From Miami to Arcatao

James outside church in Arcatao

James outside church in Arcatao

So far on this trip there has been one prevailing feeling, journeying. Whether this be when I journeyed from London to Miami on that first day of the trip, to the journeys we have made to the 3 various communities that we shall be visiting over the next few weeks here in El Salvador.

James, with the gappers and the church youth group in Arcatao

James, with the gappers and the church youth group in Arcatao

The distinct history and character of each community, Puenticitos (where we shall be from Monday-Thursday of this week), Arcatao and Guarjila, are all clear to experience and see, however the importance of faith and the providence that God offers is so strong a belief that the harrowing  stories that are told and the evident difficulties that each day entails could easily be forgotten.

A Rivera, from the committee of survivors, in front of the sanctuary built in memory of victims of the civil war

Rosa Rivera, from the committee of survivors, in front of the sanctuary built in memory of victims of the civil war

Pope Francis talks about going to the end of the world to elect a Pope and often the communities we have visited seem remote. On Sunday we went to Arcatao a place that experienced atrocious massacres by the Salvadoran army during the war, since many Guerrillas lived in the town and the surrounding countryside. The youth group we saw thanked us and said that we had ‘gone to the edges of the country to visit and see them.’ The journey of faith we are on is one that is greater enhanced when the reactions of those remote communities is felt. Faith is a journey of life, here in El Salvador I am seeing things that even though are bad are held together by the community’s faith; this often offers comfort when it is difficult to understand why.

James with Lazaro and his wife

James with Lazaro and his wife Candida

Even during these first 5 days I have met some incredible characters. In La Palma, a town on the boarder of Honduras, we met Lazaro the man who may have painted your CAFOD Romero cross. His son is in prison because he was friends with the town’s gang. He has been imprisoned since April last year. In these most difficult of times Lazaro and his family still need to work to buy food for themselves, but also for their son in prison. They are so grateful for CAFOD and giving them the opportunity to paint the Romero crosses, this thanks was apparent in their hospitality even though they have little. Lazaro constantly said that it was God, and only God who provides, and therefore this keeps their faith continuing.

James learning to paint at the family run workshop of the Rodriguez family.  Such concentration!

James learning to paint at the family run workshop of the Rodriguez family.                       Such concentration!

Lazaro’s story is only one of the many others that we have heard on this trip. When in Guarjila we met Marlene who told us an amazing story. She told us that during the war many Salvadorans were made refugees in Honduras, and she and her family were one. They decided to journey back to El Salvador and formed the community of Guarjila. They built a health clinic that today is thriving and has been called ‘a model of rural health.’ What is amazing about Marlene, and the people of Guarjila is that they did all this during the war when they were constantly caught up in battles, or had the army threaten their community, harassing both men and women, as well as children. Faith and motivation kept Marlene and she is an admirable and strong willed women and mother.

I want to finish off this first blog from El Salvador with something I heard in Arcatao. I really struggled when we arrived on the Saturday evening as the town was so remote and the trip so stressful, but during the Sunday parish Mass and our conversation with Rosa the need to continue for the common good was heartfelt. Rosa has dedicated her life since the end of the war in 1992 to remembering those who lost their lives during the massacres of Arcatao and to continue the legacy of justice and peace that those men and women fought for alive through her dedication to building a museum and chapel of rest. What is profound is that she has continued with this dream even though funds are difficult to come by.

James and group speaking at Mass at Arcatao.  Sarah, group leader, has the microphone.

James and group speaking at Mass at Arcatao. Sarah, group leader, has the microphone.

During the parish Mass Father Miguel emphasised the need to continue the work of Christ, and to be men and women who are proud to be baptised as Christians; men and women who fight for what is right and help those in need. Father Miguel ended his homily with something that is apt for us baptised Christians today, ‘we have just celebrated the anniversary of the peace accords. We must continue striving for peace and justice, peace is fragile, peace is not about ending the bombs and bullets, it’s life for people, health and an abundance of crops. Pope Francis in his Christmas message said ‘let’s all be builders of peace.’

16 thoughts on “From Miami to Arcatao

  1. Hi James lovely to hear your news and stories, we hope you enjoy El Salvador! Greetings and blessings from Lynda & Laura @ CAFOD Portsmouth

  2. James,

    You trip is so moving. What an experience for you. Your parents should be proud to have bought up such a dedicated man to his faith as you clearly are.
    What an inspiration you are to all the youth of today.

    Stay safe……you are in my prayers always.

    Lots of love The Kinge family x

  3. James,
    When I read your inspiring account, I forgot about my back being sore and my brain more than usually sluggish! You put things for me into perspective and so thank you for your witness to what is real and worthwhile. What a wonderful thing you are involved in. I am praying for you and now those you meet every day – from a humbled Tom.

  4. Wow Jamie sounds like you are getting lots out of the trip! Keep doing your great work – I look forward to seeing your CAFOD Romero cross when you get back. Love Em xxx

  5. Hi James
    Excellent blog, let yourself be guided by your faith to do the best you can. Know that your family are very proud of you and hold you in our prayers at all times. God Bless Mum, Dad, Emily and Verity.xx

  6. Wow, your journey has clearly already begun on a number of levels. I keep thinking of the Romero film and thinking what an honour it is to be inspired by the faith and social conscience of the Salvadorian people. Enjoy! Teresa

  7. James, Great to see part one of your unfolding journey in the ‘land of the Saviour’ and of course, Romero. Remember in all your encounters Challoner and his sage counsel to do ‘ordinary things extraordinarily well.’ Take care. John Wright.

  8. Hi James. Thank you for sharing with us your experiences and spreading the messages of peace forward. God Bless and a big hug to Marlene. Yve

  9. Hi to everyone thanks for all your kind messages amazingly I have limited wifi here in puentacitos I will blog again this weekend, until then keep me in your prayers and just to say so far it is going amazing!!!


    • Hello You!

      Please give our very best wishes to all at Puentecitos.

      Sibia cooked us the most delicious meal when we were there and it was a joy to meet the the children of the youth group at the church and all of the good people of the community.

      Big warm hugs to our friends in Puentecitos!

      So enjoying your visit James – it’s bringing what we do to life. Thank you for reminding us what it’s all about.

      ps Hope you’re looking after your travelling companions : )

  10. Dear James, Wonderful to be ‘along with you’ for a moment, on your inspirational journey, on this wet Thursday morning here in Basingstoke. Please thank Lazaro for painting my beautiful cross which I’ve had for a long time now. Yours ain’t too bad- and the camera got quite close 🙂 God Bless. Best wishes from all of us. Big hug X (Enjoying my daily ironing)

  11. Pingback: Our Step into the Gap Volunteer Arrives Safely in El Salvador | CAFOD Portsmouth

  12. Hello James I have read your blog and found it very moving, your work in El Salvador will be appreciated by all those who you have helped directly and indirectly, I’m sure your good work will remain even after you have returned home. Look after yourself & keep up the excellent work.

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