The festivities have officially begun. Last night was the election of the queen of the patron saint festival. We all went out to see some of the candidates and listen to the music. Well, the celebration continued well into the morning because at 1:15am I heard them setting off cohetes, which are loud noisemakers that sound like fireworks. At least 20 of them were set off and I kept looking over at Paige to see if they were going to wake her up. Thankfully, she slept through the noise.
We were off to the celebration in Corozal by 8am. The new church that they’ve been working on is finally finished. The church is absolutely gorgeous and has a distinctive look to it. The structure is unlike most other churches in the cantons. We walked in and immediately saw the beautiful tile that David had picked out a couple weeks ago. The church was decorated with flowers and curtains. At first we just stood at the back of the church taking it all in. Soon we were invited to sit in the chairs at the front of the church. Delegations are always treated with great love and reverence when they visit the churches in the cantons.
I went outside the church for a while to see what the women were preparing for lunch. There were at least four huge metal bins full of soup. It was enough to feed everyone who came to the celebration. I always watch in amazement at the women who do the cooking for these events. In this case I believe it was women of Corozal who were making the food for the lunch after the celebration. They work so hard for everyone else and sometimes I think we forget the people working in the background. The ladies of the Pastoral Team were also cooking. They helped for a while at the church and then went to Vilma & David’s house to make lunch for us and some of the people from city hall. As with many events, when the special day comes, the women often miss the celebration so they can prepare lunch for everyone else. They really sacrifice so that everyone else may have a wonderful day.
The mass began around 9:30am. Several priests were there from other communities to perform the mass. It was similar to a typical mass but with extra exciting events. At one point one of the workers, Santos, who helped a great deal with building the church got up to speak. His home next to the church is very humble in comparison. It is like most of the homes in the cantons with a dirt floor and leaky roof. When he spoke today you could see his whole face was lit up. He made grand gestures with his hands as he spoke about how much the church meant to him. His words were so filled with love and joyfulness that we were moved to tears. At one point he became choked up as well and almost cried.
Next came the blessing for the church. I remember when the church in San Francisco was built and that the priest there blessed the church as well. This priest blessed a guacal (plastic bowl) full of water at the altar. He took a palm frond and sprinkled water at the front of the church. Then he went around and blessed the people inside the church. What a beautiful tradition! This is only the second time I’ve ever seen a church blessed in that manner. I remember when it was done in San Francisco I was disappointed because I wanted to get wet but didn’t. This time some of the blessed water did land on me so I was pleased.
I had noticed at the beginning of the service that there were several babies dressed in nice clothing. I asked Kathy if there were going to be some baptisms and she said yes. Yay!! This just makes the first service in the new church even more wonderful. When it came time for the baptisms many more families went up to the front than I expected. At least 10 people, mostly children, were baptized today in the new church. The priests said a few words and then everyone moved over the baptismal font. It is the same baptismal font that was in the old church that was destroyed during the war. I felt full of happiness as I watched everyone get baptized one by one. Afterward each family lit a candle they had brought in honor of the baptism. It was a long process because there were so many people who wanted to be baptized. How exciting!
Offering and communion came next. As with the other Catholic churches I’ve been to in El Salvador, I was allowed to take communion. Everyone is welcome to take communion in the Catholic Church here regardless of whether or not they’re Catholic. We are all brothers and sisters of Christ and therefore we may all share in receiving the blood and body of Christ. We all got in line to receive the first communion in the new church. I felt honored to be a part of such a special day for the community.
Finally, Brenda was asked to go to the front of the church and say something. Brenda is a member of Ankeny Presbyterian Church that partners with the canton of El Corozal. She made a special trip down here just to be a part of the celebration. Brenda spoke about how excited she was for the new church and recalled the struggles of the people as they waited several years before they were able to build. She presented the community with several small Bibles in Spanish and a memory album she had made full of pictures of the construction of the church. The memory album also contained several letters from members of Ankeny Presbyterian.
After some final words from the priest the service ended. We all spent a little time in the church afterward talking with some of the people and holding the adorable babies! We eventually left the church and walked over to David & Vilma’s house a little before noon. There we ate lunch around a large table outside. It was wonderful to see them and to be at their home once again. I didn’t get any organs in my lunch this time and was a little disappointed (not really).
