For starters, rain affects schedules.
On Saturday, November 7th, I hopped in a van and headed to San Antonio Grande for a youth camp. We had already postponed this camp once due to a forecast of rain, and we were running out of weekends to hold it. So when we woke up to rain, we threw in our bags and headed out. We would hold this camp come hell or high water.
The rain caused us to arrive late to the small rural community, so the camp leaders immediately had a meeting to change the schedule. We decided to have a devotional, some games, a short hike, and then head back the same day. This light rain hadn't let up for three days now, and even though it hadn't turned into the heavy downpours we were used to, we knew that it could make things very difficult if it did. Even though it cut our camp very short, I'm glad we made this decision. For El Salvador would receive both hell and high water.
The vans full of youth from the south-central region of the Lutheran church emptied into the school grounds where we had planned on staying. After finalizing the schedule, we began our devotional.
For our devotional, we read from Matthew 19:16-26. As Jesus teaches, a young man approaches Jesus and asks what he needs for eternal life. Upon learning that the man had kept all the important commandments, Jesus says, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." (v. 21 NRSV) The man leaves, grieving, and Jesus makes it clear how "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (v. 24) After opening it up to discussion, the youth felt challenged to live up to Jesus' call to give more to the "poor". Many of these youth consider themselves to be poor, but nonetheless realize that Jesus isn't just talking to Wall Street executives. This makes me wonder, just who are the poor?
After a few activities, we then headed on our walk to the Lempa, El Salvador's biggest river.
We didn't get the chance to swim in the river. But if we had, we wouldn't have gotten any more wet. On the way there, it had started to rain. Hard.
Rain affects our physical state.
The rain continued through our return trip and into the night. I marveled at its power that night on the porch of the Casa Concordia. The rain may have soaked through me that day, but I didn't realize just how much damage occurred all across the country. That took a while to soak in.
I saw some bits on the news. We talked about it on the way to church. We prayed about it at church, the few that could show up that day. I started to get a better grasp on just how much El Salvador hurt from the weekend's storms. And I got a better idea when we drove to a community affected by the floods.
We headed out to Apopa, north of San Salvador, to a poor neighborhood built on a dirt outcropping near the river. The road into the neighborhood sloped downward and turned into mud right at the high-water mark, where we also saw several parts of houses that had been collected from below.
And from there we headed down.
Bishop Gómez knows the father of a Lutheran pastor.
The floods, here just a few feet deep,
took out the wall to his house.
These houses lost their roofs and pretty much everything inside.
This house also suffered severe damage.
Not much of this house remains at all.
We survey a house that has been completely washed away.
Cristian, a friend of one of the victims,
shows us the change in the river.
The water had been above the trash on the cliffs
just the night before.
Cristian's friend's house also received some damage.
The water level nearly reached the roof.
Cristian points out the water level inside Aldo's house.
Fortunately, nothing other than the electronics
was permanently damaged here.
Aldo's church, La Resurrección, brings food and water
to help his family and the neighborhood.
The relief should help them get by for a while.
The rain can change the way people live.
News poured in from around the country. The damage was astounding. Over 150 dead, hundreds more missing, and tens of thousands who have lost everything. Delegations who had come early for the International Partner Encounter changed their plans to better understand these events.
On Tuesday, November 10th, I went with Bishop Medardo Gómez and the delegation from Finland to Verapaz, one of the most affect areas. Verapaz sits in the shadow of Chichontepec, a magnificent volcano in San Vicente.
We walk forward, led by a local Lutheran pastor and his family.
We survey some of the leftover mud from the flood.
Some residents try to dig their house free.
Farther up the road we encounter a new kind of damage.
The bishop from Finland views the damage of the landslide.
Just a few days before, this was a neighborhood full of houses.
The rains brought these boulders down from the Volcano.
Huge chunks of the mountain broke away and came to the village.
A member of the Lutheran Church shares his story with us.
We head down the road, crossing what was once a house.
Here we can see the road, and the walls and foundation of a house.
The floods still take their toll farther down.
People collect the things they can.
The damage stuns us all.
Bishop Medardo Gómez comforts a woman who lost everything.
We all felt shaken by this experience. How can this happen? So many people have lost everything in the floods. The destruction came in a night, but will take years to repair. Where is God? As Bishop Gómez often says, in these times, when we see more suffering than we can bear, how much more will we see hope. It has been over a week since this tragedy, but the pain continues. The victims need relief. We have seen an inundation of horrors, but we have seen an outpouring of compassion. Who are the poor? Those who live day to day struggling to feed their families have risen to give aid, clothing, water, and comfort to their neighbors. So I ask to all who read this, where is God? Will we take Jesus' challenge to sell all and give to the poor, or will we simply grieve and walk away?
The rain affects our call to mission.
Stay tuned to this website and to globalministries.org to find out how you can help. After all, "for God all things are possible." (Mt 19:26)