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2018 El Salvador Youth Mission Team

Last week, our high school youth had a fantastic opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity El Salvador through MPPC’s partnership in the Getsemani community. During our time we focused on two goals in our mission: building homes and building relationships. There are plenty of times where mission work can feel very shallow; build a house, take some pictures with the local community and leave feeling so “blessed and grateful” for all you have. When experienced in this way, the real purpose of serving in mission is skewed, and opportunities for creating significant experiences are missed.

It’s so easy to focus on barriers of language, culture, and lifestyle that tend to divide us. These differences take us out of our comfort zone and away from what’s familiar. Before the week began, we were challenged with an activity that explored our own biases and beliefs about America and El Salvador. We were asked to choose words that we thought described now the rest of the world views Americans versus what we actually thought of ourselves. Words like “intelligent” “sophisticated” and “friendly” were eclipsed by “nationalistic” “self-indulgent” and “greedy.” Living in a country like America, we are conditioned to think that our way of life is the only one or the “best.” We don’t take the time to seek information about other cultures and form those new relationships sincerely. Our youth are taking steps to change that.

This trip was just as much about building relationships as it was about building homes.

Throughout the week I watched as this energetic group of youth fearlessly and humbly served with the people of El Salvador. They didn’t let the language barrier stop them from sharing a smile with the masons on our worksite or playing with the children. We all worked harder than we probably ever have before sweating, painting, digging septic tanks, and tamping out foundations, but each moment was filled with laughter, dancing, and the shared joy of working for this community.

Youth Leaders Michelle Thomas-Bush & Patty Arcia with baby Gabby and Patty’s mother.

Meeting and connecting with so many people who are filled with love, hope and positivity was genuinely amazing. Experiences such as McCall Canady celebrating her 17th birthday with the entire community complete with an Oreo cake and piñata. Or when Betty and the women of Getsemani’s co-op took us shopping in the market for fresh ingredients and shared their recipes and traditions with us. Even my own experience of connecting with Douglas, Jorge and Roberto, members of the Habitat El Salvador staff with whom I shared a common interest in art and communications from over 1,500 miles away. A week is not nearly enough to completely change the world, but it’s a small start for something bigger.

View the El Salvador highlight reel here!