Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Way of the Cross

For many Christians, the tradition of meditating upon the stations of the cross is a meaningful spiritual practice during Lent, particularly during Holy Week.  The stations of the cross represent physical locations and events which took place in Jerusalem.  Tradition holds that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, walked the Via Dolorosa (Via Crucis or Way of the Cross).  At the time of Emperor Constantine, the stations along the Way of the Cross were publicly marked, and in the centuries which have followed, pilgrims have sought to walk in the footsteps of Jesus not only in Jerusalem, but in sanctuaries and chapels throughout the Christian world.

During the first week of Lent we had the opportunity to visit El Rosario Church (Church of the Rosary) in San Salvador.  The stone and iron sculptures which depict the different stations capture the moments of violence and submission within the Way of the Cross.  These constructs of spiritual art were created by Ruben Martinez, the sculptor and architect who designed El Rosario Church.  Construction was completed in 1971.  There is symbolism woven into every aspect of the church.  The 14 stations of the cross are set in a u-shaped form, under a low ceiling at one end of the sanctuary.  Darkness and concrete seats invite visitors to pause for a time to reflect on the final walk which Jesus took before his death.  



1. Jesus Is Condemned to Death.
Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus to death.















2. Jesus Takes Up His Cross.
Jesus willingly accepts and patiently bears his cross.














3. Jesus Falls the First Time. 
Weakened by torments and by loss of blood, Jesus falls beneath his cross.













4. Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother. 
Jesus meets his mother, Mary, who is filled with grief.













5. Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross. 
Soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross.














6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus. 
Veronica steps through the crowd to wipe the face of Jesus.













7. Jesus Falls a Second Time. 
Jesus falls beneath the weight of the cross a second time.













8. Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem. 
Jesus tells the women to weep not for him but for themselves and for their children.













9. Jesus Falls the Third Time. 
Weakened almost to the point of death, Jesus falls a third time.










10. Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments.
The soldiers strip Jesus of his garments, treating him as a common criminal.













11. Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross. 
Jesus’ hands and feet are nailed to the cross.












12. Jesus Dies on the Cross. 
After suffering greatly on the cross, Jesus bows his head and dies.














13. Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross. 
The lifeless body of Jesus is tenderly placed in the arms of Mary, his mother.













14. Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb. 
Jesus’ disciples place his body in the tomb.








The closing prayer—sometimes included as a 15th station—reflects on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Hibiscus Tea


 Flor de jamaica - Rosa de jamaica - Te de jamaica - Frozen de jamaica...

Jamaica (pronounced huh-my-kuh) means "hibiscus,"

However it is written on the menu, I order it.  Hot. Cold. Frozen.  You can order it by the pitcher at Pizza Hut and Pollo Campero.  At fancy restaurants it is served in big goblets, and with its deep red color you might mistake it for a glass of robust burgundy.

You can buy jamaica at the Super - crushed in tea bags or as whole dried flowers in big plastic bags.  You can often find the dried flowers in small markets and artisan shops.  I almost always have a pitcher of it in my fridge.

Nutritionally speaking, hibiscus tea contains important vitamins and minerals (A, B1, C, E and iron).  Salvadoran grandmothers will tell you it is good for your kidneys, digestion, your liver and helps to lower your blood pressure.  These are important health benefits, but I drink it because I like it.  I recently added a new twist to my hibiscus tea after I made boiled plantains.  I think my grandma would be very proud of me for this excellent use of resources. In the US, Rosa or Flor de Jamaica is available at markets that feature foods from Latina cultures.  Many supermarkets also carry the flowers or tea bags.

Boiled Plantains with Cinnamon
Fill a pot with water, enough so your plantains, once cut, can swim around freely.
Add one large or two small sticks of cinnamon.
Bring water to a boil.
Peel and cut 1-3 large plantains cross-ways into chunks about 1 1/2" long.
Drop the plantain chunks into the water.  Boil until very tender, but not so long that they lose their shape.
Scoop the plantains out of the water, and enjoy eating them!  Sprinkle a touch of brown sugar or raw sugar over them if they are not sweet enough for your taste.
Save the water, and let it cool.

