Mission El Salvador Day 6
On our sixth morning in El Salvador we made a visit to the grave of former Archbishop of El Salvador Oscar Romero. Romero’s presence is still very much alive in El Salvador today. His grave had been decorated with Balloons and streamers to celebrate his 95 birthday, which is in a few days. This was in addition to the expected assortment of flowers and candles. Romero was known for speaking for justice and against violence during his time as archbishop of El Salvador. He was also credited with bringing Base Christian Communities to El Salvador. The Base Christian Communities (BCC) continue to be an integral part of the spiritual life in El Salvador. During our visit to Romero’s grave several BCC’s where meeting for their special mass. During the offertory they presented their hero with a birthday cake so large it took four men to carry it.
After lunch we traveled to visit an orphanage Sister Gloria has been working with for several years. The “work” of the church today was to play. I played with Lego’s and play-doh. Others worked with painting and coloring. But the kids favorite game by far was the beach ball game. The game had a simple rule: 1) find one of twelve small beach balls, 2) bean the volunteer with it as hard as possible, then laugh frantically and run away. The volunteers would pick up the beach ball, laugh frantically (so the kids would know it didn’t hurt). Then fake an angry look and toss the beech ball back as hard as they could. The volunteers got hit far more often than the kids. But the beach balls where so flimsy no one could *ever* get hurt. And everyone got to release a ton of pent up foolishness.
Sister Gloria told us to expect the orphans to be very ‘clingy’, especially to the male volunteers. I had already been expecting this because this was exactly what I had experienced in Honduras. When many children are raised by relatively few all female nuns they began to crave affection, especially from men. If anyone needs proof that the male spirit carries a different energy than female spirit, visit a Central American orphanage. No one has to indoctrinate these children that the world needs fathers, a pure heart just looks for that. But along with being a little clingy many of these children had a sense of melancholy about them. A few didn’t speak or smile as much as many children at the other El Salvadoran sites have. It was heartbreaking but we think we know why.
In years past the orphanage housed over 90 orphans but today it houses only a few more than 30. The new government has decided that orphans would grow up better in a house hold with parents than an orphanage. So they were actively trying to return these children to family members Aunts, Uncles perhaps even Grandparents. But they are ignoring the fact that these children all had good reasons for coming to the orphanage to begin with. Their family could have already had several children without the means to feed them. Their families could have been abusive. The government was not been following up on the children who where leaving the orphanage, but the sisters have learned of at least one who has ended up falling into prostitution within a year after leaving. And others had been returned by families who simply couldn’t feed them. Foreign adoption is difficult in El Salvador because during the civil war, many adoptions were done for profit (the children where sold) and unregulated. So many children ended up in pornography rings in the states. Sister Gloria hopes to get El Salvador to open up foreign adoption through reliable nonprofits like the Catholic Social Services but there is still work to be done. The children who have remained behind in the orphanage live in fear they will be moved next. For many of the kids you can feel this uncertainty in there solemn faces.
When Catholics think about El Salvador’s struggle to find homes for its children, we must remember that we are all one family. On the cross Jesus instructed us to take his mother as our mother and made all of us her sons and daughters. Any true devotion to Mary is a declaration that we are reborn into this holy family. And if we make this declaration in spirit and truth than there can be no orphans. They have all been chosen for adoption by our mother in heaven and her church on earth. My challenge to you this day is to pray to our holy Mother to make you a voice for orphans throughout the world. And we must continue to pray for El Salvador.