Crafty as a Serpent

A knit blog with recipes and theological musings interspersed.

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Location: Portland, Maine, United States

Abby d'Ambruoso is a Lutheran pastor and interfaith chaplain, currently serving in a variety of ministries in Portland, Maine.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Reflections on El Salvador

Last week at this time, I was hauling water by hand from a deep well. It was extremely hot and humid, but we were all working very hard on building two houses for two brothers.

In El Salvador, I found much evidence of the “Americanization” of the culture. The local currency is now American dollars. I never did see the colón, which used to be El Salvador’s money. The changeover from colones to dollars has meant inflation of prices, and this has hurt the poorest people the most.

All over the place, we saw huge houses in gated communities which were sometimes located just next to utter poverty. Many families lack clean water, bathrooms, access to adequate medical care, or education.

In light of this, the work of Habitat was inspiring. They are working, family by family, house by house, to build a more stable community. The families invest in their houses with sweat equity and a modest monthly “mortgage payment”. But for some families, even the small mortgage payment is too much.

One person who is helping with that is a priest that I met in San José Villanueva, the town where we were working. Padre Mario has been in San José for 11 years now. When he first got there, he gathered the people for Mass. He asked for readers, but everyone looked at their shoes. After that he told his bishop that opening a school would be evangelism so that people could read the Word. Since that time, he has opened 3 schools which now serve a total of 1500 students. The community sustains the school as parents work to improve the school on weekends. In addition to his work with the school, Padre Mario is also helping families from his parish build houses through Habitat. He has helped various people by paying for half of their mortgage so that they have a chance to live in a house.

Another place where I witnessed work for the kingdom of God was the Hospital de la Divina Providencia. It is the only hospice center in all of Central America, so it serves the people of Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panamá, and El Salvador. The Carmelite nuns who run the hospice operate on a very small budget and do not charge the patients because they are already so poor from medical bills. The work there is amazing, and I hope to be able to return to help.

Right next door to the hospice is the church where Monsignor Oscar Romero was assassinated in 1980. He was in the middle of the Eucharist when a sharpshooter sent by the death squads opened fire, killing him immediately. Romero is considered a 20th century martyr, and his life and death continue to inspire the Church around the world.

I continue to be amazed by the gifts that this journey gave to me: the friendships with the Salvadoran people, the witness to the Christian faith that refreshed my belief in what the Church can do when united, the beauty of the sharing of cultures, and the humbling nature of the work that I did at the building site. I give thanks for all of those blessings and the countless others that I have not named.

Que Dios les bendiga, (God bless you all)



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