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Published: December 29th 2011
El Shaddai Methodist Church
Our base camp for all our work, including the medical clinic.
Sorry for the delay in posting these, but I thought I’d finally put something up about my mission/service trip to El Salvador last spring with the Methodist Student Network (MSN). The MSN service/mission trip to El Salvador was an amazing experience of spiritual solidarity, unity among the global church, and greater understanding of the issues facing developing nations. During our time in El Salvador, we completed work in many capacities, including building a house for a local family in Ahuachapán, hosting a medical clinic in multiple local churches, conducting Vacation Bible School, and providing food for those most in need in the community (through a food distribution run through one of the churches). I mostly worked in the construction group, and it was incredible to see progress we made over one week. With the help of a local group of men, we were able to almost complete the house during the time we were there. Although the home was still small compared to American standards, as a home with cinder block walls, re-bar, and a non-dirt floor, it was a vast improvement over the family’s previous home—which was at once humbling and meaningful to me. Additionally, I assisted with the Vacation
Bible School, and it was great to see the kids’ energy, love, and joy. I really enjoyed playing with them, doing crafts, and sharing God’s love with them.
The following few blogs document some of the highlights of that trip and are pieced together from various journal entries I wrote while in the country. Enjoy!
March 5, 2011
Around 11:00 p.m.
Ahuachapán, El Salvador
We left Columbia, SC at 2:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 3, piling into various vehicles, including a mini-bus on loan from a church. We carried with us tons of bags, only part of which carried our own clothes and things and the other portion of which consisted of bags we packed with school, medical, and other supplies for the groups and people among which we’d be working. We caught a 5:50 a.m. flight from Charlotte, NC, to Miami, hung out in Miami for awhile, and then took an 11:45 a.m. Flight to San Salvador.
At 2:00 p.m., we arrived in San Salvador, where we had a lot of trouble at customs, partially because our group consisted of a lot of internationals (undergrads, grads, and others from China, South
Korea, Vietnam, Brazil, Chile, and more), all of whose countries had different rules for entering El Salvador. Finally, with the help of some of our translators, we were able to get everyone through customs only to run into problems with the medical supplies we’d brought. Somehow, we’d had documentation about them but left it in Columbia, SC. But by the grace of God we were allowed, after thorough searches, to bring the supplies through (I think the customs agents had had some problems with folks bringing meds in and then selling them for high prices instead of using them for things like the free medical clinic we were hosting). After everyone got through, we took a repurposed school bus to Ahuchapán, the town in which we would be doing the majority of our work and where we would be staying for the entirety of our trip. On our arrival, our hosts took us to a pupusería
, a restaurant that cooks and sells the delicious Salvadoran cuisine pupusas
. They were all wonderful, and our night finished with a quiet night’s sleep at the converted bunkhouse where we stayed, just a short bus ride from the sites where we would be working
Beginnings of construction
See background area--the mound of clay/adobe/dirt is what we eventually cleared out. The house (will) surrounds that area.
throughout the week.
The next day, March 4, we got up for an early breakfast (7:30 a.m., early enough for a grad student), for which we ate a black bean porridge sort of dish with eggs, bread, and other goodies. Then we split up into groups for the different kinds of work we had for the day, which included playing with some of the kids, working at the medical clinic, and doing construction. I went with the construction group, at which site we were helping to build a house for a local family. Lunch at one of the local churches (El Shaddai, one of our home bases and the church from which we conducted most of the medical clinic work) was followed by a concert an another church (a “battle of the bands” that featured local Christian bands that consisted of young people from the surrounding communities, some of whom were our construction coworkers throughout the week) and then dinner back at the bunk house (red beans, rice, etc.).
That musical night was followed by another day of construction and hard work. We split up into different groups again at the beginning of the day, and I went
once more with the construction group. However, later, I was able to break off and join another group that was packing food for El Shaddai Methodist Church’s food distribution program. For this program, we were bundling together small sacks of non-perishable food to distribute to those most in need (as determined and advised by El Shaddai’s pastor, who regularly oversaw this program when food and resources were available). Then, later in the week, we were going to help the pastor distribute the packages to local families.
During the second part of the day, we were able to go downtown and walk through the various squares and sightsee some. There was a celebration going on downtown during the week we were there (to celebrate the anniversary of the town’s founding, I think), and so we were able to see a lot of this festival. While downtown, I was lucky enough to (1) see my Chilean friend (who’s a music major) sing for one of the crowds there (the announcer was getting folks to come up and sing a certain song), (2) see a wedding mass at a church by the main square, and (3) eat some delicious ice cream and
Each night, after we finished with all our work and play, we had a devotion with the whole group. However, while we were “devoting” in front of our little converted bunkhouse, we were lucky enough to draw the attention of some of our neighbors. This was, of course, by accident. Our little house was in a neighborhood, so we tried to be as respectful of our neighbors as possible. But, there wasn’t a big enough space in our bunkhouse to have devotion time inside, so we would gather up a circle outside every night to conduct a multi-lingual devotion and singing and such. Our singing, praying, and discussing in multiple languages (including in Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, etc.) attracted the attention of our neighbors, however, some of whom (kids, especially) were drawn to our nightly circle. So, of course, we pulled up a chair and invited them in (in the end, during the final days, we had a regular group of neighbors who would come join us and sing and pray along—one of the coolest parts of the trip). What a way to see and be a part of the diverse body of Christ!
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