A dynamic and dedicated group of 13 youth and 4 leaders traveled from Timberline Church in Colorado to spend a week encouraging Pastor Santos and the congregation of Tabernaculo Biblico Salem Church in El Espino. On Sunday, the team presented a children’s ministry workshop for the Sunday School teachers and church leaders of El Espino. The team also taught a few games, which helped break the ice on the first day as everyone played and laughed together. For the rest of the week they joined volunteers from the church and community to help complete the final phase of a perimeter wall for the public school. With so many kids around the work site, team members couldn't help but join in games of soccer, jump rope, and tag. In addition to participating in the Sunday service, the group also attended a midweek service where many team members shared their testimonies. One of the team leaders, Maura Buckner, shared the great impact of her trip to El Salvador the year before. She recalled the story of how Nuria Reyes, ENLACE Church Coach, told the team that for three years she had been praying for the church that would accompany the church in El Espino and that they were the answer to her prayer. Maura was shocked that someone had been praying for her trip to El Salvador for three years--even before she attended Timberline. She said, “My world expanded that day. My understanding that God is so much bigger, so much more intimate, and so much more in control than I had ever understood...I feel like a little part of my heart is now a part of this church and this community and it is now yours. God so changed my life because of the prayers of people here. People who didn't know me then but whom I now consider part of my family.” At the end of the week, the team, the school, and church and community members all celebrated with a special dedication. The school’s band played and the students gave the team cards they had made. A note, outlined by a heart, written on the board in a classroom expressed thanks saying, “Thank you for your visit. You will be in our heart. PLEASE PRAY FOR EL SALVADOR. We need it.”
Entries in Church Partnership Program (15)
A second group from Willow Creek Crystal Lake came to support and encourage Pastor Francisco Mendoza and The Arca de Dios Church in El Ranchador. The team continued the work started by a group of students from their church in March, assisting the community with the construction of a new medical clinic which will serve 5,000 people. They also visited the nearby Compassion International site sharing a Bible story, songs, and other activities. The week was filled with joy and friendship as the transformation continues in El Ranchador.
As part of their ongoing partnership in the Santa Ana Region, Willow Creek South Barrington sent a team to serve in La Bendición for the first time. The team worked alongside Cristo Vive Church to build eight eco-stoves which will provide a healthier home environment and reduce expenses for many impoverished families. During the week, the five team members also visited homes identified by the church as most needy bringing food and having a special time of prayer and encouragement. The team’s enthusiasm, friendship and hard work motivated the local church and its members to press on and continue to preach the gospel, not merely with words but through action and service.
A team from Willow Creek Chicago traveled to rural western El Salvador to serve with Puerta del Cielo Church in El Progreso for the second time. Despite a recent transition in leadership, Pastor Orlando Majano has only been there two months, the relationship between the churches remained strong. The team helped repair the main road in the community and brought great joy to the people of El Progreso
The Gateway Church is a vibrant young church in downtown Des Moines Iowa that is dedicated to "join God in the renewal of all things." As part of living out this mission in Des Moines the church committed to join in the renewal of the San Martin region of El Salvador through a church partnership with ENLACE.
New Life Church from Exeter, California joined Principe de Paz Church in Santa María during the last week of June bringing change, hope and transformation to the community. On their fifth visit, 11 members from New Life Church worked alongside the church and community to build a mitigation wall. Their hard work, passion, and dedication to serve the local church with their talents and abilities has brought new life to the community and a safer neighborhood.
Vineyard Christian Church from Pataskala, Ohio has worked alongside Zurisadai Church in San Jacinto since 2006. During during their fifth visit to the region, they supported the work of the church in its effort to give shelter to one of the most vulnerable families identified by the church and community. Through this housing project, the church has further strengthened relationships with the community and also ties of friendship with the Vineyard Church who collaborated in the building of a home for Rosa Estrada, her daughter and six grandchildren. During her six days working with the community in San Jacinto, Vineyard Church members also directed activities for the church, men and children, and visited eight homes to those in need of food and prayer.
by Pat Okker
Last month I had the wonderful opportunity to visit El Salvador as part of an ENLACE team from Missouri, and I feel fortunate to have met so many wonderful people there: people like Nuria, an absolutely courageous church coach; or Veronica, whose cooking and work are filled with an incredible passion for others; or Christian, a boy who talks fast and plans to become a pastor. As much as these people filled me with a vision of God at work—and they did—I also found God that week in some surprising places.