Hibiscus Tea
Place about 1 cup (2 handfuls) rosas de jamaica (hibiscus roses/hibiscus flowers) in a glass jar that has a tight-fitting lid (1.5 liters)  Add a few extra if your jar is bigger.
(To make this with tea bags, toss about 8-10 tea bags into the jar, depending on the size.)
Pour the cooled plantain liquid with cinnamon into the jar.
Add water until the jar is full.  Put on the lid.





Set the jar out in a sunny spot.  (I put mine out in the morning before I head out for the day, and take it in at night when I get back.  A couple of hours in the sun should be sufficient - in El Salvador, anyway.)

I usually enjoy my first cup warm.  If the tea seems too tart for your taste, add sugar to the whole batch while it is warm.  I do not add any extra sugar to mine.

You can strain the tea, but I find it easier just to dump the tea, flowers and cinnamon all into a plastic pitcher that has a lid with a little strainer, and just pop the whole thing into the fridge.

Chill.  The tea keeps fine for a week, probably longer, but I always drink it up in a few days.  If the tea is too strong add a little ice or cold water.
Enjoy!


Monday, February 22, 2016

La Mesa Final - The Last Table

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the Feria de Bienestar Familiar - Family Wellness Fair that we organized earlier this month.  You might like to check out The Chicken Dance , Las Charlas and More Charlas before you read this story.  For the panoramic look at Missions of Healing over the years, put "Mission of Healing" in the search window and you will find a wide variety of healing stories from over the years.

The Mesa Final at the Family Wellness Fair was my responsibility.  As my Spanish has improved over the years, I moved from running the children's activities, to assisting in the pharmacy, to translating for doctors and nurses, and finally to teaching.  A few years ago, we added La Mesa Final as a control - a place where each participant in the Mission of Healing would stop and show me all of his or her medications so I could be sure the participant knew how and when to take them.  I drew many calendars with suns and moons to help non-readers remember when to take their medications.  I spent a significant amount of time clarifying that the pink blood pressure pill and pink allergy medication were different.  Heads of the household received "basic kits" (containing bandages, toothbrushes, acetaminophen for adults and children if needed, crayons, educational coloring pages and health information pages), so I also explained the items in the kits.  Last year, I added a little charla about purifying water in the sunlight.


This year, without a pharmacy yet still recognizing the need to provide education about medications, the Mesa Final became the place for a charla about storing and taking medications correctly, including antibiotics.  It was also the place to hand out information pages, to check over the participants' cards and add my stamp, and to give away the last premio - acetaminophen for adults and children (as needed).  


Everyone stops at La Mesa Final.  When big crowds moved through the fair, the Mesa Final was a little crazy.  For all of my fellow fair-workers, I apologize in advance for sharing once again my charla - this time not in my loud teacher voice, but via the written word:


Hello, my name is Linda.  Welcome to the Mesa Final.  Here we will learn a little bit about how to take medications responsibly, especially antibiotics.  I have wonderful education pages for you to use in the home, and at the end, a gift of acetaminophen for the family so when a high fever hits in the middle of the night from dengue or chikungunya, or zika you will be prepared.


How many of you take medications every day - like for sugar in your blood or high blood pressure or vitamins?  (Hands go up.)  It is very important to follow the instructions of your physician.  When we take medications every day for the rest of our lives or for a short time to take care of an infection, it can be easy to forget to take our medicines.  (People nod and start telling me about forgetting to take their medications.) I have a tip for you.  How many of you have one of these? (I pull out my little Salvadoran cell phone.  95% of the participants raise their hands.)  This little phone has an alarm, right?  We can set an alarm for the hour when we should take our medicine.  If we take medication twice a day, we can set two alarms.  It's easy.  (At this point people are nodding like this is a brilliant idea.)  


It is also very important, as we all know, to store our medications properly:  in a dry and safe place, not too hot and above the hands of the children.  If you have a liquid like amoxicillin, it is important to keep it in the refrigerator, and if you don't have a refrigerator, find a cool place or a neighbor who has one.  


How many of you are walking around today with a sore throat or runny nose? (Everyone raises their hands.  It's super windy and super dusty.)  Maybe you think you need an antibiotic to help you feel better?  (More than half the people say "yes" out loud.)  Antibiotics only work to take away an infection that is caused by a bacteria.  Many infections are caused by viruses and antibiotics cannot touch them.  To take them is a waste of resources.  How can you tell if you have a bacterial infection?  (They know this - go to the clinic and have an exam.  We go over the classic signs of a bacterial infection - including green boogers and phlegm which the teen boys love.)


