Alison Jobe is about to enter her second year at the Institute for G.O.D. This summer she participated in Da Mission: El Salvador where she learned about how God is working in El Salvador and made considerations regarding her own responsibility. She reflects on her most impactful experience here.
This summer, I was a participant on Da Mission, a month-long trip to geared towards service and learning about the kind of work the Lord wants both in Nashville and abroad. This summer’s team visited the G.O.D. Int’l. Campus in El Salvador, completing a variety of service projects and activities for younger children, youth, widows and neighbors. My experience visiting the home of a widow has continued to remind me that I can always offer myself to those around me, but that I must also continually seek to be developed, making myself a better and better resource.
Before we visited Señora Antonia’s house, we were warned that it would be an intense experience. Her 33-year-old daughter Angelita suffers from an advanced case of cerebral palsy and is mostly nonverbal. Antonia is a widow in her mid-sixties, deals with chronic pain, and is Angelita’s sole caretaker. During our first visit, I let my emotions get the better of me; the needs I saw overwhelmed me to the point where I couldn’t see how I could bring any hope to the situation. Angelita was in the center of her small home, laying in a hammock with her arm wrapped in a bandage. Antonia told us how Angelita had fallen from the hammock and broken her arm a few weeks ago. They tried to see a doctor, but rather than providing care, he sent them away. The bone was not set properly, and Angelita was clearly in a great deal of pain. I spent most of our visit forcing myself to maintain a smile, though I was furious internally. Though I believe this anger was legitimate, it made me distant, separating me from the moment where I could have been so much more engaged and encouraging. The days following that visit, my mind kept flashing back to little details of that visit: the poor lighting inside the home, the insects and chicken roaming in and out, the fact that whenever Antonia needed to go to the store or leave home, Angelita was completely alone and vulnerable.
We visited once more in the final days of our trip. The walk over takes about twenty minutes, and on the way there, I prayed and resolved that I would not allow myself to become distant this time. While the guys completed various service projects around their home, I spent the majority of my time there with Angelita. I held her hand, asked her questions with my limited Spanish. Part of the team brought her favorite food from the market, grapes, and I cut them into small pieces so that she could swallow them safely. Our translator, Amelio, asked her if she wanted us to sing a song for her, and her face immediately lit up. I was grateful for the number of Spanish songs the interns from our Salvadoran campus had taught me, because Amelio and I were able to sing song after song for her.
There was a moment that day where Amelio and I looked at each other and remarked on how much better these women deserved: better housing, access to better healthcare, and a culture which did not relegate them to the outskirts of society. I left that day with a deep tension; though I gave what I could in that moment, I did not have the power to give them any of things. It was easy to come back from a visit like that and see my personal contribution as lacking or not enough, especially as an American with the power to assuage the discomfort I experience with money or status. With that access taken away, we are left with ourselves as the resource. Though I saw value in the time I spent keeping Angelita company and showing her love, I couldn’t shake the idea that it wasn’t enough– I just kept wishing I could do more for their family.
Near the end of the trip, we had a Bible study on Matthew 25:34-40 which describes the kind of activity that marks people as blessed and worthy to inherit the Kingdom of God: clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. The passage teaches that when we serve the least of these, we are serving Jesus. We were taught that there are a few responses that we can have when we encounter the severe needs in the world: we can get angry, we can get insecure and guilty, or we can open our eyes and see what the Lord is doing. In spending time with Angelita and Antonia, my team and I were given the opportunity to participate in the exact kind of restorative acts mentioned in this passage. We brought Antonia some food staples, presented them with clothing, one of our leaders inspected and rewrapped Angelita’s arm.
All I had to give to Angelita in that moment was a few songs, grapes, and some broken Spanish. It was small, but it was a start. Through visiting these women, the Lord impressed on me just how far I have to go if I want to contribute to meeting the needs I’ve seen. They are so much more overwhelming up close, but I was struck by a deep conviction that the Lord will develop me and my teammates to be people capable of bringing restoration to the least of these.