“Buenos dias” said the man with a broad smile wearing a security guard uniform and having a sawed off shotgun over his shoulder. He unlatched the gate and swung it open for us. This was a nicer part of San Salvador and we were staying in their version of gated community. The first house on the right was the Love and Hope Orphanage, surrounded, as all the houses are, by a high wall topped with razor wire. You ring the doorbell and someone opens a steel door and lets you in to the small court before the pleasantly sized home and its twenty or so children.
Inside a busy household is at work. Children are completing their homework or kicking a ball on the small, well manicured lawn area. Dinner is cooking, the tias and tios are helping with school work, tending a bruised ego, picking up toys, or sitting quietly with someone. It is a true home of sorts and we were invited to come stay with them for a few days.
A young man joined the Catholic Church and the parish not long ago. Hoping to get him more involved I asked him what his interests were. He studied languages in college and now we are blessed that he offers classes in Latin for kids and adults at the parish. “What are your other passions?” He told of his mission activity down in El Salvador at an orphanage. As it turns out until recently there was a parish in our area that took mission trips there and parishioners from St. Sebastian often joined in but they no longer go.
“Why don’t you put a mission trip together?” I offered him never thinking that he’s do it.
But he did.
And so eight of us got out passports out, packed bags and sunscreen and hopped on a plane with him at an hour in the morning I hadn’t seen in a long time.
When I got to the airport (at the agreed upon time I might add) I was the ONLY one there. It turned out to be a good thing however as it would allow me to avoid publically embarrassing myself. Going up to the counter to check a bag the lady behind the counter asked, “May I see your ID.” Reaching into my wallet it was discovered, much to my horror, that I did not have my driver’s license! This was the EXACT dream I had just the night before.
The day before I was at the ATM machine to get some funds for the trip when I realized all the cars stashed in my wallet had fallen out. Had I dropped my driver’s license and lost it?
“Do I have time to go to Akron, get my license, and get back?” I asked the airline representative.
“Well,” she paused, “If you hurry.”
I ran out the door angry with myself. A bus would have to be taken to my car already nestled in ling term parking, a mad dash made to St. Sebastian, a frantic search for my license, and then start all over again (assuming it was found).
Feeling dispirited standing on the sidewalk waiting for parking bus it occurred to me, “Wait. I have my passport. Shouldn’t that work?” So I went back in and asked, “Can’t I just use my passport?” The lady said, “Yes. I was wondering how you thought you would get into El Salvador without it.”
So we all eventually – a common theme for the whole trip - made it to the airport and on to the plane. A flight attendant stopped by our seats and asked, “Are you missionaries?”
Confused we answered in the affirmative but asked, “How did you know?”
“Nobody from the states just happens to go to El Salvador unless they are surfers or missionaries. And you don’t look like surfers.”
And thusly did our trip begin.
To be continued.