Abroad for a Cause: Mission trip teaches contact is key

By Jetty Hartsky

Travel. Compassion. Helpfulness. Building Houses. Hugging little children. Smiles. Meeting new people. Staying in strange conditions. Gigantic bugs. Exotic food. Peace. Aid. Servitude. “Good person.” A storm of thoughts overtook my brain when I decided to go on my first official mission trip. I thought, “Oh, I can do this, I can be the Christian girl.” I didn’t recognize I was fated to pour my heart into a project that would create a real change in me and in others.

I expected to “suffer” in what some may consider inadequate accommodations. I expected to go days without eating food that was palatable or pleasing. I expected our message of peace, hope and true joy to be rejected. In many ways, I was resolved that I could handle any “persecution.”

We didn’t build houses, stay in strange conditions or eat too much weird food, but we did hug lots of little children and see gigantic bugs.

We were focused on serving the community in San Salvador, El Salvador. We worked with La Iglesia de Gran Comision. Our charge: to teach English to the youth of El Prado, a nearby neighborhood. Pero, los jovenes del Prado no hablan ingles.

Most people in our group had little acquaintance with the Spanish language. Therefore, teaching students who had limited English speaking skills seemed like an impossible feat that would surely require divine intervention.

We visited El Prado, walked through its streets, and brought physical and spiritual gifts. We testified in English and then in Spanish in the overly hospitable homes. We spoke of our spiritual experiences and how our lives have been transformed by a truth that none of us could deny. We saw people impacted by our stories and their hearts opened to our message.

We traveled outside of San Salvador, into jungle-like terrain, to visit children afflicted with malnutrition. I had not “suffered” or been “persecuted” in any way that I expected. And when I saw these children, I felt my heart hurt in a way that I cannot explain. Inmediatamente, I wanted to help. So, we held a mini-carnival with a piñata and all. I put on a clown face and together, we battled despair with humor.

The education one absorbs through human contact is worth more than anything learned in a book or memorized about the past. We may read ancient texts and absorb as much wisdom as we desire, but it is not until we put these words into practice that we affect humanity in a powerful way. In El Salvador, I had an experience that showed me humanity in its true form. Whether testifying in clay houses or teaching in the offices, the relationships that we built opened up the opportunities for changes in people’s hearts and lives.

The contact we have with one another makes all the difference. The relationships that we build and foster in our lives bring about the actualities of our future. Whether it’s between people from different parts of the world or people from different towns in the same state, contact matters. Humanity and its needs span the world.

Rider University and its members need true interaction to be encouraged and influenced positively. Take a moment to think about your opportunity for personal impact. How can you affect your friends and peers?

Rider is the community that you can actively work within: What would you like to see happen? The El Salvadorian experience is not limited by international borders. Rather, it abounds wherever there are people who care and people who desire to be valued.

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