The charla continues with a conversation about antibiotics.  The people are familiar with the instructions of a 7-day or 10-day course of treatment.  


How do you feel after about 3 or 4 days of taking your antibiotic?  (Better, they all say.)  So, maybe you have the idea to stop taking your antibiotic and to keep the rest of it for another time when you are sick. 


In the 4 days I spent giving this charla only one time did a woman stop me and say, "No, that's dangerous."  She proceeded to give my charla.  Every other time, dozens of heads nodded.  I say that this idea is dangerous.  The people look surprised and a little guilty.  


About 2 charlas into my first day, I realized that I needed props.  Since I had nothing better than my hands, I used them.  To really appreciate the full dramatic effect of this charla one needs to imagine my hands up in the air, acting out the fight between the bacteria and the antibiotic.


When your body has a bacterial infection, that means that you have bacteria growing inside your body.  (I hold up my right fist.)  When you take antibiotics (I hold up my left fist) there is a fight between the antibiotic and the bacteria.  (I hit my fists together.)  What does the bacteria want to do?  Survive.  So to survive it gets a little bit stronger and even changes its form a little bit.  (Keep in mind, I am about to explain something in compressed time -- not exactly the perfect science but accurate enough to make the point.  I open my right fist and wiggle my fingers to make stronger bacteria.)  When we keep taking the antibiotics for the 7 days or the 10 days like the doctor tells us (my antibiotic fist keeps pounding my wiggly bacteria), the bacteria dies. 


But what happens if we take away the antibiotic early?  (I put my antibiotic fist behind my back.  My wiggly fingers bacteria keeps on wiggling.  The crowd is with me now.  "The bacteria survives," they say.)


Right.  I feel fine, but inside me the bacteria survives in a new strong form.  Maybe I will get sick again soon.  Maybe I will get sick later.  And the antibiotic that I kept (I pull my antibiotic fist from behind my back) won't work to take away this strong bacteria. (My antibiotic fist can't touch my wiggly bacteria fingers.)  


And maybe there are no new antibiotics to take my strong infection away.  Strong bacteria like this is called drug-resistant bacteria.  If I have drug resistant bacteria in my body, and there is no medicine to take it away, what will happen to me?  (At this point I pause for great dramatic effect, and speak with a very dramatic voice.)  A tragedy.  (This sounds much better in Spanish.)


And if I pass my drug-resistant bacteria to you and to you (I touch people's shoulders) and to you?  A tragedy for the family and the whole community.  So please, take your antibiotics responsibly.  7 days means 7 days.  10 days means 10 days.  (Everyone is nodding and thinking about that stash of antibiotics they have at home.)


I finish up my charla by handing out information pages which provide basic home treatments for common illnesses and provide guidelines for when a clinic visit might be needed.  We review things like the common cold (no antibiotics needed), flu, stomach pain, back exercises and a recipe for making re-hydration solution in the home.  The last page I hand out is the constipation page.  


Don't be embarrassed, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, this page is about constipation.  (The youth giggle.)  We all know that right now in a home in this community there is a little kid crying out, "Mama, I can't go poo poo."  (I use this little kid voice which makes them all laugh and all the moms and grandmas say, "yes, that's true."  Then the old people volunteer the fact that they have this problem too.) 


All children have this problem from time to time, and we adults have it too, but we do not like to talk about it.  We just think, "I can't go poop."  


Seriously, the constipation page ends up being the one everyone really likes.  It has good tips on how to stay regular and how to encourage the digestive system to work when it isn't.  


With that, I complete my charla.  I hope you have learned a little something from me today, and throughout the fair.  Now you may line up in an orderly fashion to receive my seal on your card and your gift of acetaminophen.  Remember, if you have a headache do not take ibuprofen, only acetaminophen.  Ibuprofen can cause kidney problems if you have chikungunya.  Only acetaminophen.


Folks line up.  They give me hugs and blessings.  A few interlopers try to get the acetaminophen without listening to the charla.  When this happens I ask, "Explain what drug-resistant bacteria is."  They grin guiltily and others in the line tell them to sit down because it is really a good charla.  I hope so.


And that is how I ran the Mesa Final.



