This month in homes around the globe, families are decorating and lighting their Christmas trees. In fact, "trimming the tree" is often its own ritual, one that merits a dedicated time in which family and friends gather to pile on ornaments and lights, popcorn and cranberry bunting, and thinly ribboned "icicles."
If you are partial to a real tree, you know how important it is to find one that is fresh and healthy. Dry and sparsely branched trees are not only fire hazards but aren't ideal when wanting to showcase beautiful and plentiful decorations. The best trees, the ones that can hold up throughout the holidays and into the new year, are those sturdy ones that had been deeply rooted and nourished.
This is a great metaphor for what we have seen in our work. As ENLACE approaches its 25th anniversary, we've had the privilege of being a part of something amazing. Over and over again, we've seen that once local church members take on their role as servant leaders, the before and after contrast in their communities, is breathtaking.
Every year, just before Christmas, ENLACE hosts a Pastors and Leaders Retreat. It is the one time when all of our local church partners and staff get a chance to learn together, pray and encourage one another, and have a lot of fun! Every year it has been something special. There was one year, however, that stands out and continually reminds me of ENLACE's purpose and vision.
To serve God means to serve where God has placed me and to see my circumstances as his direction for me. Many times I think I have orchestrated my own steps but in reality God has done so and his purposes are always many-fold.
I have had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador over the past several years and have experienced how ENLACE purposes to bring economic and spiritual renewal to communities through the presence and work of the local Church. The foundation of which comes through the cultivation of relationships that are based on the love of our neighbor as ourselves.
My name is Pastor Israel Pineda and I’d like to thank you for giving. Since my church and community leaders started receiving coaching from ENLACE in 2013, we have seen transformation in our hamlet of El Cocalito through physical improvements like a reduction of intestinal disease when we installed latrines. We have built homes for our neighbors and classrooms for our local school. Perhaps even more importantly, we have seen friendships formed between church members and our neighbors. We have experienced a transformed vision and motivation in our church to focus on serving others. And it’s not only me and my community that have this vision. Your support provides coaching for over 100 pastors throughout El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nepal propelling them to impact their communities by restoring relationships with the whole gospel of Christ’s love.
“These people seem so happy! They seem so thankful, even though it seems that they have so little to be thankful for.” This is a sentiment that I have frequently heard during my 15 years of introducing North Americans to people in rural El Salvador. While El Salvador does indeed rank very high on the “happiness index” there is something disconcerting about calling impoverished families “happy” and “thankful.” I think something else might be going on here. Could it be that visiting an impoverished community simply shifts our baseline for how we measure happiness and thankfulness?
As I was looking through some pictures of ENLACE’s 2016 Pastor and Leader Retreat there was one photo that stopped me in my tracks. It literally gave me chills. Tears began to well up in my eyes, as I contemplated all that was represented. It looks like a normal photo of two Salvadoran men, just standing there next to each other. However, somehow this picture represents nothing less than a transformative hope for the country of El Salvador.
This year marks 15 years since I began working with ENLACE. If there is one thing that I have learned in all of these years it is that community transformation does not happen overnight. But every so often you get a good look at the enormous progress that has happened over the years. This picture represents progress achieved and an incredible hope to come.
In a few days' time, people all over the world will commemorate two Catholic feast days, All Saints and All Souls, with exuberant parties, celebrated with special foods and dances, and quiet candlelit vigils, marked by contemplation and prayer.
The history of these days is fascinating, but having grown up in a Protestant household and community, these celebrations were not a part of my religious or cultural experience. For me, it wasn’t until November 2001 that I was able to see the power that these remembrance days could have.
32 families will have life saving latrines along with health education and technical assistance for building and maintaining their composting latrines. Over the last few weeks you have jumped on board the potty train. You have done your doodie! You paired your potty.
We are celebrating 12 families, individuals, churches, and schools who stepped up as Doodie Directors to raise funds for a latrine. Many others of you gave directly to the campaign. Thank you!
