Some have been wondering if we would start on our blog of our mission in El Salvador. For those who followed uttsenmexico.wordpress.com you know we made weekly entries. Our lives have settled into a pattern and we feel more comfortable telling the world what we do. Janet and I are missionaries serving in El Salvador for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have accepted an assignment to serve for 18 months to help people improve their education and employment and take control of their lives.
We agreed to this assignment with the explanation that we would be working with people in many areas around the city and country but we quickly found we were working in an office based environment. We have developed solutions to being office bound and now we can explain what we do.
The Church is functioning well in many ways. The economy is on an income structure equivalent of our incomes in the 1970”s with prices at levels that we know in the US. Minimum wage is about $1.15 an hour and a person graduating with a four year degree can hope to earn $500 a month. The country uses US dollars.
We have guided students to make wise decisions in the education choices and they work with a loan system offered by the Church. We have worked with them through the processes of getting checks to pay for their contracted education plans.
We find the people are ill prepared to apply for and acquire and then maintain employment. I teach classes on how to prepare personal presentations such as resumes or job interviews. Janet works with the complex paperwork associated with loans.
I found the people need a better base to build an employment plan. I pieced together special meetings we hold on Saturday or Sunday afternoons where we teach congregations how to take control of their lives. I used a few church videos and a power point presentation and use the chalk board and we have lively discussions of how to make successful decisions. We have done several and now have more planned.
We have also spent our evenings working with the young sister missionaries. We saw fruits of our labor this week as I guided four members of a family into the baptism font and fulfilled their desire that I baptize them into the Church.
We will try to be more diligent in telling more stories in the coming weeks.
Our lives continue to adjust to an environment that is unlike Chiapas. When we lived in Chiapas, we were out on the streets more and walking in the city and traveling freely in the area. We have been advised to me more careful and we cannot even visit all the areas of the city. We cannot walk freely in the city and we restrict our downtown travel.
We live in a nice three story condo building. There is a large sliding door and the security caretaker waits for a car honk and opens the door to a ground level parking area. Outsiders do not have access. Our second story has bars on almost all the windows and we are quite safe.
We work exclusively for the Perpetual Education Fund. Janet and I work at the same desk in an office. She reviews a myriad of check stubs and book and tuition receipts. I work over the many requests for funding or counseling pertaining to education. We create computer records and try to get the paperwork off our desks. I do have a few counseling moments during the day.
We are getting to know the many faces and personalities of the people who come to the office to deal with their student loans or search for jobs. We traveled a few minutes out of the city to provide training to members of a stake involved in employment guidance within their wards. We also spoke in Sacrament meeting on being constant in our lives as we improve and overcome adversity. Janet said some things in Spanish all by herself and she did well.
We have a few photos this week. We were in our office and heard some music down on the street and took some pictures of a small parade. We try to meet with the American missionaries who work in the temple and the photograph is taken from the balcony of the temple president’s apartment. We also attended a violin and piano recital sponsored by one of the wards. It was excellent. Music included sonatas by Mozart and Mendelssohn, 4 hymn arrangements, then ending with short pieces by Debussy, Mahler, Massenet.