Visit to El Cordero De Dios - December 2011

Eleven members and attendees of Didcot Baptist Church (Matthew and Jayne Taboada, Kerry and Jonathan Spiers, Stewart  Loukes, Sandra Tallents, Joan Newborough, Deborah Snell, Sue, Mike and Hannah Quantick) visited El Cordero de Dios Baptist Church in El Salvador for nearly three weeks in December 2011, as part of a church team facilitated by BMS World Mission, to work with the church in three projects.  Didcot Baptist Church has had a partnership with El Cordero de Dios a small church in San Salvador, for over fifteen years and this was the third team visit that has taken place during that time.  

The early days of the visit were spent getting to know our hosts, learning something of the countries recent history and visiting the projects with which we would be engaged. During the last team visit there was some disappointment amongst the team, that we did not all have the opportunity to see the projects in which other team members were working, so the Salvadorians wanted to ensure that was not the case this time. This included visits to the Divine Providence Hospital and opportunities to meet the Medical Director and Mother Superior as well as the former home of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the small church where he was assassinated.  We went into the San Salvador Cathedral and the crypt where he and other martyrs from the civil war are buried and the UCA which was the site of the massacre of the six Jesuit Priests and two workers as recent as 1989. The first week ended in a church outing to an idyllic river location in the hills near the Honduras border to share in a service of baptism of three of the young people.

It was a great privilege for Mike to be invited to assist Pastor Tito in the baptisms, as he has known and met two of the candidates since his first visit in 1996 when they were literally babes in arms and seen them grow up in the church!

 

Children’s Christmas Holiday Club
As part of the first team visit in 2002, the team led a Christmas children’s holiday club in San Pedro, a remote rural community outside the city of San Salvador.  El Cordero de Dios church have been working with that community following an earthquake in 2001 which damaged many of the houses in the community. The church has not only repeated the children’s holiday club every year since but has maintained a regular fortnightly children’s bible club in the community. It was a privilege for some members of the team to share with them in running the holiday club in December and distributing Christmas gifts to the children.

Joan shares her reflections on the children’s holiday club.

This team consisted of Mike, Deborah, Sandra and myself. We were very fortunate that we had two Spanish speakers which helped with translation. We began work for the children’s club based at the church where we met the Salvadorian team and cut out the craft activities and learnt songs in Spanish. On the Saturday morning was our first chance to meet some children in San Pedro when we met up for a bible study. The Bible study is run by the young people from El Cordero and they had about 35 children aged from 1 year to teenagers in the two homes where they meet. We began in one house introducing the team and finding out the children’s names and singing some songs together before splitting into two groups. The younger group had a story about ladybirds and how they get rid of pests and then linked this to how Jesus takes away the bad in us while the older group did a more in depth bible study thinking about parties and what is good and bad. They looked at Romans 12: 9-21 and discussed relationships with God, with others & personal relationships.

By the second week we were ready and eager to begin the children’s work.

The following poem written by Joan,  gives an overview of the three mornings and shares with you some of the fun we had together in San Pedro.

  1. Children to the school do come
    Some along with Gran or Mum
    Bringing friends to see and do
    Stories, songs and sticking too.
  1. Day 1 we saw one hundred kids
    Wow so many more than before
    Rearrange chairs and tables
    To do their craft as they are able.
  1. Day 2 more children what will we do
    Today we saw one hundred and thirty two
    More space needed we moved outside
    To use the parachute we did decide.
  1. Sandra took wizzers to cut out they took time
    She thought what a silly idea of mine
    At the school to the boys they did go
    How much fun they had and to us they did show.
  1. Day 3 yes more children did come
    To join the fun of craft and games
    One hundred and forty nine in total what a lot
    Enough presents one they each got
  1. Toys  and puzzles, Barbie dolls
    Cars and bags and footballs too
    For the mums new clothes to wear
    Happy faces show how much we care
  1. What fun we had, what joy it gave
    The story of Christmas was told once again
    The children they listened, they made and they sang
    What joy to be part of a wonderful gang
  1. Thank you God for the children, the parents, the team
    What a wonderful experience this has been.
    Such joy to share your love anew
    It’s amazing to see what Gods love can do

 

Building Project
Another part of the team were working on a house building project again in the San Pedro community. Following the earthquake in 2001 the church had committed themselves to build nineteen houses for families in the community and this was to be the last in that programme. Much of the funding for the houses had been provided from the UK, so it was good that the team were able to provide practical assistance in the construction of the final house and share in the service of thanksgiving and dedication which was attended by a number of the other families that had benefited from the programme. 

