Day 46-47: Travel days
Day 48-49: Painting Houses
After a full day and a half of traveling, we made it to El Salvador!
So first a little fact about El Salvador:
There are no orphanage in El Salvador. Anywhere.
When I first heard this I was like, “Wait, huh? Why?” El Salvador passed a law saying that all orphans must live with the nearest relative, which may sound nice on paper, but has caused a great deal of financial problems for the families trying to support the orphans. On top of that, El Salvador currently has the highest gang violence out of any country in the world. That being said, the orphans are taken away due to violence related reasons and then they are passed back to close relatives, where the cycle of violence is often repeated.
Now onto Project RED! There is an organization called Project RED, the organization we will be working with, that brings hope to these families struggling to provide for the orphans and builds relationships with the children coming out of difficult situations.
So Wednesday and Thursday we got to paint houses for two of the families supported by Project RED! It was amazing to paint the houses, provide lunch for the families, and to build relationships with the children by playing games afterward.
One of my most amazing interactions was on that first day, but I want to share it with people in person. Please ask me about how God led me to talk to one of the girls in the village and what happened!
Day 50-51: Water Parks with the Project RED kiddos
This was WAY fun.
We spent two days playing with the kids at the water park. The first day we spent time with the San Salvador kids and the second day we were with the Santa Ana kids. Both days I got to lead a Bible Study for the kids and staff on Matthew 13 over the parable of the seeds, which was a wonderful opportunity to speak to the kids about God’s Word.
That Saturday there was about an hour were we were all played a beach all game in a circle in the pool. We essentially tried to see how many times we could set the beach ball to each other and it was hands down one of the best hours of the summer. It sounds so simple, but we were all crying with laughter (we added a rule where whoever missed the ball would get splashed by the rest of us) and despite the language barrier we all bonded.
Random Aside: I only spoke in Spanish these two days though, which was super fun as I haven’t taken Spanish since college. That was fun!
Through this simple game and my interaction with the staff and kids, I was reminded of the importance of being kind to foreigners. I love meeting and getting to know people from other cultures, but it meant so much to me experiencing the other side. In a lot of countries that we’ve been to, the missionaries and the people there knew and spoke English well. Even though we learned a good deal of phrases in Thailand for example, we were still able to speak English. Here however a lot of people, especially the kids, only spoke Spanish so we only spoke in Spanish. That in combination of the fact that we haven’t been in the United States in almost two months now, made me feel more like a foreigner than ever before. However, everyone was so kind to me at the water park and I got to bond with both the kids and the staff through this fun game.
Background: I am an elementary music teacher in the states, where my schools has about 1,300 students, that at one point covered the span of 110 different countries. (Another aside: I love that God has allowed me to teach the nations. It’s awesome.) And even though I love teaching and I love the kids, I sometimes forget that a good deal of them feel as if they are in a foreign land. They too might miss parts of their culture, family members, friends in other countries, ect. and after this summer I can now connect with those feelings and emotions. Even though I love the work that we currently get to do, I have people that I miss back home and the kindness poured out to me this day was overwhelming and comforting. Now I even more so want to love on my students and make music fun for them so they can receive kindness and feel at home in my classroom, even to the ones who feel as if they are in a foreign land. The Project RED kids and staff did this for me.
You never know impact a kind word or a brief moment of laughter can make!
“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”
Day 52: Sunday church, surfing, and David Platt study
We went to a Church service in Spanish and I now want to get a Spanish Bible and learn Spanish from reading it. I’m all inspired!
It was also Cara’s birthday and so we went surfing. It’s funny because I’m terrible at almost all board sports (skateboarding, wake boarding, ect.) but I made it to the shore on the very first try! It was hilarious because my surf instructor asked his friend where his student went and he pointed to the shore. Apparently that was a first for him!
We also did our last David Platt study on the beach talking about religious freedom and the persecuted Church.
