People often ask me questions about El Salvador. The one that I like best is, “Why do you keep going back?” This question is the easiest of all and gives me the opportunity to open my heart to “why.”
“Why do I go back?” I go back because of love. God has given me a real love for El Salvador and the people who live there. The people have shown great love to me and I guess that’s what happens when we “love others” as God has commanded us: the love becomes reciprocal. You can’t give it without getting it and you can’t get it without giving it! God sent me to El Salvador in 2008 to a country whose name, translated, is “The Savior.” He sent me there to teach me and lead me in a new direction that was not about me at all – it was about finally listening to Him and seeing what it was that He had for me to do. I was finally seeing the world from a whole different perspective, and that perspective came from the hearts of the very people that I thought I had come to help.
I now have friends, real amigos, from El Salvador that have become part of my thoughts, my prayers, my life. They treat me as familia and I cherish the bond that has developed with them. Their faith witness has also greatly impacted me as they have displayed thankfulness and trust in God even while existing on very meager incomes and dwelling in houses without floors. They are hard-working, generous, friendly, huggable people! Speaking of hugs – I am so humbled and honored that they have given me so many abrazos, so many “no adios – hasta luego or hasta pronto” and have shared tears with me as we parted, not truly knowing if we will, indeed, meet again on this earth, though I have promised that, God-willing, “I will be back to see you next year.”
So, even though El Salvador is a country of great physical beauty, her real beauty is her people. It’s kind of funny because I’m not usually very good at remembering names, but I remember many, many names of my ES friends and I repeat them in a long list as I lift them up to God in prayer regularly. Yes, I go back because of love: love for God and love for all of them.
I have been humbled, enlightened, instructed, led, and encouraged by my experiences in El Salvador, and I intend to keep coming back as long as God grants me the opportunity.
—Roger Kimmel, Thrivent volunteer and team leader