JavaScript Menu, DHTML Menu Powered By Milonic
  Volume 4 - Issue 05 MAY 2006
 
Search:  
 
 

THE SAI MOVEMENT IN EL SALVADOR


Where is El Salvador And What’s Unique There

El Salvador is the smallest country in Latin America in land area but is the most densely populated nation in the American mainland.

Due to the strong work ethic of its people and its vibrant economy, it has been called the Japan of the Americas and is the most industrialized country in the region.

From beautiful beaches on the Pacific Ocean to lush pine forests in the mountains bordering Honduras, and volcanoes (some semi active) and volcanic lakes, the country is blessed with rich natural beauty. San Salvador, the capital city, is known as "the valley of the hammocks" as it is the site of numerous earthquakes which cause the hammocks to swing.

 
     

The ‘Free’ People of El Salvador

The principal religion is Catholic, but the constitution allows for freedom of worship. Freedom is one trait which well describes the Salvadoran people.

Their spontaneity and desire to do whatever they feel is right can produce some interesting situations.

On any given day one might find peaceful demonstrations protesting everything from a water shortage to the right to sell illegally copied videos! These may block the streets (traffic jams are an everyday affair), but the authorities tend to look the other way.

The earliest foreigners to settle in El Salvador were Spanish priests and Caribbean pirates, the latter to whom some families can trace their ancestry. Over the centuries the newcomers mixed with the indigenous Indians so today there are no longer any "pure" natives left. The original inhabitants, who were descendents of the Mayans, built pyramids similar to those found in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

 
    Historic Catholic Church in El Salvador

A Very Brief History of El Salvador

 

Up until a few years ago the country had an agriculturally based economy with coffee as the number one export. Today, there are many textile factories and their products have taken the lead in exports.

Those working in the declining agro sector have been helped by the many Salvadorans who immigrated to the US and send checks home to their families.

Beginning in 1976, an internal conflict led to fifteen years of political strife which triggered a mass migration to the US and other countries. In 1991 negotiations successfully resolved the situation by giving both sides political representation. Now there is no more shooting, just shouting!

Group of steeped pyramids, San Andreas
   

How Sai Entered El Salvador

So how did Swami find His way to this little country halfway around the world from India?

It all began in 1978. A group of ladies who had a yoga center invited Indra Devi, the famous yoga teacher, to visit El Salvador. It was she who first spoke about Sai Baba and gave out a few books on Swami. Within a few months, in May 1979, Elenita de Servent and Lidia de Trigueros were in India with a group from Mexico to visit Sai Baba. In December of the same year, Juan Pablo Bolens and John Behner along with their families also visited Swami and soon the yoga center in El Salvador blossomed into a Sai Center . By January of 1980, the Center was holding bhajans, a study circle, and doing service in the community.

Within two years of this, six Sai Centers were active in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, with about 130 members. Mind you, this was during the years when there was a lot of violence and the city buses did not run after 6:00 p.m. in the city. In fact, at one time there were fifteen study circle groups in the city.

Since then, El Salvador's Sai community has been blessed by visits from many experienced and long-standing devotees like Dr. Sandweiss, Dr. Voleti, the musical group Lightstorm, the Bozzanis, and Dr. John Hislop in 1982. In 1985, the first coordinating committee of the Sathya Sai Organization was set up when Dr. Goldstein and Mr. Leonardo Gutter visited the country and put the Sai Mission in El Salvador on a new trajectory.

Sai-Inspired Service Grows…

Despite the country's turmoil, the Sai Centers continued to grow. After the earthquake of 1986, members helped rebuild the damaged homes of devotees. In 1989, a Sai Foundation was established providing the framework for putting donations to good use. After peace finally arrived in the 1990s, the Organization began doing outstanding service work, such as participating in relief efforts after the earthquake of 2001 when they helped rebuild a Catholic church.

Sai Organisation Rebuilds A Catholic Church
 
Catholic Church which was partially built by the Sai Organisation after the earthquake of 2001. During the inauguration ceremony the arch bishop of El Salvador seeing the beautiful church asked, "who built this?"  
The community members said, "The Sathya Sai Baba Organization". Earlier, there was only
mass once a month. But now there is mass every Sunday.  

Following in Sathya Sai's footsteps, twelve projects supplying water to more than 350 families have been undertaken.

Sai Water Projects in El Salvador
 
Water tank which was built during a water project for the Primavera Community which brought
drinking water to 350 families. The project being inaugurated is
on the left and on the right is the water tank.
 
Water project which was completed for the Cuapa Community which brought water to 90 families.

Two medical clinics and a monthly medical camp are now offering free consultations and medicine. A home has been established which provides free living space for twenty wheelchair-bound men and workshops where they can learn a trade.

At The Invalids Home
 
The happy occupants....
Their eating area.
 
Computer classroom for them
...and a routine medical check up.

There is no requirement that the residents attend the Sai Center on the top floor, but some of them have started participating in bhajans and reading books about Swami.

Miracles Began Happening…

One patient, paralyzed from the waist down for nine years after falling out of a tree, had two long pins inserted on either side of his spinal column. The Sai doctors studied his X-rays and felt that the pins could be removed. One performed the necessary operation and the patient then became completely paralyzed. Two weeks later he was awakened by Swami, who asked him how he was. When he said, "Swami, I am completely paralyzed," Baba said, “Now you are well, get up and walk.” It was 2:00 a.m. but he did as he was told and was amazed to discover he could now walk!

