Flat Paul

Some of you have been asking what the deal is with Flat Paul:


What do you mean?  What’s the deal?  It’s Calvary.  That’s the deal.

If you’d have told me six months ago that flat paper people would be our biggest fundraisers for the Shalom Scholarship, I’d have called you crazy.  Honestly, I would have said that a week ago.  But it’s Calvary, so Flat Paul has come into being following a Wednesday Night Words dinner conversation, and he’s our newest fundraiser.  In his short week here he’s traveled to Atlanta (above) and is currently en route to Delaware and then Maryland this weekend.

Flat Pauls have multiplied, and Real Paul says he expects them to raise at least $100 each:


If you want to take a Flat Paul on some photo adventures around the DMV–or anywhere else–check one out from the front desk (suggested donation of $20 can be made online).  If you don’t have any sojourns planned, feel free to pledge for each posted photo.  Rumor has it that some staff members will pay for each Flat Paul photo posted to Facebook and tagged as Real Paul.

To get you started, here are some shots of Flat Paul hanging out at Calvary:




Well, the adventures of Xtina photos continued as the yard sale ended.  Here is a sampling:



What can we say?  This place is literally, as one member said, “a zoo AND a circus.”  It’s all for a good cause, though.  On the fundraising front, there’s great news:  we have reached our fundraising goal for the 2013 Shalom scholarships (raised in year 2012)!  This means we can once again sponsor ten university students.  It’s only October, so we can probably surpass that goal and either add more students or supplement their professional development opportunities.  Let’s keep working to see what’s possible!

Xtina will help with that, too.  On Sunday after church she’ll take her staff photo and then be around for individual photos at $1 each.  What a cheap, easy, and non-house-junking way to continue raising in the dough!  And don’t forget, the yard sale may be over, but there are still plenty of coffee, olive oil, and Salvadorean crafts available for purchase, and the Alternative Gift Fair begins in just a few weeks (more info on that later).  What can be better than making a tax-deductible donation, taking home a goodie (or a photo), and sending a student to university?  Not much, for sure. . .

Calvary’s having a yard sale!  Through Friday at 3 pm you can shop and take home some treasures AND contribute to the Shalom Scholarship Fund.  There’s a penguin bobble-head soap dispenser, giant Chinese paper fan, great crocodile slippers. . . . What could be better than that (other than the Jello cookbook and Kerry 2004 decal that have already sold)?


Don’t ask me how Carol came into possession of Xtina, but it worked to our advantage, cause she showed up!

The original price was 50c, but Courtney pledged $5 if she’d hang out in Paul’s office for a bit:

Then for $15, this happened:

And for $50:

This even became Pastor Amy’s FB photo!

We’re now $110 shy of a $300 whole-staff (minus Pastor Edgar) seductively-posing photo.  Getting PE on board will run some more, and Holly is now investigating what it would take to get everyone decked out in nautical gear and props.  Really, the possibilities are endless.

So friends, the gauntlet is thrown, and the possibilities are endless.  How much are you going to pledge to send someone to college, AND get an awesome photo (that’s even tax deductible)?  Personally, I think that’s worth quite a lot, and just imagine:  if Xtina raises some good funds, maybe Rick and Carol will even consider parting with their cardboard Jack Sparrow cutout too . . .

As we all know, wherever two or three are gathered, there will be . . . quotes that sound hilarious, especially when taken out of context and placed randomly in a blog post.  Some of you have looked forward to the JasonSays-es of this trip, and there are plenty, but others have pulled their weight in making our time more light-hearted and entertaining.  Rach and Rich, feel free to add the ones you have as well.

While hopefully remaining outrageous, quotes have been edited/censored to protect future political careers.

The old classic, #JasonSays

“That’s why they’re (our young men) sick, because they’re in that incubator of germs (their room).  You wanna know where the Ebola outbreak is coming from?  Right there.”

“I don’t know why, but I like to pick up small pieces of trash and put them in my pocket.”

