October 13

On the Scene Reports
The 2002 St. Andrew El Salvador Mission
Day 7: October 13th

Travels

Today was a time of both intense emotions and a rare day off and a chance to see a bit more of the country around Sonsonate.  Our breakfast on the terrace this morning was the last chance for the full crew to gather together since Cam and Mike are heading home this evening.  The two have made huge contributions to our efforts and we will miss them, but look forward to seeing them when we get back for next Sunday’s service at St. Andrew.

Before they left, we all enjoyed the privilege of attending the 9 AM Sunday mass at the Agape Cathedral, a beautiful soaring building on the compound grounds.  Hundreds of worshipers were on hand as Father Mucchi told them (and through Agape’s radio station, the people of El Salvador) that this week had been one of the richest in his life.  He mentioned the work of our mission team and of two other groups, one Mormon and one Buddhist — all currently working in El Salvador on projects to make lives better for the people of the country.  Father Mucchi asked Guillermo to come to the podium to address the congregation in Spanish.  He expressed the feeling we all have….that what we have received is far more than anything we have been able to give, and he thanked Agape for its help in making our mission a success.  After the service, parishioners came up to express thanks and children gave spontaneous hugs.  There wasn’t a dry eye among us.

After saying goodbye to Cam and Mike, we boarded a bus to visit two mountain towns noted for their arts and crafts. As we drove up into the hills, we wound up behind two truckloads of people, apparently heading to or from a soccer game.  Back in California, having people in the back of a truck like this would net you a hefty fine.  In El Salvador, the bulk of human vehicular transportation is by bus and truck.  The crowding sometimes leaves you wondering how the vehicle manages to move, or why it doesn’t collapse under the weight

Our first stop was the town of Nahuizalco.  We got off the bus on the town square, right in front of a church which had been badly damaged in the last big earthquakes to hit the area.  Note the large cracks between the top of the front door and the circular opening above it.  Restoration work was underway.  Earthquakes are a big problem in El Salvador and big ones have led to significant loss of life when older adobe structures have collapsed.The timing of our visit couldn’t have been better.  Not only was there a farmer’s market underway…..

The timing of our visit couldn’t have been better.  Not only was there a farmer’s market underway…..

…but the townspeople were celebrating a local festival with a religious theme, featuring young dancers dressed in bright costumes.  In the background, men were firing off skyrockets which exploded overhead.

One of the joys of travel?  Those occasions when seemingly non-connected elements all come together.  Lisa stands next to a wall with messages in English…some with a religious theme — and for no apparent reason — an offer to learn cartoon animation.  As the picture was being taken, a youngster emerged from the doorway carrying a large pink pinata almost as large as he was.  We’re pretty confident this is the only spot in the world to offer cartoon animation and pinatas from the same location.

On to another beautiful mountain town…Juayua, with its magnificent white twin-spire church dominating the central square and its ornate fountain.

Again we were in luck, for today was the occasion for the town’s “Gastronomic” festival all around the square.  We chowed down on enchiladas and small puffy tortillas topped with beans, cheese, tomatoes and a picante sauce.  It is advised to check with the cook as to whether that sauce is “atomico” strength.  We have been eating well all week and enjoying a variety of delicious local foods and drink.

At mid afternoon, the bus took us back down the mountain and to a beach resort area on the coast south of Sonsonate.  We enjoyed the warm temperatures and ocean breezes for a couple of hours before heading back to Agape.  Bathers said the water was about the temperature of a tepid hot tub.

Tonight, part of the group headed back to Armenia to attend a local music festival set for this evening on the town’s square.  The rest of us debarked at Agape for dinner and an early evening.  Tomorrow we head into the final stretch…what will undoubtedly be two VERY busy days as we race to complete the major tasks still remaining…the installation of the last of the doors and windows, interior partitions and remaining roof panels.  On Tuesday, plans call for a final meeting between Buenos Aires officials and the Mission Team to symbolically turn over the keys to the building.  We are starting to think about returning home, but already know that this place will remain in our hearts forever.