My favorite atmosphere is peace. Perhaps I value peace so much because I did not always have had it. I grew up in the midst of a civil war that lasted 12 years which caused a massive exodus to other countries, in search of living in a peaceful environment. The war in El Salvador began in 1979, when I was in middle school. I lived the experience of losing schoolmates who were slaughtered with their families. Life had no value and people were killed because of their way of thinking or because of their families or their profession or for expressing themselves against the government.
On one occasion, my friend and I were walking to a party in town. We both sneaked out in our mom’s high heels. We walked slowly because it was difficult for us to walk in those shoes. Suddenly we heard the burst of gun fire and ran with all our strength for about 6 blocks. We walked back and saw the girl who had been murdered. We did not want to go to the party anymore.
I have been in front of a firearm on a few occasions. Each time I thought that was the end. The first time it happened, there was a curfew in the country at six o’clock in the afternoon. Anyone who was in the streets after that time could be killed by the armed forces without any responsibility to answer any questions about the dead that were found on the streets the next morning. I was visiting a friend and I did not notice the time. When I realized it was around seven o’clock at night. I ran through the town towards my house. I was crossing a corner when a guard shouted for me to stop and pointed his rifle at me. He started walking towards me, at that precise moment my mom shouted at him to stop and explained that I was her daughter and she had been looking for me all over town. The guard escorted us home and we arrived without incident. I think that God took good care of me and my mom who did not care about the situation that we were living in the country and did not think twice to go out to look for me. Throughout my life I have found that my mother’s love has been the closest thing to the love of God.
I also escaped from an explosion. I was walking through the streets of my town with my childhood friend when a young man approached us and told us to run because he just put a bomb on an electrical lighting pole. The three of us ran with all our strength when suddenly we heard the explosion. My friend and I vowed that we would not tell anyone about this experience, mostly because we were afraid of being grounded.
It was very common to hear the bursts of gun fire for some confrontation between the guerrillas and the armed forces. After the signing of the peace agreements, the situation of violence continued from the gangs that refused to give peace to a suffering people.
Despite the condition of war and violence that my country experienced, at home I always had peace. My mother was an extraordinary woman who found nothing difficult. Her greatest virtue was to promote peace. She always said, I pay for my tranquility, and she taught me that it is much better to live in peace. She was orphaned at the age of seven with all her siblings. The orphanage employees came to her house to pick them up, but she did not want to go there, so she hid and they could not find her. She was determined to become someone of respect in life. She went to the Capitol city to look for aunts to live with. They took her in as a servant and never sent her to school. However, in that big house there was a very extensive library and my mom read all the books in that place. When she was an adult, she received an opportunity to take the test to obtain a teaching position with the Ministry of Education. She competed with all who had graduated from the Teacher Preparatory School. She received the highest score of all examined, and obtained a teaching position in a rural area. She later founded several schools where she was appointed Director. When I was a little girl, I saw how those schools honored her for being the founder. I was always very proud of her, she taught me not to give up no matter the circumstances. She told me “while there is life, there is hope. You are alive, you have to keep fighting to achieve your goals.” Thanks to her, the war impacted me only to value peace. I love peace. Living in peace is the ideal state we get when we have a relationship with God.
Bio: Sonia Aquino Billings is a native of El Salvador in Central America. Growing up during a civil war in her Country led her to appreciate life and pursue an atmosphere of peace. Graduating from a Theology school, she gained pastoral experience in her native country by leading a family service at a local church while working full time as a business representative. Moving to United States with her family about 10 years ago she has adjusted to a new culture and way of life. She has always felt a calling to write and using real life examples of the struggles of women gained from her pastoral experience. Billings is the author of the book A Woman’s Beauty. She has found that writing is a good way to externalize ideas and feelings that a reader can identify with. In that effort, she writes a daily devotional for women in her Facebook page, “A Woman’s Beauty”. Concurrently working as a paraprofessional for special education at a local high school she has found a passion for working with special needs kids, deciding to enroll at Aims Community College to pursue a career in education. She was inspired by her mother who was a career educator founding many schools in rural El Salvador.