This week, our El Salvador Global Mission Team is at work with our friends and partners in the communities surrounding Ahuachapan. This post was written by Chip Cooke.
Although preparations began almost a year ago, this past Saturday marked the beginning of yet another trip to El Salvador for nine Myers Park Presbyterian disciples and Pastor John Magnuson. With the exception of Pastor John, every single member of the team has made this trip to Ahuachupan before. Why do we return? In some small way, in one short week, we all connect to this place in a very special almost indescribable way. It becomes a rare opportunity to see past borders and treat our neighbors as ourselves. It becomes the opportunity to build hope in a community where love seems to abound and grace demands to flourish.
El Sal 2019, as we collectively refer to ourselves, has volunteered through MPPC and Habitat for Humanity Charlotte to assist Habitat El Salvador and one local family in the construction of their new home. It becomes the chance to help spread God’s love through our labors and build even deeper connections with those we have known in prior years throughout the community. There is a very good reason we choose to return to this place.
After an extremely early start Saturday morning and 15 hours of travel, the team arrived at Casa de la Mamapan in Ahuachupan. Sunday morning we traveled to the Getsemani community to survey the current state of affairs and reconnect with old friends. To our great joy, the Escualita, or elementary school we dreamed about was there before our eyes. As early education is a major part of progress in this area, we were beyond joyful. Sunday afternoon was a chance to worship at a new community Presbyterian church. The sermon’s main focus was to rise and shine – with God’s light. We were ready to do just that. After a good night’s sleep, it was El Sal 2019’s turn to get our hands dirty.
The next forty-eight hours were a huge juxtaposition of contrasting emotions and events. After arriving on-site to meet the family and the masons, we set in earnest to remove vegetation (think huge tree stump), paint the interior of the new home and begin to finalize sidewalks around the house. Labor was hard, sweat poured, and progress was made. We were in our element. The sun was out and brightness in all aspects was abundant. Then the rains came.
Our nightly devotionals this week focus on Genesis and the creation of God’s earth. Light and darkness, the hope of beginnings, God’s relationship with His people and the expulsion with original sin. Point and counterpoint – never as clear as they might seem. With the rain came we had to abandon our efforts, but we looked at the first day as a great success. Night brought an ominous forecast and the promise of even more rain to come.
Tuesday morning the heavens opened and mudslides were reported across El Salvador. Schools were closed nationwide and in an abundance of caution, Habitat El Salvador canceled house builds for all teams. Rather than being despondent, we were able to spend one of our greatest days in the partnership with the Getsemani community. After visiting the local Ahuachupan market we gathered together with the hugely talented women of the Getsemani co-op in a rare moment to truly understand and appreciate our neighbors here. We prepared food together, broke bread together, laughed until our sides hurt and truly saw another example of great joy in this part of the world.
Pastor John told us Tuesday morning that no matter what we thought, we were right where we were supposed to be. Truer words could not have been spoken and we have bought into the truth that God’s plan is not our own – and He is still always right.
Tomorrow promises another chance to assist in completing our family’s home and we hope we have shovels, picks, and paintbrushes in our hands. However, if God has other plans, our hands will remain open for whatever blessings He has to offer.
Grace and peace,
Chip Cooke and the 2019 MPPC El Sal Mission Team