It was at the end of the rainy season in 2009 when our Child Survival Program opened its doors to 50 mothers in the small town of Armenia in El Salvador.
As daunting as poverty is here, violence is perhaps worse. Dangerous gangs wage war with each other. There are no hospitals, jails or job opportunities, and there are more liquor stores than schools.
The Elim Church in Armenia decided to reach out to mothers in the area with the Child Survival Program.
One of the first steps to establish a Child Survival Program is gathering basic information about families in the community. This step provides a way to track the program’s development and impact on specific lives.
On the first day, five mothers met with our staff to answer questions about their families, the economy of the town and their hopes and dreams about the Child Survival Program. One of those mothers was Zulma.
Zulma is short and chubby with sad eyes that change from honey to green, depending on the light. The first minutes of the interview are barely caught on the recording because she speaks so softly. She does not look into the interviewer’s eyes as she speaks. She tilts her head to the right, a sign of her shyness.
Despite her shyness, she is willing to open her home and heart.
Zulma lives outside the urban area of the town. It takes her about 30 minutes to come from her home to the church. She has an older daughter and two older boys too. Her daughter and one of the boys attend the Child Sponsorship Program.
Her baby, Luis, is enrolled in the Child Survival Program.
Zumla’s husband does not have steady income because he works in a brick factory and his income depends on demand.
She does all the work at home. Makes tortillas for lunch, gets water from the well, does the cleaning, feeds the chickens and washes clothes by hand for a family of six.
But the deepest hunger Zulma feels is spiritual.
The question that makes her look into the eyes of the interviewer is,
“What do you like about this program?”
She changes her face, and says,
“I like to read the Bible.”
Zulma enjoys reading the Bible even though she does not have much education and reading is not one of her strengths. She also enjoys meetings where she can sing and have Bible study.
One of the things Zulma appreciates most about the program is that she was given a Bible.
One reason her spiritual needs were unmet is because her husband does not like to go to church and he does not allow anyone else in the family to go to Sunday services, but he does allow Zulma and the children to be part of our program.
Two years after joining the Child Survival Program, Zulma is different than she was during that first interview. When she talks, she speaks loudly and she looks into the interviewer’s eyes.
When she talks about her family’s finances, she mentions that her husband works in the same factory, but she also helps to put food on the table.
When talking about what she enjoys the most about the program, she still says,
“I like to come and learn about the Bible.”
Zulma is a different woman today. The good news is, her story is not different for the other 49 mothers who started this journey with her. Each is a story, each is a dream and each is a gem that declares it is God Who makes the difference.