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Original Images of El Salvador
Cassandra Shin
Culture

Going on a Mission Trip to El Salvador Changed My Life

The summer after my sophomore year of high school, I went on a mission trip to El Salvador with my church. I went thinking that I was going to do some good for the Salvadorians and didn’t really think about anything else. While I couldn’t locate El Salvador on a map, I did know it was somewhere close to Mexico, that the common language in El Salvador was Spanish, and that it was a place with constant gang activity. Not knowing what to expect, I was shocked when I deboarded the plane and saw the buzz of energy flowing through the city. 

Through the windows of the bus, I saw the aliveness that flooded the streets of the city as passerbys moved through the crowded streets in a seemingly choreographed dance. While I would’ve normally felt nervous in such unknown territory, I could only feel excitement at what we were going to do over the next couple days.

We worked closely with a church/school in El Salvador where most of the high school ministry spent their time with the kids. I spent a lot of time with my church’s medical team which gave me a unique opportunity to see more of El Salvador than some of my peers. The medical team offered physician, pharmaceutical, and dental assistance to anyone who came to our clinics. It was in the clinic that I started feeling my heart open up to these people and I realized how much I was getting back just from being here. The Salvadorian people had so little to give, and yet anything they could give they would. These people had real medical needs and yet I don’t think I met a single person who wasn’t grateful for the help we gave and had a positive outlook on their rather hard situations. Some of these people had to wait for hours on end just to get their medication, and yet not one complaint came from their mouths. The last thing I did on this trip before leaving El Salvador was make a beaded cross necklace with some of the children at the church. I wanted it to be a reminder of how I felt in this country and the lessons I had learned from the people here.

Coming back to the United States, I hung that necklace in my car hoping I would look at it and be reminded of my trip every time. Sadly, a couple weeks went by, and the necklace just became another trinket in my car. A year and a half later, I was driving home from a particularly boring day at school when I saw a man on the side of the road asking for donations for his church. Normally, I wouldn’t have rolled down my window, but nevertheless, I rolled down my window to see what he had to say. Immediately, he saw my cross necklace hanging on my dashboard and asked me about it. We had a conversation for a couple minutes before the light turned green but I felt like I needed to do something. Not having any money on my person, I decided to give him my cross necklace but before driving away he reached into his pocket and gave me his rosary telling me that this saved his life more than a couple times. Telling him my story made me realize how easily I fell back into old habits of thinking selfishly when I came back to the United States. Now, I have a new trinket hanging from my dash, but every time I look at it, I’m reminded of the conversation I had with a man I don’t know. 

I feel like we can learn a lot from the people of El Salvador. They live in constant danger related to gangs, never know where their next meal is coming from, yet are still grateful for every day they get to spend with their family. In America, we tend to lose sight of what’s actually important in our lives and are only motivated by our goals and motivations. Instead of focusing on how you can get a job promotion or how to make the most money, spend time with your family and reflect on everything you are grateful for. 

Cassandra Shin currently serves as the President of Her Campus at Baylor and is a senior majoring in Professional Writing & Rhetoric at Baylor University. She was born and raised in Austin, Texas and enjoys the constant live music around the city. When Cassandra isn't studying or in class, you can find her on spontaneous adventures with friends, performing, tending to her plants, learning new things or reading. She absolutely loves the Harry Potter books, meaningful conversations with people, spending time with Jesus, and writing.
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