Archives for the month of: May, 2016

I almost didn’t see him. I was on a mission to bring home some souvenirs and my field of vision was saturated with color—the cheery red, blue, green and yellows of the handpainted wood crafts—jewelry boxes, dollhouse furniture, and crosses filling every nook and cranny and wall of the small kiosk. And then out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him. A young boy about 10 years old sitting at a small table to one side, an artist’s paintbrush in one hand and a carved plain wood letter of the alphabet in the other waiting for the young artist to transform it from naked wood to a playful folk art piece.

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It was Day 5 of our trip to El Salvador last October and our hosts had arranged for a day trip to the town of La Palma for some sightseeing and souvenir shopping. As our van wound its way through the narrow streets of this village nestled in the pine-forested mountains near the Honduran border our eyes feasted on the murals painted in the distinctive La Palma style. Scenes from the everyday life of the campesinos (farmers)—brightly coloured birds, rabbits, flowers, and village scenes covered every spare wall, park bench and bus stop in the village.

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La Palma is known for its characteristic decorative art style used on the exterior of buildings, on handicrafts, and souvenirs.

Decorated concrete park benches in the central park square of La Palma.

Decorated concrete park benches in the town square of La Palma.

It was El Salvador’s iconic artist Fernando Llort who taught the people of La Palma to draw and paint following his technique and designs. His desire to share his God-given talents and skills with others blossomed into an artisanal movement creating handicrafts using his motifs and led to the creation of a cooperative called La Semilla de Dios, or “God’s Seed”. Today there are dozens of cooperatives and workshops in La Palma where campesinos learn about art, gain marketable skills and find sources of income other than field work to provide for their families.DSC_8124_ICC_Change.JPG

I presumed that the young boy’s family probably belonged to one of these cooperatives. I wanted to learn more but I did not have time to engage him in conversation as our hosts were anxious for us to move on to our next destination. As I was being pulled away I did not even have time to learn his name—I will call him Fernando—but his demeanour and circumstances struck me and I wanted to take his picture to remember him by. I couldn’t help drawing a comparison with the children in North America who spend hours being passively entertained by virtual games, movies, and apps while here was a young boy actively engaged in a serious pursuit—creating art in order to contribute to his family’s very real need for income.

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When Llort moved to La Palma in 1972 he had a dream to lift people out of grinding poverty and through art created by their own hands to gain a self-respect for themselves and discover their dignity as children of God reflecting the divine image. It was this dignity that I saw on young Fernando’s face. When I asked his permission to photograph him, he seemed surprised at first that anyone would take notice of him. But his modesty quickly turned to pleasure as he straightened himself, pride beaming from his face that he and his artwork were being recognized and recorded in this way. He seemed surprised again at the monetary token of my appreciation I offered him for posing for the picture, but it was the least I could do because he had given me much more than just a photographic souvenir to take home with me.

The hope, pride, and dignity shining from his face gave me a window into the hopes and dreams of all of El Salvador’s children—to be seen and heard and have their gifts recognized and affirmed, to be able go to school and have enough to eat, to be able to wander freely exploring the countryside and their neighbourhood without fear of violence…and most of all to live and grow up in peace.

Thank-you,  Fernando for your grace and hospitality. I pray you and your artwork continues to flourish and contribute to the realization of your dreams.

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Photo credit: La Semilla de Dios. All other photos taken by Al Jaugelis

 

Merciful Father, we commend to your loving keeping all who work to bring rescue and relief especially the firefighter, police, paramedics, medical personnel, and volunteers, all who are helping, Give them courage in danger, skill in difficulty, and compassion in service. Sustain them with bodily strength and calmness of mind that they may perform their work to the well-being of those in need so that lives may be saved and communities restored. Amen. (Lutheran Disaster Response)

I’ve made a donation to the Red Cross, but because I am a Christian…I also need to pray. I don’t know if it will help my fellow Canadians in Fort McMurray 1500 km away–I certainly hope it will–but it helps alleviate my sense of helplessness and softens and opens my heart to the plight of my brothers and sisters.

…and so this morning, at the midweek worship service at St. David’s Anglican Church in Tsawwassen we sang this Taize chant in English and prayed for the people of Fort McMurray, “Come and fill their hearts with your peace…for you alone, O Lord are holy.”

 

 

In order to help the gathered congregation pray in a meaningful way so that our prayers could be more than just so many words abstracted from reality I shared the images that have stayed with me as I have followed the news on Twitter. I hoped that by sharing these images the people sitting in the pews would feel a greater sense of connection with the people in Fort McMurray.

I encouraged them this way:

“…I want you to remember the mother who in the thirty minutes she had to pack up and leave grabbed her daughter’s prom dress…hoping that she would still be able to graduate from the local high school…I want you to remember the woman fleeing the city not in car but on horseback holding the reigns of two other horses behind her as she leads and guides them out of the city to safer ground…I want you to hold in your mind three firefighters leaning against the back of their firetruck taking a few moments of respite after battling the flames all day and evening…I want you to remember the man who stayed behind monitoring the water sprinklers he had set up to try to save his house against all hope as fire consumed his neighbourhood and this mother (in the video below) who tried to comfort her three children as they drove out of town with smoke and flames all around them.

Loving God, we are joined with the trials and sufferings of all. Be with those who endure the effects of the disastrous fires raging in Fort McMurray and surrounding communities. Protect those in the path of danger. Open the pathway of evacuation. Help loved ones to find one another in the chaos. Provide assistance to those who need help. Ease the fears of all and make your presence known in the stillness of your peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.  (Adapted from Lutheran Disaster Response, Upstate, NY).

 

 

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