“What?  Yes, this is my leg hair.  I’m just using it as dental floss because I don’t have any handy.”

“I think we need to go to the grocery store.  If not for anybody else, then for me.”

“Oh, Luke!  We haven’t even gotten to all the cereal choices in Latin America.  My goodness!  My heavens!  It is like Heaven. . . ”

“. . .I don’t waste my time with cereal that’s not Choco Zuccaritas.”

“I didn’t know there was an Apple store in San Jose, but we did see a kid peeing in a cup at the mall.”

“I want to work at Pizza Hut in El Salvador.  That is my dream.”

“He probably didn’t want to be there.  Too many Eves.”

And of course, #PastorEdgarSays

“I don’t need First Class.  I want to be with my people.”

“It’s like Judo.”

“I shouldn’t say this, but I look like Gandhi in this photo.  This is very good.”

For the sake of protecting minors, #YouthSay is pretty generic, but I’ll just tell you that Luke, Robbie, and Truman were major contributors in this category.

“There aren’t a lot of highlights to living in North Korea.”

“Pizzas here are better.  They’re good, and they’re not even that bad.”

“In what world does a deer look like a dog?  Have you ever seen a deer?”

“You’ve never had a pupusa?!  Dang, your life is meaningless.”

“No, you don’t have raves in apartments. You have raves in abandoned warehouses.”

“I thought they actually had chocolate-covered meat here, and I was like, ‘Score,’ but then I was disappointed.”

“Where would you buy a baby?”

“I’ll out eat you any day of the week.  You saw my fine work at Pizza Hut.”

“I’d give you a hug, but then you’d get sick and die, so that would be bad.”

“Someone could snatch you out of the window.  American kids go for around $20,000 here.”

“I have a mean quote, but I won’t say it.  It has to do with Elvis Presley and Rich.”

“This ant’s name is Little Rich.  He doesn’t bite, except I think he’s eating the hair off my hand.”

“Chicken skin supplies all my nutritional needs.”

“Listen to your wife, Jason.  Once you start dressing yourself you’ll lose all your friends, and it’s all downhill from there.”

“The communion cup is different, that’s holy backwash.”

And last but not least, everyone’s favorite refrain from the back of the bus:

“Hey, wanna play Capitalism?”

Our final morning in El Salvador has arrived and it’s incredible to believe we have been here a week.  Each of us will be bringing home memories that we hope will stay with us for our life time (and a few of us will bring home the blurpiness that we hope will go away soon).

Our last full day was spent worshiping with Shalom Baptist Church.  We arrived at the church early to share in a breakfast Shalom so graciously provided.  Sunday morning breakfast is one of the ministries of the church to feed children who wouldn’t be able to get breakfast at home.  We also got to see how some of the women of the church make bread as part of another of their ministries.  Calvary was able to provide some assistance in acquiring the bread oven they use, which gave us a tangible example of how through our partnerships, Calvary’s ministries extend well beyond our walls on 8th and H.  Next up was Sunday School where we joined the children’s class in playing games and singing songs.  They tried to teach us some songs in Spanish, while we taught them “This Little Light of Mine.”  We also discovered that we are all children of Father Abraham, and we all knew the song too.

Luke and Robbie do the chicken dance

Sunday School was followed by morning worship with people who, after working and playing together all week, had become dear friends.  We witnessed Pastor Edgar perform baptisms for four members of the congregation.  Truman shared about how one of the lessons he is taking away from this week is that sometimes tasks may seem overwhelming (like building a house).  But when we all work together, we discover we can not only accomplish our initial tasks, but come to believe we can do so much more.

