As many Good Shepherd parishioners know, our parish has had a sistering relationship with a Salvadoran community, El Buen Pastor for over 20 years. Through this we send support, both financial and spiritual, to the people of the community as well as delegations of local parishioners to El Salvador to experience what it is like living in a small, impoverished, rural community in the Salvadoran countryside and grow in brotherhood with a community so far away. Just recently I was one of the delegates who traveled to El Salvador and got to experience the country — everything from the heart-warming welcome of the Salvadoran people, to the grim reality of the mass poverty and violence that plagues the country. Looking back on this, I realize that this experience has changed my life, and the only thing left for me to do is speak to those who have not gone to El Salvador about the experience I had with our brothers and sisters in El Buen Pastor.
Our delegation spent three and a half days in the capital of El Salvador, San Salvador. This is the largest city in El Salvador and where we saw some of the true beauty of the country, as well as some of the devastating national problems that the people in El Salvador face on a daily basis. One of the things that stuck out the most is the different types of housing all over the country, from brick one-story houses to small tin and aluminum shacks that litter the green countryside. Seeing such warm, compassionate and strong people living without common luxuries that I take for granted such as running water or looking out the window of the bus and seeing hundreds upon hundreds of small shacks built out of aluminum and other trash really got me thinking about what it would be like to live in El Salvador and not have so many of the things that I have. It was very touching just to look outside at a dilapidated, poorly built house and know that an entire family lives there. It made me want to bring justice to these people who have no hope of rising up in the world without the help of others.
Another very important part of our trip to El Salvador was going to El Buen Pastor and living with the people who are so close to many people of Good Shepherd parish. Some of the community members had previously been to Good Shepherd and all of the members were very welcoming and always gave all they could to make sure we were comfortable as guests. Seeing such great, amiable people working together with so little materialistically but so much spiritually really touched me in a deep way. It showed me that you don’t have to have a lot of fancy things to be happy. These people are a true testament to working for brotherhood and solidarity with each other. Their community was one of the tightest knit communities I have ever experienced. They take care of each others’ kids and help each other with work in the community. It made me wonder why communities and neighborhoods in the United States aren’t as close-knit and caring as El Buen Pastor.
Overall, what I’ve learned from my trip to El Salvador is that the Salvadoran people still need our help, and they have so much to teach us about hospitality and brotherhood. Going to a different culture and seeing how these people live has really showed me how much we, as cultures, need each other. We all must learn from each other and help out as much as we can. We owe it to the people of El Salvador as well as ourselves. We cannot forget about those who live far away because they need our help and have so much more to show us.