Thoughts After El Salvador

Posted in travel

A few days back in the USA and my mind often drifts to last week in El Salvador.

It was a rich week — rich in laughter, diligent work, challenges, and leaning into God minute by minute.

It was truly a joy to work alongside my husband serving the El Salvadorian people. He was familiar comfort when I dealt with some difficult things, an energizing spirit when we were tired, and a voice of love and encouragement every single day. I still thank God we were able to travel, serve, worship, and experience together. I also enjoyed, with God, listening to J preach in our partnering church the first Sunday we were there.

The church we connected and served with radiated faith and joy in God.

Our translators were high school students from a local Christian school, and getting to know them was a highlight of my week. I hope to stay connected with some of my closest El Salvadorian friends for a long time. They were passionate about God and helping us communicate. They were so diligent in their help, and a joy to be around. We laughed and joked and sweated and were stretched in new ways. I pray they were as blessed by us as we were by them.

We prayed and spent time with the men and women of our partner church, and I was reminded we are all the same. We are all followers of Jesus, loved and known by Him, walking through uncertainties and challenges of life, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. How sweet it was to put Gospel-sharing, and God worshipping, in El Salvador on particular faces and names. Our God is good. 

The clinic was made up of eye glasses, dental, medical, evangelism / counseling, children’s ministry, and a pharmacy. John and I predominantly worked fitting people with eye glasses.

I confess the first day was pretty challenging for me.

I am an introvert, and this work required continual engagement and energy, helping people find glasses that fit them, sharing Jesus with them, and praying with them. By the end of the day, I was drained, but felt God’s perfect peace calming my anxieties. I fought back the temptation to believe I was unequipped or unable to work well in this environment. My gracious Heavenly Father reminded me often, through other team members or Scripture, that He is the one who changes hearts. He reminded me I am to surrender, depend, and trust Him to work through me. It was freeing, but honestly felt like a jump off of a cliff. My husband reminded me that work done with Holy Spirit’s help won’t seem impossible or challenging. It’s His power flowing through me, not my own ability or success, that makes the difference.

Another highlight for me was worshipping often with our El Salvadorian brothers and sisters.

We sang songs in English and in Spanish, and all throughout it, hearing my worshipping voice mingling with theirs, I knew God was smiling.

Working in eye glasses, I was humbled often. Many teared up just at my request of praying for them. Many said they had never heard the name of Jesus. Many didn’t want to believe in Him. But all were beautiful, made in God’s image, and full of personality and life experience. Below is a new friend who helped me communicate, sharing the Gospel with a little girl.

The chance to speak about Jesus, to share how He changed and continues to change my life, to care about the details of someone’s life in love, has marked me.

This past week was a free fall in trusting God’s power, faithfulness, love, and glory to flow through us in every encounter we had. It was a week of “God, please open my eyes to this person’s heart and needs,” and “Please help me say this clearly so they understand” and “God, in your grace, please rescue this person.”

God blessed our team with many things, not only the joy of sharing His Gospel and providing medical care. Our team became fast friends, people I hope to stay connected with for a long time. We were sustained by delicious food and unique local cuisine. We slept well, and for the most part, stayed completely healthy.

J loved playing soccer with anyone who would join him, and was deeply encouraged and challenged by good conversation with our translators. The pastor we partnered with this week also loved us by giving us a sweet day of rest at a beach nearby our last day in El Salvador. Our team ate together, reflected on our time at the clinic, laughed together, rested, and enjoyed God’s beautiful creation.

One take-away for me was the truth that God never changes, and He is perfectly faithful, trustworthy, good, gracious, and glorious (among so many other attributes). His nature does not ebb and flow based on my high level faith or confidence in my abilities or even peace about a circumstance. By the end of our first day working in eye glasses, I felt tired and insecure about my ability to serve the El Salvadorian people well, physically or spiritually. But as the week wore on, it was made clear to me that even in my humanness, my learning how to communicate through a translator, my inability to work or speak like someone else, God will never not be Himself. In other words, He wouldn’t change His mind about capturing someone’s heart because I fumbled through the Gospel presentation in an unfamiliar encounter. His faithfulness rests on who He is, not on what I’m doing. 

I repeated 2 Timothy 2:13 often: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself.”

He is good, faithful to save, and merciful, regardless of me. A marvelous thing, though, is that He did enable and fuel me by His Spirit to be competent in sharing the truth of Jesus to those who didn’t know/believe Him, answering questions, fielding awkward responses, knowledge of eye pain, and speaking through a translator.

Trusting and believing His nature, planting ourselves in who He is, eases much of our self-doubt, worry, pride, and lack.

 

+++++

 

Our team leader made a statement that stuck with many of us: we can give people all the medicine in the world, but they are still going to die. They, we all, need Jesus more than even medical help.

Profound.

Jesus is lasting hope. Jesus is ultimate healing. Jesus is our greatest joy in all kinds of circumstances or sorrows. Jesus is the Rescuer and Redeemer of our souls. His statement challenged me in my Jesus-sharing practice here at home. A person at the grocery store or bank or post office, my neighbors, new friends I meet – I must be bold and I must love them better by always pointing to Jesus.

A decorated home, stylish clothes, a successful job, more achievements, an impressive resume, constant access to entertainment… these things can become hindrances to our intimacy with God, not building blocks. Spiritually speaking, our trusting Jesus to be our righteousness, our life, our reason for loving others is our purpose and peace in life.

Lord, make us grateful people. Help us love You with our minds, hearts, souls, and strength, and be changed by that Love.

We are not the point, we are pointers. God is always the point.

You can take your life off your shoulders because God has placed it on his. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter how you live, but that your security is not found in your faithfulness, but in his. He can be trusted even when you cannot. He will be faithful and good even when you’re not. He will do what is right and best even when you don’t. And he is faithful to forgive you when convicting grace reveals how unfaithful you have been. Rather than giving you license to do whatever, this truth should give you motivation to continue. His grace calls you to invest in the one thing that will never come up short, and that one thing is the faithfulness of your Lord. Paul David Tripp

5 Comments

  • Kim AKA "Mom"

    Beautifully said, my sweet daughter! I love you!

    01/24/2018 at 9:22 pm Reply
  • Lloyd

    Good job Chelsea.

    01/25/2018 at 3:30 am Reply
  • Maydene Barfield

    Thank you so much! Beautifully said!!
    Love you!❤️

    01/25/2018 at 8:23 pm Reply
  • Alice Smith

    encouraging words

    01/27/2018 at 10:30 pm Reply
  • Francisco Sorto

    Awesome! You guys made an excellent job! Hope to see ya soon, we miss you and love you a lot!

    02/12/2018 at 1:43 am Reply
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