In our morning devotional based on Matthew 6:19-21, we were reminded that despite what we declare our good intentions to be, it is really where we place our time, money and energy that indicates what our true priorities are. This week we have made it a priority to work for the poor and needy. However, we also need to consider making it a priority to show honour and respect to the people in the community in which we are working by accepting their gestures of generosity, kindness and love. Even though they don’t have much in the way of material goods, they certainly have a lot to offer us relationally.
It has been said, “You see things differently through tears”. Today was a day where tears of joy mingled with tears of sadness. The tears of joy flowed during the key ceremony where each new homeowner received the keys to his or her home and a Bible. The ceremony, held in a church in the community, started with worship songs and a sermon from the worship team and the pastor of the church in San Vicente that we attended on Sunday. For the ceremony itself, one team member spoke a word of blessing and encouragement to each homeowner, and the homeowners in turn responded with their words of thanks and gratitude. After this part of the ceremony, each homeowner received a basket full of household goods and food staples that we packed last night. When all the homeowners had received their keys and Bible, the community members brought us fresh fruit and water paid with their own funds.
After lunch, all the team members and all the homeowners and their kids piled into trucks and headed to a local aquatic centre. This centre had several pools, including a natural one which was fed by a stream. It was a joy to be able to spend a few hours of fun with these people who had worked so hard all week. Parents became kids again as we tossed beach balls around and splashed each other, and kids were…kids. We had a wonderful time together, but then the time arrived to say our final goodbyes, and that’s when the tears of sadness started to flow. These homeowners and our family have come to mean so much to us over the course of the week, that it was heart-wrenching to leave them.
We went to Stewart and Carie McAllister’s house for supper for the final time, and we had an amazing traditional El Salvadoran meal of tamales, refried beans, and rice. It just so happened that two team members and one of the drivers from Shelter Canada will all be having a birthday tomorrow, so we celebrated their birthdays with cake. The McAllister’s oldest son performed magic tricks for us and their oldest daughter performed a gorgeous rendition of a worship song in Spanish. Then there were more tears, as we said goodbye to the McAllister’s, their beautiful family, our translators and our drivers.
On the way home, we made a stop to climb the clock tower in the centre of San Vicente. Then it was time to head back to our hotel for our final debriefing. More tears of joy and sadness mingled as we shared our highlights of our trip and as we encouraged each other and spoke words of appreciation for the qualities we had observed in each other the course of the week. We know that we will not leave this place untouched and that the experiences we have had here will have a lasting impact on our lives.