Hello! Chris thought it might be nice if someone else from the delegation shared some thoughts on our experience and I (Jane) volunteered. Frankly, I am hoping that taking some time to write will help to clarify some of the many thoughts and emotions that are swirling through me after just 4 days here.
I chose the title "Opening Hearts" because that is a phrase that conveys a number of things I have experienced already. First of all, my heart has been opened to new experiences and feelings- all that is involved in encountering any new culture. This one seems to particularly speak to the heart, however. The guide books all say that El Salvadorans are some of the kindest people you will ever encounter and they are accurate. The waitresses hug us as we leave restaurants, the children reach out their hands, the kiss of peace in church is hugs all around… the warmth is amazing.
My heart also has been torn open. The poverty goes beyond what many of us can imagine. Beyond that the images from the war- the museum and the wall of remembrance- made my soul ache. I counted- over 3500 people died in just the one year I graduated from college. And those are the ones who have been accounted for- and that is one year out of about 12. A civil war is always particularly ugly- this one had atrocities that are hard to even read about, let alone imagine living through. And despite the role that the US played in supporting the military that committed those atrocities, we are embraced by the people here. Their hearts have been scarred by the war, but not shut down.
The hearts of the people here have also opened to us. Pastor Norma has spent time with us, sharing her history and her country and opening her heart to us. The people of the communities we have visited have been very quick to share with us. They encourage my very poor and reluctant Spanish and we communicate with hugs and smiles.
I am amazed at the hope that the people have. They have little reason to hope with the next earthquake or hurricane or coup d'etat around the corner. They are thankful for what they have and willing to hope and work for something better.
Tomorrow we will walk with the people of the Lutheran Church of El Salvador in a pilgrimage to show we are a community both within El Salvador and in relationship with the world. I am eager to share in this experience with my new friends – in this beautiful country that I could barely identify on a map before I came. I ask that you will lift us all up in prayer tomorrow as we walk together so we can have a show of God's strength that outdoes the military parade that was our introduction to El Salvador.
The phrase, "May the peace of the Lord be with you" now has more meaning to me than ever. I wish all you God's peace.