El Salvador: Everything was born from an initial ‘yes’

On the plane, leaving his country, Carlos was crying and trembling with fear. Thirteen years later, he discovers what God has done with his fragile yes. “If you eat, if you drink, if you live, you are doing mission.”
Carlos Fernández

Since I arrived in El Salvador, in April 2006, I have had first-hand experience that the Christian event is made present through every baptized person, regardless of whether one plans it and despite any uncertainties about our faith. As Julián Carrón has said, on more than one occasion, "if you eat, if you drink, if you live, you are doing mission". I can confirm that, during all these years, the Lord has used my person as an instrument to make himself tangible. This happened specifically in moments of greatest human fragility, where there is no room for pride, to help avoid the temptation of thinking that things happen because of our capacity or our effort.

Like so many things in life, especially the most important ones, the decisions that mark a before and an after start from a simple proposal from someone you trust. For me, it was a job offer from CESAL (an NGO) in El Salvador, almost 14 years ago. I said yes, feeling fearful and insecure, but with an undeniable promise that there was something important waiting for me. On the plane, I cried with sadness and fear. But many of my friends had encouraged me to go, to take the radical step that they perceived I needed. I could do nothing else but lower my guard because things had always gone well when I trusted them.

I felt like I was only going to El Salvador in order to work. I didn’t perceive it, from the beginning, as a mission. I was so bewildered that it was hard for me to think about anything else than settling in and "surviving". However, because of my need to have people accompany me in doing School of Community, I began to develop a group of friends. It was precisely this greed for companionship that made me more attentive to what I had around me, to embrace and propose as I had never done before. In spite of my fears, from the beginning, I realized that this was the place for me because everything flowed, relationships were fruitful and, at each step, a new and attractive life was sketched out. All of this happened, despite the fact that El Salvador is not exactly a place that gives a good impression because of its social violence and inequality.

But, even if sometimes you feel the pressure, God makes it easy for you when you need it. For example, once in the country, the first face I came across, at the airport boarding gate, when I needed it most, was that of a colleague from CESAL in Honduras, José R. Parmo. His friendship, from that moment onwards, has been one of the pillars that has sustained this adventure. Or when a nun, who knew about movement, told me that she and the rest of her sisters had been praying, for some time, for someone from CL to come to El Salvador. Who prays for someone without even knowing them? It’s out of this world. Along the way, many encounters with people from all walks of life that mark you and that are marked by That which we carry.

I have learnt many things during these years. One of the most important things I learnt was that vocation is nothing other than following Jesus. For many, perhaps, this is obvious. But it was a great challenge for me. Often we interpret vocation as the completion of the path- priesthood, marriage- as something really important because it represents that specific way of life that He has prepared for you, so it will be a little less tiring to follow Him. But no, it’s one of the gifts that He gives you. Vocation is the path itself. Although my wife and children arrived as an unimaginable grace at the beginning of this adventure, everything happens from an initial yes, which constantly renews itself.

After this important part of my life in El Salvador, as the possibility of returning to Madrid begins to appear on the horizon, I realize that mission will continue wherever I am. It will continue as an overabundance of what has happened to me, which makes His Presence transparent without even expecting it, when it surpasses my humanity.