Our second day in El Salvador began with a visit to the women's prison in San Miguel. Elvira, the lay pastor from Mission San Lucas, guided us around the prison yard and greeted each of the women. The yard was set-up with canopies under which the women engaged in varies activities such as knitting and bread baking to make money. The yard was cramped with some 75 women in space built for 35. The food is inadequate, as is sanitation.
Elvira invited each of the women to join us for mass, at which Fr. Daniel Simons, a priest from St. Gregory's, San Francisco, and our translator, presided. More than 50 women attended and joined in the singing and praying with gusto. Many were visibly moved. One woman, in tears, had only been in the prison for five days. She was worried about her seven month old, whom she was now unable to nurse and didn't have any money to feed. Elvira promised to look after the child.
Since it was Fr. Daniel's birthday, all the women wanted to give him a birthday kiss!
From the prison we went to the local public school. Located in a poor neighborhood riven with gang violence, the school was surrounded by a gated wall. More than 1,600 students attend K-8th. grade; half in the morning and half in the afternoon. The children only receive four hours of instruction each day.
Here we see a few students outside the classrooms.
Here is a view inside the classroom, with about 40 children per teacher.
This is the school kitchen built by Mission San Lucas. The new floor has yet to be installed. Lunch is provided for the elementary school kids, but must be purchased by the middle schoolers.
The children are curious, friendly, beautiful and energetic: just like children everywhere. And like too many children in El Salvador, these suffer from substandard housing, health care and education.
Our next stop was an orphanage run by Roman Catholic Franciscan sisters.
The orphanage was set within well kept grounds. 50 children live here, ten to a house. Each house has a house mother. It struck me that these children were comparatively lucky: provided with a safe, clean, nurturing environment. You can see the chapel above.
The houses are in the process of being renovated, but are still pretty spartan. Notice the poster of Pope John Paul II!
The playground could use some work. A U.S. parish refused to help Mission San Lucas install a new one, because it "wouldn't help the Anglican church." Isn't our mission to heal the world through the power of Christ's reconciling love? Who cares if it benefits the Anglican Church?
Healthy development requires safe places to play.
"If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a millstone tied around their neck and to be thrown into the sea."
The faces of Christ are everywhere in El Salvador.
By the end of day two, my heart was breaking wide open.