During my high school career I received the rare opportunity to travel to El Salvador on two separate missions trips with my church. On my first trip, in July of 2009, I joined a team of six other volunteers to the rapidly growing town of Comecayo, where we spent a week helping the local church paint the town’s public school. Throughout our week in Comecayo I spent every spare moment I could find talking to and playing with the children there. When the time came to leave, I wasn’t nearly ready to say goodbye and knew that I would have to go back as soon as possible.
â–º semi Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Finally, in the last week of October of 2011, I received this opportunity. My church was orchestrating another short-term trip, this time with a medical focus. I had the privilege of working with a small team of medical practitioners from various churches throughout the city. Once in El Salvador, we met seven other doctors and volunteers who joined us in traveling to the tiny mountain town of El Triunfo, where we spent the majority of the week. Minutes after our arrival in El Triunfo, we were ushered into the tiny, one-roomed church for a short service. After this, we quickly began converting the church into a clinic, setting up as much as possible before we ran out of daylight. For the next four days we ran the clinic from eight to five, offering people throughout the region eye exams and general check-ups. Early on the morning of our third day there, an entire truckload of people arrived at the clinic from the more developed area of Ciudad Barrios because they could not afford healthcare where they were living. By the end of the week we had managed to see over 360 patients.
Before we left, the people there held a goodbye ceremony for us, which was one of the most difficult parts of the trip. They gave each of us handmade pots and woven bags and then formed a line around the church so that they could hug each one of us. When we first arrived and joined their church service, we felt like strangers; but by the time we sat down for the goodbye ceremony, we felt like family. I’ve never met such loving, kind, open-hearted people. God has given each of us such an amazing capacity for love, and I only hope that throughout my life I remember to exercise that capacity to its full extent. I find it suiting that the name of the town is El Triunfo (the triumph). These people have next to nothing and yet they all rest content in the knowledge that they have everything. What they lack in material possessions they make up for in community; when they are lacking the basic necessities of food, shelter, and water, they fill the void with an unwavering sense of peace and contentment; when their impoverishment becomes the cause of intense loss, they rise to triumph over their circumstances with an overpowering love. In their poverty they have found an approach to life far richer and more fulfilling than that commonly pursued in more “developed” countries. The regrettably short amount of time that I was able to spend with them granted me a revived sense of how much is unimportant and the enveloping peace that can be gained in the simple application of love.
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