by freshman Justus Bailey
“Choose everyday to love the Lord because, despite what you do and the mistakes you make, he will always love you.” These are the words that were spoken to our team when we were preparing for our day, and with the events and emotions we would experience, there were no words that could have prepared us more.
After the last breakfast with the marvelous people of Hotel Merliot, the first stop we made was to the market in search for trinkets to bring home to family and friends. The colorful myriad of items in the small street stores were at times very overwhelming, but made the experience that much more unique.
After rushing through the varied stores, we made our way to Vito Guarato, an orphanage hidden at the top of a hill. As we made it to the front doors with our donations to the people, we were immediately greeted, and without knowing, each greeting we would make with these people would change our outlook forever. The idea of this orphanage was to pick up children and adults that were abandoned by either their parents or ended up on the streets. The people in the orphanage are physically and/or mentally disabled so interacting with them was difficult, but when they smiled it made the interaction incredibly rewarding.
There was a story of one of the children that really stuck out to me. It was one about a little nine-year -old girl named Sonya and her twin brother, Daniel. They were abandoned at birth by their mother who was only the mere age of 12. They each had a severe medical condition called Microcephaly, also known as Small Head Syndrome. It is a medical condition in which the brain does not develop properly resulting in a smaller than normal head.
The doctors predicted them to only live for six months. They both sat there in that institution with nine years under their belt and many more to come. If Jesus still walked the earth, this would be the place he would be hanging out. A true example of radical reversal, hanging around people society forgets about. Jesus comes to these places in order to heal and spread the word of God, so the fact that these children are still alive is valid sign of God’s presence is their hearts. As we left the orphanage, I think we can all agree on the fact that that place was not full of despair or sorrow. Rather, it was full of Hope. As we drove away we were reminded of why we should rely on Jesus in times of distress and when we question his art, and it is all because, “I believe in you, you are the God of miracles.”
Once we left the orphanage, we left for a hotel next to the beach so that four of us could get baptized!
Here, we sat back, and through this time of relaxation, many of us were drawn to the beach that lay only a hundred feet from the hotel, while others hid away in their rooms and slept to regain their strength for an eventful night of baptisms and reflections. Dominique Diller, Lindsay Brent, Anna Buhigas, and myself were the four girls that were baptized on Thursday, March 17th.
With the Pacific Ocean being a huge place, the fact that four girls were able to devote their lives to Christ in such waters is a beautiful thing to experience. The ceremony took place in rough waters, and while we were constantly pushed back and forth to the current, the strength of these waves was a great metaphor for the life the people baptized would soon be living with Christ. Some days will go great in your faith and some days you will be pushed in the wrong direction, but regardless, you will still be in God’s waters and he will always love and be with you.
God’s love did not simply stop here, his radiance was brought up once again on our reflection of the trip.
For a final word from our mentor, Humberto, we were all given certificates of achievement for serving the people of El Salvador. After this ceremony, we were all given plain cups. With these cups, we wrote words that explained our feelings of the trip. Many people wrote words such as, loving, freedom, and authentic, and we each explained why we described the trip in this way. As each person told their story of the trip, one-by-one, we set the cups down in the center of our circle and made a pyramid of cups.
The cups represented each story of every person in the circle and how everybody had a different perspective and played a different role for Jesus in this trip. The symbolization behind this practice made it simple for everybody to get a good grip on the total meaning of the trip. There were many lessons to be made in this day alone and the idea of being able to organize everyone’s thoughts together and get a good grip on the experience as a whole made it that much more rewarding. I personally learned from these experiences to choose everyday to love the Lord. Despite what you do and the mistakes you make, he will always love you.