Quinceanera Reflections from a Missionary to El Salvador
Blog post written by Kathy Knepper
Iglesia Gracia Divina (Divine Grace Church), Santa Ana, El Salvador
I have had the joy of being part of many quinceaneras throughout my life as a Latin American woman. This beautiful celebration of value is as significant for a Latin American woman as her own wedding day. The party represents the moment of transition when a little girl turns into a young woman. It's the stuff that dreams are made of for every Latin American girl and I remember dreaming of my quinceanera as a young girl growing up in El Salvador.
From the time we are little ones, we fantasize about the color of our dress, who we'll dance with and all of the festivities. This event is an incredibly important coming of age celebration. Yesterday I had the immense privilege of being part of an unforgettable quinceanera that celebrated the life of not just one woman, but one-hundred. The girls that were celebrated live in orphanages. They come from difficult backgrounds and a quinceanera celebration of this grandeur is but a distant dream for them. Last night their dreams became reality. These precious young women were showered with care and attention by a group of North American short-term missionaries who came with the express purpose of blessing their lives. They truly made the girls' quinceanera dreams come true and it was an honor to be a part of it.
The Lord called my family to serve in El Salvador almost ten years ago. My husband and I brought our four young children from California to El Salvador, the country of both of our families. We have been honored to partner with His Hands His Feet for the past seven years, serving in orphanages, building homes and ministering to the homeless community together. Being part of their quinceanera celebrations has been one of the highlights of my many years of ministry.
My entire family has enjoyed being part of all six quinceaneras that have been organized by His Hands His Feet and Sus Hijos. Last night my husband David had the honor of praying over all of the "chambelanes" (escorts) who ushered the young girls into the night of their dreams. When the girls were presented, I was overcome with emotion at the joyful expressions that were undeniable on every face. The girls were welcomed, celebrated and embraced throughout the evening. Their heard a powerful messages of hope. They received wonderful gifts of a Bible, devotional and undergarments. They enjoyed a delicious meal and cake (with nail polish decor) and danced the night away with a DJ and live music (a traditional "batucada" drum line team). It was truly a night to remember!
It warmed my heart to see the girls giggling throughout the evening, dancing their hearts away on the brightly lit dance floor, laughing and celebrating every moment together. The team visited each orphanage in the days preceding the event for dress fittings and shoe selections. They heard moving stories from our team members about how Jesus had healed their hearts from the pain of their pasts. Our team told these sweet girls that they were all princesses to their Heavenly Father. Last night their chariot arrived, they danced at the ball and transformed into princesses. Happy Birthday, girls. We celebrate your lives!
"You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy." - Psalm 30:11