They say families that pray together, stay together. I would add that families who serve together, stay together.

 Shaughnessy Miller in El Salvador

Shaughnessy Miller in El Salvador

With a last name like Miller, we could have been just about any run-of-the-mill family. It's easy to become a family that spends hours in front of separate television sets and falls into their own busy routines. Prioritizing family time is difficult. My family has found a way to make it work through the years and state lines that have attempted to divide us. A key component of that has been our shared focus on giving of ourselves to the community.

We form small communities everywhere we go: familial, local, and global. It is important to connect and share with each community we are a part of. It’s also important to expand who we believe our community is. My grandfather saw every person as a member of his personal community. He and other Kansas City area philanthropists founded Homes from the Heart following El Salvador’s devastating earthquake of 2001. They saw a problem for their global community members and worked to be part of the solution. And at the heart of the mission, of course, was the focus on family, faith, and community. The best part is that HFTH partners with communities rather than dictates what they should do, which creates strong ties and models successful communal relationships.

 Siobhan, Shaughnessy, and Keara Miller with Salvadoran children during their family trip.

Siobhan, Shaughnessy, and Keara Miller with Salvadoran children during their family trip.

Another key aspect of HFTH is the focus on family as the building blocks of community. My own family was lucky enough to spend time expanding our global community in El Salvador in the summer of 2011. I had been on mission trips before through my church’s youth group, but this was my first experience on a family mission trip. We were able to work alongside the community pouring foundations for homes, but we were also able to learn about the area’s history and speak with community members about their experiences through times of war and natural disaster. The children of the communities were also very moving in their ability to connect and share with the groups of total strangers circulating through. We spent time getting to know them, reading and learning with them, and improving our Spanish and soccer skills (mostly they schooled us on the pitch). The twofold grace of being involved in service is both giving and receiving, and it was all the more meaningful to be there with family receiving these gifts.

 

It was not all hard work and reflection. From a faith and history perspective, it was powerful to hear about the liberation movement of Romero and so many others, as well as actually visit those sites. Plus we ate amazing food and experienced the country's beauty by hiking the volcano and spending time on the beach!

 

When planning your next family vacation, consider forgoing the cruise ship, road trip, or resort to come serve with Homes from the Heart. Make service a part of your family legacy.

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AuthorMeghan Sullivan