Opposite ends of the scale: spiritual versus material goods
This past week I had a crash course in the art of gratitude.
My teachers were the people that I visited while I was on a mission experience in Ahuachapán, El Salvador. I was struck by how much we take for granted as we enjoy great abundance here in the United States. Many of us have come to expect hot water, cable television, Internet access, heating and air conditioning, and clean drinking water as necessities in our homes.
But the fact is, these are luxuries that most people in the world don’t experience. I had the opportunity to visit poor people in El Salvador who live with none of these things and also have no electricity, no windows, and no doors. Many of the homes were made out of adobe or put together with scraps of tin and plastic. One family had a crib for their baby, but it was outside of the house. Many cooked using a wood burning fire inside of their homes. Between the constant inhalation of smoke and the dust from the dirt floors, they experience many respiratory problems and live in a level of discomfort that many of us would not be able to tolerate.
In spite of this poverty and discomfort, the people expressed gratitude to God for providing for their needs. When we arrived with bags of food, many said that they knew that God would send someone and that it was God who put it into our hearts to come to their community to bring them God’s provisions.
Many of them told us that God would bless us for our work in their community. It was very moving to hear this beautiful sentiment expressed time after time from people who had so few material resources but were so abundantly rich in their faith in God.
It reminded me that we are blessed to be a blessing. Every single person in our community has some type of great abundance that they could share with someone in need, either in wealth, health, strength, or other resources. We aren’t called to bask in our wealth; we are called to use what we have been given to serve others.
As we come into Holy Week, we remember the life of Jesus and the freedom we have experienced in his self-giving love for us. Following Jesus means that we will all find a way to serve to the poor with our unique gifts, locally and globally, as we walk in his footsteps. My heart was moved by the Holy Spirit as I connected in love with the people of El Salvador and I look forward to returning this summer.
“Que Dios los bendiga.” (May God bless you).
For more information about mission experiences in El Salvador, go to salvadoranmissionprojects.com.