Okay, it has been far longer than I have wanted since you last heard from me and for that I am sorry. Several factors have contributed to my silence, but it feels good to finally break that silence! Last week I returned to El Salvador for probably my 25th time in the past 20 years to work with King’s Castle Ministries. The trip was just what my heart needed in many ways. I went with a team of 13 on a Medical Missions Trip where we held clinics throughout the country for those who otherwise would not have access to medical care. Since my medical expertise is limited to being a professional patient, my niece and I did face and hand painting on the kids as they waited with their parents to see the doctors. What a privilege to have a few minutes of quality time with each child to love on them; to look into their eyes and bring smiles to their faces. It’s easy to wonder what kind of impact one can really have on a life in those few moments, but let me share a story with you…
Back in 2001 El Salvador suffered 2 major earthquakes one month apart from each other. Several months later my parents led a team down and we did relief work in a community called Via Esperanza. The people there had been displaced after the mountain behind them collapsed during the first earthquake, burying half of their neighborhood alive. The government relocated the survivors to land where there was no running water or electricity. These victims were referred to as “the new poor” as they were nominally educated, employed, middle class people before the earthquake shattered their world in 40 seconds. Though there were plans of building this new land into a permanent community with block homes, running water and electricity, at the time we visited, “home” consisted of a 12’ x 12’ tin shack for each family.
While our team was there working, a young boy came over and put his arm around me; and for the rest of the time we were there, he never left my side. As I was handing out lollipops to the many kids that surrounded me, this boy, Wilfredo, protected me. I’d give him a lollipop, but he’d no sooner give it away. This little boy, who had witnessed such tragedy and devastation and was now living in the poorest of circumstances, even tried to give me his piece of candy. Despite his age and circumstances, Wilfredo radiated love and selflessness. I had the privilege of praying with him that day as he asked Jesus into his heart.
Ever since then Wilfredo and I have kept in touch through letters and email and I’ve made sure to see him every time I’ve returned to El Salvador. Today he is 25, married and has a little girl and a baby on the way, but Wilfredo has had a difficult life thus far. He saw those around him buried alive in the earthquake. His parents were divorced. His father, who he was very close to and lived with, was killed by a car a couple years after the earthquake. Afterwards, he asked me to adopt him. I so wanted to, but between not being married and adoption out of El Salvador being nearly impossible, I had to tell him no. How we both cried. Finally, he is a pastor now but his life was threatened by a gang who told him they’d kill him if he returned to his church. As a result, Wilfredo and his family fled and now live in a different part of the country where he is still a pastor. Yet, despite it all, his faith is strong, his smile big and his heart is giving as ever as he and his family serve the poor in their community, giving out clothing and food to those most in need.
While we were together last week Wilfredo shared with me the impact I have had on his life over the past 13 years. I was humbled and moved to tears as I listened to what grew from a handful of lollipops. So if you think what you do is insignificant, think again. We each carry potential and influence that can impact another’s life when our actions are done in love. Sometimes it is through a significant act; sometimes it is through something as small as giving a lollipop.
Not only have I impacted Wilfredo’s life through the years, but he has impacted mine. From the very first day we met, he has touched my life with his love. When I buried my dog 3 months ago, I buried a part of my heart, but God chose to use that Salvadoran boy I met 13 years ago to breathe life into my heart once again. Thank you, Wilfredo, for your love that overcomes.