The Gifts of Humility and Unconditional Love
Mark Taylor, team leader from Apex (N.C.) United Methodist Church, reflects on his experiences building houses in partnership with congregations in El Salvador.
El Salvador is the smallest and yet most densely populated of the five nations in Central America. The people there have suffered much in the past 30 years due to civil war, earthquakes and hurricanes.
There is so much poverty and yet they remain hopeful and, as always, welcomed us with smiles and open arms.
We spent our first night at Central Gabriel, a retreat center operated by our partner church in San Salvador, once used to house orphans left homeless during the war. We were joined there by two large contingents of Canadians and a United Methodist team from Littleton, N.C., led by Rev. David Haley.
On Sunday we worshiped at Emmanuel Baptist Church, led by Pastor Miguel Tomas Castro. Our own Pastor Jim Murphy was asked to help serve communion. For me and two other members of my team, it was a real homecoming to be able to visit once again with friends we had made during previous trips.
That afternoon we traveled by bus to the town of Santiago de Maria where we would be staying for the remainder of our work week. The hotel was small and quaint and became a welcome refuge after working in the hot sun all day--in spite of the fact that we had no air conditioning and no hot water for showers, sometimes no running water at all.
Each morning we had breakfast, primarily beans with various side items. Then we took a 25-minute bus ride to the town of Mercedes Umana where we worked with Habitat for Humanity building small, but decent houses with local families. Mercedes Umana was hit especially hard by the earthquakes of 2001, and evidence of destruction could be seen throughout the town. Devotions were held each morning before we split up into separate work groups. Altogether we helped build 12 houses in that town with a total of 22 houses built in the country during the week.
The houses are small, concrete block structures ― about 300 square feet ― with tin roofs. Although the homes did have electricity, they did not have running water or indoor toilets.
I worked alongside Berta Hernandez who had lost her home during the earthquakes. One morning she invited us to have breakfast with her and her 94-year-old mother. Through tears she expressed her gratitude and love to us for coming to help her build her house and gave each of us a small gift to take home to remember her.
In all, this mission is so much more than building houses. By leaving the comfort of our own homes and country to help those in need, we demonstrated God's love by taking action and giving hope to those who may feel that the rest of the world has forgotten them. In return, we received the gift humility and unconditional love that the Salvadoran people have to offer us.
When we returned home, we found ourselves transformed. No longer were we different people from different countries speaking different languages. We are one people, God's children, who speak the language of love as part of the kingdom of God, here on earth.
Many thanks for all of your support,
Mark Taylor, mission team leader