And the first is a cement volcano: One of our workdays focused on mixing concrete for the house we were helping to build. The foundation had already been dug—by hand—and our task was to haul and mix sand, gravel, and cement. The final step involved combining all the ingredients with water into a volcano, with everyone walking in a small circle, ending with a rush of back-breaking shoveling. It’s the kind of work that makes friends, regardless of age, ability, language, or nationality, and I know that whenever I hear the phrase “Caminando Juntos” (Walking Together), I will always remember the friends (from the U.S. and El Salvador) I made walking around those volcanoes, shovel in hand.
If the cement volcanoes reminded me of the power of working together, a simple jump rope reminded me of the equally powerful role of play. One of our group members Jan had the brilliant idea of bringing a jump rope, and it became a magnet for the local children in the afternoons. At the closing celebration, a young boy, who had what we in the U.S. would call a disability, joined in the fun of jumping rope, with much clapping (and some tears, too) from the adults. This moment was a testament to the powerful work that Pastor Santos and his church are doing in El Espino to support and care for our brothers and sisters with what they call “capacidades especiales”.
During our trip, a small group of us visited Raquel, an eleven-old girl who lives in a simple house with her family. Raquel uses a wheelchair, which makes going to school difficult. She dreams of becoming a journalist. As we were leaving, her mother said that we should wait, since she had already sent someone to town to purchase a bottle of Coca Cola to share with us. That bottle of Coke—no doubt purchased with money the family needed for other things—arrived a few minutes later. I’ve never liked cola, but that glass of soda was as sweet and nourishing as any communion juice I’ve ever been offered.
The Bible is full of images of surprising places that we find God. After a wonderful week with ENLACE in El Salvador, my own list of such images will now forever include not only the faces of Pastor Santos, Nuria, Veronica, and so many others but also a cement volcano, a jump rope, and a glass of Coke. Dios le bendiga.
Broadway Christian Church, from Columbia, Missouri, continued “Caminando Juntos” (walking together) with the Tabernaculo Biblico Salem Church in El Espino. The team shared friendship and laughter with the church and community as they built a new home and visited families with special needs. The team also had the opportunity to help with the home garden project in a neighboring community. These churches share a special relationship that continues to deepen each time Broadway visits.
The centerpiece of ENLACE’s mission is to help and support local churches in El Salvador as they engage effectively in service with their impoverished communities. Building and renewing relationships between each other and God, therefore, is at the heart of what we do. ENLACE’s Church Partnership Program broadens that relationship building as it joins U.S. and Salvadoran churches in long-term partnerships that equip the local church to fulfill God’s plan of wholeness for its community. Along with helping a poor church reach out to its neighbors, U.S. partners that send teams to El Salvador experience first-hand the transformation that is taking place. They often return home with a renewed sense of who they are in Christ and who they are to their immediate and global neighbors.
Recently, a team from CrossWay Christian Church came to El Salvador to meet and serve with their church partner in the Abelines region. Another team from CrossWay is in El Salvador this week to continue building relationships with the local church.
CrossWay team member Phil McArdle created this video which offers a glimpse into the type of experience that many U.S. church partners share with their Salvadoran brothers and sisters. The team works with church and community members on a project, sharing laughter and friendship to encourage one another in the work to which God has called them.
Between February 25 and March 3, 14 members of Crossway Christian Church (New Hampshire, USA) joined Getsemaní Church, located in the village of Pajigua in eastern El Salvador, to bring two families new homes and an entire community renewed hope. The group helped build the homes and also participated in the inauguration of the public school’s two new classrooms, which will allow 150 new students to attend school every year. They brought encouragement and food through home visits to single mothers and elderly women. They formed a strong bond with the community. Two more teams from Crossway will return this year to continue supporting the work of the local church in the region.