Thursday, February 18, 2016

More Charlas

This is the third in a series of posts about the Feria de Bienestar Familiar - Family Wellness Fair that we organized earlier this month.  You might like to check out The Chicken Dance and  Las Charlas before you read this story.  For the panoramic look at Missions of Healing over the years, put "Mission of Healing" in the search window and you will find a wide variety of healing stories from over the years.

More Charlas...

Hygiene - the directors of the health clinics we have visited in El Salvador have consistently emphasized the need for a charla which focuses on washing hands.  Depending on who gives the talk, information about proper maintenance of latrines, proper disposal of garbage, water filtration techniques and prevention of parasitic infections can be included in this charla.  The physician who was with us in Guazapa did an AMAZING job teaching the children about how to keep their hands and bodies clean.  The prize at this station:  small bars of soap, little bottles of shampoo and anti-parasite medicine.

Mouth Health - this is the second-most popular charla because the prize at the end consists of toothbrushes for the whole family.  With our giant model teeth and foot-long toothbrush, we demonstrate how to brush the teeth, gums and entire mouth.  This is a great talk for a beginning Spanish-speaker to give because you can develop a script and memorize it.  We often include information about sugars and acids in drinks, especially soda.  Although we did not have a charla this year about nutrition, we included nutritional information in several of the other charlas.  If we are able to find a nutritionist - a nutrition talk would definitely be a good addition to the fair.

First Aid - we invited the Salvadoran Red Cross to come and give a first aid presentation.  Although this only happened in one of our four sites, it is something that we want to continue.  The premio at this charla was a bag of bandages.  (In our other 3 sites, we gave out the bandages at the hygiene charla).

Mosquitoes - Prevention of Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya - a health promoter with the Salvadoran Lutheran Church gave an excellent talk about mosquito protection.  Citizens are consistently asking their local authorities to fumigate their neighborhoods.  Not only is this unhealthy, but there are not enough resources to fumigate every neighborhood consistently to kill off developing mosquitoes.  The key to prevention is eliminated the larvae.  Each family needs to be responsible for its yard and water system, and unless every family in a community is responsible, the larvae cannot be eradicated.  For more information on this topic, check out Fighting Chik.

Migration - the Lutheran Church has a strong ministry of accompaniment of families who are forced from their homes due to violence.  This charla created a space for families to learn about the danger of attempting to get to the US or other countries.  Families who are in danger were able to register their cases.  There are thousands of internally displaced families who have had to relocate one or more times within El Salvador due to acts of violence or threats of violence on the part of gang members or law enforcement.  This is a complex issue and many families expressed their gratitude for the information shared in this talk which was led by a Salvadoran Lutheran pastor and her team.

Checkers, Chess and Puzzles - somebody donated a Jenga game, which was definitely the most popular.  This activity was self-directed.  Some might wonder why a games table would be included in a Mission of Healing.  For families who live under so many stresses - struggling to get water, struggling to have food for their families, living under the consistent threat of violence, many essentially prisoners in their own homes - an hour or two of relaxation and play is very therapeutic. At the end of the fair we gave away all the games so that the churches can use them in their youth and adult study groups.

Spiritual Healing - we have had a focus on spiritual healing since the beginning.  We create a space with candles and music, offering individual prayer time for people with the Salvadoran pastors.  This is also the space where we do reflexology (US and Salvadoran reflexologists) and hand or shoulder massage.  We offered a stress management activity - making stress balls from balloons.  This is an area well-suited for pastors from El Salvador and from the US, and sadly, we have struggled a little bit to keep pastor-involvement at a strong level.

Music - we brought a fantastic musician who is also a teacher.  He teamed up with Salvadoran musicians and an energetic translator to provide a very fun, bilingual experience for all ages.  A highlight had to be the police officers, in full regalia with their big guns (if you have been to El Salvador, you know what I am describing here), doing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" with a bunch of school kids.  There wasn't a moment of the day without music.  Beautiful.

Lab - we offered some basic tests to complement the charlas:  pregnancy, glucose, and basic urine.  Persons with results of concern were referred to the local Unidad de Salud.  In a couple of locations, we had local physicians on site who could guide the process to get patients into the system.  We brought a lab tech with us for this station.

