How I Drowned

I drowned last Sunday. Nathan did with me, too. I have the pictures to prove it. Confused yet? We acted out the story of Moses in Bible class. :) I was one of the Egyptian slave owners.

Nathan was Pharoh. Little Douglas was Moses. We started with him leading the rest of the class- I mean Israelites. They came to me, outside, to "borrow" the gold and silver and clothes. We had little yellow paper plates to look like gold and glued paper clothes and gold things onto them, along with a Bible verse. After they borrowed the stuff from me, Nathan-I mean Pharoh, decided to let them go. So they started walking through the church yard-I mean desert. But-gasp!-Pharoh changed his mind. So, I, as an Egyptian, began chasing them with the Pharoh. When they got to the hung up blue sheets-I mean sea, it miraculously parted for them! When the Pharoh and I got there, though, it closed up on us! And that's how I drowned last week. Wanna watch? Look:

I'd like to mention just how well our kids are doing in the classes now. We've gone from creation to Moses, and they know all of the stories. They know about Adam & Eve, Noah, Jacob, Joseph, they can say all the plagues, etc. They can repeat them every morning for us, and they're even almost all able to say the books of the New Testament. I'm so proud of how far they've come! :)

Blessings always,


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Guacal List

Guacal is pronounced like "wa-call." It's a little bowl/bucket/dishpan sort of thing.But we'll come back to that later.

So while the group has been here, they've been going on medical campaigns up in the little mountain towns around La Palma. Las Cruces, El Gramal, El Guayavito, Mira Mundo, and Aguacatalito, for those of you who know the area. I didn't get to to go to El Gramal, but I went the rest of the places and helped with translating. We gave everyone vitamins and parasite treatments. They could also get medications if they needed it, and Melvin was making reading glasses for those who needed them; even if they couldn't read and needed them for something like sewing or cooking. A few pictures:

My first official translating job!

Waiting in line for glasses

Today was a completely different ball game, though. Instead of an actual clinic, we went up to Mira Mundo and Aguacatalito. First was the little school at Mira Mundo. We started out with a few "dynamicas," like activities or songs with motions or little games. I had a ball with those kids singing "El caro de mi jefe tiene oyo en la yanta! Y reparemoslo con chicle!" which means "My boss's car has a hole in the tire, so we'll fix it with bubble gum!" and a couple others. Then we passed out vitamins and parasite treatments along with toothbrushes and paste. After they'd received that, we were even able to pass out clothing for them and stuffed animals. I love doing that; it's so much fun for me, even though they're the ones supposedly receiving the treat. Watching the little kids eyes just light up when we give them a bed roll to take home is priceless. No picture could ever really capture it.

Our next stop was Aguacatalito. The school was going to be really difficult to reach in our giant truck, called a camion, so the whole town basically met us in this little soccer field. We set up chairs, did vitamins and a mini clinic, and gave out bags and bags and bags of clothes. So many of those little boys and girls are going to be so proud of their new clothes, and it's just so exciting to give them to them!

As it was nearing time to leave, a few of the little boys brought out pieces of cardboard.

No. Not cardboard. Well, technically. But. They were sleds! On a hill covered in dried grass. They'd plop a sheet down on it, sit on it, and slide. Needless to say, the Peace Corps volunteers with us, Emily and Liz, along with Mom and I were mesmorized by this awesomeness and felt the need to try. And you better believe we sledded with the best of them!

That was just a part of our adventures. And here is where "guacals" come in. While we were riding together in the back of our huge truck, we began talking about all the things we wanted to do during our time in El Salvador before we all moved back. Someone said the phrase "bucket list," and was promptly corrected that it was a "guacal list," because guacals are what are used for everything by everyone in El Salvador. And so, born were our guacal lists. During the course of the day, we were able to cross off many things. We visited the highest point in El Salvador; over 8,000 ft above sea level. (The air was too thin up there...) We mastered the art of making PB&J in the back of an EXTREMELY bouncy truck. With a knife! A couple of us shared a bathroom with a beehive. We sledded on dry ground with cardboard, on a mountain in El Salvador. We pulled a tree out of the ground with a truck. By accident. We tossed candy and toys and clothes out of the truck bed to kids like a parade float. And trust me, I could go on. But sometimes... What happens in the camion, stays in the camion. ;)

Blessings always,


PS: A few pictures following from the day :)

Prayers, Please. Why I Haven't Been Blogging.

