by Connie Hefner
When asked to reflect on the trips I had taken with the El Salvador delegations, so many memories surfaced. In the end, I found that those memories were all about family.
It was about meeting the men, women and children of El Recreo for the first time. I must have said, “Como se llama?” (What is your name?) and answered , “Me llamo es Connie.” (My name is Connie.) at least a hundred times.
Another memory is about being greeted by the families as our truck was just outside of El Recreo. It was about our friends gesturing, urging us to come out of the truck and walk the rest of the journey with them. The memories were about a child asking to carry my backpack and another slipping her hand in mine as we walked.
It was about looking into the eyes of a woman my age as she told me of her mother’s declining health. I understood and she knew that, because I told her my mother’s health was declining too.
One memory included a jubilant visit with a family, below, in their home, whose son was home for one day to greet us. He is in the seminary and when his studies are completed, he will be the first priest from El Recreo. It is about my opportunities to stay in touch with him through social media. He tells me about his family and what he is studying. He sends photos.
There are funny memories of times when I was trying to speak Spanish. Our friends were very patient with me. I could read the smiles on their faces when I had said something totally wrong and also how they celebrated with me when I got something right.
It was about sitting in church at Mass in El Recreo. We were listening to Fr. Vince say Mass in English and listening to the Mass in Spanish as Andres, one of our translators, spoke. There is a memory of sitting there in Mass when a little girl left where she was sitting in church with her family only to come slide onto my lap and put her arms around me.
Each time I traveled to El Recreo I learned more and more about the people, their families, their hopes, their celebrations, their trials and their needs.
The memories are about the times, on our last evening in El Recreo, when it is time to climb into the back of the truck for departure. It is about the longer hugs, the bigger smiles and yes, some tears.
It is about the anticipation of my next return. There was a new baby girl born, since I was there last, who I will get to meet and hold. I am sure her family is so very proud of her.
The memories are about smiles, hugs, laughter, conversation and blessings. Many blessings!
I always feel that I leave El Recreo with a full heart because of the many blessing they have given me.
The memories are captured in photos that hold a very special place on the wall near my computer where I am writing this. Those photos are of my El Recreo family. I always count the days until I can go see them again. After all, they are my FAMILY.