Beyond My Walls, San Salvador Mission Trip: Day 3

{please follow my journey through photos here!}

Goooood morning! It is 5:30am Tuesday morning here in San Salvador! Yesterday was our first day of work at the Children’s Center (CDI)! My day started off with another cloudy morning sunrise (much like the one today!), but once again, it’s better than any sunrise I’ve seen in Columbus, Ohio. Before I got to work praying, I actually did a little rooftop yoga to help center my mind and wake up my brain and body! I then spent a good amount of time journaling, praying and reviewing God’s word so that I would be ready for our house visit later that morning. I prayed in Child’s Pose and asked God to use me for Him in whatever way was necessary. I asked Him to take away any barrier I might have from speaking and simply use my words and my body to His glory.

After breakfast and a devotional from Bob (he is on this trip with his 4 kids, one of which, Jenna, is my roommate!), we got on our way to Guayabo! Along the way, the “micro-bus” I was in stopped to pick up 5 of our translators for the day. Suddenly, our van, which should safely sit about 11 people, was stuffed with SEVENTEEN people! Our translators are kids in their early 20s and most of them are in college. They are all hilarious, infinitely helpful, beautiful people. Some of them have visited the United States before, giving us something in common to talk about. In fact, although we live thousands of miles apart, we have quite a few things in common! There are 3 big things that I clicked on with each of the translators immediately: Facebook, Instagram & Twitter! I have also learned that “Selfie” in Spanish, is “Selfie!”

When we arrived at the CDI, we got a quick tour, downed some coffee, and organized into our morning groups. John, Annie and I were introduced to the woman whose home we would be visiting. Unfortunately, none of us can remember her name! We were teamed up with Andrea (Andi) as our translator. I feel as though Andi and I would be great friends if she lived in the US! I am pretty sure she is the Salvadorian Patron Saint of Selfies! We walked with this woman to her home, probably 25-30 minutes away and uphill the whole way! Whenever we came to a fork in the road, we’d ask which way, and of course she would point the direction going UP! Thank God for all my workout classes! We got tothe woman’s home and her husband was there working inside the house. Their land was actually quite nice for Guayabo! They had 5 jugs filled with water, which is important when you don’t have running city water like we do, chickens (one was even a pet and lived inside the house!), and a dog! When you peeked in the house, it was just one room for everything. Their beds we against the walls on 2 sides, the kitchen was on another side and the front door was on the 4th side.

The woman introduced us to her husband and pulled out three stools for us to sit on her front porch. Their dog was wandering the home and immediately got shooed away to make room for the visitors. We graciously accepted the seats and proceeded to have small talk to try to get to know the family and where they were with their faith. Juan has a job where he picks vegetables and carries them in giant bags on his back. Some days, the woman, although she looks frail and weak, carries just as much weight as her male counterparts. They have 5 children, 3 of which are young enough to be enrolled at the Children’s Center. We discovered that the woman seems to understand Christianity fairly well and that God’s love is a gift that we can do nothing to earn. She belongs to the Catholic Church down the hill from their home and attends weekly. Juan, on the other hand, attends church about once a month. We asked them if they had a Bible, and they brought out this old, worn, falling apart Bible. I heard once that if a Bible is falling apart, it must be owned by someone who isn’t. That might explain why the woman was able to walk nimbly up and down the steep Guayabo hills in dress shoes without the slightest of stumbles. We proceeded to go through our pre-marked verses, stopping after each one to check for understanding. Both Juan and his wife understood what we were attempting to tell them until we got to the part about not being able to earn God’s unconditional love. This is common amongst many Catholics; they believe that we can only get to Heaven by doing good works. Salvation can be earned. After many verses and discussions, John asked Juan if he was ready to accept Jesus into his heart. Juan stood silent and gazed over the horizon. We gave him a moment to collect his thoughts before John asked him what was holding him back. It was revealed to us that he felt as if he wasn’t good enough God’s love; that he hadn’t yet earned it. No matter how many verses we showed Juan and explained to him that if we believe the Bible to be true, which we do, and something is in the Bible, it must be true, he still wasn’t ready to commit. At this point, had I been alone, I would’ve quit and said, “Well, thanks for your time! I’ll check back in later!” But Annie pushed through. She told a story about her struggles with being good enough and how she worked through it to finally realize that she can’t ever be worthy of God’s love. Something in her story struck a cord with Juan and he connected with what God was trying to tell him. John asked again if he was ready to give his life to Jesus and this time he said that he was!! His first question was, “Now what??” We explained that John would recite a prayer, Andi would translate it into Spanish and Juan would repeat it in Spanish. Hearing Juan tell God that he was ready to accept his undeserved, unconditional love was a blessing like I’d never experienced before. After the prayer, we celebrated with Juan and encouraged him to get connected to other believers. Fortunately his wife is a believer and can help him with this. I hope we are able to keep updated with Juan somehow and make sure that he is able to find other believers and strengthen his faith.