Many of my friends and family members have been getting onto me for not blogging enough lately, and I usually say I'm too busy. While this is usually true to an extent, it's not the only reason that I haven't been keeping my blog up. There are many great things going on in La Palma in the church. We had a successful evangelism campaign in the park last week and the American team is currently here for a medical campaign this week in the mountains. But parts of the work aren't going as well, and it's been overshadowing the good things I would normally blog about. The church, the people, the work, everything and everyone here desperately needs your prayers as we have been under attack. The following is the exact copy of what my dad posted on his blog earlier today, and I'd like to post it here for you all to see his words:

"As you are probably aware, I have not posted to my blog in several months. The explanation for why follows.

On February 18, 2001, I wrote a letter to all of my financial and spiritual supporters informing them of the incredible struggle the church is going through here in La Palma. I am including that letter here and a follow-up note below:

To my friends and family in Christ with concern and love for the work in La Palma:

Last Sunday, February 13, 2011, [NAME WITHHELD FOR LEGAL REASONS] was dis-fellowshipped from the Church of Christ in La Palma. Though his support was discontinued at the end of June 2010, [NAME WITHHELD] decided he wanted to be a preacher in La Palma even without financial support. He continued to preach 2 Sunday's each month and was responsible for the Wednesday night Family Meeting in members' homes.

In September (correction it was August) 2010, it was discovered [NAME WITHHELD] had taken, without permission, more than $500 of the money from the weekly offering, for which he was treasurer (that's over 30% of the annual contribution). At that time he said he used it to buy flour for his family bakery. Over the next several months many meetings and conversations were held with [NAME WITHHELD], the ministers here and the elders in Missouri, all with the goal of bringing [NAME WITHHELD] to repentance, reconciliation with God and the church, and repayment of the remaining money.

In January of this year, [NAME WITHHELD] and his family were told they would no longer be allowed to serve in any leadership capacity or in any worship or class time duties until further notice from the elders in Missouri. The Friday after this news was shared with the congregation here, [NAME WITHHELD] filed a claim with the Department of Labor suing the church for back wages from July 2010 through January 8, 2011 - in the amount of $2,181 and change.

After much prayer, discussion and wrecked emotion, a letter was read to the congregation here informing them of the decision to "Cortar la Comunión" (the Latin American equivalent of dis-fellowship) with [NAME WITHHELD] and his family. We sited the Biblical models of Matthew 1815-17, 1 Timothy 1:18-20 (Hymenaeus & Alexander) and 3 John 1:9-11 (Diotrophes) as well as 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 and gave examples of [NAME WITHHELD]'s behavior.

I am writing this now to let you know of this situation as you are in some way involved in the ministry here. Please pray for José and me as we continue to nurse the wounded and battle the consequences of [NAME WITHHELD]'s sin and as we try to keep a focus on the ongoing evangelistic efforts of the church here. Also, pray for my family and Teresa as we all strive to shine Christ in our service to the families in this area.

That ends the original letter. What follows is an update:

Much more work has gone in to combating the division caused by this man. The average attendance has dropped from the high 70s to mid-to-high 40s in just 3 months. He has continued, in secret, to meet with church members in their homes and in his – though since everyone talks about everyone else, it does not remain secret for more than a few hours. He has continued to spread lies about me, José, and the "Americans", and many believe him. He is a very cunning and charismatic man, and he is loved by most of the members of the church here and in San Ignacio. José and I continue to combat the lies with truth, but we find it difficult to convince the people about the severity of the problem.

The biggest problem is not the theft of the money or even the lawsuit against the church – though these are severe enough for our actions. No, the real issue is a seared conscience (as Paul talks about to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:2). The unmitigated gall of this man and his eldest son is truly astonishing. They exude brazen arrogance, having a total lack of humility (Philippians 2:3). Their passion for self-righteousness has torn down years of work in this community, divided families and nearly severed the fellowship of neighboring congregations. He has also spread lies to other congregation's preachers and even to the preacher school in the country's capitol.

When this man and his family ceased attendance and contact with José and me in January, we hoped he would abandon the struggles here. We discontinued the pursuit of the stolen money, and made plans for the year that included evangelistic campaigns, preaching, teaching and other works of the church. When we were served with the papers for the suit, it came as quite a shock. We sought legal counsel, and made attempts to convey the seriousness of the situation to the elders overseeing the La Palma congregation.