Reading Glasses - this is the most popular station.  We brought the glasses, and the Salvadoran Lutheran clinic provided a person to run the station. The prize at this station:  being able to read the Bible and thread a needle!

Weight & Vaccines - local nurses from the clinics provided this service.  It was really wonderful to be able to provide parents with the ability to bring their children's vaccination program up to date.

Mental Health - at two sites we had psychology teams working with group conversation and available for individual consults.  The main goal of this charla was to take away the stigma of talking with a psychologist.  All  of the mental health staff were from the local or regional clinics.

Beauty Salon - free hair cuts and styles for men and women!  This was a fun and popular station.  We brought ribbons and pony tail holders and clips...and the newly trained beauticians in the local communities did the work.  This was a great way to support the entrepreneurship training classes which are being done through the Salvadoran Lutheran Church.

Art - In 3 of our 4 sites we painted murals.  The murals were inspired by the communities and were painted on the exterior of the church or church-related buildings.  Though the original idea was to plan this experience for older children and adults, the little ones also had fun dipping into the paint.  In our 4th site, the regional mental health team ran art activities which involved glue, glitter, paint and lots of creative encouragement.

There is one more charla...and that description will be in my next post.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Las Charlas

Charla means "talk" - as in, "let's have a little talk about..."

This year's Misión de Sanación Integral Feria de Bienestar Familiar Micro-Region Norte  (yes, that is the real title:  Holistic Mission of Healing Family Wellness Fair in the Northern Micro-Region) was organized around las charlas.  The Salvadoran Lutheran Church, our synod of the ELCA, local Unidades de Salud (health clinics), local mayor's offices and groups such as the Red Cross joined together to put on 4 fairs in 4 Salvadoran communities with between 20 and 25 charlas or educational talks at each fair.  The restructuring of the Mission of Healing from brigada medica (medical brigade) to educational fair has been slow and steady.  This was the year we eliminated the medical exams and the pharmacy.

So, what did we do and how did it go?  I have received many inquiries about this year's fair, so hopefully I can provide a few helpful descriptions of our charlas.  

As the international team put together the plans for the charlas, the team considered the following:

  • How would the local health clinic be involved and what health issues were the most significant in the local community and region?  How could the fair support the work of the local clinic health promoters and educators?
  • What gifts, talents and resources did the local community, the local health clinic, the Lutheran Church and the US team have to offer?
  • What alliances needed to be made with local government to promote the fair and to secure needed items such as tables, chairs and canopies.  
  • What coordination with local police and regional police was needed to ensure safety for all?
  • How would the fair be aligned with the ministries and core values of the church and enhance the work of the church in the community?
The team decided to offer medical exams and medications only if the local Unidad de Salud wished to do so and would also provide the doctors and other medical personnel needed to conduct exams.  In the end, the clinics provided personnel to help teach  

After more than a year of planning, we settled on having the following charlas and areas of attention:

Welcome Table - each person received a participation ticket, a bag, and the to give an offering to help with fair costs (suggested $1).  Each charla station had an ink pad and stamp. Participants received stamps on their card as they moved through the stations.  Most stations gave out printed education material and many charlas included premios or small prizes.

Mama and Baby - prenatal care and care for infants.  The premio  at this station was a pregnancy test if needed, and prenatal vitamins.  As far as I know, we learned of one new baby on its way.

Breast Care - a US team member specializes in this area of health, so she did a charla complete with model breasts so women could test their skill at finding hidden lumps.  The prize was a breast exam if desired.  Women who discovered a lump in their breasts were referred to the local clinic for follow-up.  This was the protocol for anyone who learned of a health concern through the charlas.

HIV, Sexually Transmitted Illness and Teen Pregnancy - we have been giving little brown paper bags with condoms to adults young and old for years, and over the past few years, the HIV education team from the Salvadoran Lutheran Church has developed an excellent interactive talk.  The team has an adapted charla for young children which focuses on protecting their bodies.  Each child gets a small story book.

Healthy Heart - one of our US nurses took this on and developed a wonderful charla about hearth health and blood pressure.  Participants could have their blood pressure taken.  The prizes were red bracelets or red heart pins from the American Heart Association,  We found a few folks with dangerously high BP, and several others who needed attention.

