A Life-Changing Mission Trip
By Elizabeth Meittinis
This winter break, I had the privilege of traveling to La Union, El Salvador, to participate in a mission trip serving the families in that community by working at a camp for kids. Since my freshman year, I had been anxiously waiting for my chance to take part in this service opportunity. When I was accepted for this year, an endless amount of anticipation filled my heart and soul in the months leading up to the trip.
I couldn’t wait to meet the children we would be working with and their families. Although I was excited, I was also anxious that not knowing Spanish would hold me back from fully immersing myself in the trip. However, when we arrived, we were greeted by many hugs and smiles from the children, and I knew we could communicate through the language of love.
Upon our arrival, we were taken to the home of martyred Blessed Oscar Romero. After learning about Romero through history classes, religion classes and the multitude of service projects I’ve been on, it was surreal to see the actual home and the place where he was martyred. Oscar Romero gave hope to the people of El Salvador in a troubled time; he was a savior giving them faith during a period when the country was thrown into war. The people of El Salvador look to him as a hero and it is so beautiful to see how grateful the people are for all he gave to them.
We lived through the four pillars of Dominican life (Study, Community, Spirituality and Service) every day, but the most profound pillar throughout this trip was definitely Community. We became one big community with everyone who lived in that town, and witnessing the sense of community that they all share was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. They truly are one big family and they look out for one another and take care of one another as if they were blood-related.
We began our days greeted by hugs from all the children at the camp. Stepping out of the van and seeing the bright and smiling faces and hearing the cheerful “Buenos días” from everyone was the perfect way to begin our day, and it immediately brought a smile to my face – a smile that didn’t leave my face the entire day. Our morning routine included dancing, music and a visit from someone dressed as St. Catherine of Siena before we split up into our camp groups. The camp followed a different theme each day based on St. Catherine of Siena. It amazes me how faithful these people are regardless of how little they have. They are so thankful for everything and praise God unlike any other people I’ve ever seen. It was a beautiful and inspirational thing to witness during my time there. My faith has always been a significant aspect of my life, but it has developed even more since my trip to El Salvador.
By splitting up into groups, we got to know the children on a more personal level. We spent the day in art, music and sport workshops that were sometimes a little bit of a challenge with 2-5 year olds! As a Childhood Education/Special Education major, I was definitely in my element. Working with children is something I am extremely passionate about. I was completely drawn to their eagerness to learn, their trusting nature, and their inquisitive minds. One of my fondest memories of the week was teaching my little Dorita and Melvin how to say, “I love you.” By the end of the week, they would simply just look at me, and burst out “I love you.” What a moving feeling! Being around children and being able to make children smile brightens up my day. This trip confirmed that I am meant to become a teacher.
Through every service trip I’ve been on, I have received more than I have given. As our time in El Salvador was coming to an end, everyone in the town expressed their gratitude. They did not realize how much they have given to us. The people of La Union humbly showed us compassion, faith and unending love that I will carry with me my entire life. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of my experience and smile. Until my chance comes to go back once again, I will carry the people of La Union in my heart every day.