Building on this theme, Pastor Edgar preached about David and Goliath and encouraged us all to not let the Goliaths of our lives intimidate us into inaction, but have faith and take strength in God.  The most meaningful part of the service for some of us (you can probably guess who in particular) came when we all shared the Lord’s Supper together.  It was one more concrete way we were reminded this week that even though we come from different places, speak different languages, have different backgrounds, we are truly united by one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

As we shared about our week on our final night, a common hope among all of us is that we would continue to strengthen the bonds and relationships formed this week.  In the eyes of Shalom, and of all of us, we are truly one church family and we hope to continue to grow together in the years ahead.  Within our own group, we also felt that we became a lot closer.  Some of us came on this trip not really knowing each other; some haven’t had as many chances to participate in activities back home.  But being together all week, working alongside each other, waking up at 3 am together, playing cards, and even sharing the blurpiness among each other has forged relationships we hope we’ll carry home with us.

Carter y Justin

Thank you to all of you, our readers and fans (who include, but are more than just Carol and Rick and the parents), for sharing in our adventures with us and supporting us along the way.  We look forward to seeing you all soon!

It’s always been difficult for me to admit when I’m sick enough to not participate in things, which has made today a little difficult.  I’m writing a blog post while some of our team is out at the grand Shalom-Calvary Soccer Convocation, and a few of us are resting here at the hotel (in what I have to say is a difficult thing that I’m still struggling with–we had all been looking forward so much to today).  A combination of more physical activity than we’re used to, less sleep than we’re used to, and a somewhat new diet has left most of us feeling, as we said yesterday, a little “blurpy.”  Fortunately, we have Mario on call, and have been aggressive about cutting parts of our schedule yesterday and today (the most difficult thing, I think), working less and taking more breaks on our last day at Hermana Ani’s house, trading out participants in various activities so that others can rest, and chugging plenty of water and Gatorade.

As we’ve discussed several times during this trip, hospitality involves the receiving end as much as the giving, and receiving the caring advice, concern, and, well, care of our Shalom Family has helped the blurpified amongst us to feel a bit better.  Knowing that someone cares when you’re not feeling one-hundred percent is important, and we’ve certainly felt that today, from a chance to rest at Pastor Luis’s house in between shifts, to Mario’s guidance on staying hydrated, to simply extra hugs and pats on the back.  We are grateful to be home with family who cares for us so well.

We ventured yesterday to Morazan, and what has become the most emotional part of this trip for groups past was no exception for us.  We met with Governor Ventura for a memorial service and history lesson at El Mozote and continued on to the new and still-in-progress statue monument for a time of reflection and prayer.  After a visit to Perquin’s Festiva de Inviernos, some walking and looking around, a visit with Father Rogelio Ponsel, and a time of decompression at the music school in Segundo Montes, we made the long journey back to San Salvador while listening to Pastor Edgar recall some of his experiences during the war.

El Mozote victim memorial service and candle lighting

Toward the end of the wall in the children’s garden, where names and/or ages of the youngest victims are listed.

Listening to Governor Ventura speak (via Jason) of his wartime experiences and the history of El Salvador. Inside the re-constructed church, which houses the Jardin de los Innocentes on its outside.

New monument, about a mile from El Mozote. As several of you will recognize, the figures on the front are replicas from ones at the memorial wall, with Christ below and a ring quoting John 14:27 and surrounded by martyrs such as Gandhi, Bishop Romero, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Construction began in January, when the government hosted a ceremony formally apologizing for the atrocities and seeking forgiveness from victim’s families. Naturally, Pastor Edgar revealed that he’d been invited to attend and had his way paid, even being given a fancy private driver for the event.

Pastor Edgar and his twin

With Grupo Morazan after a wonderful concert

One of many games of Capitalism, played of course on a trip through Che Country.

Today we finished up the last hour or work or so at Hermana Ani’s and had an emotional dedication ceremony (one video, along with some from yesterday is on the FacePage, and more may come when we return).  We ate lunch with the Shalom Scholars, and most of our group is now playing soccer in the Grand Tournament.  I’m sure that NBC will broadcast it in lieu of the Olympics soon.

Waiting for dedication time.

