Day 5 - The Ministry of the Poor.
I have the privilege of blogging today. My name is Maurice Dyer and I have the honor of being a member of the Trinity United Presbyterian Church delegation that has a sister parish relationship with Casa de Zinc. Even though I have been attending Trinity for 52 years this is my first trip to El Salvador. I have heard the stories and seen the pictures of previous trips by our delegations. I felt I was as prepared as I could be short of becoming fluent in Spanish.
I was not caught off guard nor by surprise by what I have seen. I was aware of the abject poverty of the people with which we were connected. The pictures and stories from previous delegations were accurate in their depictions.
Jesus spoke of the poor. His was a ministry to the poor. Sell all you have and give it to the poor he told the rich man. He spoke of women. His was a ministry to women, whether they were married, divorced, widowed, Samaritan or prostitutes. His was a ministry to women in a male dominated society.
Today, during our trip to Casa de Zinc I witnessed ministry to the poor. We met with the Directiva, sort of like a city council, to discuss progress they have made. Our delegation was party to a discussion, maybe a pep talk is a better way to define it delivered by Blanca, a member of the pastoral team. (She's pictured below with Betty.)
Blanca talked about the importance of communication, the need to support the members of the Directiva to help pay their expenses to attend meetings in Berlin, home of Casa de Pastoral, "The Pastoral House". It was decided that each of the 14 households in Casa de Zinc would pay $1 per month to help defray the costs for Directiva member.
But Blanca also talked about helping the poor because there is always someone who is worse off than they were. Each house in Casa de Zinc comes equipped with a dirt floor. Each house does not have running water. Each house does not have indoor plumbing. Each house has chickens or turkeys or cows or horses or hogs sharing the same dirt yard surrounding the house. A mangy dog or two is usually scrounging for scraps or simply lying in a depression to seek some coolness. Dust, dirt, weeds, trash and manure is all mixed into that area surrounding the house.
Chickens walk into the house were there is a wood burning stove that may or may not have a vent to the outside. Regardless the house usually has smoke filling the space. Laundry is hung outside on the barb wire fence. A dependable source of water may be miles away and must be procured daily. Yet, there is always someone worse off than they are, said Blanca.
Blanca talked about improving the life of each person in Casa de Zinc. She talked about getting out of the dust. She talked above improving the quality of life if, as brothers and sisters, they could work together as a family. Blanca spoke to the women telling them there was more they could do than simply gathering water, cooking meals, doing laundry and keeping quiet.
She knew this because she had at one time thought the only thing a woman could do was to care for the family, the laundry and prepare meals while carrying water. Today she was standing in front of the families telling them they could do better. The key to the success of this program is not so much telling people what to do but rather listening to their needs and then designing programs they can do to make improvements.
In each case people are empowered. In each case people are validated as a person, an individual. People may come to understand they have the ability to a make a difference in their lives. In this case this is ministry of the poor by women who volunteer their time. They do this ministry because they are dedicated and compassionate. In the course of their ministry they become empowered. The ministry of the poor. Remember, as Blanca says, there is always someone worse off that you.
In the United States non profit organizations sometimes fall under scrutiny for their lack of directing money to its intended purpose. The Pastoral Team watches very closely to insure contributions end up where they are supposed to. They watch for those individuals who may trying to milk the system in an attempt to get something for nothing. They watch the dynamics of the meeting of the Directiva attempting to see if anyone or any one group is attempting to run the show. They establish some expectations for the members of each community in a relationship with a congregation. This is truly mission.
As the women of the Pastoral Team conduct this work they are empowered. They gain confidence. As they gain confidence the mission of the church is enhanced. The ministry of the poor administered by women who display God's love daily in their work.