“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62
“I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:35-37
It’s radical passages like these that show the vitality of God and the urgency in sharing the Gospel. It comes down to:
Are we going to choose comfort or the cross? Are we going to settle for maintenance or sacrifice for mission? Will our lives be marked by indecisive minds or undivided hearts?
When reading passages and contemplating questions such as these, Christ should come first. No possession of mine (not that anything is truly mine), no relationship, no societal standard, nothing, comes before God. David Platt writes, “Following Jesus doesn’t just entail sacrificial abandonment of our lives; it requires supreme affection from our hearts.” And when we seek after His will, we will ultimately have our hearts broken for what His heart is broken for, which should lead us to radical action in tending to the needs of others.
The last chapter titled, “The Most Urgent Need: The Gospel and the Unreached,” informs that two billion people live and die without hearing about Jesus. In knowing about the physical and spiritual needs of the unreached, this should lead us to action whether that’s going out or living more simply so that others can be sent out.
Platt also writes, “God alone is able to bear these global burdens… But God loves us too much to allow us to live with indifference or inaction.” We aren’t God, but we can share in one another’s burdens through prayer and action of seeking out the needs of others.
If homelessness comes upon following the will of God, then so be it. If we must deny accustomed comforts of daily living so that the basic needs of others can be met, then so be it. If we should be persecuted as a byproduct of proclaiming the good news, then so be it.
Even if the daily thorns of my flesh cry out for me to return to my sinful nature and to leave the God I love. May we die to self in every natural way within to be used by a God who loves us and desires us to care for others. Even when those thoughts of, “What can you do Ruth? You’re just one person?” creeps up within me, may I fight that and take the next step in obedience. Whether doing God’s work in China, whether visiting HIV families in Thailand, whether cherishing an orphan in Uganda, whether sharing the Gospel in France with those that have never heard about Jesus before, or painting houses in El Salvador, may we always step in obedience by the grace of God. We are not called to only obey if we see fruits of our labor, we are called to step out in obedience through faith.
May I be faithful to God this day.
Day 53: Putting on a retreat day for the Project RED staff
We put on a retreat for both the Santa Ana and the San Salvador staff at a beach house by the ocean. We opened with a game, a body of Christ skit put on by our team of six (Yay for Kathryn joining us!), and then I got to lead a devo/Bible Study over 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 on spiritual gifts and how we all make up the body of Christ. After reading the passage, everyone was split up into small groups of about 3-4 and we answered questions on what gifts we identified with, how we can use those gifts in the Church, and how we can best use those gifts for Project RED. Then the floor was opened up so that the staff could share which parts of the body they most identified with, and why, and then allowed for time for the staff could encourage one in their giftings. I was almost led to tears by the encouragements of the staff and how they serve one another and the community.
We then had lunch, allowed for free time, and lead some camp type team bonding games. We were all dying laughing at various points and I think the staff had a lot of fun.
Day 54: Long hike to the family to paint the house and bring supplies to make a roof.
There is a family that lives up in the mountains of El Salvador and our Global Journey team and the Project RED team went on a two hour hike to bring this family a roof and paint supplies. Let’s pause there for two seconds.
Fact about me: I love hiking. I will go hiking and backing in a heart beat and have been camping many times. I can also walk/hike pretty much all day. That being said, this hike was quite challenging. I loaded up a backpack, grabbed some heavy bags of groceries, and a jug of water and began our journey. We hiked up a legit mountain, hiked down said mountain, and then hiked up half of another one carrying all that was needed. About twenty minutes in, I almost started doubting my abilities, but quoted chapters of Scriptures throughout the rest of the journey. In trials such as these, you really have to rely on God and focus on the end goal of serving others.
It was amazing getting there, meeting the family, painting the house, making lunch, and then hiking back up and down the mountains of El Salvador.
Also, I have now seen first hand that some of the poorest people in the world live amidst the most people landscapes.
Day 55: Last Day in El Salvador
Well, it’s our last day in El Salvador and we’re now off to debriefing in Florida! I am thankful for my time here and I’m ready to debrief all that we have encountered and learned over the past few months.
I’ll see ya in the United States!