Those of us who have been there can understand much better. You can read dozens of books and talk with scores of people, but being there in person enlarges your understanding in a particularly profound way. There's no doubt about it. Short-term mission trips can demand a lot out of you . . . but they give you so much more.
The value of this kind of experience was proven once again when a group from St. Peter's UCC in Carmel, Indiana visited El Salvador last June. Three youths and seven adults, including both pastors, left Indianapolis with some trepidation. But they returned far richer for the encounters they had with the locals of El Salvador.
In addition to visiting the tragic sites of Monsignor Romero's martyrdom as well as the murders of the Jesuit priests and their attendants, the group was able to talk with folks in base communities there. "We spent two days in the countryside, walking to villages to learn from the people about the needs and challenges of rural living," explained one of the members. "We were also brought into solidarity with city-dwellers while learning about the courageous workers who teach hygiene and job skills. They promote individual dignity and hope for the future in a difficult and often dangerous environment."
Another member noted that the group was moved by the forthright and compelling words of Medardo Gonzalez, Bishop of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church. "Without demanding, he motivated us to forge an ongoing effort to help work on alleviating the problems facing the Salvadoran people," the man said. "Even a daunting task like that seems manageable, with the faith espoused by Bishop Gonzalez."
Indebted to so many in El Salvador who helped make this experience happen, the group at St. Peter's UCC is committed to working with them to better their lives. "We are actively working on ways to be of help and to share this on-the-ground experience with others," explained one member. "Our dream is to be part of multiplying the joy of our mission trip and to help our sisters and brothers there be part of mending God's world . . . starting with El Salvador.
If you would like to talk with us about setting up a mission trip like ours, please contact us at http://www.stpeterscarmel.org/ or 317-846-6882.