In March of 2013, myself and fourteen others from our city departed for El Salvador. Our mission was to construct ten houses, and restore hope for families in some of the poorest villages in Central America. The villages and its people had been shattered by the many natural disasters which had ravaged the country over the past thirteen years. Many of these families were still living in open makeshift tents or houses, completely open to the elements and other dangers.
We would be gone for total of eight days, and little did we understand this would be no ordinary trip; it would be an incredible journey of reminders for us all. As we gathered to work each day we heard the people’s concerns, their desires, their hopes and we witnessed their love of family and community. Daily we were in awe at their generosity and graciousness, in spite of all that they had suffered. We also saw and felt their gratitude for those who came to assist.
For myself it was a connection with humanity; no judgement no ridicule only kindness and love for everyone we met. Many times during the week, tears would “well up”, as I witnessed how they came together as a community to assist each other or when I heard their stories of not having enough food or medicine for their children. Their reality would sit and stare me in the face many times during the week.
One thing was obvious; they did not want handouts. They wanted our knowledge and assistance in how to rebuild their communities. They wanted to learn how to run our power tools and use our tape measures. We were the teachers and they were the students. Every day, we worked side by side with them as human beings. We were all the same; differences did not exist, the only language spoken was love and gratitude.
By chance our trip was over the Easter season. The celebration of rituals and traditions they shared with us made it a beautiful time to reflect. It reminded us that we were a part of something much bigger and more powerful than just us. It was a feeling words cannot describe; it had to be experienced in order to be understood.
As we mature and experience our own tragedies in life, we learn life is precious and no one is guaranteed tomorrow. This was affirmed many times in El Salvador by what we saw and experienced. Our hearts and part of us remain in El Salvador, as we continue to wonder and care about the people we left behind. El Salvador has break taking beauty, and its people are generous, and loving, in spite of the hardships they have endured. Economically the country is very poor; however they possess wealth beyond words, for there is no way to measure, their love and connection to their families and communities. Something, we, in western society, chose to ignore or discount.
Once we were home, many of us would again reflect on why we are on this earth and why it is important to care for each other regardless of culture or language. I also believe there are no coincidences in life; God had a plan when he selected our teams. We possessed our own gifts; we are his hands and feet. Together as a collective and with his guidance we WILL continue to make a difference!
I truly believe that with all my heart!