I think I didn’t blog last week because I didn’t know what to say, feeling at first overwhelmed by the needs here. Most of the people are living in indescribable poverty, many under tarps and cobbled together shacks dug into a hillside, without basic shelter and sanitation. I wondered what we could possibly do to provide any long term help. Now we are beginning to recognize that we can make a difference here, and we ourselves are being changed, so that we will never be the same again.
As we visit church members, we find the people to be kind and generous. They bring out their best chairs—whether stackable plastic lawn chairs or beautiful handmade rockers– and invite us to sit down in whatever is their best room. Sometimes it has colorful tiles on the floor and cinder block walls that are brightly painted. Other times it has a dirt floor with curtains or tarps for walls and corrugated metal overhead. About half the time, it is a cleared area outside, where the cook fire and sink are sheltered by some kind of awning. But the spirit of hospitality and family love are apparent everywhere.
These are very hard-working people, who have home industries making clothes, shoes, or belts, carving furniture, making tortillas to sell in the neighborhood, laying paving stones in the streets, and cleaning houses for rich foreigners. It is hard for us to give up our privacy, but we feel like we want to contribute, so we have a woman who comes three mornings a week to water the plants around the house, clean the floors and our shoes, and change the sheets. (We have to make a point of leaving dishes and laundry for her to do because we’ve never had help at home before.) This week she found a scorpion in the bedroom, so today she put a garlic paste all the way around the veranda to keep the bugs out.
Frank has been playing the keyboard in three of the four “ramas” or branches of the Church here in Granada, so all the women and girls are very excited that we are going to teach them how to play. The Harman Fund, through the BYU Division of Continuing Education, is sending us 12 keyboards and the materials for teaching simplified hymn accompaniment. For any students who complete the program, can play the simplified hymns in the church, and will teach others to play as well, we can fill out an application for them to keep their keyboards. The fund will send another one so we can continue to teach.
Some of the men have had education through a fund that will help provide for their families while they go to Guatemala to be trained as electricians or plumbers. Young adults who have completed high school or missions have access to the Perpetual Education Fund, so they are attending college and studying technology or teaching. When they begin working, they will repay the fund so others can go to school. We see that these kinds of educational initiatives make a huge difference in the lifestyle of the people and the hope they feel.
Most of the time, I think of Peter, when a lame man was asking for alms near the temple gate. He said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6) We can’t heal the lame, but we do bring a message of love and hope to the homes. As we visit each family, we give them a short gospel message and bear witness that God loves them and knows them, and as we do so, our own faith is reinforced as we feel the Holy Ghost bear witness that this is absolutely true. We have a prayer with them before we leave and ask for God’s blessing on their home and children and daily endeavors. We feel that we are walking on sacred ground with these precious children of God.
A couple of pictures: like young women everywhere, these girls served great refreshments–little homemade tortillas with salad, cheese and cream on them. Yum! Sister V. takes us to visit others.