Newport Beach, CA
I've always felt a call to missions, but I have not had ample opportunities to explore this passion that the Lord has planted in my heart. However, a certain chain of events led me to El Salvador with my mother this week. I have served on two short-term mission trips in the past but did not feel that the work I was doing was truly helping. Today, I met a young girl who completely changed my perspective on this.
As we arrived at the girl's home, I was reminded of a show that I had seen shortly before the trip. In the episode, there was a character who had committed a crime. One man treated this person horribly, yet there was a woman who had compassion on him despite the sins in his past. I was thinking about how I could show compassion and love to people from different walks of life than me when the first girl entered the room. We had just covered the tables with an abundance of dresses, one could imagine all the colors of the rainbow and then some. Shoes lined the back of the room and about twelve team members lined the walls, waiting for the girls to arrive. As "Ana" walked in she seemed to display a mix of amazement and horror: all eyes were on her, all this was for her. The other girls were in class, so the entire room was truly hers.
We sat Ana down, as she was obviously feeling a lot in that moment, and began to explain what we were doing and, more importantly, why. Our team leader Jenni told Ana that God loved her and picked her just for this occasion. Then she asked me to pray. I put my arm around Ana and began praying over her while someone translated. Usually, I feel uncomfortable praying in front of people, but in that moment, I felt God speaking through me. He poured his love on Ana in a way I had never experienced before. I said things that, growing up in a Christian home, seemed to me like things everyone hears. She obviously did not hear them often. After praying that she would know how loved and precious she is, I looked over and saw a tear streaming down her cheek and a half smile creeping across her lips. Never had I seen a simple prayer effect someone so deeply.
As she dug through the rainbow of dresses, she explained (through a translator) that her seventeenth birthday is at the end of this week and that she never had a proper quinceañera. There was an overwhelming joy that came along with this perfect timing that could only be because of God. After we found her dress and shoes, we simply couldn't let go of each other. It was as if God had stretched a corner of each of our hearts out and welded them together. We didn't want to say goodbye and told each other how we couldn't wait to dance together at the party. Despite the language barrier, we loved each other in a way that I had never before experienced.
I told my mom that even if I became sick and couldn't do anything for the rest of the trip, interacting with Ana for the short amount of time was worth it. Through her I understood the importance of what we as Christians are called to do. I was able to comprehend at least a fraction of the love God has for us. I saw that, despite our differences, we are both daughters of the King and I would do anything to make sure she knows this. Every little thing that the Father calls us to do for others has a purpose and is part of his greater plan. Today I realized the power of short-term missions and the impact that one life can have on another. I can't wait to dance with Ana at the quinceanera!