Many people ask me if I get scared living in such a dangerous country. The truth is that I really don't. I learned early on what parts of El Salvador to avoid and have for the most part avoided them. I have had minimal interaction with gangs here. I've had two positive experiences which of course nurtured my bravery and one not so positive which left me looking over my shoulder for about 6 months. The fact of the matter is that I pray for these people almost on a daily basis. Nothing in this country is going to change until the gang violence and control is taken care of.
This afternoon Oscar and I were sitting in a cafe' while Faviola was at her dance class. (Faviola takes dance as a form of therapy to help her with her large motor skills and coordination) I was plalying solitaire on my phone and Oscar was reading the news paper. He pushed the paper in front of me so I could read a headline. "60 families told to leave their apartments or they will be killed" Who gave this order? A gang (not sure which one nor do I want to print their name anyway) The picture below showed a man putting a mattress in a pick up and two women crying. "We are leaving because we are afraid of the gangs" one woman was quoted saying. At that moment I was overwhelmed by the power that these gangs have. How do you clear out an entire apartment complex? For the first time I allowed a little tinge of fear enter my heart. I asked Oscar if that could happen to us. He replied that if they wanted to take our house (which is the same as Esther's House) they could or take our lives if we refused. I pondered that for quite some time. In fact, I am still thinking about it.
I am very cautious here and my husband is even more cautious with me. But being cautious doesn't eliminate all of the dangers here. I know that. I am not afraid of death. I am prepared to give my life in service to God if need be. What I am afraid of and what I am not prepared for is leaving behind my family. I start each morning by asking God to protect me as I go about my day. I ask Him to protect my family and all of the children that we work with.
The truth is that I would love to go in and minister to the gang members. I believe the only way to change them is through Christ. It's not my calling, however. I am a firm believer that you need God's covering in this type of work and I don't want to venture into that territory without God's covering. So for now I just continue to pray for them. We are working hard to bring up this youngest generation in Christ. We are working hard to help families understand the importance of staying together and providing security for their children. The more children we can educate and keep out of the gangs today, the weaker these gangs will become generation by generation.
Please continue to pray for us, our families and El Salvador
Learn more about Beth and Oscar Alegria by visiting their website. Click here!
"Is it different over there?"
People ask me all sorts of questions in regards to living abroad in Northern Ireland. But mostly, they want to know, "Is it different than the States?"
The answer to that question is, "Yes and no."
The language is similar. We share "English" but sometimes use the words differently. Also, they tend to sing their sentences in that cool accent that all of us Americans wish we could pull off.
Food is slightly different. There a lot of potatoes. A lot.
The weather is rainy. I'd say I would see more rainbows here than I ever did in the States. That's the upside of the rain issue so I don't complain.
I would say the one thing that I find particular to living here is the amount of ironing people do. A good measure of ironing happens in this country. I know at least a dozen people who iron their pyjamas! I know folks who iron their underwear! I mean, who is going to see the wrinkles in your underpants? Ok. Don't answer that question.
I once made the mistake of casually mentioning to a group of women that I don't iron my children's uniforms. There was quiet gasp from amongst the crowd. Finally, one brave soul spoke up, "And they go to school like that?"
I often hear things said like, "Glad to get all my ironing done last night," or "I don't even want to think about the ironing that is waiting for me at home!"
I never think about ironing. Never.
Now, of course, I am generalising. Not every person here is committed to their ironing responsibilities as I am making it seem but you need to know there is a level of commitment that exists here that I never experienced in the States. Honestly, it's admirable.
Taking the time to press out the creases of clothing always seemed a bit of a time waster to me (unless were talking about linen - that's whole other issue). However, I recently have found that ironing does make a difference. One night I decided to iron my bedsheets (which I also never do) just to see what it would be like... almost a cultural experiment, if you will. I'm telling you, I felt a difference. Maybe these people are on to something...
Making time to pay attention to the details makes a difference. Sometimes it feels like a time waster but often it's the very thing that sets it apart. Like,
· Making time to write a thank note to someone who drove your kids to school for you.
· Making time to find out what your dinner guests like to eat before constructing a menu.
· Making time to hang your kids' artwork on the fridge and giving them big compliment on it.
· Making time to let your spouse know you are going to be five minutes late.
· Making time to text a friend to see how their first day at a new job was.
These are just the small little details of our relationships. They are not the big headlines but when we take time to pay attention to them, it makes a big difference.
Have I converted into being a regular 'ironer'? No, but I did iron my kids' uniforms this morning. See? There is hope for change.
Iron something today. Just for the fun of it.
To read more from Noelle, click here!