EL SALVADOR ADVENTURE

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groupShotELSALServing the Lord IS always an adventure, BUT some days are just more adventurous than others. You might know I have been called the female Indiana Jones of the Christian world . I thought most of my dramatic adventures were a thing of the past. THINK AGAIN! Last week maybe sets close to the top of the list, we are talking illegal in a country, blown tire, hiking in the middle of nowhere!!!

Here in Guatemala, the kids get out of school for an extended vacation during the Semana Santa season. I’d promised a trip during summer break, but I casually thought, well let’s take the kids to El Salvador for a few days during their vacation. El Salvador is so close and they had been talking about wanting to eat pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador.

Over 20 years ago, I lived in El Salvador for a year, and I traveled throughout the country. Once I’d moved to Guatemala, I went back and forth frequently, for ministry with the many partners I had established when living there.

First we had to get passports for Telma, Billy and Olga Lorena and that was THREE trips into the city with paperwork and finally Telma broke down and just demanded they take care of her or she would call the police, the newspaper, the television!! I did not witness it, but apparently this drew a crowd and when the officials opened a locked door to take care of her, it drew applause!! Ah, third world living. IF you have never really spent extended time outside of the USA, it is hard to imagine what we go through at times just to get some “simple” done.

On to the adventure, early Monday morning we set out for San Salvador. We each had a backpack, hotel reservations, snacks, ready to roll. The driving just went so well, I had printed out a few maps and Karla was in charge of that. I saw a sign that said “Frontera Valle Nuevo”. That is a border crossing. I thought maybe I should go that one, but there was another sign for “Frontera San Cristobal”, so on we went. At the last town of size, Jutiapa , the traffic and transports started backing up and I saw another sign, “Frontera Jerez”.  Sooo I quickly decided to take that one.

We went through Jutiapa and the outskirts, it was a small winding road, with little traffic.  Up, up, up, we drove and the scenery was spectacular. Guess my first clue SHOULD have been no other cars and we are headed to a border!   We saw signs, so kept going, at one point we were stopped by the national police and we said we were going to San Salvador. He was friendly and waved us on.

FINALLY a sign was posted saying we were leaving the country of Guatemala.  THERE WAS NO border guard, no office, nothing, a rough road over a stream, people washing clothes and we ask , “ are we in El Salvador?”  They said yes!  There was one military guard on the side of the road and he stopped us, we told him we were going to San Salvador and I just assumed ahead there would be an office.  Some borders DO have their offices a mile back for officials paperwork.  There was NO office ahead, only bad road and it was getting worse. I saw some men working and stopped to talk to them. One got on a motorcycle and took us to a fork of the “road”, one lane, no shoulder , ROCKS!!  He suggested the left as he said, right was straight up and had dips.

So I drove on and told every one to pray, pray. We did fervently, it was really bad, I got to a level spot with a lane to enter a property and stopped, my “fear” was realized. The front right NEW tire was destroyed! I just sat down for a moment to reflect on the situation. I have Karla, I’m her legal guardian with documentation, Telma, her first time out of Guatemala, NINE year old Billy and ELEVEN year old Olga Lorena. I did not cry or freak out.  I had told all to get out of car, Telma to look if there was a house, there was none.  I would pull the car off the “road”.   God KNEW EXACTLY where we were and I reassured all with that Truth!  Then I said, take all our stuff out, we would start walking.