Diabetes - This continues to a topic of great importance.  I am not sure how many new diabetes patients were identified during the fair - but there were several each day, including children and entire families.  We used a fantastic poster which shows the sugar levels in a variety of common beverages - information that always surprises people! One of the US nurses did this charla with a premio of a glucose check for those who wanted it or had history or indications that called for a check.  We also had special socks for people who had had toes or feet amputated - a sad consequence of diabetes which is all too common in El Salvador.

Natural Medicine - the wisdom of the grandmothers often supersedes this charla done by the Salvadoran team members.  This talk includes tasting the tea or the blended drink made from the plant-of-the-year, and receiving a seed or seedling.  

to be continued tomorrow...

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Little Poem for Valentine's Day

The mom is working long hours.  Her sister and her aunt are helping her.  She is running a little restaurant in a small town.  Her son is a good helper, though he is just 10.

Her son and I were sitting at a small table set up in the street.  We were there for a long, long time.  He was a little bored.  I reached into my purse and found a pen and a small piece of yellow, lined note paper.  "I will write you a poem," he said.

I planted a little tea bush
to have tea, and then more tea
I had more tea, and I loved tea,
and so I am going to love the tea all of my life.

The poem is a metaphor.  In Spanish, the word te is used for you.  The word means tea.

"I think he is very enamored with you," said the aunt when she looked at the poem.  The little boy bowed his head and grinned.  "And I am with him," I smiled.


Friday, February 12, 2016

The River of Life and Corn and Rainbows and Women and Ashes

The women trickled into the yard through the chain link gate.  Some were a bit timid about picking up their brushes.  Some needed encouragement from their friends.  A few walked right up, grabbed their plastic plate palettes, picked up their brushes and said, "I want to paint."  The children needed no encouragement, but they would have to settle for crayons and coloring pages because this day was the painting day for the women. Younger and older, mothers and grandmothers were going to have a fun afternoon with a few squirts of paint, a splash of creativity, and a good amount of laughter.

We were not starting with a blank wall.  The mural had mostly been painted during the previous week's Family Wellness Fair.  Painting was one of more than 20 experiences at the fair.  The idea behind the mural was to provide the community with a relaxing and creative experience with the hope that something beautiful might emerge on the outside wall of the church. The principal images came together: water, a woman, a rainbow, faith and hope.  The original intent was to develop the mural as an adult project, but enthusiasm ran wild among the young ones, and by the end of the day flowers, butterflies, happy faces and funky little characters danced across the entire wall.

When the Wellness Fair ended, several of the church women who were busy helping at the fair had not yet had a chance to paint.  Since the pastor and the women gather every Wednesday for Bible Study, we made a plan for the following week to work together on some finishing touches.  On Ash Wednesday afternoon, the women trickled into the yard while the pastor prepared for worship.

We decided to paint a river throughout the mural.  As the paint hit the wall, the water flowed under the soil, through the corn, around the flowers, splashing up in blue and rainbow waves.  We painted for a couple of hours, then the sun sank down behind the big trees, and it was time for worship.

Not too many of the small Lutheran Churches in El Salvador have worship on Ash Wednesday, but in this community the women have asked their pastor to keep the tradition.  We sang several songs.  The women really sang with enthusiasm!  The sermon focus was "love your neighbor" and the pastor shared a little story:  I was just a little girl and I had a tortilla.  A visitor came, so I sneaked into the house to hide my tortilla.  My mother found me and said, "If you have something to give, you must give it."  She made me share it, and I always remember that lesson.  Jesus tells us to share our food, to give the drink of water, to visit those who are in prison.  Jesus tells us to love each other.  After another song, the pastor called each woman forward and traced a small ash cross on her forehead.  Then all the children lined up to receive their crosses.  We are made from the dust, and we will return to the dust.  Two of the children remained up front so that we could sing "Happy Birthday" to them.

After worship, we went outside to take a look at the mural.  "How beautiful that you put the river there!" said the pastor.  "This zone has so much water.  It flows from the springs in Quezaltepeque, under the ground in great aquifers, and we have the River San Antonio in Nejapa.  The water feeds the soil and feeds the corn."  Everyone nodded, and we felt a little bit proud that the pastor was so happy with the mural.  We decided to take a photo to remember the day, with ashen crosses on our foreheads and the river of life and rainbows flowing around us.

Author's note:  Permission was given by the community to post these photos.