A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to serve alongside a team from Emmanuel in El Salvador. I had seldom flown before, much less out of the country into an entirely different culture. It was truly a spectacular experience of which I fully intend to repeat as Emmanuel continues to regularly send teams there. In a few words below, I just wanted to take a moment and reflect on some of my experiences and what I learned in El Salvador.
As I mentioned previously, I had never flown out of the country until this recent trip to El Salvador. In preparation for the trip, I had gathered as much information as I could to better understand where we were going and what to expect. The typical questions were typed into Google, such as food and weather. I pressed Spencer, a teammate going for his 5th time to El Salvador, for pertinent information and experiences that would better prepare for the unknown to come. Even my mom assisted in preparation for the trip, giving any helpful tips and thoughts well before our departure, as any concerned mother would. But nothing could really prepare me for how truly different El Salvador would be from North Carolina.
We landed and were immediately met with the hot sun as we stepped outside the airport, replacing the briskness we had just left in Raleigh. As we drove a couple of hours to our final destination, I quickly learned that the rules of the road are more 'suggestions', after witnessing some unique driving maneuvers. After a warm welcome at La Primera Iglesia Bautista de Nueva Guadalupe, there was a man cutting coconuts by hand for us to drink with some pupusas to follow (both really good by the way!). As the week continued, I was only further reminded of how different El Salvador was from my home in North Carolina. The very next day, we did outreach at a local cow auction, trying to spread the word about the revival at the church that week. Perhaps the closest comparison would be some sort of flea or farmers market, but neither truly capture the essence of the experience. The main event, the cows, were everywhere in a large arena as potential buyers looked them over. Seems simple enough, until you get some unhappy livestock in the mix. At one point, an owner had lost control of his cow as it came barreling towards Bob, our missionary contact, and myself as we handed out some Gospel tracts. Needless to say, we moooved rather quickly as we narrowly escaped the disgruntled cow. But all bad puns aside, I hope that you're getting the picture that El Salvador was incredibly different from anything in Raleigh, NC. But with every difference separating our two cultures, I was only further reminded of the greatness of our God as we served and worshiped together with the fellow believers in El Salvador.
While we served alongside La Primera Iglesia Bautista de Nueva Guadalupe, Jaime led us to sing two praise songs in Spanish that we sang throughout the week there. The songs were Mi Vida Es Cristo (My Life is Christ) and Contempla A Dios (Behold Our God). As our team would all sing together with the congregation, it stood out to me how all of our cultural differences suddenly melted away as we stood united together under the banner of Christ. There was just something so indescribably wonderful when the instruments would drop out and all you hear are the voices of God's people pouring their hearts out in praise to our Savior. I am reminded of Scripture in Revelation 7:9-10 as it says “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”.” Someday, all believers from every nation, tribe and people and language will gather together to worship our Lord Jesus Christ forever and ever Amen! What a wonderful day that will be! And I can't help but look back at my experience in El Salvador as just a glimmer of what that day in heaven will be like. We may be from two very different cultures, eating different foods, speaking different languages, but underneath we are all united as brothers and sisters in Jesus. We were all created in Christ for the singular purpose of bringing glory to Him. Throughout the week, this connection was made only more evident as we saw the hearts of our Salvadoran brethren for Christ in their community, and their overflowing kindness towards us and me, somebody new they didn't even know. It was just so compelling to share in Christ and serve with my newfound friends from El Salvador. If my experience is anything like heaven, then Lord please come quickly.
What is written here pales in comparison to experiencing this for yourself. I can't encourage you enough to take a leap of faith and serve Christ in some way overseas. I was told before the trip that it would change me, and that my eyes would be opened. I had no idea what that would look like until I experienced it myself. Don't just take it from me, go experience it yourself. I'm so, so glad I did.