You know that homesick feeling you get when you’re away from home for an extended period of time? You just feel like you’re ready to get back into your own bed, eat your own food, be in your own home? Well, I never got that feeling when I went on my ministry trip to El Salvador.
In March of 2009, I signed up for 10-day trip to El Salvador through my church, Bethel, in Richland Washington. I figured it would be a good way to serve others and put myself second, since that seems to be something I constantly struggle with. On July 30th, a group of 12 high school girls, 3 leaders, and myself set out on an adventure we would keep in our hearts forever. We flew out of Portland, Oregon on the 31st through Continental Airlines, and landed in San Salvador. We would be staying in Santa Ana for the next 9 days. I will never forget the reaction we got when we arrived in the airport from the locals. They were shocked to see so many blonde-headed, blue-eyed “Gringas” in their country, so shocked that they took pictures of us, whispered about us, and just stared at us.
For the next eight days, we worked together with the church called Familia de la Fe to put on vacation bible schools for nearly 200 children of Santa Ana, El Salvador. We did crafts, told stories of Jesus Christ, and sang adorable yet embarrassing songs with them. Every one of these beautiful children held a sweet, heartwarming smile on their face from the second we got there to the bittersweet moment when we said goodbye. We didn’t even have to do anything for these kids and already we made an impression on their hearts. They loved us unconditionally, no matter what we did. Not only did our team bond with the children, but we bonded together into a close-knit group which would share these wonderful memories with each other for a life time.
From going on this trip, I realized how much I take for granted in life, and how little I stop to think about others. The people of El Salvador taught me hospitality, and what it means to truly love others with the love that God has for us, his own children. As I said before, I will forever think of El Salvador as my home away from home. Not for one second did i ever feel the need to get back to my previous life, for this little country had made such an imprint on my heart that made me never want to leave. The people, the friendships we formed, the land, the ocean, the children, the food, the culture, all of it is kept in my heart forever. I constantly have mental videos playing through in my head of those children, of Alejandro, of Carlos, of Mercedes, of Samuel, of Fabiola, of Fernanda, of Maria Elisa, of Jose, of Justin. This children have stolen my heart, and frankly, I don’t want them to give it back. The memories of painting mariposas (butterflies) on their cheeks, of singing with them, of laughing with them, of crying with them when we said our goodbyes, are embedded in my heart. I plan on returning to El Salvador next year to finish the work we started and to see the beautiful faces again of those kids, the heart of El Salvador.
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