BT Robinson

Bob Leonard: Reading #4

In Photographic Interaction on February 24, 2011 at 8:45 pm

The outsider coming in with ideas, means of change, ways of thinking and performances that intend to not only shape the community, but be shaped by the community. The best way I can think about this is from my own experience: a series of mission trips I took to El Salvador. Be warned: the story is personal, so I may ramble.

I can’t say the specific year that I first went to El Salvador with my home church, Greenway Baptist in Boone. But the trip itself came shaped from previous trips that smaller groups of congregation members took. The initial trip was simple: help build a home for a woman who had lost her’s to a flood. With funding by Samaritan’s Purse the team, aided by construction workers, built this home in a matter of days. Not only was the home more efficient, it was also closer to her loved ones, and to the remainder of her village. For a small, one-time trip, it was a success.

But the church decided it was not done with El Salvador. You see, another part of that first trip was a visit to a different village, called Ilopango. Near the far side of the village was a school, only two indoor classrooms, and one exterior with a roof. In each classroom, the children sat two to a chair and desk. Pair this with the lack of air circulation, and it became obvious why many of the children simply chose not to go to class.

On that first trip, the only offering made to that school was time. For the children, it was enough to see a “gringo” come to their village, and to share their time with them. But those who went on the trip wanted to do more for the school. They wanted to return. Samaritan’s Purse was okay with this. The remainder of Greenway Baptist church, however, was not. Nevertheless, a second trip was planned, one which would be geared towards the church’s youth group, allowing them (myself) to come and see, and to interact.

The goal of the second trip, the one I took, was simple. We would repaint the school’s interior and exterior, cleaning up the look of the school significantly, so that the children could take pride in the building. Not a grand endeavor, but something manageable for a youth group. The exterior was to match every school in El Salvador, alternating the blue and white of the flag. In interior was up to us. We decided to paint landscapes and Bible verses on the interior walls, brightening up the space and making it more personal. When we would be done painting for that day, we would spend time with the children, chatting with our meager translation books, playing soccer, and whatever else we could think of.

The trip was, for the most part, a success, in that it accomplished the goals it had set. Of course, the children grew familiar with us, and we became points of inquiry far beyond our time in the village. Also, in dealing with youth, many wanted to leave the school early, and return to the hotel, which was close to the beach. As far as we were concerned, we did what we came to do.

(Part II) Coming Soon…

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