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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Boys on a Mission
Students from Maryland take mission trip to El Salvador

8th graders on Mission to El Salvador
Holy Redeemer students on a mission to El Salvador.

By Michelle Ardillo

Four 8th grade boys from Holy Redeemer School (Kensington, Maryland) and their fathers departed on December 18, 2013, for El Salvador to participate in a mission trip led by Father Michael Sliney, LC, accompanied by Brother James Wilson, LC, and chaperone Michael Jacobeen.

The Holy Redeemer contingency, part of the larger group thirty strong, included Tim Harper and two of his sons, Holy Redeemer alum JP and 8th grader Timmy; Mike Kirvan and 8th grader Finn; David Smith and two of his sons, Kyle (another HP alum) and 8th grader Garret; and Terrell Roberts and 8th grader Johnny.

Upon arrival at the airport, the group traveled from the San Salvador Airport, with armed guards, to the local town of Zaragoza, the central town where they stayed, prayed and ate.  Holy Redeemer parishioner and parent Tim Harper said, “It was an oasis in the middle of poverty.”

While the mission trip began on December 18, 2013, preparation for it began much earlier. The missionaries were asked to collect shoes, clothing and soccer balls from their local school and church communities.  As Tim Harper said, “The response was tremendous. The various workplaces of the attending fathers, schools of the kids, and local businesses, all showed their Christmas giving spirit in fulfilling this request.” 

Attendees each packed their two allotted checked bags full of shoes and clothing.  The grand total of donated items included 900 pairs of shoes, numerous items of clothing and lots of soccer balls, and thousands of rosaries.  Local sporting equipment company, Under Armour, and Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart (Bethesda, Maryland) provided some new clothing and shoes. Cash donations were used purchase more shoes and Spanish bibles. 

The evangelization also began before the missionaries touched ground in El Salvador. In the DC areas, as they requesting and collecting donations, the boys and their fathers were constantly asked questions about the "Mission."  Tim Harper said, “People wanted to know about it and participate to help others. This was truly inspiring.”

He shared an itinerary: “Each day of the six-day mission trip began with daily reflection and prayer followed by a breakfast.  Each meal was filled with a ‘voluntary talk from an expert among us’ directed by our leader Father Michael and then some wonderful words of encouragement led by Father Michael.  We then descended on a local mountainside village.  We visited people in their homes and let them know that someone cared about them. We would pray and sit with them.  Our day culminated with soccer and arts with the kids.  We led a Mass which turned out to be their Christmas Mass and Posada festivals.  The villages would be fortunate to have a Mass once a month so our Mass was special.  People said they prayed that we would return again (this group has been going for seven years).  We sang Christmas carols at every stop, including a wedding of seven couples.”

The villages visited were very poor, mostly homes of dirt floors and indoor burning fires.
Timmy Harper (Jr.) was asked to say one thing about his visit and he responded, "This is my second year going to El Salvador; people were so happy that we came back.  They told us they prayed for our return.  That made everything worthwhile.”  JP Harper shared, “What I noticed most was that people had nothing yet were so very happy.”

The last day of the trip was spent preparing for the "Christmas Giveaway."  Over thirteen hundred people who had attended the mission group’s Masses in the villages of Corinto, Carrelito, Brumas and Cimmaron were given tickets allowing them admission to this event where they could select from the items that had been donated. The people were amazed by the generosity of the United States.   Everyone who attended received something for Christmas. 

Tim Harper also spoke about how Father Michael asked some of the non-Spanish speaking members of the mission group to lead a rosary in Spanish to those fourteen hundred anxiously waiting villagers.  This vividly showed the power of this mission trip, having the missionaries get outside of their comfort zones to do what is not easy. “God works in mysterious ways,” said Tim. “We went to give to others but we received far more than one could ever expect.”

The group returned to the DC area on the evening of December 23, singing “Hark the Harold Angels Sing” as they landed at Dulles International Airport to the surprise and applause of all the passengers.  “We were terrible at singing but very persistent,” said Tim.



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