Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Vision

I wasn't asleep.  Maybe it was the medications, I don't know.  But early in the morning I had a vision. I was lying here in my bed.  There were two angels standing just behind me, over my head.  I knew they were my guardian angels.  They were so close.  I could feel their wings just touching my shoulders.  I couldn't feel their hands, but somehow their hands were below me.  I was lifted up, like I was floating, with a white blanket, floating up out of my bed.

Pastor Norma knew that God was with her.  She shared this vision with us, knowing she would be healed, expecting to be raised up out of her bed, grateful for the comfort of God's angels.

We believed she would rise up.  We believed she would walk.  We believed she would mother her children,  accompany her husband, shepherd her congregation, and laugh with her friends.  We prayed for a miracle, and we expected one.

We do not doubt that today, as Norma's body is committed to the earth, she has experienced the prayed-for miracle.  She is healed. She has risen up out of her bed.

We wanted the guardian angels to guide Pastor Norma back into health in this world.  We wanted the vision to be a sign that the mother, wife, pastor and friend would be with us, here, now, in this time.

I believe the vision was a gift.  For Norma.  For us.

Yesterday a friend said, "God is weeping with us."  Today we weep for the loss of the mother, the wife, the pastor and the friend who will no longer walk with us for a time.   God is weeping with us.

Adios, querida Norma, hermana y amiga.  Nos vemos en los tiempos de Dios.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Más Cuentos del Abuelo - More Tales from The Grandfather

We reached the outskirts of Suchitoto and turned up the road to Cinquera.  Cinquera was our destination:  a tiny town which suffered great loss and destruction at the start of the war and which was resettled by surviving families ten years later.

"Have you ever been to Cinquera?" I asked The Grandfather.  Beautiful views of Lake Suchitlán passed by outside of our vehicle's window.  Maybe some of our delegation members took photos.  I listened to The Grandfather.

"Oh...yes," he paused, "I came up here in 1991 or '92 accompanying a group of [Salvadoran] families coming from Honduras who were re-populating their lands after seven years of exile.  They traveled from the refuge in Honduras to San Salvador, and then came to the shore of Lake Suchitlán.  We lived in this forest for 10 days because we had to transport the people to their community by boat.  We only had small wooden boats, and it took 10 days to move the people.  The most difficult part of the experience was that the children born in Honduras during the exile, some who were seven years old, did not know their own country, their own culture, their own land.  This was the time when I was doing work with the Lutheran Church."

"Is there a Lutheran Church near here?" I asked.

"No. At one time there was a hacienda near Cinquera which the Lutheran Synod was going to purchase.  It was land which the church planned to use as a resettlement area for refugees coming back from Honduras.  When I arrived at the land I saw that it was surrounded by many, many families living in little houses of cartón (cardboard).  How could we move people onto this land when it rightly belonged to the people who already lived there and who needed it more?  They were the real owners of the land, so I said we could not buy it.

"Before we could bring the people back to their land I helped to clear it.  I looked for mines.  I removed the abandoned ordinates - live and dead ones.  I coordinated with the mayor's office and the local priest.  This was the work we had to do. This was a time in which my work for the Lutheran Church touched the whole northern region, from Chaltenango to Nejapa. All this time in the work of moving the people I was accompanied by two nuns.  They said, 'Eat, Pastor, you need to eat!' but I did not eat during that time because the work was so hard and the people did not eat."
We arrived in Cinquera.  The Grandfather got out of the small bus and walked slowly along the town square.  "What change -- what a difference," he said quietly.  His eyes moved slowly from building to building, and he moved along the street as if he were moving through time.  "There was nothing here when I left.  Nothing here."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Cuentos del Abuelo - Tales from The Grandfather

"My grandmother was a very beautiful woman.  No one could understand why she was with my grandfather.  Hehehehehe," he chuckled.  Well, these are the mysteries of love.

We were driving along the road between Aguilares and Suchitoto.  The Grandfather sat beside me as we bumped along the way.  The Grandfather's face shines as he spins his tales, remembering moments of his life as they come to mind, often repeating phrases and smiling broadly when I understand.  He talks with his hands, and sometimes gives my shoulder or arm a little whack when he wants to be sure I agree with him on the significant points of his stories.

"Grandmother was Honduran.  A tall woman with blond hair.  She traveled to the festivals in Chalatenango and there she met a short man with very dark skin.  It was unusual, a tall, beautiful woman with a short, dark man.  He was my grandfather.  They built a life together and settled over there in Suchitoto.  There are no papers, no records for the births of their children.  But they built a life and a family and had a big property.  There is a grand hill over there and they owned about one third of the land on that hill...

"La Señora was a wealthy woman.  She had what you might call a farm and she managed the hacienda and all of the workers.  All of us children learned to work on the farm.  La Señora Delfina made sure we knew where our bread came from.  In this area of Guazapa, we grew up.  A lot of this land in this area was owned by La Señora.  Well, we had our riches."

La Señora Delfina was the grandfather's mother.  He always calls her La Señora.

" are of the original fourteen families?" I gave the grandfather a little whack on the arm.

"Hahahaha, well maybe so.  The truth is that during the war, papers were lost.  There is no proof of ownership.  Many things were lost..."

"This road has many memories from the war," I said.

"Once I was riding along this road.  It was just me and a German driver.  There were military troops all around us.  We came to a place in the road which was well-flooded.  We couldn't go back, so we had to go forward.  We planed across the lake of mud, sliding and sliding and we made it to the other side.  We kept going forward to Suchitoto.  Military shooters were up on the rooftops and all around the town.  They asked us why we were in town and instructed us to turn around and go back.  We said we couldn't because of the flood.  We had to leave.  We walked for hours, carefully because the guard was all around.  Well, we survived the long walk."

Maybe this story loses a little in the typing, but imagine The Grandfather's grand gestures describing a great flood of mud on the road before us.  Picture a well-lined face looking up at remembered sharp-shooters with a finger raised as guns were raised.  Feel the little whack on the arm and hear the chuckle:  "Well, we survived the long walk."

"You should write a book," I said.

"I have thought of that," said The Grandfather.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

July 30 - A Legacy of Marching for Justice

Students worked feverishly during the final days in preparation for the march.  The wooden frame had been transformed into a paper mache military plane.  Tanks and other replica military vehicles were surrounded by students dressed in military gear.  The purpose:  giving honor to the university students who were killed in a massacre on July 30, 1975.

The students at the University of El Salvador in San Salvador retell the story which they have heard from survivors of the horrific event.  Forty years ago, university students marched to protest repressive military actions which had taken place at the national university in Santa Ana.  As the student march reached 25th Street, the military arrived with tanks and other vehicles.  Tear gas was fired into the student group, and shots were fired.  The tanks rolled over the wounded, pushing the student marchers onto an overpass where they were surrounded by military vehicles on both sides.  Students scrambled to escape, many jumping over the side of the bridge, becoming wounded from the fall.  To this day, the exact number of dead or disappeared students is unknown because the military authorities removed the bodies and cleaned the street with soap and water before allowing access to anyone.  Some say 20 or 23 students were killed.

Students from our sister church are leaders at the university.  They are proud of the work they are doing now to work for justice and bring peace to their home communities.  They are eager to share the work which they are doing and to honor the students who built a legacy of working for justice at the national university.  "Share these photos!" they said.  "Tell the story."  Here are a few of their photos from the July 30, 2015 march.