El Salvador Survivors

I’ve just returned from our El Salvador mission trip. Six students and one parent chaperone went with me to work for a week at the CIDECO community and school. We also had the chance to tour the country and learn a huge amount about another culture, another climate and most of all, to experience how the other 80% of the world’s population (including the majority of our Catholic brothers and sisters) live.

CIDECO is a wonderful project. Partially funded by the papal foundation, CIDECO is a gated community of modest houses which are provided to the poorest of the poor at a modest cost. There is a school, a marketplace and a health clinic, and they are raising funds for the church and high school. Despite all being hit with Montezuma’s Revenge, we managed to help teach English, plant some trees, do sports with the children, visit in the homes and minister the sacraments.

The trip was life changing for the students. On Sunday we went to Mass at a village church, and five minutes before Mass the parish priest asked me to preach on the Holy Trinity. I managed with a translator. The Church was full of simple people-young and old. They were full of love and open hearts. They gave us the warmest welcome imaginable, and I’m not referring to the weather.

After Mass one tenth grade girl said, “Father, these people have nothing, but they are so happy! Next week we’ll go back to America where loads of people have everything, but are on anti-depressents!” ‘Bout right.

Picture posts from El Salvador for the next few days.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09356738924839809045 Andrew

    Welcome back, Father. Looking forward to your posts. Did you celebrate Corpus Christi on the ‘real’ day in El Salvador?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09892945376087212097 Jeff

    I’ve had the wonderful privilege of taking mission trips to Honduras twice now and the experience is unparalleled. Working with the poor in the third world is truly doing God’s work. Welcome home.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    They celebrate Corpus Christi on the Sunday, but on Thursday I did lead the school in a procession with the Blessed Sacrament to an outside altar where we had prayers and Benediction. Photos to follow

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07822146312033633535 ~m2~

    …and usually folks with little or nothing share what they have with others.makes you think.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01718162592660319087 Radical Catholic Mom

    M2,Isn’t that so true? I have had a woman give me her last piece of bread merely because I was her guest. Fr. Dwight,is this your first time in a 3rd world country?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    No. I visited India in the mid 1980′s. I’ve also been to Egypt if that counts…It was during my visit to India that I met Mother Teresa.

  • ali

    I think you have to pay me or something for using my quote in your blog father dwight…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Ali, you got it…a year’s supply of re-fried beans served with bananas.

  • ali

    I will never eat frijoles again for as long as I live…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08110491371985845560 Apostolic Anchoress / Rowena Hullfire

    LOL fr d/ali… ha.M2: so true. Since I was of an age to choose my own friends, much to the chagrin of my proper English parents, I’ve always chosen poor people as my friends. My parents wished I would choose more upscale and respectable people.Why?Vigorous faith: when you’re desperate, you cry out to the Lord in faith. The rich and comfortable are rarely that desperate, so they have a very respectable religion but “let’s not get carried away.” The poor are desperate on a regular basis–and because they cry out, the Lord provides, often in miraculous ways. Want to witness a miracle? Hang out with the poor. God listens to them and answers their prayers.Generosity: my best friend is so generous, she’ll give you her last food stamps with too much month left if you need it. She has amazing compassion on others and acts on it. I’ve witnessed this among many poor people.Relationships with family and friends are different: interdependence, not some false American self reliance, looking after #1, never let ‘em see you sweat, pull yourself up by your bootstraps crap. These folks think bootstraps are a luxury. They pull each other up. They ask and receive from each other and see a need and rush in to meet it without being asked. Shared joys are magnified, shared burdens are lightened. Nothing atomistic and individualistic and isolated about it. You don’t mind your own business. You care for others.Of course not all poor people are righteous, and all of us sin and have faults…these are just general things I have observed. I’ve been amazingly blessed by my poor friends, and they have retained their great qualities even though they’re less poor than they used to be.I like living in a high poverty area, too, and stay here by choice. The people are solid gold. When I travel elsewhere and it’s the same old oneupmanship, hyperconsumption, ostentation, social climbing, stratification, etc., –gated corporate subdivisions, yuck!–it makes me flinch and recoil. I am so blessed to live where I am.And it’s nowhere near as poor as El Salvador, of course!!!