This post is adapted from my November 21 sermon at Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, Texas.
How shall we live as Jesus asks? How do we become his hands and feet in caring for people in need?
Shortly after becoming president of Episcopal Relief & Development I had the privilege of visiting Bajo Lempa, El Salvador— a flood plain in a corner of the country where the poorest of the poor were sent to make a life.
Maria and her family of five live in a house with a dirt floor. The family sleeps in hammocks to stay out of the rainwater that floods their home, and away from snakes that come in during the night. The walls of the house are scavenged pieces of tin and wood. There is no running water, but there is a well.
The family cooks over an open fire under a lean-to roof that keeps the fire from going out in the rain. The cooking area is smoky and dangerous—children are easily burned, and women and children continuously breathe in the smoke. As a result, at an early age they often begin developing respiratory problems that can become chronic and life-threatening—eventually leading to death.
Episcopal Relief & Development is working with the Anglican Diocese of El Salvador and the community to build smokeless stoves—enclosed cement stoves with chimneys.
I asked Maria what difference the stove had made to her and her family. She said it had changed their lives. Her children didn’t burn themselves when they played in the cooking area and her eyes and lungs were clear. The family had no infections since the stove was built—everyone had stayed healthy. Who would have thought that a simple modification on a stove could have made such a huge change for them?
You and I, through the Diocese of El Salvador and Episcopal Relief and Development, are in partnership with the people of Bajo Lempa to carry out the ministry that Jesus gives his life for in the Gospels.
A simple change to stoves is helping provide a healthier and safer environment
for kids in El Salvador. Photo courtesy of Harvey Wang for Episcopal Relief & Development.