Jonathan shares his reflections on the building project

This was the first time I had ever been on a mission trip, and had never done anything like this. I did not quite know what to expect.

My role in the trip was part of the building team, for a number of years now there has been a project to build houses for families who live out in the rural parts of San Salvador in a village called San Pedro. New homes are built for these families often because there old houses are built from mud. When the rainy season arrives, these homes are at risk of collapsing, and the families don’t have the resources to re-build them.

With this in mind, we set out to build the 19th house and the last in this particular project run by El Cordero de Dios. I was working alongside fellow team members Matthew and Stewart. Although they had both worked on the building team before, I didn’t know quite how hard it would be. We spent 6 days in total on the site. We arrived just after the foundations and first couple of courses had been put in. We soon built the walls, mixing the cement and concrete. There was also a lot of physically lumping the building materials and concrete around. We didn’t have any fancy machinery or tools - just a couple of shovels, trowels and a wheelbarrow. After a couple of days we reached the point where we had to use homemade ladders and bamboo to make the scaffolding. The bamboo was incredibly strong and even managed to hold my brummy body. Of course, lots of Elbow Grease was used by Stewart, Matthew and myself! It was incredibly hard work as the temperature was at least 30C if not higher! We worked well as a team, and this includes the Salvadorians. Language did not seem a barrier as we all had the same goal – to complete the house for the family before Christmas. After the walls had been built, we waited for the roof to be erected whilst we had a rest day. We had to wait for the roof to be put on before we could do the floor otherwise it would have dried too quickly. On the last day, mixing the concrete for the floor was back-breaking as we were all a bit tired. At the end of it all and once the house was built it was amazing to see how happy and glad the family was that it was being built for.

 

Hospital Project
As part of the last team visit to El Salvador in 2007 a team from Didcot were able to work in the Divine Providence Hospital, a cancer hospital located on the site where Archbishop Oscar Romero lived and was shot in March 1980.  There was and still is little palliative care in El Salvador and this small cancer hospital is the only such hospital in the whole of the country. Although there are beds for over one hundred patients they can only accommodate about sixty at any one time due to staffing and financial limitations. At first the team thought that little had been achieved during the previous visit, but we later learned that Pastor Tito, the minister of El Cordero de Dios Baptist Church had not only maintained contact with the hospital but that a team of Salvadorians from the church were now visiting on a regular basis. It was therefore with a great sense of expectation that a team returned to the hospital in December. There was a noticeable improvement in the standards of care, the team were greeted warmly by the Medical Director and staff and had a much greater degree of freedom within the hospital.

Sue shares her reflections on the palliative care project in the  Divine Providence Cancer Hospital in San Salvador.

When we came back from El Salvador four years ago I was not feeling too happy with the hospital project we had undertaken. When we returned at the end of December 2011 I was excited and so amazed with the hospital project. So what had happened to make such a difference? First and foremost God was at the centre of the project and with a bit of encouragement from the team back in 2007 several members of the church in El Cordero have also got on board with Pastor Tito at the helm. Between them they have built up relationships with the hospital staff and are now invaluable with the work they undertake in the hospital. Four years ago Pastor Tito had difficulty being with a lady who was close to death, I sat with him and encouraged him to hold her hand and to pray with her. Four years on and Tito is called at all times of the day and night to be with patients and their families in the closing hours of life.

 Some of you will recall that when we returned and led a service four years ago I took the theme of mustard seeds and how they grow, in those four years I have prayed many times that the seed would grow in that hospital and God has truly answered those prayers. 

In Central America there is great fear over death, many people are just left at the hospital and families don’t bother with them again. This may be for financial reasons or just the superstition surrounding death. Many will be in hospital for many weeks or months until their death, time passes so slowly when there are few visitors and no one to speak to. Death and dying is not widely talked about and there is no training in the country for specialist nurses and doctors. It is considered bad luck to touch someone who is dying and even worse if they have actually died. Symptom control is not so well controlled as in the developed world and many suffer severe pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea as well as other symptoms. Equipment is hard to come by and often old fashioned and hard to get repaired. It doesn’t sound ideal to spend your last days like this does it?

