Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Visiting Rosa in El Salvador (second time)

Excuse the hyperbole, but today was sent to me straight from heaven! In contrast to some of my other blog posts, it's vast-majority "sweetness and light" today, folks.

In 2007 I started sponsoring 7-year-old Rosa and in 2009 I ventured over to Chinameca, El Salvador to visit her and her family when she was a shy 9-year-old. This visit was actually the “kick-up-the-bum” I needed to stop being a “dead-beat-sponsor” (one that only sends money) and start writing regular letters, because that’s what the kids really need and want. I could see how disappointed she was that I had only written a few letters, so I resolved to change, and now write monthly to my many Compassion kids.

Rosa has a Mama, Papa, Older Sis (18), Twin Sis and Younger Bro (10). Unfortunately Older Sis couldn’t be with us. Papa told us she had really been looking forward to seeing me again, but she had received the call at 9pm the previous night to go and work at the little shop which is her place of employment. Older Sis was never sponsored, but has ambitions to have a career, and she is using this job to try and pay her way through University.

Normally on a sponsor visit the Project is the first stop, but since today was the first day of school for the year and there was no Project action in the morning, we went to the family’s house first. It was interesting going back a second time. A lot of the conversation revolved around what had happened in the last three years, for both of us, and what had changed. We reminisced over what we remembered about the last visit. The family knew a lot about me, because they are very interested in my letters.

I still learned some new things about the family today. I learned the kids have to get up really early to get to school (which starts at 7.30) because there’s 49 kids in Rosa’s class, and if they get there late they get a seat up the back, and can’t hear very well. The kids all have dreams related to the medical profession (doctor, nurse, clinical lab technician), and are currently achieving good grades. Rosa and her sister have only just started 7th grade, but the family is already talking LDP (Leadership Development Program, in which a select group of Compassion-sponsored kids are then sponsored through College and raised up to become Christian leaders of their communities and countries).

Rosa’s parents make money by making and selling a traditional drink called Horchata. The recipe has been passed down through the family, and it is indeed a “family business”. When the kids aren’t at school or the Compassion Project they help their parents sell it. They spend all morning preparing it, go out on the streets with a couple of buckets full, and sell it in plastic bags. On a good day in the warm weather they make $20. In the cooler weather, they don’t make much. Mama has a couple of other job options for lean times, such as cleaning houses or helping make and sell a traditional El Salvador food called pupusas (I had three today, and they were delish!). The family’s house is adequate, and belonged to their parents, so they are blessed to not have to pay any rent.

The ambition, optimism and dreams of this family is mind-blowing and breathtaking considering their circumstances, but it comes purely and simply from their unshakeable contentment, joy, faith and trust in Jesus. I felt so blessed to be connected to this family. Papa took us out the back and showed us the process for making horchata. The family’s menagerie of animals was still there from last time: a cat, a couple of dogs, some chickens, a green Australian parrot…

After a wonderful conversation, gift giving and recreating the family photo out the front of the house, we headed out to San Miguel for some lunch. I received some respite from Pollo Campero (not that I need it) because
likes pizza, so just like the first visit we went to Pizza Hut. After lunch it was time to visit the Project – ES718.

Project visits are always a joy, and this was no exception. Last time I was here it was El Salvador Children’s Day, so things were quite chaotic, with piñatas and lollies flying everywhere. Today was a lot more relaxed. We were greeted with the children in a guard of honour, some holding red, blue and white streamers. We went upstairs to a big room, where they welcomed me, I introduced myself and showed them the Australian football, they sang a couple of songs to me, and I played “Blessed Be Your Name” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart” on an unfortunately out-of-tune guitar. After this it was off to their classes.

Rosa and Twin Sis are nearly 13, and are into things most girls that age are into. The Project offers a Cosmetology workshop (hair, nails, manicures, pedicures etc.) for the girls, and I understand some of the girls who have done it in the past have gone to earn an income out of it. So part of what Compassion is offer the kids (and often the parents) income-generating skills to help lift themselves out of poverty.

In a very special time, I was able to meet and talk to the group of girls, aged 13-15 doing the cosmetology workshop. We traded questions and answers, and of course the question came up about whether I was married or had a girlfriend. Answer: No. Moving on, thanks… I was privileged to be able to lift up this group of girls to God, and pray for them on behalf of their sponsors. We went around the circle and they shared prayer requests. Most of them kept it fairly basic, but I was honoured that they’d only just met me but were willing to share things that were happening in their lives. I prayed about their families, friends, studies, sponsors, and that they would make wise decisions about their lives as they got older.

After this was play time. We went out on the street, kicked the footy and the soccer ball, jumped a skipping rope and had races. I did much more than my knees were happy with. We finished with a special time of eating pupusas (and too much orange drink) with just
’s family a couple of the Project staff. The Project staff shared about just what an impact the sponsors have on their children, particularly through the letters and visits. I’m continually amazed at the reaction I get from kids who don’t even know me, who speak a different language, and who I would have thought may be a little bit scared of this bald, bearded guy. They just love having a sponsor there, and it doesn’t matter if it’s their sponsor or not. That’s how much it means to them.   

I was also honoured to be able to pray for and encourage each family member and the Project workers who were there.
I will never cease to be amazed and inspired by Compassion Project workers. Every person who works for Compassion is an incredible servant of God and their stories need to be told. They give their lives for the kids and their families, in the name of bringing them the love of Jesus...

Because the driver, Jorge my translator and I are staying in San Miguel, I was able to spend more time with the family and didn’t have to rush off. We ended up leaving at 5.00, which made for a tiring, but incredibly rewarding and positive day.

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