. I came out of the house. I remember checking to make sure all of my body parts were there.
Another time I was on Troncal del Norte (the main highway which goes north from San Salvador). This was the "happening place" for a lot of war action. There was a big electrical storm as we walked down the highway. Two transformers, which were located above me one on either side of the road, were hit by lightning. I quickly ducked into a little ball with my backside in the air and waited for the sparks and power lines, pieces of metal and rays of electricity to fall on me. I was expecting to die. The fire and debris fell all around me, and my group expected me to be charred to a crisp. Everything around me was burnt, but the little spot where I crouched was not burned. I went back to this spot much later and could still see the burn marks. Maybe you can still see them. I wondered why God caused me to live. This was the second time I was saved.
There was a third time. These times made me think about God and this is why I became a pastor. I didn't really think about God before this. On November 11 in the late afternoon I put on my dark clothes and we moved forward.** There were a lot of us. Well, we need to honor the veterans. There were so many who were with me. There is no recognition for those who were injured during the war or who need help.
Well, I grew up in Tonaca. I can tell you about the legends there. Of course I already told you about Cipitillo and the Siguanaba. These are true stories. When I was a little boy, one time my father was walking home at midnight. There was a place where three huge trees stood together and there was a large canopy. You can go see these trees - do you know where they are? My father came to this spot and suddenly there appeared a big huge animal and he realized it was a burro. It was scary with red eyes. My father was paralyzed with fear. The giant burro flapped its big ears at him and sort of slapped his face with them. My father ran home. I woke up when he came in the house and he was really trembling with fear.
Did I tell you about the the headless priest? He comes out at night and stands in the middle of the road. You walk past him and then he follows you. You can feel the cold behind you because he is following. People run in the dark because of this. Many people have felt the cold of the headless priest.
Well, there are many stories...this is a little bit about my life.
*Los Héroes was settled in 1996 by 150 families who were displaced during the war. The Salvadoran Lutheran Church helped the families to settle and established a congregation - the only church in the community at the time. In the past 17 years the community has more than tripled in size.
**This was the final offensive which the FMLN mounted in 1989. I had read about the final offensive but it did not click when the pastor was talking with me about November 11th that he was speaking about this event.