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Day 5 in El Salvador - Sunday Mass

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Day 5 – Sunday June 19

It is our earliest day yet – be ready for the bus at 7:30am. We drive to a very poor community in San Salvador where we are going to hear Sunday mass. We pass through many neighborhoods and head down a steep incline, through winding, narrowing  streets. We cross a one lane bridge across a river and the bus backs up a narrow street and stops in front of a house. A woman emerges and will take us to where the mass is being held. Walking through the town reminds me of some of the villages in Tuscany with the houses closely packed along twisting walkways, though the houses in Tuscany are much nicer.

The mass has started and is being held in the middle of a main street of the area. It is somewhat of a carnival atmosphere all morning long. People are walking by with baskets on their heads with goods to sell, futbol players heading off to play. Roosters crowing, someone trying to start their car over and over again. People dressed in their Sunday best arrive at a house next door for services of another denomination – I cannot believe how many people they must have packed into that little house next to the ‘church’ holding the mass.

The priest, Father Luis, asks us to introduce ourselves to the crowd of perhaps 150. Belinda, whose parents came from Mexico and is fluent in Spanish, tells the congregation where we are from. People get up and give us their chairs to sit on, though many of us prefer to stand in the shade across the street. Bob translates the homily as we listen with our earpieces. Off in the distance we see a drum corps walking towards us with their instruments. They stop in front of us and line up in the street. They are introduced as a community group formed by the church to help students stay on the straight and narrow. And then they play for the crowd – I feel like I am back in college listening to the band as they march out onto the field. They are pretty good – considering they were formed only two months ago!

After the service we go inside the storefront church and talk with Father Luis and the students from the drum corps. We ask questions about life in the community, their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. The first one tells us he wants to get out of there, to build a better life away from poverty. Another tells a moving story of how his best friend was murdered simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of how he did not find out about the killing until after the funeral was held and is still grieving. But the Mass and the whole morning experience is one of joy and exuberance and is a highlight of our trip.


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