On the walk back to the center, I felt frustrated because during our house visit, I really didn’t say much. I pretty much sat with John, Annie and Andi and followed along. At one point, the family dog returned and I pet the dog for a long time. At one point, her even rested his head on my lap! But I didn’t really have much to say that I felt could have helped Juan or his wife’s understanding of God’s grace. I felt useless. Like here are John and Annie, two amazing people with so much to offer, and I just sat and smiled like an awkward bump on a log. I was disappointed in myself. I was just really hoping that God was going to use me during that house visit and I don’t feel like he needed me. I suppose it’s true that sometimes we have to get out of God’s way and let Him do His thing. Sometimes that involves us and sometimes it doesn’t. While walking, I prayed that god would have another way to use me that day.

As Melissa got ready to deliver her lesson, I wandered around the children taking photos. At one point, I found two of the daughters of the family we had just visited! As Melissa and her translator were talking, these kids were rowdy! It’s truly a good thing I can’t speak Spanish because my teacher mode would have come out in full force!!! After the lessons, there was a craft the kids got to make and take home. I had fun helping the kids. They didn’t care that we had a communication barrier, they just wanted someone to pay attention to them and help them.

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Once the kids’ lesson was completed, they were allowed free time to run around and play. I went to check out the construction area where we are building a playground and completing some other tasks. Still trying to be useful for God, I picked up a shovel and began helping where I could.

Our entire group got to go to the home of Victor and Sylvia Turcios for dinner. Victor is the pastor at Iglesia Gran Comision and works very closely with the CDI. Their home was very simple and not a mansion by any means, but they worked very hard to make it welcoming for us. Dinner wasn’t quite ready when we got there, so a group of us went to the playground next door to play soccer. I didn’t play, but took photos and held cell phones instead! When we returned to the house, we were treated to a delicious meal of homemade tortilla soup, homemade jalapeño pesto dip (I tried it even though I’m a weakling when it comes to spices! It was very good, but very spicy!!!), quesadillas, pound cake and coffee.

Sylvia serving us her delicious meal!

Sylvia serving us her delicious meal!

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It was then back “home” to the hotel for our debriefing meeting and bed! All in all, I had a wonderful day and got to experience some truly incredible things. I am still working through my frustrations of not feeling useful for God, but I know that He has a place where He will use me for his glory.

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Beyond My Walls, San Salvador Mission Trip: Day 2

Our first full day here in San Salvador was of course, AMAZING. I am realizing though, that with the incredibly full and busy days ahead of us, I may not have time to provide detailed posts every night. I can survive on 5 hours of sleep, but the way I usually write and edit…I’d only get 3 hours of sleep! SO, I will provide as much detail as possible, but I just hope that between my handful of words and bevy of photos, your curiosity about my current adventure will be satiated!

  • I woke up at 5am this morning to experience my first Salvadorian sunset. Unfortunately, it was a little cloudy from last night’s  rainstorm, but the sunrise was still more beautiful than any I’d seen in Columbus for a while! I tried to have some quiet alone time of journaling, but as soon as I’d get to writing, the sun would rise a little higher, creating the “just right” Kodak moment.

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  • Breakfast was at 6:30am. During breakfast, we went over the plan for the day, fellowshipped together and had a short time of devotion to put our heads and hearts in order for the day.
Eggs, beans, ham & cheese roll, plantains, and OF COURSE...COFFEEEEEE!!!!

Eggs, beans, ham & cheese roll, plantains, and OF COURSE…COFFEEEEEE!!!!

