|Two young boys make friends over the universal language of soccer.|
January 11, 2010. Zaragosa, El Salvador. In spite of a
one-day delay due to unseasonable snowstorms at the Dulles airport
in DC, a group of 10 dads, 15 high-school boys,
and 2 college students arrived to Zaragosa, El Salvador full
of enthusiasm—and with bags full of gifts for the local
Their mission was to support the local parish priest of
Zaragosa, who serves 30,000 people in 24 villages and is
only able to visit each village once a month for
“Our mission was to help the priest by visiting three
of his villages, promoting the Catholic faith, offering spiritual support,
and bringing some light into their lives,” said Mike Coan,
a missionary dad from Baltimore, Maryland.
During the three days of
their stay, the missionaries woke up early for prayer, meditation,
and preparation (including cold showers). After breakfast, they were off
to the village by 8:30 a.m., where they split into
teams and visited families. With the help of local interpreters
and LTP boys who spoke Spanish, they introduced themselves,
got to know the families, read from the Bible, and
prayed together. They also handed out prayer cards and let
the people know that a priest was in town, ready
to hear confessions and say Mass in the afternoon. Meanwhile,
the boys met with the local children to talk about
their common faith and play soccer.
|A group shot of the missionaries in El Salvador.|
Fr Michael Sliney, LC, spent
his afternoons hearing confessions and celebrating Mass in Spanish to
After the Mass, the missionaries distributed Christmas gifts
to the children.
“Humberto Alvarado, our local guide and assistant
to the pastor, thanked us for coming and told us
we breathed oxygen into the villages we visited,” said Coan.
added, “I think most will agree that we were given
much more than we gave. It was a quick trip
in one sense, but our days were full of activity
and intensely emotional and spiritually fulfilling.”
Dignity and joy
Visiting the local
people in El Salvador gave the missionaries a perspective on
another way of life with its own set of challenges
and obstacles. One little girl named Camila, only three years
|The missionaries brought gifts for the local children.|
of age, was being cared for by her relatives and
neighbors because her parents had been killed.
“To me, this
exemplifies the harsh realities of the living conditions and their
ability to overcome challenging circumstances with dignity and strong faith,”
said Mike Coan, adding that the missionaries prayed for the
girl and her parents in a special way.
David Wilder, another
missionary dad, said that he will never forget the little
children who made a special and unique connection with him,
rarely leaving his side. He recalled a “tender moment” with
a little boy, just awakened from a nap, who gave
him a spontaneous gesture of love.
“He crawled up on my
lap, put his arm around me, and offered a gentle
kiss to my cheek. That was worth the entire trip
and the daily cold showers!” said Wilder.
“They are a people
full of life, joy, and dignity amid certain material deprivation,”
“The Spirit of God is clearly at work and
I was humbled to be Christ’s instrument of salt, light
and peace for the short time I was among so
many smiling faces at Christmas time.”
To find out about
upcoming missions trips from the DC area, contact Fr Michael
Sliney, LC at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the
Leadership Training Program (LTP), visit the web site at www.leadershiptrainingprogram.com.