He went to the phone and called a devotee to share the good news even though it was the middle of the night. Thereafter, he got a job selling newspapers and was reunited with his wife and daughters who had separated from him because of his physical problems.

Serving the Homeless and the Sick

Devotees also prepare food for the homeless, who out of gratitude bring flowers for the lady sevaks on Mother's Day.

Serving The Poor
 
Narayana Seva at a homeless shelter

Hospital visits are also organized. The Sai youth group presents puppet shows at the children's hospital once a month and refreshments are served to patients at the cobalt cancer treatment center since many of them travel long distances for their treatment without having eaten anything. And in the burn ward, doctors are using vibuthi in some cases

Serving The Sick
 
Visiting Childrens' Hospital...
 
Narayana Seva at the Institute of Cancer

Sai’s Grace in a National Prison

A weekly study circle is attended by inmates at one of the national prisons. One of the prisoners suffered from severe diabetes and was unable to walk. He could not eat any of the snacks containing sugar which were served after the study circle. Swami came in his dream and said, "Now you can take the refreshments after the study circle." He did so and afterwards found he could walk! All the other inmates were amazed at his stunning recovery.

Sai Seva At The National Prison
 
A study circle session in progress at the National Prison in El Salvador

Teaching Human Values…

 Another facet of the Organization is the Sathya Sai Institute of Human Values. The Institute is currently offering the ninth diploma course of seventy-two hours duration, and trains public and private school teachers in the Sathya Sai Human Values curriculum. (One teacher commented that this program is certainly effective as even her marriage is improving!) The Institute has developed programs in three pilot schools with the Human Values agenda being incorporated into the curriculum of the Ministry of Education.

…And the Impact

One third grade student found a purse in the street during the week that they were studying the value of honesty. She took the purse to her teacher, who called the owner. The lady came to the school and was amazed to find all her money and documents in tact. She could not believe that in this day and age someone could be so honest.

Practical Lessons on Human Values

 
Children from 8th grade at a pilot school on a visit to an old peoples home.  The Sathya Sai Human Values program carried out at the Margarita Duran School involved the students in social work directly so they could discover the love which was so easy to give to these older ladies at the Saint Paul home for the elderly.

Cultural Outreach Programs

The Institute has held two music festivals with songs highlighting Human Values in which twenty-five schools have participated. Several public meetings have been conducted with up to 1000 people in attendance. One lady emerged from a public gathering in tears and told volunteers that she just knew there was more to life than parties. She had left her house by the backdoor to escape a party which was going on in her home to attend the get-together. Two or three retreats a year are also well attended.

The Sathya Sai Human Values Music Festival
 

25 schools and 1000 students, parents and teachers participated in the music festival where
Human values were conveyed through song and dance presented by different schools.
Below (on the right) is a section of the audience.

 

Voice of the Avatar on Radio

 Currently, there are two regular radio programs on the airwaves. One is called the Voice of the Avatar and has been running twice a week for twenty years broadcasting Spanish translations of Swami's discourses. The other is a radio station for children which focuses on Human Values. The announcers are Bal Vikas and former Bal Vikas students.

Moving Transformation in Children…

Speaking of Bal Vikas, one family had their three children of 8, 10 and 12 years in the classes. When the father lost his job, they had to sell their TV set to put food on the table. A few months after finding work, he had saved enough for a down payment for a new television. However, when he told his children, they said, “Father we don't want another TV as it will interfere with our studies.” Now these three children are all professionals: a doctor, an engineer, and an architect.

Sai Comes To The Rescue…

Swami has blessed El Salvador with its share of divine miracles. Once He appeared as a fireman to save an electric plant from certain destruction by flames. [To read the full story, click here].

Swami has also intervened to rescue many individuals from accidents and incurable illnesses. Recently, a female devotee who was new to the Organization was hospitalized with severe pain. Doctors were unable to diagnose her problem.

She and her husband prayed to Swami for some sign which would help the doctors discover her problem. Minutes later she passed some blood, which revealed to the staff that she was hemorrhaging internally. They operated immediately and were able to save her life.

 
    This is a very interesting story of how Sai took the role of an engineer to avert a great disaster in San Salvador. To read the full story, click here.

 

The Greatest Miracle…

Swami has even invaded the Presidential Palace from the President himself to several Ministers. In 1981, Francisco Flores, the future president, went to see Bhagavan Baba in person. While in the darshan line Sathya Sai told him, "You will lead your country."

(At the time, however, Mr. Flores was not sure if Swami was speaking to him or to the person next to him.) But the grandest miracle is still the wonderful devotees He has brought together to work in harmony and love.

There are service activities every day of the week, throughout the year and Human Values educational programs held even during summer school.

     

Sai – The Formula for Peace in El Salvador

Where once there was a bloody political upheaval, now there is a peaceful spiritual movement sweeping the nation.

Through the grace of Sathya Sai, His devotees in El Salvador will carry forward the five values of Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema, and Ahimsa well into the 21st century and beyond.

 


We, at Heart2Heart, thank Mr. John Behner and other devotees of El Salvador for sharing this information with us and pray for His blessings to make El Salvador truly "Sai Salvador."

– Heart2Heart Team.


<Prev> <Next>

 

 
You can write to us at : [email protected]          
Vol 4 Issue 05 - MAY 2006
Best viewed in Internet Explorer - 1024 x 768 resolution.
DHTML Menu by Milonic.