“Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us to be.”
On a beautiful day of Sabbath, we reflected on those words of Oscar Romero, the recently canonized former Archbishop of El Salvador. Each of us, individually and collectively, wrestled with questions of purpose, expectations and God’s call to travel to El Salvador. Our smooth travels provided us a too often underappreciated gift: a day of rest from labor, travel, and the noise of our routines. With work on the site not starting until Monday, the team had the opportunity to gather perspective, reflect, and confront the sharp contrasts of life in El Salvador that did not leave us entirely at peace.
We started at the Museum of Art of El Salvador. Exhibits included cartoons from a local political satirist, Otto Meza, and several works of recent modern and abstract art. The exhibitions directly confront the challenging and too often violent history of the country. Collectively, the works conveyed to us a sense of people with a clear thirst for peace, outrage at violence, and a desire for a morally just society. On our way to our final stop in Ahuachapan, we had lunch and orientation with our Habitat for Humanity El Salvador partners at Lake Coatepeque. In sharp contrast to the challenging messages of the museum, there is a remarkable beauty to this place. The lake was formed by volcanic activity over 50,000 years ago and leaves behind a glorious, clear blue lake surrounded by lush mountains. The crisp breeze told us all to take in some deep breaths and marvel at God’s creation. Our partners showed us humbling hospitality in bringing us here and preparing our meal. It is not necessarily easy to reconcile this time with the stated purpose of our trip or the realities many Salvadorans face every day. We are reminded of the stark poverty many experience in seeing their homes along the road to the lake. Our hosts helped us find some balance in telling us why they brought us here, “We wanted to share the glory that God has made.” As we prepared to depart, Habitat’s beloved Ana Maria challenged our team, “don’t just build walls, but build relationships.” From the lake, we moved to Ahuachapan, our home base for the week. Mission members making a return here expressed a sense of peace, a homecoming of sorts, a certainty of holy ground. The rookies are just trying to take it all in as our journey unfolds. As one of our partners said tonight, “when the service ends, the mission begins.” Indeed, tomorrow we will get to work on the site, mixing and hauling cement, thereby laying a foundation. We’re grateful but not entirely at peace after our Sabbath. We are anxious to get to work and excited to meet our family for whom we build in the morning. Tomorrow we begin the hard work, but remain mindful that Sabbath is a gift from God and that although we have work to do, it’s work that finds its meaning and direction from God. Thanks be to God.
The El Salvador Mission Team
Chip, Melissa, Kendall, Cliff, Dave, Court, James, Lindsay, Jen, Laura, and Chris