When I was a little girl we had a large purple braid book that I would spend hours reading until I understood how to braid in several different styles. Then I would practice my newfound skills on my 3 sisters as we played beauty parlor. During the first two weeks of COVID lockdown (trying to make the best of a hard situation), my daughter, Ella, and I would watch Tik Tok and Youtube videos to learn different braids and hairstyles and then take turns doing each other’s hair. In 2013, with the encouragement from a friend, I decided to combine my passion for teaching and my love for fitness and become a fitness instructor. At the time, I had no idea that God would take these two very ordinary and completely unrelated skills and use them for His glory.
A couple of months ago, Ella came to me and asked me to join her on a mission trip with her school to El Salvador during the week over Thanksgiving break. There were 36 of us on our team, from high school students to the founders of the ministry who are in their early nineties, all serving God alongside each other. We set up free medical clinics in different churches throughout the San Salvador area using the local doctors, dentists, and optometrists, as well as translators to help with our mission. We worked hand-in-hand with the pastors there to ensure that when we left, the physical and spiritual needs of the community would continue to be met. Each day we loaded the bus with heavy boxes full of medicine and unloaded them at the site. At the end of the day we would repeat the process and do it all over again the following day.
Every clinic was run the same, with patients moving through 5 different stations until they got to mine—haircuts and braids! People came for the free medical care, but before they were allowed to be healed physically, we addressed their spiritual sickness by presenting the Gospel. After hearing this life saving message, the kids were whisked away to play and be told the Gospel in a way they could understand while their parents were given necessary treatments. While people waited in the pharmacy for their medications, my team of hairdressers would give them fresh haircuts and braids to make them feel their best.
I went into this trip feeling like my position on the team was less important than the rest, but once I met with my first lady, my feelings immediately changed. I realized what an opportunity we had to make these women and men feel just as good on the outside as they did on the inside after meeting Jesus for the first time! I considered it an honor and a privilege that they trusted me with something that, in their culture, defines their beauty. It was humbling for me to see how a simple braid or hair clip could change the whole countenance of their face. After each haircut, I was able to pray with each woman with the help of a translator. No one ever turned down the opportunity to be prayed over and they all gave us specific prayer requests. Being able to watch Ella pray with the women and children and lead 3 people to Christ was something I will never forget!
The locations where we held clinics were often times outdoors or in very cramped spaces. It was not uncommon for me to be cutting or braiding hair while holding a low squat position. It was during these times that I found myself praising God for my physical fitness and my ability to braid, proving once again that no gift or talent is given to us without purpose. God can and will use all of our “ordinary” abilities to do extraordinary things if we are obedient to His calling.
I am still trying to process all that I saw and heard and did this week, but one thing is for sure, God has definitely stirred my heart for missions. In one week, we witnessed over 1,800 El Salvadorans accept Jesus Christ as their Savior for the very first time! What an amazing work of the Holy Spirit who brought together the gifts of 36 North Americans and countless other local churches to meet the physical and spiritual needs of these people. As we come to the end of 2022, I encourage you to think about the seemingly “ordinary” gifts that God has blessed you with and how you can use those for His kingdom.
Let’s do this!