As we were finishing up lunch we heard the youth group from El Recreo performing at the church. We wanted to see them so we hurried over. We were able to catch the last five minutes of the performance. They had new costumes this time because the Pastoral Team donated fabric to the group. They were even more beautiful than the last outfits. When they’d finished and went behind someone’s house to change Kathy managed to get them into a group so we could get a few pictures. Then we got to meet everyone! Several members are part of a group that takes English classes from William and several other teachers on the weekends. We chatted a little with them in English and were impressed by how much they already knew!
We said goodbye to the group and made our way back to the house. As we left one of the moms of the little girls who was baptized wanted to talk to me. At first I thought she wanted me to take a picture of her daughter. But that wasn’t what she wanted. Her friend came over with a camera and I realized she wanted to take a picture of me with her daughter. It may seem weird that someone would want to take a picture of their child with a complete stranger, but us gringos are pretty novel creatures.
When we got back to Vilma & David’s house we spent a little more time in the hammocks relaxing. It’s such a peaceful place to be. I am very glad I’ve had the chance to meet both of them. Around 2pm it was time to head back to Berlín. We hugged everyone goodbye and were on our way. As we were driving home on the bumpy roads a mango fell from a tree and we heard a loud “thump.” We realized that it had hit Luke in the arm and his shirt had a big yellow splotch on it. Delicious. Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt and said he really didn’t feel the mango hit him. It must have been pretty squishy.
The new church in Corozal
Brenda in front of the new church
First glance inside
Not sure who this person is
(Cecilia didn't know either)
Little girl at the mass
Cooking outside for everyone
The church quickly filled up
A little girl sitting near me
The beginning of the mass
Santos talking about building the church
Blessing the church & water
Sprinkling water everywhere
And on everyone!
The baptisms begin
He was in a little suit
Waiting to be bapized
A special blessing
One of David's godchildren
Going over to the baptismal font
Preparing for communion
Paige and Luke taking communion
Brenda speaking to the community
Showing them the Bibles she brought
The memory album she created
This was an important day for her
Filled to the brim
I got to hold him
The youth group performing
In front of the church
The whole group
One of the young ladies I talked to
She has a beautiful outfit
After everyone had left
Close up of the tile
A hammock built for two?
Out like a light
At first we thought his cup was full of pop
Pastor at rest
Not quite asleep
Hanging out after lunch
Nice mango goo on your shirt
We got home at 3:30 and cleaned up a bit before heading out for more ice cream. We got ice cream and then walked around the market for a while. It was pretty quiet at the market since it was late in the afternoon. But it was nice for the first-timers to be able to see the market area. We went on a hunt for a Salvadoran flag and ended up finding it at a shoe store. That’s pretty typical. We couldn’t find it at the school supply areas but the shoe store had them.
We got back home and had a final meeting at 5pm for everyone to say thank you and reflect on the trip. I’m going to miss this group a lot! It’s hard to say goodbye to people that you’ve become so close to in a short period of time, especially when you truly enjoy being around them. Toward the end of the meeting a former priest came to the door to say hello. He was working in Berlín when Bob Cook first decided to come down to El Salvador. He commented on how amazing it was that the Pastoral Team and ourselves, Catholics and Protestants, could work together toward a greater good. He then quoted for us a line from Spiderman and then a line from the Bible. That takes serious talent.
It was time to head to Alegría for dinner a little after 6pm. We went to the new restaurant the team has started going to called Mi Pueblito. The food is delicious, inexpensive, and fast. I got the 5 shrimp platter than often comes with more than 5 shrimp. It was tasty and I ate all but one of my giant shrimp. But someone else ate it so it didn’t go to waste. The drive back to Berlín a little more than an hour later was beautiful. I never tire of gazing up at the night sky and seeing all the stars. We may or may not have consumed a few adult beverages when we got home. But it was the last night and we were celebrating. It’s been a great week. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
Luke & his dream car (almost)
Eating in Alegria
A cool drink is always nice
What's that you have in the coffee cup?