On June 15th, 2009, I departed on an amazing adventure with a group of people from Raleigh, NC to a foreign land, widely known as El Salvador. They called us the “AIM team,” “Ambassadors In Mission,” or sometimes we were identified as “that group of people with the brown shirts.” Our main goal while in this land was to partner with an organization called “Castillo del Rey,” translated as “King’s Castle,” and present programs that included skits, songs, and games, to display the gospel of Jesus Christ to children and adults alike.
While reflecting on this missions trip, I discovered many fundamental details that made this trip an exceptional success. First of all, one has to have an open mind towards living with others. For example, we were a group of approximately 50 people, sharing two toilets and two showers for five of the ten days we stayed in country; quite hard to imagine, but with an organized schedule of who showered when, we did it. Being the huge group that we were, we traveled by way of two buses the entire time we were in El Salvador. There wasn’t much to do on the bus besides talk or conserve energy by sleeping, but some of us found interesting ways to make use of that time…by pulling pranks, of course! One of the nationals was “conserving energy” on the floor of the bus, (picture 1), when one of the girls squirted water on his face, continuing the water-bottle fight they had started (on the bus) last night.
Secondly, I recommend that one know how to improvise when going to El Salvador; trust me, the need will arise. One time, we had many children ready to watch the program, but the sound system wouldn’t work. We found a broom, formed a circle with the children, and made up a game to entertain them while the sound system was being worked on (picture 2). Another time, one of the clown make-up artists wasn’t happy with the way she had done one clown’s make-up, so she started to wipe it off once we were on the bus. What she didn’t know was that the other bus had the box full of make-up, and we had none; therefore, we were forced to improvise (picture 3).
I end with this final tip: every trip to El Salvador should consist of some fun, whether it is the random act of learning a new trick, or going to a resort to relax for a day. While eating lunch one day, one of our leaders taught us how to whistle with our hands; it sounds impossible to do, but after one learns the trick, it’s pretty fun. The YouTube video shown below shows one of our team members producing this train-whistle sound, using our leader’s trick. We spent the last day of our stay in El Salvador at a resort, complete with an amazing view of the ocean, shaded hammocks, a delectable lunch, a kiddy pool and a spectacular water slide. What made this water slide exceptional were the adventures the life guards let us have on it. I’ve been on my fair share of water slides in America, but none of the life guards there could ever compare to the ones at this resort. These life guards let us get away with wrestling down the slide (picture 4), and speeding down it in long, crazy groups (picture 5), sometimes backwards!
In El Salvador, I experienced life-changing events with an AIM team (picture 6) I care about, something I consider to be the biggest key of all.
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