At 7:00am we were in the van heading to Maizal. Fr. Mario met us there and gave us an introduction to Maizal, the people and the work that goes into that community. This included the history of the purchase of the lands, the building of the community of 30 homes (10 of which were built by contributions from congregations in the Diocese of Los Angeles), and the building up agriculture and attention to health issue there.
When Fr. Mario began speaking to us about the sewing cooperative at Maizal (started with our own Shelley Denney's donation of her sewing
machine), the ladies brought out some of their wares. Of course, I had to buy some! These are so pretty, and so reasonably priced. I was amazed at the women -- they wanted to learn to sew clothing for their families to save money, and the by product are these "bolsas" -- purses -- which were lovely.
Alfredo Lopez, about to be ordained Deacon (this Friday), gave us an introduction to the mission and ministry of Maizal. Alfredo and his brother Antonio, also a seminarian about to be ordained, have been at Maizal for a long time. We reviewed a map of the area, and what is located where on the property. Especially noted was the large water tank -- imperative for this area.
Thomas Wilson then spoke about the commitment he and his wife Diane have made in coming here from Western Massachusetts -- not speaking Spanish. They acclimated quickly, and have become a great resource for Maizal. They are working to make Maizal a place where groups, especially seminary groups, can come and have a unique ministry experience in a beautiful part of the world. They spoke about their home there, how they have found a special filter for their water -- and about making that a viable option for others in the community -- and also about life in El Salvador. I found them to be delightful, unassuming, and very friendly. They have a passion for this work, for the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- and it is contagious!
Antonio Cabeza, 78, has been working hear and coordinating the program for years -- he offered passionate testimony to the work of ERD, Cristosal, the Diocese of Los Angeles, etc. He was very animated and passionate in his speaking with us, and was happy to go with us later on our walk of the property. You can tell that Antonio loves Maizal, the work there, the people there -- and is very dedicated to this community.
We then started on our tour of the community and grounds. First stop: the POOL! Of special note is that our own J. Jon Bruno donated the money to build the pool, which has made a tremendous difference in the kind of hospitality that can be offered at El Maizal. When groups come to do work projects, they spend a number of hours working in the fields in the hot sun. The pool offers an opportunity to "cool down". I can tell you even though I was told it was not TOO hot today, it was HOT! I would have loved to have had a dip in the pool, but was not equipped to do so at the moment. I was so proud to be part of the Diocese of Los Angeles and to see this gift that was given, which gives refreshment to those who use it.
Nelson Carranza then walked us through the Iglesia Episcopal Anglicana del El Salvador Programa Nacional de Salud Integral, which offers agricultural education, the goal of which is to teach/ensure: Food security, conservation, combat malnutrition and join people in working together towards these goals. Right now over 110 people directly benefit in 7 communities (including 40 women and 60 youth), and 550 people indirectly benefit. There at Maizal they produce corn (hence MAIZal), sorgum, red beans, "arroz Centa", soy beans and achote.
We also learned that there are medicinal herbs that are grown at Maizal, and were given an opportunity to talk with some of the women who are doing this work. Everything from Oregano to verbena to ginger and more. The benefits from the herbs are well known and used in the community, and some are frequently used as additives to soup.
We passed by the medical clinic with Dr. Daniela comes every two weeks to work with members of the community and deal with health issues. Thomas and Dianne Wilson, missionaries living at Maizal from Western Massachusetts through TEC help reinforce teachings and issues raised in the clinic with the community in between Dr. Daniela's visits.
We walked through the community consisting of 30 houses -- 10 of which were built with funds collected from congregations in the Diocese of Los Angeles. I remember raising money for part of one of the houses years ago -- how amazing to see the fruit of that fundraising! I loved seeing the chickens, which provide eggs for the families.
We also walked through part of the gardens and saw pineapple growing as well as mangos. Don Antonio loved talking about the conservation efforts being made, the use of land, the kind of trees planted (some for wood -- eucalyptus, teak) as well as the fruit trees. Don Antonio became so animated talking about how the land was purchased and when, and how the orchards and forests that are there now (which were planted) hadn't existed before.
Among my favorite moments was going to the school. The children were amazing -- so smart, so eager, so engaging. I posted two videos on facebook -- one of Julia Bryant asking the children to recite their ABCs, the other where Julie taught the children how to sing and sign "Father we adore you, lay our lives before you, how we love you" -- they were SO cute! The teachers were smiling. Later, after lunch, one of the students home from school (her mom is one of the amazing chefs in the kitchen at Maizal) read to me out of her schoolbook -- with great confidence -- beautifully!
We then took a walk through the orchards and headed on back to the main building. We cooled off a bit (it was HOT!) and the chefs made us a wonderful lunch of chicken, rice and salad. I loved the rice so much I asked them how they made it -- I found out it is simple, but delicious: carrots, onion and consume -- I took a picture of one of the chefs holding the ingredients (except the rice, of course!).
We then headed over to the obelisk that was donated by Cristosal as well as over to the church. Our own George Woodward was one of the donors of the obelisk!
The church is simple but so beautiful! I spotted an iguana inside -- it is the type of iguana that can "walk on water". We spent time talking with our new friends (or in some cases, old friends). It was so great to be there, to see mission and ministry in action in an exciting way and to catch their enthusiasm.
We then went to Valle de Bella and Lake Catepeque -- just to stop and see, and returned to San Salvador.
This has been a quite amazing day! I'll end my wandering and wondering with a few more pictures:
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