Mar 31 2010

Bells and brooms are signs of a community rebuilding

Pablo Alvarenga is one of the original residents of Cinquera, El Salvador. The town was destroyed during the countryís civil war from 1980-1992. After the war, Pablo and other families returned to rebuild their community. Pablo was one of the community leaders who welcomed CFCAís support in 1992.

Today, CFCA sponsors 500 children, youth and aging members in Cinquera. Pablo recently recounted the townís history and CFCAís role in its rebirth, for Henry Flores, director of the El Salvador communications center.

PabloMy name is Pablo Alvarenga Escobar, and I am native to the community of Cinquera. I work with Christian communities in Cinquera. My main focus is to strengthen the work of the small Christian communities, trying to bring them the Gospel of Jesus and the spirit that he wanted us to have.

My work as a catechist started in 1960, and I worked until 1979. On May 9, 1983, a huge attack by the armed forces against the rebel forces forced everybody to abandon their homes, belongings and Cinquera. To save their lives, many left for the mountains, leaving everything behind.

After the attack, this town stayed empty. We say it was a ghost town. A few days later, armed forces started to bomb the area and ground forces broke into the town and finished the destruction.

After Cinquera was destroyed and abandoned, nature started to cover the ruins of the houses. When we returned, Cinquera did not look like a town. You could not see anything. It was like looking at the forest.

The new Cinquera church with the original bell tower

The new Cinquera church with the original bell tower

The church was destroyed, except for the front walls and the bell tower. There were big trees inside the church property. We all agreed that we had to keep the remaining walls and bell tower. We knew that we were going to rebuild the church in the same place, and these ruins would be a sign of hope and a reminder of our history.

When we began rebuilding our lives here, we needed a way to call people for community gatherings. That is what church bells are for: to call the people to gather. But we did not have any bells.

Our people are creative, and some members of the community said that they had seen a 750-pound bomb that did not explode. They said, ìDon¥t worry. The rebel forces deactivated the bomb and made a new bomb that they used against the army, so it is inactive now.î

Many of us walked far to get to the place where the bomb was. Children, youth, men and women helped bring the heavy bomb. We carried it, we rolled it, we pushed it and we pulled it until we got it into town. We placed it in front of the church, standing it up for the sound to be better, and it worked. It sounded so loud!

The church bells are actually old, diffused bombs. The third bell does not sit by these two.

The church bells are actually old, diffused bombs. The third bell does not sit by these two.

Sometime after that, we found another bomb and later, one more. So this is why we now have three of them in front of the church.

At the end of the war, we had absolutely nothing. It was then when the solidarity of a man named Bob (CFCA President and Co-founder Bob Hentzen) came here. He used to walk around the town. He played the guitar and told us about CFCA. We all got excited. This was like a boat in the middle of the ocean for us.

The impact of the sponsored members and their families in the community is great, and this is because of the leadership behind CFCA here in town. CFCA has local staff working for the communityópeople who have a heart for the town, a love for others and a great sense of solidarity.

One of them is the CFCA social worker Blanca. She has been leading the families in different groups to clean the town.

This is why our town looks very nice.

More about Cinquera, El Salvador:
Read more about the cleaning campaign in Cinquera.
View before and after photos of Cinquera during cleanup day.
Meet the Blanca and the CFCA families who clean Cinquera in this video.
See some photos of Cinquera that help explain its history.

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