On Thursday, January 18 at 2:45pm I received a telephone call that I will never forget. Peter DeSoto a long-time friend and ENLACE co-worker had been shot in the neck. Peter and four ENLACE staff members were assaulted while coming home from a field visit with a long-time church partner in Abelines.
I burst out in tears as I waited to hear more news regarding Peter’s condition. My wife and close friends rushed to be with Dara, Peter’s wife, as we prayed and waited together for more news.
News slowly came in that Peter and the other four passengers in the car had arrived safely to the regional Hospital. He was stable, moving his arms and legs and talking. We continued to pray and wait for Peter to be moved by helicopter from the regional hospital to one located in San Salvador. He arrived and then was rushed to surgery.
At 1AM the doctors came out of surgery and told us that they had successfully removed the bullet and reconstructed his esophagus. They were amazed that the bullet had not damaged any major vein, spinal chord or the trachea. A group of his friends and co-workers thanked God for Peter’s life and prayed for his quick recovery.
Over the following week, we saw the body of Christ care for Peter, Dara, their children, and the ENLACE staff in the most amazing way. Peter’s parents and good friends have rallied around him and his family. Friends of ENLACE have called, emailed, prayed and sent flowers. Church and community leaders from various different communities have visited and prayed for Peter and Dara and for the ENLACE staff. I have all felt God’s presence every moment as have Peter and Dara and to the rest of the staff.
Even so the ENLACE staff has been stunned, afraid and overwhelmed. We have been traveling to Abelines for close to 8 years and nothing has ever happened to anyone. We listened to each other and gave each other the grace to speculate and fear, but knew we had to respond immediately to the church and community leaders in Abelines. We knew we had to return to assure our commitment to the church and community leaders and affirm their amazing work over the last 8 years.
One week after the shooting, several of us from the ENLACE staff returned to Abelines. A church leader met us at the bottom of the mountain, and we went up together. We met with leaders from two churches, a community association, health committee and representatives from the public school. We were all very happy to see each other. We prayed for Peter and thanked God for his powerful intervention and protection. We then began to talk about the event. They were extremely concerned for our team. They began to suggest a series of strategies to prevent future attacks. As a result, in the future they will escort us on different routes up and down the mountain. They also suggested police escort for teams.
The discussion then went from protecting our team to a general awareness that the violence in Abelines was a risk to their entire community. They began to discuss that there is no way that a small group of violent burglars could destroy or set-back all the positive changes they had worked for over the years. They stated that the majority of the community still has an incredibly positive vision of what the community could be and were willing to continue to invest time, effort and money to make it happen. As they talked, you could see the excitement they had about creating a community security plan that could help the entire community and help fulfill their shared vision for their neighbors.
We were all energized by the conversation and vowed to take concrete steps to build together a safer Abelines. We agreed to invite the leaders from all the four churches, community associations, health committee and three public schools to the next meetings to discuss the risks and possible solutions. It was truly incredible to watch the community leaders go from a sense of hopelessness and sadness to one of encouragement and excitement. It confirmed in us God’s call to equip the local church to transform their communities. It is such an honor to work alongside the church and community leaders of Abelines and El Salvador.
Please continue to pray for the DeSoto family as Peter recovers and rejoins his normal family life routine. Also pray for peace, rest and strength for Dara and the children. As well, we ask that you pray for the ENLACE family and church and community leaders as we listen to God and to each other each day. Thank you so much for all your care and support.
Co-founder and executive director of ENLACE
Peter (center) with his parents (far left) and church and community leaders from Las Delicias
CLICK HERE TO SEE A HEALTHY COMMUNITIES INTERVIEW IN ABELINES- Blanca and Elena, original members of the Abelines health committee, tell what they have learned over the years and how it has affected the health of their community.
CLICK HERE TO SEE A CHURCH AND COMMUNITY INTERVIEW IN ABELINES- church leader Isabel Romero and pastor Victorio Paz of the Abelines Assembly of God church describe how five years of training and biblical reflection through ENLACE's church and community program has impacted their church and community.