Feliz Navidad from El Salvador! // December 2016 Update

Hola a todos! Merry Christmas to all!

I hope everyone is gearing up for special time with family and friends over the next couple of weeks. December has had its fair share of work, but I’m learning that El Salvador knows how to celebrate Christmas well. God provided for two Christmas parties for each of our two Children’s Development Centers (four total!). It was so fun celebrating with the children in our program and some of their parents, being able to share in the joy of Christmas with them! We also had a Christmas lunch for the staff of our Centers, each of us sharing thanks to God for things He has done in 2016.

In between the celebrations, I’ve been working from home a lot (or from the coffee shop within walking distance) planning for the English program that we will launch at our Guayabo Children’s Center in early February. We currently don’t have any English classes at our Centers, so I am in charge of building up this program from scratch!

Here in El Salvador, Christmas is celebrated in a way somewhat similar to how we celebrate New Year’s Eve in the States. I’ve been told that we will have a church service at 7pm on Christmas Eve, and then most people will stay up for a late dinner (maybe 10 or 11pm) with family followed by fireworks and Christmas hugs for everyone at midnight! Christmas day could be spent at the beach, sleeping in after staying up all night or going to the movies. I am missing my family and friends back home as I would normally be spending this time with them, but I am also excited to join in these snow-less activities here in El Salvador!

[ the children with their gift boxes provided by the organization Hope for El Salvador ]

[ our Children’s Development Center staff ]

Some have asked what interesting things I’ve learned about Salvadoran culture since moving here. Here’s the list so far:

  • If you’re eating a snack in front of other people (bag of chips, candy, etc.), it’s expected that you would offer to share with everyone around you. If you’re with a group of friends and you get out a full pack of gum, it’s not uncommon for you to walk away without any gum left at all!
  • There is a stereotype here that people from the States slam their doors a lot. I’ve learned that people are much more gentle with their car doors and closing the door when they are entering or leaving their home than I am used to.
  • You may have heard about “Latino time”, as in people are not as strict about being on time as we are in the States. This is definitely a real thing in El Salvador. Meetings, dinners or some other events more often than not start 20-30 minutes after the agreed upon start time. It’s considered rude to begin a meeting before most people have arrived, rather than in the States where it’s considered rude to be late. What I’m learning about “Latino time” is that it by no means implies a lack of respect for other people’s time, but instead an appreciation for living in the moment and taking life as it comes at you.
  • The national school schedule runs from late January/early February to November, with break being in December/January (rather than breaks in June-August). So, most students are on break from school right now!
  • Although most people here are dissatisfied with the government or at least the growing gang problem, Salvadorans are extremely proud of their culture and their nationality. They recognize that El Salvador is not perfect, but they love it anyway-and so do I.

The people you live among will see how awesome is the
work that I, the Lord, will do for you. 
// Exodus 34:10b

What an incredible, exhausting, emotional and life-changing year 2016 has been. From full-time support raising, living off of savings for 6 months, awakening missionary trainings, all the way to moving to San Salvador, learning a new language and discovering a new life here, God has been with me each step of the way. Thank you for playing a part in the story God wrote for the past year, and I’m excited to see all that He will do in the years to come!


Prayer Requests:

  • For myself and the over 40 youth from our church that will be attending GCLA’s annual youth conference, Infinito, December 27-29 in Honduras. Pray for safe travels and that each of us would connect to God in a significant and new way while at the conference.
  • For the children of our Development Centers who are on break from school (and our Centers) until late January/early February. Please pray for them to make smart decisions while away from us and that they would have a restful break.
  • For the Solorzano family-Jorge, Sarah, Sophie and Jorgito. They are moving from our church in San Salvador to Annapolis, Maryland to follow God’s calling to work with Latinos in partnership with Sarah’s home church, Bay Area Community Church. Sarah has been a missionary here for nine years, and Jorge is a Salvadoran who has never lived in the States before. Please pray for their time of adjustment spiritually, financially, and logistically.
  • That the month of January will be productive as I continue to plan for the English program that we will launch at our Guayabo Center in early February. 

Stay in touch!

Email // ali.howard@reliant.org
Facebook // facebook.com/ali.howard.52

Let me know if you’d like my phone number (add me on WhatsApp!) or my current mailing address.


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