Fellowshipping with Shalom Scholars

Although we know our legions of fans (“Wow, several blog views.  That’s more than just Rick and Carol and the parents,” as Rachel said) are looking for more coverage, that may have to wait until we get home.  Today’s an emotional part of our week-long journey, having just come from a somber memorial and a joyful house dedication and knowing that our time here is coming to an end.  The blurpiness certainly doesn’t help, but we do look forward to seeing and sharing with you all soon.  As Rachel did so well on Wednesday, I’ll leave you with some quotes from our nightly reflection.  I think I speak for all of the chaperones when saying how impressed we’ve been with the great spirit and maturity of our youth this week, and our expectations were high to begin with. We hope that in the coming days and weeks some of them will be able to articulate their thoughts on here, but for now in the midst of the blurp and busy-ness, here’s some of what we’re hearing:

  • I saw God today when I was looking at the names on the wall at El Mozote (of people killed during the massacre) and saw one from a two-day-old baby.  I’m still wrestling with where God is when awful things happen, but I know he’s in there somewhere.
  • I saw God today at the new monument, when Pastor Edgar listened to us all talk about how we felt and then paused.  I’ve only seen him do that a few times, but I know he was holding back tears, and it moved me to be able to share that moment and know that it was special to him too.
  • I saw God when we danced to songs with Grupo Morazan.  I’m glad they’re doing the hard work of helping heal people and let us learn from our mistakes.  And I’m glad we have a God who brings us joy in the midst of sorrow.
  • I saw God at the monument too, when Pastor Edgar basically told us that it’s up to us to learn from this and make sure that we are the ones who forge ahead with the peace-making process after his generation has sacrificed and fought and done so much.
  • I saw God when we met with Governor Ventura and Father Rogelio.  It’s inspiring to know that there are people out there who have given their all to be servants of Christ, and I feel privileged that they’ve been allowed to remain alive and to teach us.
  • I saw God at El Mozote and in Morazan.  It’s terrible, but I saw so much hope and healing too.  It makes me proud to be Salvadorean and to know that we are so resilient and able to make good out of bad.  I have a new-found appreciation for my country.

Since our time here is short, and staying up late to post seems to have taken its toll on us (oops) I’m not sure whether you’ll hear from us on here before Monday again, but we’ll try, and we’ll certainly follow up when we come home.  For now, know that we and our friends at Shalom are missing those members of our one family who are not here and, although it will be difficult to leave, are eager to see you all as well.



We had another great day today, but given that we leave for Morazan at 4 am tomorrow (and given that Jason and Rich’s alarm-setting skills may result in another 5 am is not 2:30 situation) I won’t attempt to put it all into words.  The good news, though, is that a picture’s worth a thousand words, so here are a few from today:

All who have lauded PE’s humility, take note. We looked at yesterday’s photos early today, and his comment on this one was “Oh, this is good. I look like Gandhi.”


Leveling dirt for the back veranda




Hermana Ani y Justin


Hanging out on the steps between Hermana Ani and Pastor Luis’s houses

Practicing for Saturday


Cocao tree


Viewing the ancient Mayan ruins at Joya de Ceren


And at the museum afterward, examining small animals preserved in volcanic ash


Roberto sharing his testimony during evening worship


Luke speaking about his appreciation for the hospitality we’ve received

And finally, one of my favorite parts thus far:  viewing the amazing T-shirts Pastor Luis made for our team to wear at Saturday’s soccer game:







Holy Play

It’s a different way to structure a mission trip . . . but then again we’re a different kind of Baptist, so I guess it’s to be expected.  Rather than saving a day for fun and relaxation at the end of the week, we took our second full day in El Salvador to get out of the city and head to the beach.  (We also eat our desserts before the main course, but don’t let any of the mom’s know).  Our morning began with a delicious breakfast and small devotion time before we loaded up on our bus and headed out into the countryside.  Before too long – but after a roadside stop for coconut water and cashews – we were at the home of a Palacios family friend who extended us an amazing gift of hospitality by allowing us to use their house (and pool!) for the day.