As we went in on our first day we were welcomed by Mother Superior, the medical director and the head nurse and each of them spoke to us about the work they are doing. This was all so different to four years ago when they hardly acknowledged our presence. We split into groups and went on a tour of the wards...they were clean and tidy, the nurses spoke to us and were happy and smiling and told us how happy they were to have us working with them.  We were able to use a room upstairs to store all our craft supplies and also took some more able patients upstairs away from the ward to work on crafts. The care now provided for the patients is much better and there was not the need for us to get involved in bathing patients, we were able to give all our time to talking with the patients and their relatives, building relationships and taking part in craft activities. We were not just a team of four but most days there were ten or twelve because the Salvadorians came too, how amazing is this? Before we left in 2007 Pastor Tito made a promise to me that he would continue the work in the hospital, he has worked so hard that a team goes in every other Saturday for about five hours. Some of them go round cleaning the patient lockers and handing out clean refuse bags, as they do this they chat and build relationships. Another group will go round and do craft work with patients, again chatting and building relationships. The patients told us how special this made them feel and how good it was to be cared for in this way.

Jayne brought a bag of cuddly toys out with her and each day she would give one out to a patient who she felt needed one...they were very popular. Jayne also spent time with a patient who was dying, she and I prayed with him and his brother. Jayne then went away and drew him a picture, it was of a cross and she stuck it on his locker so that he could see it when he was awake. That was a very special picture for Jayne and the patient.

Kerry  built relationships with many of the patients, she wrote out a bible verse in Spanish  for one lady  and they spent some very special time together. Kerry is very thoughtful and always had the right words to say to the patients. Kerry went back to El Salvador knowing that she had unfinished business , at the end of the project that was dealt with but I will leave her to tell that story another time.

Hannah, well what can I say? I have to be honest and say that I was not sure how she would cope in the hospital but she exceeded my expectations and was really good. She was lively, laughed a lot, cried a bit (as we all did) always full of enthusiasm and sensitive to patient needs. My memory of her will be caring for a new patient who was close to death and she didn’t want him to be on his own so she went in and sat with him and prayed for him.

For me? Well my aim was to help the nurses and Pastor Tito with their fears of touching the body after death. I witnessed half a dozen or so deaths and spent time with Tito in the morgue (actually the garage!) with the deceased patient and their relatives and Tito now feels comfortable in being able to touch the body if needed.

Our last day on the project was fiesta time; we had many patients and visitors gathered around the Christmas tree for food and singing. Pastor Tito was able to bring a message of the Christmas story and even the nurses were gathered round. We then took gifts to every patient.

This is palliative care in the raw, maybe not quite as we know it in this country but the seed has been sown and a plant is growing. Thank you for all the prayers that I know have been offered up, God answers in His way and in His time.

The team shared Christmas with their host families in El Salvador, leaving a few days later with a great sense of achievement and gratitude to God for all that has been achieved through this partnership over the last fifteen years. During our visit we had the opportunity to meet a number of the families that had benefited from the building project all of whom expressed immense gratitude to all who had provided financial support towards the project. We also met most of the students that have been supported through the students sponsorship programme and again they expressed their appreciation for the financial support they received. They include Pastor Tito who graduated in theology, Christy who is now working with government agencies translating for foreign delegations to El Salvador, and Rolando (our host) who now has his own electrical engineering company and 15 people working for him.

The programme continues to support two of the original students who for different reasons have had to extend their period of study but we were able to meet three new students who have recently commenced their studies. We are grateful to all who have been able to support this project and as some have now completed their initial commitment we are looking for others to replace them by giving £25 per month (£20 gift aided) to enable us to support the three new students that have commenced the programme (if you feel able to help in this way please contact Michael Quantick).

It is a great answer to prayer to hear of ways in which the country is starting to move on after the atrocities of the civil war with news that on 16 January the President of El Salvador made a public apology to the people of El Mozote for one of the most horrific massacres of the war which saw the killing of over 1000 women and children. And the news of the planned reopening of the British Embassy in El Salvador.

This was just one more chapter in the story of our relationship with El Cordero de Dios Baptist Church and we value your continued support and prayers as we continue support our friends in El Salvador as they reach out into the community in which God has placed them.


El Cordero De Dios
Webpage icon Housing Project Update
Webpage icon Housing Project
Webpage icon Introduction
Webpage icon Partnership Agreement