Reflections on El Salvador

It’s been 2 weeks since I returned from El Salvador. I always have a hard time reflecting and organizing my thoughts when I come back from these things. While there, we stay so busy. Then, we come back and get busy again with the usual routines. So many have asked me, “So, how was your trip?” I always answer “It was great” or “amazing.” But, now that I have had time to think, I will break it down. This will be a bit lengthy, but, if you’re interested, keep reading.

#1) Challenge. I think that many people put “those who go” on a pedestal, in a way. Like, somehow they are “more godly”, or “super Christians.” That bothers me. I am not some extraordinary person who’s going out there to save the world. I’m just me. I do know and feel that I have been called to love and serve “the least of these.” But, aren’t we all, if we call ourselves Christians? Should we not also do this each day, regardless of location or vocation? Absolutely.

#2) Arrival. When we arrived in El Salvador, we were greeted by some AMAZING individuals who patiently waited for all of our members to arrive, for all of our luggage to be searched…I am talking about 2-3 hours, just at the airport. These brothers and sisters, our gracious hosts, then tirelessly guided us daily to and from the clinic, to meals, to special outings to see more of the amazing country and experience its culture. We were exhausted…but I cannot imagine how much more exhausted they were. The planning, the early mornings and late nights, hearts poured out, living sacrifices. Absolutely beautiful portraits of servant-leadership. What an example they set for sacrificial dedication in order to show love to those who needed it…and they did it right where they were.

#3) Local church. Iglesia Oasis de Gracia—We attended 2 church services while in El Salvador. This church…where do I begin? Anyone could tell that these brothers and sisters were Spirit-filled. Even when, at times, things were not being translated, we could feel the Spirit moving.

These brothers and sisters are not just receivers of missionaries or charity. They are senders! They take the Great Commission very seriously. They are continually (long before we arrived, and long after we have gone) caring for the community we worked in for only a week. They are committed to sharing the gospel and bringing a quality, Christian education to an area with great need. An area stricken by violence, poverty, illness; families with little to no spiritual leadership. 70% or more are single mothers struggling to provide for their children.

In addition to their “Jerusalem,” they also send missionaries out to “Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” Included in their efforts…the middle east and the USA!

#4) THE CHURCH. It’s easy to be deceived sometimes. I think we sometimes forget that we are not the point. Our church, the “little ‘c’ church” is not the church. THE CHURCH spans across the world, and our local churches are a part of that. Revelation 7:9 talks about a great multitude, from every nation, tribe, tongue…THE CHURCH is far bigger than we can imagine. It’s easy to forget this as we sit through our “routine” church services; we start to get annoyed because the preacher isn’t inspiring enough, or the music isn’t to our liking, or there aren’t enough activities, or there are too many activities…whatever, we pick it apart endlessly. But if we could just zoom out and realize that THE BODY OF CHRIST is way bigger than we can imagine, I’m convinced those complaints could not possibly hold any weight in our hearts.

I say all this because, as we attended church in El Salvador, I was overwhelmed. Just standing silent, listening to so many voices singing familiar worship songs in a language I do not know, but still feeling unified with them as family in Christ…it is unbelievable. At times I sang (or attempted) the familiar songs in Spanish, and other times I sang in English along with the Spanish singers around me. All of it was beautiful, a tiny glimpse of things to come. What a blessing it is to worship, unified in diversity, a beautiful reflection of the vast, indescribable, amazingly mysterious, glory of God. I hope if you get the chance to worship God in a cross-cultural setting, you DO IT!

#5) Clinic. We saw about 1,000 patients in 4 ½ days of clinic. About 30 came to know Jesus! Praise God!

Now, the clinic side of the mission trip isn’t glamorous. We had very basic medications, many that are readily available over the counter: ibuprofen, acetaminophen, vitamins, etc. Others, such as antibiotics, were also dispensed, though supplies of all were finite. One of the many things I noticed was the gratitude! By the end of the week, we were out of many of the medications we had brought. We had to turn some away with only vitamins and a prayer. But, even then, there was thankfulness. Many waited all day for help only to find out the very thing they needed ran out yesterday. They accepted prayers and hugs, and THANKED US. For what??? For our time, for caring, for showing love, for stepping out of our comfort zone to tell them they are loved and valued. What are some areas in our lives where we focus on the deficit, big or small, only to miss the blessing?

Friends, the need is great, both with physical illness and spiritual. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6: 9-10

#6) Team. We were small in number, 10 in all. But mighty in faith and love. We were instant family. What a blessing to travel and serve with 9 complete strangers, with a common faith, common goals, common love. We were from 7 different states, 5 different age groups, 5 different vocations, 10 different faith journeys and 10 different life stories, but 1 body. Amazing!

I have been asked many times, why can’t I just serve here, right where I am? Everyday should be our mission. Some days, that’s right here. Some days its in El Salvador. Someday, who knows where it will be for me. Why do I feel like I need to go to another country to serve God? The answer is, because we are commanded to go. It isn’t about the glamour of traveling to some exotic place, or having an adventure, or sight-seeing. It’s about loving our global family, those who are already a part of it, and to reach out to those who don’t know Jesus yet. But may servant-leadership, selfless love, care, compassion, kindness, sacrifice, gratitude, faithfulness, grace, obedience…may those things be wherever we are.

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