Things got pretty intense pretty quickly as everyone jumped in the pool and commenced with spirited games of Marco Polo and Sharks and Minnows.  However, it wasn’t until a fence, a chair, and some blue string were transformed into a volleyball net that the excitement really began.  NBC immediately cut its coverage of the 2012 Olympic games to broadcast the epic showdown of chaperones vs. youth in a bitter fight for aquatic volleyball domination.  Tensions ran high as the youth took an early lead, “winning” the first match (with the assistance of a few more do-overs than are Olympic regulation).  Never losing heart, the chaperones mounted a stunning come back in the second match, dealing a crippling blow to the arrogance of youth.  Boasting one victory each, both teams were able to walk away from the field of contest with reason to be proud and put away their former divisions to enjoy a delicious lunch together of fresh fish, tortillas, and rice.

Following lunch, our team walked the short distance from the house to the beach where we spent several hours enjoying the sand and water.  Pastor Edgar demonstrated the best techniques for body surfing, while others rode boogey boards into the surf.  Ever creative and innovative, several of the youth created a lounge area on the shore by digging down deeply into the sand.  Laughter rang out and joy filled our hearts.


Maybe for some not here it may seem silly to take one of the first days on an international missions trip to do something we could easily do at home.  But how often at home do we take the time to simply play together?  We all have so many demands on our lives – including our youth – that it can be hard to set aside time to come together for the purpose of building relationships with one another.  Yet this is the stuff church is about.  Every night before bed we go around each share a moment when we saw God during the day.   Here is where we saw God today:

  • “I saw God in the hospitality of people who would open up their home to complete strangers.”
  • “I saw God when we were all sitting around a big table together sharing a meal.”
  • “For me, God was on the beach as I took a step back and watched us all have fun together.”
  • “God is here in our sharing about the love and fellowship we all felt today.”

The fellowship we had today will be carried with us and strengthen us in the days ahead.  The needs of the world will always be there, and there will be plenty of time to wrestle with the brokenness we see around us.  Tomorrow we go back to work alongside members of Shalom to build a house for Sister Ani.  Friday we will travel out to see more of the country and learn about the tragedies of the recent Civil War.  We are learning this week that we are called to be partners with God and to allow God to use us to usher in the peaceable kingdom.  As we do this work, as we make ourselves available, it is helpful to hold on to a piece of the kingdom we are striving for.  The kingdom of God is like the unbridled joy of  fellowship.  It transforms our laments into dancing, and it resounds with holy laughter.

Movie reference?  Anybody, anybody?  Bueler?

Well we did go up a hill today, and we did come down a mountain, but not all quite at the same time.

Our journey started early Monday morning, when we left Dulles after a travel blessing from Pastor Leah and a lesson on the theological merits of sitting in coach, rather than first class (as though there was that option) from Pastor Edgar (“I do not need to be there.  I want to be back with my people”).  We arrived relatively rested and well-fed in San Salvador to find Xochitl, Paula, Axel (and of course some delicious Deli Maya snacks waiting) for us.  After a round of hugs we headed into the city, stopping to collect Pichy, who took us to view the construction site at the house that Shalom is building for one of its members.  We saw both the old house–which has been moved to a temporary site during construction–and the new one and met with family members and Shalom members.

Heading down the house road.

After checking in to our hotel, we headed out for a rice AND corn serving pupuseria.  The smarter half of the group knows that rice pupusas are far superior, but a few holdouts are still lingering in darkness.  We even have some claims from more naive members that both are good, though as we know there is no room for wishy-washiness in this polarized debate.  Hopefully this week will enlighten everyone.

We spent most of this morning at the construction site.  Our job involved cleaning out trash and transporting cement up and down the hill where the new house is located.  As the work began, we carried loads up and down individually, often bumping in to each other on the hill’s narrow paths and struggling under the weight.  A few folks decided to form an assembly line, which worked extremely well.  At first we tried merely passing buckets full of debris and cement up and down to each other, but Pastor Edgar showed us a far better method.

“Easy.  It’s just like Judo,” he told us before launching into a demonstration of the sport.

