Although I knew about Exodo, never would I have ever imagined it to be like it was for me when I went there. My mom spent day after day, and night after night preparing for this trip to El Salvador. Nothing was different in that respect; it was just like I had seen her do in previous years. However, there was a definite change in atmosphere since she knew that this year I was going to be with her. I remember her telling me all about Exodo and how life-changing it is to see how grateful and loving these children are despite what they had been through in the past. I never doubted what my mom said to me, but I never truly internalized what she was saying to me. It honestly went in one ear and out the other. Was I in for a surprise!
Before I knew it, the day had come. I was going to El Salvador! The feelings my mom and I had were a mix of anticipation and a little anxiety. (Mom was the trip leader after all.) Regardless, we were extremely excited and I had no idea what was in store for me beyond the border. Soon, we were off and after what seemed like the blink of an eye, we were in El Salvador. The team arrived safe and sound. Now it was time to prepare for going to Exodo, the heart of this whole trip!
I was excited to get to Exodo and meet the girl my family sponsors. Her name is Karen and she is about my age. But, to be honest, the entire way there, I was very nervous about meeting all the kids, not just Karen. I had seen pictures of them from my mom’s previous trips and I felt like I knew who they were and I heard almost all of their stories to some degree. But I had never spoken to any of them. I was terrified that they were not going to like me and I was very intimidated by the language barrier between the kids and me. However, I was quickly proved wrong. As soon as we all arrived, the children greeted us with big smiles and cheerful attitudes.
Although I lingered for a moment to take in the scene, that did not hinder the children from greeting me. One little girl in particular took an immediate liking to me. Her name was Deysi and I fondly remember her always hugging me while smiling the most adorable smile. I loved her personality and I was really happy that she was in the group that I was shepherding. The first day of VBS, Deysi sat on my lap participating happily with the other children. Then something caught her attention. She got off my lap and turned to face me. Her hand reached out towards my neck and she pulled on the chain on my neck. I smiled. She was curious about my Saint Christopher medallion. I attempted to tell her about him, but I could not speak Spanish. But then after a few minutes of trying to communicate with her, she said something that made my heart stop. “I love you” were the words that came out of her mouth, in perfect English. I was baffled beyond words. I nearly began to cry. I cannot say what the feeling I had was, but I truly believe it was a blessing from God.
Every day and every activity at Exodo with the kids was a huge amount of fun for me. I was taken aback by their joy throughout the week. Being able to share God’s love with these kids while also replenishing my own faith was more than I could have ever asked for. Through the entire week with the children, I could not wipe the smile off of my face when I was there. The Lord was with the team and I throughout the entire trip and I believe that no one will forget their experience with the Exodo children. I know I will not. I would highly recommend going on this trip to anyone who wants to work with amazing children while also growing closer to new people and God!
By Lily Malcomb