Jesus visited people often. Whether it was Zaccheus (Luke 19), Simon Peter where he healed Simon’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8), or Mary and Martha who would become dear friends of his (Luke 10), he lived out a practice that he urged his disciples unto; which was that of home visitation. Jesus would teach his disciples that whether or not someone received them into their home was a way of knowing if that person was ready to participate in Kingdom development. Many of the stories we have of Jesus take place in the intimacy of the home - from weddings to funerals, from sickness and healing, of physical and social restoration. In the intimacy of those moments, true ministry takes place. This is why for our organization and for the teams that we send out, we prioritize visits to the homes of our friends and neighbors.
Our team hosts a lot of trips, each one with a different purpose and unique agenda, but one common denominator for all of them are the visiting homes. For our organization, an experience abroad is not a good one if it does not immerse a traveler into relationships with the people who live there, and stories that will impact their understanding of what it means to serve Salvadorans. This summer I and several other leaders facilitated a group of 11 participants, all either current or newly enrolled students at the Institute for G.O.D. in an intensive 3-week mission trip. Some of our objectives were that the students grow and develop a team dynamic, experience the place and the people of El Salvador in an impactful, non-touristy way, and return to the states having seen and experienced the model of ministry enacted by G.O.D. Int’l abroad.
Through visiting the poor, one has an opportunity to learn the how and why, the history and the present, of real people who live real lives, engage real struggles and have been challenged to exercise extreme faith. It’s a far different experience than walking by a house on a stroll down the street or greeting someone at the market. Through visiting homes and learning the stories of those who live there, the opportunity for speculation is removed, and real understanding is introduced.
During this trip, the young men pictured here were able to minister to a farmer who had taken a severe fall in recent months and as a result was injured and severely malnourished. The goal of their visit was not just to spend time with this man, but also to serve him by cleaning his small, one-room house, and taming the weeds and growth on his land and farm due to his inability to care for it during his time of injury. Afterward, our students reflected on their return the growth in their awareness that had taken place, realizing the utterly devastating repercussions that such an injury could have on a farmer who lived entirely off his own land.
It is common for participants when confronted with poverty that shocks the senses, to shut down, or to begin to think about other things, like when they are going home, and what their next activity is. It’s a facilitator’s job to ensure that a participant stays engaged in the present, without distraction, keeping their eyes open and their hearts soft to the people around them. It is moments like these, spending time in the homes of people who become friends, that shape the way we see ourselves, our neighbors, and the responsibility of living as God’s children in the world.
Our team learned through the stories of Josefina, a woman in her 70s who, like many of her peers, lived through the Civil War of the 1980s. Her stories are full of pain, suffering, and loss, but now she testifies to the power and the presence of God through many terrible moments that demanded courage and above all, faith.
We also witnessed the extraordinary life of Nina Maria, another elderly woman, even more advanced in years than Fina, who supports herself and her granddaughter with the fruit of their land. Maria has skin cancer and when we visited had just recovered from a severe bout of flu, none of which prevented her from being found on our arrival tending to her tomato plants in an Eden-esque garden, overflowing with good things. We sat on her porch and she shared with us both the fruit of her garden and the overflow of her heart; her testimony. That for her, obedience to God means to encourage her neighbors in faith and to share with them as much as she can from the fruit of her land. She sang us a song that implored the world not to diminish the power that the poor have - to love.