The trail was straight up, rough, dusty, but we got to a point, that I thought IF we could have made it passed the rocks of the “sirens”, we possibly could have made it on.  We saw another lane with barbed wire and I sent Karla and Telma to look, yes, a house, but no one home.  We had snacks, on walking we went.  In total we walked about THREE HOURS!! We saw only a delivery truck.  We reached the “village” of El Paste and saw a few people, we started asking for help of some kind and no one was being too kind.  Here we were, Karla got a bit dismayed, but I told all of them that God DID HAVE HELP for us!!  Never did I waver in that or feel helpless . Praise God for HIS strength in this predicament!
Billy, Olga Lorena and I sat on the side as the road has widen a bit, two cars could pass, once again Karla and Telma went to ask at a house.  A bus passed, it was Santa Ana—El Paste, but he said end of the line. Then an elderly woman walked passed with a plastic container on her head full of dough. She was SO astonished to see me.  She said she had NEVER seen someone that looked like me. She was 75 years old!!  I blessed her in Jesus name. Then the bus came back and the driver said get on and he would take us to help.  The kid driving was BLASTING out CHRISTIAN MUSIC.  He dropped us at the store of Dagaberto, who turned out to be the one God had designated to help us!   Dagaberto had a 4 x 4 and was a help to all around, 51 years old, strong, lithe and a Christian man.  I left my family with his family and off we went to the site of the car.  He removed the tire and off we went 45 minutes to the nearest town to buy a used tire. I picked up Billy to go with me.  You will remember we have NO stamps in our passports for El Salvador and I have NO car permission for “transport”, my 2005 Ford Focus 4 door sedan!

ILLEGALS in El Salvador!!  The tire was a Goodyear, oh and I had only 50 dollars with me.   El Salvador uses dollars and my idea was just get some from a machine!  Hoping you are laughing a bit, it was all so improbable. They charged me 35 dollars for the tire and Dagaberto needed gas. I ask him how much he wanted for helping us and he was prepared to take NOTHING!!  I insisted on giving the other 15 for gas , Billy and I got snacks, bought Dagaberto water, oh his MIDDLE name is JESUS!! Fortunately there were two cash machines in Candelaria, one did not work, but PRAISE GOD, the other one did!!

Back we went with the idea to change tire and then Dagaberto would pull my car to the clearly where the road was better. I just knew I could not steer, so I ask if someone else could help and he said his brother. Sure enough we got back and his brother could go, I just handed over the keys. I send Karla and Billy, they were so up for the adventure of that.  Billy ended up riding in the back of the pickup and Karla was in “transport”.

My family had spent time with the El Salvadorans there and they were a humble people with little contact with the outside world. I talked to the women and told them a story of adventure in Nicaragua and God making a way. THEN I realized, maybe God had us there for them. I ask what prayer concerns and we prayed for and with, Julissa, Sandra and Alma.  What a time of prayer!  Shortly after here comes the gang back with transport. Karla was just overjoyed and we would proceed.

I said we HAD to go to another border and fortunately once we hit a paved road, it was only about 15 minutes down the road. Once again the scenery before the pavement was just over the top, a lake, mountains, the sun was going down. God and His paintbox for us to see and stop, enjoy!

The border was a commercial border and there were trucks backed up a mile, we were stopped by the El Salvadoran national police and of course WHO COULD MAKE UP A STORY LIKE OTHERS??? They were kind and escorted us passed all the transports driving in the wrong lane. It took 2 hours but officials on both sides of the border were kind. HEY, I was the only gringa and the only CAR being processed. We even had the head official over cars in Guatemala, WALK ACROSS the border to do the visual inspection of my car as it had to be processed out of Guatemala , before I could do a temporary into El Salvador.  There is a bit more when it comes to the car, but I will say driving at night once again, no places open, but one, we had nothing to eat for hours. I swung into a tiny tienda that was trying to close. A mother and her daughter had the shop in the front of their house. When the daughter heard I was a missionary, she was in awe and immediately ask, what must she do to be a missionary. I told her to say “yes” to God, yes, yes, yes.  Also to listen for His call and say yes to Him.  I wondered, did we do all this for THAT girl??

We finally hit a main road about 10 at night , PIT STOP!! Gas, bathroom, snacks for everyone!! We made the hotel at 11:30 at night and had to ask someone IF they would drive to it and we would follow, they obliged with pleasure. WHAT A DAY!! Surely in your life the challenges are not akin to this, BUT everyone has their “El Salvadoran wilderness” experiences. REMEMBER God has His EYE on you and He will make a way!! All Glory to Him!!!

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