After several failed attempts to have this man drop the suit, our lawyer advised us to file legal proceedings concerning the theft of the offering money. José and I discussed this and prayed about it for a long time. My reading in Matthew 18:23-35 convinced me that this was a valid course of action. A debt had been forgiven and reinstituted when it was discovered that the forgiven could not forgive. Our lawyer advised this may motivate this man to drop his claims against us. This was unfortunately not the case.

Many of our days this year have been spent in anguish and fear (this man is ex-military and we were told he'd been known to display violent tendencies in the past). Whereas we used to look forward to Sunday most of all days, we began to dread it at the thought of this man and his family showing up. We had to make contingency plans for our children and talk with them about "what to do in case of…" as if we were teaching them fire drills. Erin, bless her heart, has handled it with much more maturity than a 14 year-old should be required to have. Nathan, as easy going as he is, takes it mostly in stride. However, both of my children have developed in ways we had not imagined for them during our time here. They have seen Christian behavior at its best and worst. They have taken on more stress than I'm sure I could have at their age. And, at times the bitterness and anger pours out of them. Though we try, Lori and I cannot hide our stress and anguish from them - they are after all intelligent people. With nearly 40 years of church-going experience as a preacher's son, "regular member", deacon, teacher, and now preacher/missionary, this is the worst situation I have seen.

The story is not over, though we have continued to hold out olive branch after olive branch. He and his family showed up this morning in La Palma for church services – late enough to be noticed by everyone as they all came in with a flourish – even though they had been asked not to return until all of the legal actions had been resolved. The work of José to wipe the legal slate clean is proceeding, and with great difficulty and much travel he and the lawyer are finally seeing agreement to end the legal processes against each other. We hope to have this, at least legally, behind us soon. This man expects all to return to normal once the legal proceedings are dropped, but as I said, these are not the disease, only the symptoms.

As you hopefully will understand, that is not all of the details of the situation. I could write a book on the subject, but some things are better left unsaid. Also, some things should not be shared. Perhaps I have shared too much already, but believe me when I say this is only the half of it.

The pain and injury caused to The Lord's Body in La Palma is far from healed. In fact, more injury will come before any healing begins. The struggle continues.

During the time we have been forced to deal with this situation, the rest of life did not cease, nor did we have an office to leave, work in files to resume the next day. This has been an all day every day situation. One from which we have been unable to find respite. At the same time, much else has happened as, for example, talking to a single mother (and church member) who continues to get drunk and get into fights in the street, sometimes leaving her young children home alone all night; and talking to a depressed and bitter mother of 3 out of suicide; a mother of one student assaulted one of the teachers by choking here – this mother is a church member we also had to talk to; we have had deaths; members jailed for gang and extortion activity; and much more that is to be reasonably expected when dealing with the growth of a young congregation.

We have had good, too. These are the things of which I used to blog with regularity, and I offer my apologies for letting my afflicted and perplexed spirit (2 Corinthians 4:8) to cast shadows over them. Let me be very clear, if you have ever doubted that Satan is real and desires to kill the work of Jesus Christ, I will be the first to confirm that he is real, for I have met his son.

All of this having been said, ask me how I am doing and I can still respond, as one of my favorite elders used to say, "Terrific, but I'll get better!" John 14:3."

Now, back to my own words. As you can see, we have all been very stressed out. It's showing physically. It's a tough situation to say the least, and I appreciate the prayers and support from my friends and family who have already been talking with me; more than they know. The facebook and text messages that you're praying for us, the Bible verses you've sent me, skype calls, everything. I love all of you, thank you so much. Please continue to pray for us throughout this whole ordeal; for wisdom to know how to handle things, patience, peace, and unity in the church. Not sure what else there is to say, but that's the excuse for not blogging enough.

Blessings always,

Erin <3

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This place? This is my blog! I'm Erin, or you may know me as Ruth. I'm spending this year living in La Palma, El Salvador with my family working with the church, and I'm pretty pumped about seeing some awesome stuff happen through our amazing God. Here, you can read about some of that awesome stuff, catch up with my family news (There's a link to the rest of the fam's blogs above!), or just see what I've been up to lately. Thanks for checking it out! :)

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