The Reach El Salvador trip was my family’s first ever mission trip together. No other vacation or trip we have ever experienced can begin to compare! For years my wife and I have wanted to take our teenage boys on a mission trip outside the United States. When all of our schedules finally allowed and we committed to GFC’s December 2012 El Salvador trip, we had no idea of the incredible blessings that were waiting for us there.
As our team arrived in the busy capital city of San Salvador we were immediately embraced by the warmth of abundant sunshine and the beauty of lush green vegetation. El Salvador is a simply beautiful country with equally beautiful people. That evening we settled in to our accommodations at the mission house while our boys made new friends playing soccer and basketball in the park next door.
The next morning we attended Sunday worship at small community church, and though we had interpreters, the love and joy we felt in praising God in that setting was universal! Congregation members took turns sharing stories of God’s faithfulness to them, but no testimony was more stirring than that of 21-year old Edgardo. Though he had just lost both parents and his home one week earlier in a tragic fire, Edgardo stood up and praised God! The Holy Spirit flooded my soul with compassion as I also learned that Edgardo would now have to forego his senior year in electrical engineering to find work and care for his three younger brothers. My father is a 1939 EE graduate from Clemson, so it was undoubtedly a God-ordained opportunity for me to be able to connect with and help Edgardo on my father’s behalf. Our team was then given the privilege of leading the children’s Sunday school and we received many hugs from our new friends before departing. Wow...and this was just the first day!
Multiple times during the week our team visited orphanage centers for teenage boys and girls. These abandoned young souls were truly excited and grateful to have outsiders come to spend time with them. One day we bottle fed infants and loved on special needs children in the morning and then spent the afternoon in a hard fought game of softball at the girls’ orphanage! On another day, we played hard at the boys’ orphanage for hours on end, danced to music and shared crafts and activities. Most importantly, our team was able to share Christ with these youth and explain how He loves and cares for us all. Upon leaving, I could hear a beautiful chorus of praise songs fill the air from the women’s prison yard next door – how incredible!
On two separate evenings, our team was able to pack up and individually deliver over 300 bags of food to homeless people living on the city streets. I’ll never forget hearing a grateful Salvadoran voice which rang out from the dark of night in clear English, “God bless YOU!” In that moment, God had indeed richly blessed us just for being there.
My favorite experience occurred while travelling into a rural jungle village where our team spent two days constructing a 10’x20’ home for a young family. Little children flocked around my wife as she taught them bible stories. Each day I observed beautiful families living and working happily in their small but proudly maintained shelters and campsites. In spite of their material poverty, they were happy and content! It was at this point that my lifelong paradigm of “poverty” flipped upside down. Could it be that in my own “entrapment” with material possessions back home that I was actually living in worse poverty than these villagers? That’s a realization that will stay with me for a very long time, and a truth that can only make me want to serve and follow Christ even more.
On the last full day, our team took several young adult orphans and others who had served with us that week to play at a nearby beach. The coastal park setting was like “paradise”! Turns out that God had provided the perfect timing and opportunity for my boys and me to finally be baptized before our friends in a most unforgettable place.
So, this ends my family’s first ever mission trip together. Each day God showed me the wonderfully unique talents and abilities that had been given to each member of my family. All week long we took delight in being a part of the body of Christ in action and witnessed how God accomplishes his purposes through the diverse personalities and skills of everyone He calls. My little world here in East Tennessee has just become a whole lot bigger, and a sense of how God is calling me to serve Him in the future has become more interesting than ever before. Our God is indeed an awesome God!
Posted on Thu, February 7, 2013
by Ernie Botts filed under