April was full of planning and computer work, so I thought I’d tackle some FAQs I have received a few or a hundred times from you guys and missionaries that come to serve with us. And of course, if you have any more curiosities about missionary life in El Salvador, feel free to reach out. Enjoy!
How did you make it to San Salvador as a missionary?
I visited San Salvador and the ministry I now work with in March 2014 with my home church, Rock City, in Columbus, Ohio. I was a new Christian and recently baptized, so I thought it would be a nice way to spend my Spring Break. I almost immediately fell in love with the children at the center and the locals we served with, and by the end of the trip I knew I wanted to come back a few months later on the next Rock City trip. In June 2014 while at the children’s center for the last day of the week, I felt God asking me to move to San Salvador and serve at the centers full-time. The process included speaking with my family and leaders, going to San Salvador for an exploratory trip, graduating college, a couple trainings and of course the monumental task of raising support. But, the Lord was faithful and in October 2016 I made the big move!
What did you parents think about you moving there?
I get this question much more often from locals here in El Salvador, which at first confused me and almost offending me, assuming people were commenting on my youth and gender, thinking that there was no way I could’ve made it without the help of my parents. I soon realized that actually this question was reflecting the cultural difference in that Latin cultures tend to place more importance on family unity. Regardless of their age, it is very rare in El Salvador for single women to move out of their parent’s home and live with roommates, etc. So, the idea of me willingly moving by myself to a developing country is surprising for many Salvadorans.
Anyway, to get back to the question! Both of my parents have been very supportive of my work here in San Salvador. Of course, they had lots of questions and were worried at first for my safety, but both trusted that I was in good hands with the locals I live with and because I am following God’s Will. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
How long do you plan to be there?
I’ve learned over the last few years that God has His own plans that often don’t match up with mine. That being said, I have no plans to return to the States or to another country within the next couple of years! As for more long-term plans, well, I think it’s too soon to tell. That is one of my favorite things about being a Reliant missionary, because we have no minimum or maximum time commitment from the beginning of our assignment and are able to sustain that because of the recurring giving model that our supporters are on (THANK YOU!). This allows me to focus on my mission here instead of worrying about choosing from the get-go what my long-term plans are.
What do you actually do on a day-to-day basis?
To be honest, this is a pretty difficult question to answer because each day really is different. I usually spend one day a week at each of our children’s center to update profiles and keep up communication with their sponsors. The other three days of the week are spent between working at home or in a coffee shop and running personal or ministry errands around town. I’m currently spending Saturday mornings teaching English and Sunday mornings with our church family.
In case you missed it, check out my recent video updatewhich details my weekly schedule out a bit more.
What are your favorite things about El Salvador?
By far my favorite thing here is working with the children at our development centers! They are what first captured my heart four years ago and they are still the ones who help to remind me of the “why” when I’m having a hard day. My hope for them is to know Jesus as their Savior and to strive for a better future knowing that God is on their side.
Some other favorites include:
- the friends I’ve made and serve alongside at church
- Salvadoran style breakfasts: beans, bread, fried plantains, cheese and eggs
- Mango season: mangos literally fall off of the trees everywhere
- the almost always sunny weather: a huge improvement from ice Ohio winters
- There isn’t a lot of racial diversity in El Salvador, so anyone who isn’t Latino sticks out and people instantly know they’re from a different country. So, my blonde hair and blue eyes win me a lot of staring and comments that I wasn’t used to in the States. Although some days this can be a little annoying, I’ve learned to accept it and not take offense.
- Because of the violence in El Salvador, I need to be conscious of the places I go and I almost never go anywhere alone. Being an introvert that was pretty independent back in Ohio, this has been a difficult adjustment. Having people here that take good care of me and are looking out for my best interests has made this transition easier.
- The traffic in San Salvador can be a nightmare (much worse than Columbus, no matter what you think) and rush “hour” lasts pretty much until mid-morning and another few hours in the evening. This aspect of life has increased my patience while living here.
Is it hard being away from your family?
Extremely. I had moved away from home four years before moving to El Salvador, but it is totally different simply not living with your family and living thousands of miles away. There are days I really miss being able to hang out with the people that know me the best and that I can feel completely comfortable with—in English! It’s also hard missing birthdays and other life events, but we do our best to keep up with WhatsApp, FaceTime, etc. Some days are harder than others, but knowing that my family supports the work I am doing here makes it easier to focus and enjoy the amazing moments I get to live in San Salvador.
Are you fluent in Spanish?
Short answer, yes! I was fortunate enough to have taken Spanish classes in high school and part of college, which helped to prepare me to learn to speak fluently while living here. I also have LOTS of practice because most of the people on our staff and our kids do not speak English, forcing me to put the effort into Spanish early on so I could do my job! But don’t get me wrong, there’s still a ton of words I am still learning and when I’m tired it definitely feels more difficult to speak Spanish well.
What do you miss the most from the States?
- TARGET! But really, other than my family and friends, I miss the ease of doing and buying things quickly and efficiently. Even tasks like depositing a check can take hours in a Salvadoran bank, and I grew up going to the Drive-Thru ATM for most of my banking needs.
- The variety of local restaurants in Columbus. I loved going out with my friends to try new places, but in San Salvador there are less reasonably-priced options.
What are some lessons you’ve learned living abroad?
I think I’ll be able to answer this question better in several years looking back on my time here, but some things stick out in my mind right away.
- Working in ministry means there’s a ton of things that staff and volunteers do behind-the-scenes that are never seen much less acknowledged by those we serve and those around us. I’ve learned that this work requires us to be focused on doing this for God, because we would be exhausted very quickly if we did it for the approval of others! (Colossians 3:23)
- We will never reach the place of “I’ve made it”. While raising support, I was so focused on making it here and believing that was all that I needed. I soon realized, however, that as amazing as this stage in my life has been, each transition brings its own challenges and ups and downs. All we can do is keep our hearts and minds close to His as we hope to live out His Will each day.
- God is faithful. He has brought me to this ministry and has always provided exactly what I’ve needed while being here. He has kept me safe and has blessed the family I live and serve with.
I hope you enjoyed reading a little more about my life as a missionary, until next month!