Holy Asides
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July 13, 2016, 10:06 PM

Reflections on the Mission to El Salvador


Between the sermon on July 3rd and the Coffee Hour presentation on the 10th, much has been reflected upon and spoken about by the Mission team to El Salvador. From the engagement with the people of El Sitio and learning about the Massacre in Copapayo to working at the Centro Arte para la Paz and interacting with the community on the plaza of Suchitoto, I think that it was a positive and enlightening experience for all who were present. I echo the main points of all who have spoken, but I want to add a few minor and/or personal reflections.

The protection and blessing of God, and the power of the prayers of the people of St. Joseph’s are very real. There were 18 of us that went on this trip. There were no forgotten passports, lost luggage, delays, missed flights, or problems with immigration or customs. The bus to take us to Suchitoto was there upon our arrival. Sister Peggy was incredulous that we were on time, because that never happens… especially with a group of our size. Any way we traveled, van, bus, truck, or boat, there was enough room for everyone and everywhere we traveled we stayed together without misplacing anyone. This was pretty amazing. And the presence of God was certainly surrounding us.

Speaking of experiencing God’s presence, one of my personal joys was in the time that we spent in worship and prayer at the beginning and close of each day. Several different people led in singing, devotions, and prayer during the week. It was an anchor to reconnect with one another, share our experiences, and give praise to God. 

At the end of the first worship/devotional time, I gave an extra medallion to each person. I asked that they pray about who they might give it to as they encountered people throughout the week. At the time, I had hoped that everyone would have the courage and the willingness to do just that, especially those in their teens and twenties. In hindsight, it is very funny, because giving those medallions away was one of the highlights of their trip. Each day, I was asked if I had any extra to give away. Some even gave their own personal medallions away as well. Their enthusiasm and joy was such a blessing and encouragement to me.

Sister Peggy O’Neill is the aunt of Rob O’Neill. This relationship was one of the primary reasons that we made El Salvador our mission trip destination. Sister Peggy has been in this community for thirty years. She was there in the midst of the Civil War that took place from 1980-1992. She was there for the rebuilding and restoration. In 2005, Sister Peggy was able to found the Centro Arte para la Paz (the Center for Art and Peace), which is on the grounds of Santa Imelda School and Convent, which operated from 1917 until the Sisters of the Annunciation were forced to flee in 1980. It lay abandoned for 25 years, until this community project began. I could comment on a plethora of things Sister Peggy has done for the communities in and around Suchitoto, but there is too much to put in this space. Indeed, when someone did attempt sharing, she waved for him to stop. But, hidden beneath her accomplishments there is a greater principle at work. She has been there for thirty years. Thirty years solidifies trust. Thirty years provides a different level of respect. Thirty years signifies commitment. It is impossible to overvalue the significance of this type of relationship, and the effect that it has in and through the community is impossible to deny. This type of longevity in service is rare in our transient, upward mobile society and is often times seen as a negative, especially within the church world, where long tenures are frowned upon. However, in the case of Sister Peggy, she gains more and more influence for the center and the communities because of the length of her service.

Finally, on a very personal note, I loved the fact that I was able to share this mission trip experience with my two daughters. Mary Brigid has been wanting to go on a mission trip for years, at least since CC went on hers to Northern Ireland. It was a delight to experience their joy, their wonder, and their excitement, as well as share with them my own. It was one of those events that forged bonds with one another, and I am grateful for the opportunity to grow nearer to Christ and them through this mission trip to Suchitoto, El Salvador.


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