  • After breakfast, we left for Iglesia Gran Comisión San Salvador and the first of 3 church services we would attend and serve at throughout the day. At each service, our pastor, John Ransom was preaching! The only thing that made this slightly challenging was the fact that John was speaking with a translator. John would say a sentence or phrase and then the translator would speak in Spanish. Everyone at the church was so kind and welcoming and eager to have us there. I met hermanos Gerson (pronounced hair-son with a rolled rrrr.) and Emilio and their father, Emilio Sr. Gerson and Emilio sang in the church worship band. We sang songs in Spanish, that I could pick out a few words from. We also sang an old familiar song, How Great is Our God, but in Spanish! It was a unique experience to be able to worship with our hosts in their language and know that God not only hears us, but understands our hearts and our words.
  • We stayed at Iglesia Gran Comisión for another service, but instead of sitting in for the service, a group of us sat outside the worship hall and fellowshipped a bit. I am really enjoying getting to know the people on our trip. We are all connected in some way!
Church Worship Band at

Church Worship Band at Iglesia Gran Comision

  • By the time the 2nd service ended, it was lunchtime! We traveled to the local mall to eat in the food court. We were each given $5 to spend on food. San Salvador uses dollars like in the United States, but it goes much further down here than it does up north. Another difference is the popularity of the Sunday lunch crowd at the mall! We walked in and it was PACKED! I can’t remember the last time I saw any mall in Columbus so filled with people! Wait….Yes I can. 1998, City Center Mall was filled with teenage girls hoping to catch a glance of the popular boy group Hanson. I was one of said girls. But I digress. Apparently the thing to do with your friends and family on Sunday is go to the mall and have lunch in the food court. We were given our money and a partner and sent on our way. I was partnered with Alyssa and we TOTALLY underestimated how difficult it would be to acquire food in a Salvadorian mall food court when neither of us speak Spanish. Thank God we serendipitously chose the same line as Sarah! She was able to help us figure out exactly what we wanted!
  • After lunch, we headed to Soyapongo for church service #3. In Soyapongo, I met Mario, a guy that works with the church to run sound and helps with the children’s ministry. Mario’s English was better than some of my friends back home! I asked how old he was and he told me to guess. I hate guessing ages, but I played along and guessed 18. WRONG! 25!!! Such a babyface! I noticed that Mario was wearing a pristine pair of Nike Jordan shoes. I commented that my students back home LOVE their Jordan’s too. He said that he has to have them and has worked very, very hard to pay for THREE pairs of them! Mario does something working with computers and networking (even in his near perfect English, I had a hard time understanding exactly what he does! Ha!) and is currently studying for an exam for either a promotion or job change (again, even English didn’t help my lack of technical knowledge.). He showed me on his phone the reading he’s doing. No wonder his English is so good! He was reading words that would take me a few tries to comprehend! It was nice to talk to someone from San Salvador without struggling with a language barrier. Plus, I was truly inspired by his perseverance and hard work not only to get something he wanted but also his dedication to the church, which he has grown up in since he was a little boy. Just something about his joyfulness was magnetizing! I could have talked with him for hours! We also had a few good laughs watching the little kids interact with each other. Turns out kids are the same no matter what country you’re in!

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  • Since the third church service was so late in the afternoon, by the time it was over, it was dinnertime! Dinner was at a local restaurant, Tipicos Margoth. I had my first pupusa! A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla that is usually filled with a blend of the following: cheese cooked pork meat ground to a paste consistency refried beans, or queso con loroco. It was a simple, but delicious dish!
I was so hungry, I started eating before I remembered to take a picture!

I was so hungry, I started eating before I remembered to take a picture!

  • Post dinner, we had our debriefing meeting back at the hotel and figured out who would be doing what tomorrow at the children’s center. John asked if I would go with him and Annie on a house visit (i.e. evangelizing) in the morning. Of course I said I would go. Evangelizing has been my biggest anxiety in planning for this trip. I simply don’t think my story of coming to faith is all that exciting or meaningful. It’s not something that brings me to tears, and I think the ones that do are some of the most impressive stories. Heck, I can’t even identify the exact moment I was saved. I have just always known that Jesus is my Savior because I was raised in a strong Christian home. Sure, at some point I had to make the decision to follow Christ for myself, but I really can’t identify when that moment was. Yes, I have had times of trial where I have been angry with or confused by God, but I have never questioned his existence. Needless to say, I just don’t think my testimony is very strong or really even worth sharing. I am glad that I will be on my first visit with John, our pastor who obviously know what he’s doing and what to say. I will be able to learn a great deal from him and observe how he talks to people about his faith and what they believe.

Today was a long, exhausting day. I am eager and anxious to see what tomorrow brings!