El Salvador was a place that was never on my radar. The opportunity arose to be part of a small team in October to go to schools and let them know about the English Class starting in November and I took it.
The trip was described as follows:
•go to schools an tell them about the English class.
•while we are down there we will share our testimonies & present the Gospel.
•we will go to an orphanage.
When we got there I learned we would be sharing our stories in the schools as well as pitching the class. To be totally honest I did not feel comfortable with that at all. We were going into classes and interrupting their day… (With an interpreter who would start out by walking in and announcing us..)
“Excuse me, attention please. These Americans are going to share their testimonies from their lives and talk to you about Jesus”
Crud. Man! If I was in 6th-12th grade and somebody walked in and said that… I would have slammed my head on the desk til I lost conciseness! SO BOoooooring! Because that’s how I would’ve acted that is what I expected.
We went to an average of 6 classes per day. We were usually allotted 15-20 min for the whole team. (but I usually talked for about 20-30… WHAT I have a lot of stories!!)
The teams were split up: Kristina and Myself then Frank and Desiree. The teams were well balanced each with someone who has spent most of their life in church and the other who has definitely not. When we first began I didn’t know what I was going to share. How much is too much? What is appropriate and culturally acceptable what wasn’t. (A question I should probably ask myself more.. & I usually get the answer regardless after the fact in an email or meeting 😐 )
The first day we had younger students, 4th-9th grades. I told my story and kept it lite, focusing on acceptance and being a class clown because I believed that without that I wasn’t good enough to be part of anything just being me, what did I have to offer. So I acted out to make sure they liked me. Back then I figured if they were laughing then they liked me. After I wrapped up Kristina shared her story and then Gustavo presented the Gospel (story of Christ dying for us) then we told them about the English class. The response was favorable. But the next day something interesting happened.
The following day we were dealing with mainly older 9-12th grades. Before going into a class I just kinda prayed that God would lead me to tell His story. That the kids that were in the class going through real life stuff would be able to relate. I started my story the same as the day before, using a joke that didn’t translate and got zero laughs then went into making decisions for acceptance.
In the middle of telling stories from high school I all of a sudden realized I was now talking about my first marriage, then 2nd, then 3rd, then the car accident..
Super heavy for a classroom! I will tell you what.. Those kids that were goofing around and texting and finishing their homework were motionless. All of their eyes were forward and the only noise was coming from outside. I wasn’t doing anything special… Just stopped thinking about telling my story and was now sharing it.
Huge difference between the two. When I tell my story I am just saying what happened. When I am sharing my story I am inviting people in to take part in a moment that changed my life hoping that it would play a part in changing theirs. I shared a lot of the thoughtless decisions I had made and the consequences that followed. I then shared the role Jesus has played and the decisions I now make, not because I have to… But because I want to.
It was a exhausting week. While sharing my story I reopen the door to the past pain in my life. I hadn’t expected to be as emotionally drained as I was. I ended up telling the story of the accident many times and how staying on the same road we are on because it’s easier or quicker usually contain its own set of life altering events that are not easier or quicker.
The day before we left we went to a great orphanage that the kids were healthy and happy and they acted like one big happy family. I played some soccer and took a tour then just sat down and was resting, replaying the week and being thankful that my story of pain was able to be used to stir change and introduce Christ in the hearts of some kids in El Salvador.
Then out of the blue this little girl walks up and without saying a word moves my hands out of my lap then proceeds to lay down. She was sound asleep within 60 seconds. That was the best.
I just looked up and nodded to say, “yup, that’s exactly what I needed to fill me back up… Thank you”.