This two minute video gives you a quick overview of the process and benefit of latrines in communities in El Salvador.
Although we have wrapped up the Pair Your Potty campaign and won't keep pushing right now, churches in El Salvador continue to identify families in need of latrines as they work toward healthy communities. There are literally thousands of pottys still to be paired. You can support them by starting your own Pair Your Potty campaign at any point. It's a fun way to get kids, groups, teams, and families engaged in making an impact globally. All the resources you need to start your campaign are at www.pairyourpotty.org
Thank you for giving a crap!
Maria is a 49 year-old, single mother of five daughters. She and her family have struggled to make ends meet for as long as Maria can remember. Like most of her neighbors in Sirigual, a remote village located in the dramatic mountainscape of El Salvador, she has only a 3rd grade education and lives a subsistent life. Her family lives in a small, simple home and collects water from a nearby river for drinking and bathing, which is also where they wash their clothes.
Yay, it's September! Kids are in school, and Autumn is in the air! It's a golden time of busses and no. 2 pencils; of old fashion Pee-Chees and pumpkin lattes. What's not to love?
Hmmm... Like you, I can think of a few things not to love.
How about grouchy mornings and the dreaded lunch-box scramble; the cold and flu season that starts all too quickly; and the science projects that rely on macaroni noodles and copious amounts glue or switch boards and tiny light bulbs, all requiring a parent (and possibly two) to complete.
If you're already overwhelmed, you're not alone. There is one thing we can take off your list.
ENLACE is offering to sign off on Community Service Hours for your child. As a U.S. non-profit, we can provide you with a bonafide option.
And it's easy. Just join the Pair Your Potty campaign by Friday September 15.
Your kids can really make an impact by raising funds for a Life Saving Latrine, health education and ongoing support for a family in an impoverished community in El Salvador! Once the kids have put in the hours raising the funds, email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign off on the hours.
It takes just minutes to sign up as a Doodie Director and we will sign off on any corresponding service hours.
Be among the first two to respond and receive a vintage Golden (Age) Pee-Chee. Totally "Stranger Things" worthy.
Click here at PairYourPotty.org then breathe in, breathe out. One less thing on your to-do list.
Antonio and Maria Caravantes and four of their 11 children have lived in Chantusnene, El Salvador for 17 years. Like most of their neighbors, they never had enough income or expertise to build a proper toilet and instead dug pits near their home. As a result, the water table in Chantusnene had become extremely contaminated.
Did you know that you can pair your potty the way you pair your socks? Why yes! Yes, you can!
We've just kicked off the PAIR YOUR POTTYCampaign and we are hoping to raise $20,000 to provide 40 families with life-saving latrines by September 15, 2017.
Want to help? There are 2 ways:
Number 1 (see what we did there?): Donate Now
Number 2 (yep, we did it again): Become a Doodie Director to rally your friends to pair a potty together.
Here are some more numbers and why this campaign really does matter:
- 1.7 million people die each year as a result of diarrhea. Every minute 3 children under the age of 5 die from dirty water
- 40% of the population in semi - rural and rural areas of El Salvador do not have access to latrines at home
- The 2nd leading reason for medical checkups in El Salvador is treatment of parasites borne from fecal-contaminated water
- 9% of a family's household income is saved when latrines are used at home
- 40% decrease of intestinal infections when a latrine is used at home
"They 'Set Out From Their Homes' to Serve Their Friend in Trouble" International Day of Friendship (UN): July 30
July 30 is International Day of Friendship and ENLACE would like to celebrate the amazing people who have been FRIENDS, WORLD-CHANGERS and VALUED PARTNERS in the transformation work we do.
When his mother drowned during a family excursion at age 11, José and his four siblings became orphans. “I never knew my father,” said José, and so from that point on life became a fight for survival. “Our only solution was to join a gang.”