Magis El Salvador: Spring Break Immersion

El Salvador 2014“Think back on your week. What was beautiful? What was challenging? What will you carry with you?”

At the end of the week-long Magis El Salvador immersion trip this spring, I sat in a circle with ten Georgetown students and Fr. Paul Rourke, S.J., Catholic chaplain at the Law Center. Perched on folding chairs and overstuffed sofas, the air humid and the glorious racket of barking dogs, fruit vendors, and trucks clambering over the courtyard wall, we began to reflect at our delegation leader’s prompting.

I started to scribble notes. Where had I encountered beauty this week? In the authenticity of this place. One day, when we were spending time in a rural community, a few of us slipped into the kitchen eager to dig our hands into corn masa and learn the secrets of pupusa making. As we rounded out sloppy discs of dough and tried to tuck in spoonfuls of beans before placing them on the skillet to fry, our host moms gave us encouraging smiles. Their skilled hands crafted perfectly rounded pupusas, and it was clear that we were slowing down the production line. But their gracious presence created space for us, and I felt happy and at home. Over and over again, my time in El Salvador offered moments to simply be present.

El Salvador 2014And challenge? During our week, we witnessed a mere glimpse of the suffering the country has endured through war and ongoing violence. Our home-stay community told us stories of the annual flooding of their neighborhood and the displacement to shelters that they endure. Touching bullet holes in cathedral doors, standing before the names of over 25,000 civilian victims etched onto the Monument to Truth and Memory, or walking on the grounds where Jesuits, laypeople, and Archbishop Óscar Romero were martyred, we were invited to wrestle with some of life’s deepest questions.

Perhaps it is these questions that I will always carry with me from El Salvador. What is true beauty? How do we respond to the violence in our world? How can we continue to accompany our neighbor in the same spirit of freedom, selflessness, and love that countless Salvadorans embody daily?

La lucha sigue (the struggle continues).

Chloe Benson (new window), Professional and Residential Ministry Coordinator