On June 10, we prayed for Liz Janis as she headed to El Salvador for her work with World Vision. Here is an update to what your prayers did…
As absurd as it sounds, I tend to feel fairly ridiculous when I request prayer for my work trips abroad. This reluctance is most likely attributed to the fact that I spend the majority of my day surrounded by people who were born in, lived in or have spent extensive time traveling to places that are not exactly favored tourist destinations. When you work in humanitarian response programming, it turns out that your co-workers have literally dodged bullets in Tajikistan, narrowly escaped armed rebel groups in Sierra Leone and lived under lock-down circumstances in Afghanistan.
So I guess when I submitted my prayer request to Erin prior to last week’s visit to El Salvador, I felt a little silly. It was, after all, just a brief program monitoring trip to work with my World Vision colleagues in El Salvador, to visit the shelter program we have there for families displaced by last fall’s torrential floods. When I mentioned my reluctance to my coworker and fellow Restoration go-er Grace Murphy, she helpfully reminded me that having the humility to request prayer for this kind of stuff is really half the point anyway, and basically, I probably should get over it. She said it nicer than that. But isn’t it amazing having a good Restoration pal at work to knock you in the head when you need it?
And a week later, I’m 100% certain that your prayers for my little request among the many from our community made a difference. God’s provision and movement during my four short days working alongside my colleagues in El Salvador was extraordinarily evident in all sorts of ways too elaborate to explain in a brief blog post. But I want to share one brief moment with you, when I met a shelter recipient named Maria.
First, to be clear, a transitional shelter is basically what most of us would think of as a shed. It’s an 18 sq. meter structure, usually with wood siding on 3 sides, plastic sheeting on another, a basic concrete foundation and an aluminum/zinc roof overhead. But these fairly simple structures provide safe cover from the elements to impoverished, displaced people who would otherwise have no shelter at all. (Restoration—specifically RAC’s amazing kids—helped provide money for this type of home for World Vision’s work in post-earthquake Haiti a few years ago.) Although called transitional, little kids put pictures on the walls, entrepreneurial folks cultivate elaborate gardens- they are families’ real homes for the foreseeable future.
Last Thursday I was visiting these shelters, when Maria actively sought me out from the group, pulled me aside and for nearly 10 minutes, told me in Spanish how incredibly thankful she was to me for providing these homes. After assuring her multiple times that I personally wasn’t responsible for the homes, that God and the donor and the folks on the ground constructing the homes were, Maria shook her head, saying she understood all that, but she needed to thank me because God had used me to help provide her a home which has profoundly changed her family’s life for the better.
It was a genuine, incredibly humbling moment that’s pretty rare in this complex and fairly jaded realm of work. It was a real, tangible experience of God’s kingdom moving in a terribly broken world. And I feel confident that the prayers of my brothers and sisters at Restoration somehow had something to do with God allowing me to be a part of that moment. So thanks, seriously.