So, El Salvador, it was awesome! I dressed up as a clown. I perfected standing up on a moving bus while french braiding hair. I managed to wash my stinky, sweaty, dusty, dirty, sandy jeans in the shower (apparently I should have taken more than one pair along). I discovered toilet paper, toilet seats, flushing toilets, soap, and water are luxuries in bathrooms (Burger King bathrooms are amazing). I got to see, and stand in, the Pacific ocean. That was my trip to El Salvador! But there was so much more. Here's what the trip was really about.
We told, and hopefully demonstrated, the love of Christ to kids of all ages from preschool to high school. We explained that Jesus loves each of them so much he died on the cross for them. He died to set them free from the sin that has a hold on every person on earth. Being the perfect Son of God, however, He didn't stay dead, but rose three days later. Jesus has already done the hard, the impossible part. We had the privilege of sharing that with the kids. They are loved, they are valued, by the King of Kings. That's what I participated in on this trip to El Salvador. That's what this trip was all about.
I went with a group of 34 people. We divided into three teams. One was a medical team. They worked in a clinic and traveled to surrounding areas to provide much needed medical services. One was a construction team. They built a pig barn (more on that later). Then, there was the street evangelism team. I was part of the street team. We went to 4 schools a day to do programs for the kids. We danced to songs (in Spanish) that told about Jesus. We did skits to illustrate our points. A wonderful El Salvadorian pastor and his team would then give a short message. Throughout the year the pastor will return to the to see how the kids are doing and disciple them. He himself came to Christ at age 9 when an American team came to his school. It's great to know that what we were doing actually has the power to change lives!
After the message, the kids gathered into small groups and we prayed with them. We prayed with the kids who were ready to accept Christ's free gift of salvation. We prayed with the kids for the healing of sick and hurt family members. We prayed with the kids for any stressful issues they were facing in life. Then out came the balloons and candy!
|The way into any kid's heart: balloon animals (and swords) and candy!|
We arrived in El Salvador, exhausted, on Sunday evening. Monday morning it was breakfast and then we gathered in the gym with a team from Oklahoma to learn the dances and skits. Once we had those (mostly) down, we went and jumped into the volcanic crater lake across the street to cool off.
|Off the trapeze!!|
Tuesday morning at 7:30, the 22 of us on the street team loaded up on the bus and off we went to minister to the school children in a town an hour and a half away. We arrived at a school and began by just playing with the kids. Out came the jump rope, parachute, and soccer ball!
Once the sound system was set up by our fabulous team of nationals and all the kids were gathered, we began our program.
We did four school programs a day. Two in the morning, followed by a sack lunch eaten in the air conditioned Burger King (Yes, they were fine with us bringing our own food inside to eat), then two more in the afternoon. We ended the day by loading up on the bus again and sleeping for most of the way back to camp (dancing in the heat is exhausting!). The goal was always to be back by 6:30, supper time, but that didn't always happen. That first day we got stuck in traffic and didn't get back until 8:30. We were met by the cheers of our construction and medical teams and a warm supper thanks to the amazing kitchen staff who stayed late for us. (The team from Oklahoma had been in another town and came in 10 minutes after us, also greeted by cheers and warm supper. That was some miserable traffic!)
|Traffic, 3 hours of traffic|
We went back to the same town to do programs in other schools Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of that first week, then Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of the second week. We headed out between 7 and 7:30 every morning. Most nights we made it back to camp by 7. Excluding the first day, the only exception was Thursday. We didn't get back until after 10 that night. Why? we got to do a church service!
After our four programs on Thursday we went to a home church, which turned into a street church as there were too many people to fit in the house. Our team lead worship (in English), we did one of our skits from our programs, and our pastor preached (in English, translated into Spanish for the congregation). The kids from the church had prepared a song and dance for us. That was fun (and adorable!) to watch.
On Saturday we had no programs to do so we stayed at camp all day. For our time in El Salvador, we stayed at and worked with the missionaries from a ministry called King's Castle
(Castillo Del Rey). They have a school to train people from all over Central America to be pastors and full time missionaries world wide. Unfortunately most (if not all) of these students are very poor. King's Castle and the students themselves work hard to raise money, but currently they only have 15 cents per student, per meal. Thus, the students eat mostly rice and beans. The goal of King's Castle is to become self-sufficient when in comes to feeding the students. They have 3 green houses where they practice vertical agriculture to provide the students with vegetables. Now they are working on preparing things so that they can keep a large amount of animals for meat. Currently they are keeping small herds of hogs, chickens, cattle, and a very hardy, great for meat, type of hair sheep called pelague (pel-a-gway).
Now, in order to grow these herds of live stock so that they can be truly self-sufficient, King's Castle needs appropriate housing for these animals. Thus, our construction team built a pig barn while we were there, and on Saturday (our non-ministry day) I, along with several others from the street team, got to help with it!
We mixed cement to pour the floor. I shoveled lots of sand for the cement. Others shoveled gravel. Two guys worked the cement mixer and several moved the cement in wheelbarrows.
|From the hog barn there is an amazing view of the lake!|
By the end of the week the hog barn wasn't entirely done, but it was close!
On Sunday we went to Church in a large tent, followed by shopping at the market. Then our last three days of ministry. On Tuesday I got to be a clown (we had two every day to help get the kids excited), along with a 13 year old boy who decided to adopt me as his big sister (i.e. he found ways to annoy me like only a little brother would and I teased him back like only a big sister would). That was fun, hot, sweaty, work!
Finally, that last Thursday, the day before we left, was our beach day. Hammocks, fresh fruit smoothies, an awesome water slide, and the Pacific Ocean!
Prior to this trip I've seen the gulf of Mexico, thanks to my amazing grandma, once, when I was 19. I was impressed by that, but the ocean was a whole new level of impressive. The waves were terrifying and amazing! I only stood in the water ankle deep, but some of the waves came up nearly neck high. The beach was black volcanic sand and very rocky. I still, four days later, have bruises on my feet and ankles from those rocks whenever the waves came. It was worth it though! We had lunch at the resort there and I ate fish. A whole fish with the head still on. It was delicious!
|My fish head|
Thursday night we said good bye to the amazing team of missionaries and nationals we had worked with throughout the trip. That was a little sad. Then Friday, at 2 a.m., we loaded or bags into a cattle truck and ourselves onto the bus, drove to the airport, and flew home.
I went on this trip hoping being out of the U.S. again would give me more perspective on whether of not I'm supposed to go to Guatemala, or somewhere, to start a goat program. Well, I didn't really come home with answers. On this trip God really just taught me to trust him. He has a plan, I just need to seek Him and be willing to go where He leads. That's a little scary, but with a lot of prayer, I'm working on it. I do feel very strongly though that I am called to go to the mission field for a couple years. I just don't know when or where, but I am trusting that God will make that clear.