This week has been one of profound experiences. I chose to blog first on New Year's Day (if memory serves) so consequently plenty has happened since and been blogged about many times over. The lack of original material available definitely contributed to my "bloglessness", as well as my tendency for over-analysis. I know that when I write, it won't be finished quickly. I've read that there are essentially two types of "creatives" (I, of course, am using this term absurdly loosely for myself) in the world. Cassons, who are extremely scrupulous in their process and are constantly perfecting; and Picassos, who reach their peak quickly and output creativity like the air they exhale. I am undoubtedly the former. I am a much less creative creative who spends excessively long on his creative process to produce sub-creative creations. Anyway...
I suppose a brief summary of key events is in order. On our free day we had the tenacity to climb a dormant volcano by the name of "Chichontepec", which we were told translates to "volcano of two peaks". An exhausting endeavour it was, but one worthwhile. The view from the peak (which guides stated as 2,137 meters above sea level, but the inerrant internet describes as 2,182 meters) was ... incredible? Awe-inspiring? Urine-inducing? Yes. All of the above. The day following the climb we spent a portion of the afternoon learning about the Salvadoran Civil War. I found this incredibly fascinating and I wish we had spent longer hearing about it. The entire discussion took place on one side of a bridge that had been completely annihilated with explosives in 1980 by the guerrilla left, done in order to force the government's hand in paying for repairs. But the bridge was never repaired, and all that lies between the two banks are a couple of piers that once held it. But despite my interest in these activities, they aren't what I came to El Salvador for. I, we, came here to build houses for the broken and express love and compassion to all.
There are a few reasons that I decided to commit to this trip back in...whenever I committed to it. I've been exploring questions about my faith, my worldview, and about myself. At home I'd been feeling stagnant. Caught in routine. This trip helped to escape from that. It taught me much about myself, and much about how I perceive other people. It was healthy for me. It, at times, made me feel incapable, unintelligent, and insignificant. All of these hopefully contributing to the humility I prayed for before and during this trip. The more I think about the week, and how I feel as it comes to an end, I'm not sure I share the ambiguous feelings some of my teammates do. I think I understand why this trip has been so significant: I experienced something completely different, I was able to help people, and I learned more about humility.
Much of my reading material for the past year or so has been Francis A. Schaeffer books, thanks to Deve. In his book "The God Who Is There" he talks about communication. Specifically, communicating our beliefs, and the message of our beliefs, to others. He states that there is no automatic or mechanical method of communicating with people in this way, because this would contradict the element of personality (unique personality to each of us) that is so philosophically important to our relationship to God, who is a personal God. But ultimately, Schaeffer says, the only universal form of communicating to the individual is in love. I would like to insert a quote from this book:
"Love is not an easy thing; it is not just an emotional urge, but an attempt to move over and sit in the other person's place and see how his problems look to him. Love is a genuine concern for the individual."
The reason I use this paragraph is because I think it really applies to what we did, or tried to do, this week. We expressed love for these people by being close to them, doing things not only for them but with them. We spoke to them about their lives (not without the help of translators) and told them about ours. This engaging, involved, and genuine love that was not only directed from us to them, but was reciprocated, is what I think made this memorable for me. I didn't have a cathartic experience, but I did have an experience. Something that was outside the normalities of my home life. This trip was a small step in my life of continuous learning, and although it was a small step, it was an integral one.
I've thanked my team, our translators, our food providers, our hospitable hosts, and the families that welcomed us into their communities this week, but lastly I would like to thank you. The readers of this blog. Your support and comments don't go unnoticed, we talk about them within our team daily. I have a feeling this will be the last post on the blog for this trip (editor's note: it's won't be), so if that is the case: here is to El Salvador in 2017, here is to a life of learning, and here is to communicating with genuine love.