Apparently Judo involves not a show of brute force but a transfer of power from one object to another.  By throwing, rather than simply passing, the bucket we would transfer its momentum–especially as the buckets gained steam near the bottom of the hill.  Some of the folks at the bottom of the hill didn’t always love this, but it worked well enough.

“He has no training in Judo,” Mario told us later.  “He just watched The Karate Kid recently, so he thinks he knows about it.”

Oh well, other than a few sand mouths the Judo method worked pretty well (it turns out that the person on the receiving end of the power has to be fully aware of its transfer in order for it to work).  We knew that we could basically become Olympic champions in the sport, and more importantly bonded while singing and joking as the buckets made their way up and down the hill.  Several youth listed the assembly line as the highlight of their day, since we had the opportunity to get to know the folks around us and laugh over this crazy-but-perfect idea.  Of the theological metaphors, we decided the best fit is that “The Kingdom of God is like an assembly line.  Everyone does one small job, and usually nobody can see the beginning or end (and certainly not both at the same time).  You don’t know where you’re starting and where you’re ending, but you know you have an important role.”

The assembly line helped our work to be done quickly, and after a delicious lunch back at Shalom we headed back to the hotel to shower and change.  After the hard work of the morning, it felt good to clean off a little bit and put on our church clothes before heading out–where else?–to climb a mountain.

As Roberto explained, the Doorway of the Devil acquired its name during the war.  The twin peaks look like a doorway, and many people died during the dangerous trek through the passageway en route to San Salvador.  And as Jason explained, “Most people call it the ‘Doorway of the Devil,’ but Pastor Edgar calls it ‘Doorway to the Sun’ because he likes the name better.”

The Doorway is beautiful, and between clouds that rolled in and out we had a chance to look down and see all of San Salvador, as well as surrounding towns and even the Pacific Ocean.  It also made our little hill from that morning seem so much smaller!

Halfway up!

Middle of the doorway. From whence we came.

Along with the assembly line, the highlight for many of us was evening worship at Shalom.  It seems that self-actualization on mission trips has become such a facet of American church life, with mountaintop experiences and new friends followed immediately by normal life and a failure, for whatever reason, to maintain that experience.  The difference in Shalom and Calvary’s relationship has been characterized as “sister churches,” but as Jason said in his sermon, “We are not two churches.  We are one church, just separated by some geography.”  This fact became apparent so many times during the day, from the assembly line to youth from both churches goofing off in the back of the van to the fantastic reunions between old friends to the pride we all felt while watching a slide show of the churches’ combined construction efforts (there were, in fact, few dry eyes in the house) to singing “Make Us One” on a rural road and “Estamos Juntos” in the sanctuary to–of course–many, many questions about Calvary family members who aren’t on this trip (everyone says hi!) to laughing at the antics of our communal and beloved Pastor (and apparent Judo master).  Our first day has been a great reminder of what a special privilege it is to be part of a larger body of believers, not only in the often-theoretical seeming sense, but in a very tangible way as well.  I know more than a few of us felt this during Pastor Luis’s welcome speech.

“Welcome to your family.  Welcome to your house.  We are glad we are home.”

Gracias, Pastor.  It’s good indeed to be home.

During Pastor Edgar’s recent visit to San Salvador, he had the opportunity to witness some important events at Shalom Baptist Church.

Below, PE presents a symbolic house model to its new resident, Annie.  The house will be built using funds raised by Calvary’s youth as part of their mission project.  Although much of the construction will be performed by Shalom members, Calvary’s youth will have a chance to help with some finishing touches during their summer journey!

Additionally, Shalom has recently been granted funds to purchase some large ovens.  These will be used to bake bread for the Cinco Panes, Dos Peces (Five Loaves, Two Fish) ministry that feeds children in the neighborhood surrounding the church.  We also look forward to helping prepare and serve food while learning about Shalom’s outreach to its neighbors.  Here is Pastor Edgar attending a bread baking, and a blessing of the results during a Sunday service.