Flying from Europe to Central America is a complicated process. It started with us driving from Slovenia to Italy. Then we took a train to Venice. From Venice we flew to Frankfurt to Baltimore to Houston and then finally to San Salvador. Thankfully we got to spend 2 nights in Baltimore for a little rest between all the driving. My problem was that the rest was a little too good.
Before we even boarded the plane from Houston to San Salvador I was ready to just stay on American soil. I was desperately searching the airport for a friendly face. I was soaking in all the American culture. On the flight, I was totally checked out. And then we landed in San Salvador. And it was 11 o’clock at night. And I was tired, and we were waiting in a mile long customs line. I was pretty much everyone’s least favorite person to hang out with at the moment. I was completely content to just struggle through the next 7 days until we would be done and heading to Orlando.
I realized this probably was not the best mindset to start the final leg of our trip in, so I tried to get myself pumped up for El Salvador. I tried to think about how it was only 7 days, and it could not be THAT bad. But this still wasn’t the right mindset. So I prayed. I felt a little silly. If I could not change my own mind, how was God going to do it? But I asked Him anyway. I asked Him to change my heart, and to form my mind so that it would be ready to serve the people of El Salvador.
Then we got in our van to head to the place we were staying and I don’t even know how it happened, but I was suddenly so excited. I was literally singing in the back row, annoying all of my team members who were trying to sleep because it was now 1 am. Fast forward 7 days, and I’m riding in the same van, going the opposite direction, back to the airport, and I do not want to leave. I am completely content to stay in El Salvador for another 7 days, for a month, for a year, whatever.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” John 14:12-14
I simply asked the Lord to change my heart, and He did it.
While in El Salvador we worked with an organization called Project Red (PLEASE check them out they are so cool: projectredelsalvador.org). This organization works at reintegrating orphans who have been removed from orphanages back into the homes that they were taken away from in the first place. They are being sent back home because of a new law in El Salvador that takes orphans who have any living relatives and takes them to live with them. The result is a lot of children living in horrible situations where it is hard for them to be fed and to be educated.
Project Red’s main focus is to help these families that are now responsible for their children to be able to sustain themselves and provide for a safe place for their children. We spent most of our time painting newly built houses, cleaning the land around houses, building a chicken coop, and spending time with the children. Everyone we helped and spent time with was so thankful and warm-hearted towards us. Their grace in the midst of the violence and poverty that they live in was encouraging and inspiring.
Project Red as a whole is a really awesome organization. Most of their leaders are under the age of 30 and have their own personal ministries they are working on while also working for Project Red. Getting to talk with them about how they became Christians, how they started working with Project Red, and how they see God in their everyday lives really helped encourage the team to stay motivated through our last leg of the trip. They were all so open and honest about their lives, making it a joy to work for and with them.
This entire trip has been such an awesome experience, but also a tough experience. You witness so many things around the world that make you so thankful for where you come from. A lot of my team members have so openly talked about their call to be full-time missionaries overseas. They have talked about how they cannot wait to find out where God has called them to live, and how sad they are going to be when this trip is over and they have to return home. For the past 4 countries I have listened to them say these things, and thought they were crazy. I love America. I could never picture myself living anywhere else, long-term. And then El Salvador completely changed my mind about all of that.
Toward the end of our stay there, I was talking to one of the Project Red workers who had recently returned from a similar mission trip that travelled around the world. He was talking about how before he left, his only goals in life were to get a job and make money and be comfortable. But when he returned he knew that he was meant to do so much more than that. When he said that, it scared me a little bit. I realized that I was in the middle of experiencing the exact same thing, and I was not expecting it at all.
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4