Thursday, October 20, 2016

An update... FINALLY!!!

It's amazing how your mind can just put things off like it's nothing sometimes. Five months in El Salvador and I haven't posted an actual written update.
I apologize, everyone.

I've been meaning to post something and I have a couple of unpublished notes, one that was completely political and unnecessary and one that was so full of my updates that it could've been a book! El Salvador has truly been a blessing and I feel like I've done so much that I've completely forgotten that there's another world away from this. Obviously, Facebook brings me back to the reality. We have presidential candidates that people can't stand, police are being targeted, and everyone who's anyone is considered a bigot for something. It's tragic really... watching my country from the comfortable distance of about 1500 miles away.

I love El Salvador, I really do. I remember when I first came here... There was another girl here 2 weeks before me and she left 2 weeks after I arrived. I have to admit, I was jealous when she left. It wasn't that I didn't like the country or the people, but teaching? It wasn't my forte, I wasn't comfortable with it. I didn't want to teach, the kids didn't even seem to want to listen to me! I confided in one of the ladies at the school, "Honestly, I'm jealous that she gets to leave! I don't think I can teach by myself!"

Fast forward to 5 months later: here I am at the end of the school year, finals are in a little over a week, and all of my lesson plans, quizzes, and tests are completed and ready to go! (What a difference planning really makes!) The kids still have trouble listening sometimes and I still struggle with classroom presence, but they and I are learning from each other. Some grades are easier to teach than others. Some kids are more self-disciplined than others. I've been forced to learn a lot about myself while I've been here. I suppose I can see why I scored so high in teaching on a spiritual gifts test, but I also scored high in mercy which means I'm a little too lenient in the classroom sometimes... They just test the small amount of patience that I do have so much!

I enjoy being here though. I'd love to stay longer if it was in God's will, but for now I believe it is in His will to return home. I've been thinking about that a lot lately... going home. There'll be no end to the questions and curiosities of everyone. "How was El Salvador? Did you like it there? What was it like spending 6 months in a foreign country? Hey, tell us about your trip!"
My response to all of the above: "How much time do you have?"

I know that my pastor is going to ask me to speak in church. For 4 months I've been trying to think of what I'd say. I'll have just spent 6 months in El Salvador... how does one sum that up in 10-20 minutes???

This place is amazing. Sure, I can't walk out on the street by myself, but I'm not a social butterfly anyway... I'm perfectly happy coming home to a quiet house every afternoon! The church here is growing and so are the people! I get to go out soul-winning twice a week with the church family and have even learned a little Spanish that way. "Buenas días! Somos de la Iglesia Bautista Emanuel." They tried to teach me the words for, "Here's an invitation!", but I keep forgetting them so it's easier to just turn to my partner and let them continue the conversation. One of those conversations ended in a prospect for the bus route, praise the Lord!

The church bus routes here are how a majority of the people get to church. Almost everyone in Cojutepeque walks to wherever they're going. There's still quite a few cars in the city; I get awakened every morning by the hustle and bustle of the street (it includes a lot of honking!). The Fridenstines have several vehicles for the routes and other purposes. Pastor told me when I first got here that you always take everything that you don't want to lose out of the car with you when we get to the church/school. Why? Because they're constantly changing vehicles! The day to day usage varies a lot. Recently, the Fridenstines were able to get the paperwork through for their short bus (the only true "bus" on their routes!) and it's been working fairly well after having sat in a parking lot for 3 years! They also just sold their van and are hoping to buy a newer one at some point. All of the ministry vehicles get pretty worn with so much use, but it's a blessing to see all of the people in church on Sundays and Wednesday nights.

Mrs. Fridenstine keeps up with the attendance on Sunday morning. It's such a blessing to have lunch with them on Sunday afternoons. I get to hear about how many were in church (150 on a good day!) and some of the ministry blessings of the week. There's always something going on here; El Salvador is truly ripe for the harvest! With that thought in mind, the Fridenstines would love to have some guy interns come down. HINT! HINT! to all of those men who want to see the mission field for what it is!

On a more personal note, this missionary family has been amazing to work with. Mrs. Fridenstine has a great passion and a love for the people of El Salvador. I recently attended her first time teaching a seminary class: Christian Womanhood. It was a week-long class for the ladies in the church. As always, she was quite transparent with them about what it means to be the wife of someone in ministry. I've heard it said time and time again that how much a man can minister and how successful he is depends on his wife. A more true statement has never been given.
Occasionally, there are moments when I get to really listen to her heart for the ministry here. Sometimes, when her sons are with Pastor and it's just her and I in the car, she talks about ministry. Some of the hopes, some of the sorrows, but always with God's perspective at the forefront. There's a reason the ministry here enjoys the successes that it does. Not solely because of one woman, but because one woman is willing to follow and submit with just as much passion and fervor as her husband. She is a role model worthy of the highest respect and honor that one could give.

I have learned so much here and there is so much more for me to learn! I wonder if I could really be as involved in ministry as the Fridenstines are, but it is only by the grace of God that I could experience the same success in my own life. I'm still struggling to figure out what God wants me to do when I go home. I know that's going to be the biggest question in everyone's mind when I get back (after all the questions about my trip, that is!). This trip has been a crescendo in my life. It's as if, after my one-year avoidance of education between high school and college, God grabbed my hand and pulled me up, higher and higher, through Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years of college, through six months in El Salvador... and now? Well, it would be tragic if He dropped me, but we all know that God is *NOT* in the business of dropping people.

Do I know what my future holds? No. Do I know where I'm going after I come home? No. Do I need to know? Eventually... but I'll leave that enlightenment up to the Divine Creator of the Universe.

"He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay,
and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."
Psalm 40:2

"But he knoweth the way that I take:
when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
Job 23:10

My life was not meant to live in stalemate. The Fridenstines helped me to realize that after asking about my plans for when I go home. Yes, I had thought about going home, living with my parents for a year, earning money and hoping for a ring (yes, yes, ya'll, I wanna be married, but there's these things called "rules" and my dad has one about graduating college and another about having a steady job. Good things to wait for in the life of my best friend.), but they reminded me that I should continue in ministry. If I stop, even for a year, where will my passion have gone? Will these six months have been for nothing more than just chocking up another missions trip to my resumé? I've been thinking a lot about this lately and it's true. My life can only keep getting better and better from here. God is working in my life, instilling more and more discipline in me, teaching me so much about life, patience, teaching, learning, compassion, love... there's so much I have left to learn and going back to some "normal" job is probably not in His plan!

Sorry, I'm really not doing well at bringing this blog entry to a grand conclusion. I'm like my dad, I ramble *a lot* on subjects I'm passionate and fired-up about, but as you can tell, this trip has greatly influenced my life. Things can only get better from here. Yes, there will always be struggles, but that's what happens when you "level-up". You know what they say: "New levels, new devils."

I have loved my time here and I've learned so much. Thank you to all who have supported me, it's meant so much to me while I've been here! I love this country and I love these people! If I could do it all over again, I would. I would encourage anyone to go on a trip like this. It's the biggest blessing you could ever receive! It's traveling, it's serving, it's seeing a heart for others like none other. Try it sometime, I promise you won't regret it!
Stephanie in El Salvador