Take a moment to read our Summer Newsletter 2011 highlighting ENLACE's Economic Development Program
Take a moment to read our Summer Newsletter 2011 highlighting ENLACE's Economic Development Program
We encourage U.S. churches who share our mission of alleviating spiritual and physical poverty through the work of local churches to explore, invest, experience, and engage in what God is doing in El Salvador. Since 1993 ENLACE has been equipping church and community leaders to identify, design, and manage sustainable poverty-alleviating projects throughout the country. Over the years many foreign and local churches and institutions that have identified with ENLACE’s vision have worked alongside rural communities in El Salvador to bring hope and transformation.
Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington Illinois is one of our new church partners. This church has committed to walking with churches in the the Santa Ana region of El Salvador as they reach out to transform their communities. Willow Creek first became involved when they sent a vision team comprised of church leaders to explore the work that was already going on in El Salvador. After committing to invest in ongoing training and community projects, they experienced El Salvador by sending down work teams to build relationships with the people of San Jacinto while physically helping them to build up their community.
Recently, Willow Creek has gone a step further to engage its entire congregation through a year-long Celebration of Hope, during which the whole church has the opportunity to better understand, pray, give, and get involved with the transformation they are supporting in El Salvador and around the world. Through the sharing of stories like those of Alex and Anna who received new homes through church and community projects in El Salvador, and through peppering their lobby with photographs of hope and change, Willow Creek is opening their congregation's eyes to the tranformation that is possible when the church reaches beyond its four walls.
Mark Haugen, the Latin America Operations Director for Willow Creek's Compassion and Justice Ministries, was quoting Bill Hybles, the senior pastor of their church, when he said that “God, in a unique way, prepared the local church to be His community that is to bring hope, healing, and restoration.¨ Willow Creek's effective engagement encourages us at ENLACE because we know that the communities where we work are being covered in prayer, and that God’s church--in which we all serve different functions for the same body--is healthy, united, and bringing hope to the world.
If you are an individual who has experienced ENLACE and would like to engage the rest of your church by hosting an event or leading a campaign, email us at email@example.com to find out how!
This year, ENLACE finds itself in an exciting period of growth. We are now ready to begin the journey toward our 2020 vision, starting with our transformational vision for 2015. Check out our Spring Newsletter to find out more about our recent celebrations and our plans for the future!
The traffic accidents that occur on the highways in El Salvador cause an alarming number of injuries and deaths. In the past 10 years, five children near the New Jerusalem Church in Comecayo lost their lives while walking along the highway or trying to cross the road. The tragedy of these losses moved the church and the community to consider it a high priority to construct a pedestrian bridge across the busy road to protect the lives of more than 10,000 people that must walk through this area daily.
Seeing the need and grieved over senless deaths, the church asked ENLACE to help them create a strategy that addressed the problem. ENLACE provided technical assistance and church training, which resulted in forming a Pedestrian Safety Committee made up of church and community members who oversaw the project and lobbied the mayor’s office to help complete it. After a design and plan were created, the Nueva Jerusalén Church and the community provided construction materials, water, storage and tools, as well as skilled and unskilled labor. In December 2011, the mayor’s offce provided the cables and the bridge was finally complete.
Felix Orellana, ENLACE regional Church Coach, believes that along with providing safety, the bridge has created a possibility for greater unity, which lubricates the momentum of change in the community of Comecayo.
“The church and the community have definitely created new bonds of friendship which have brought greater motivation, strength, and unity to serve.”
The new bridge in Comecayo can be seen from many locations in the community. It stands as a memorial to those who lost their lives and a memorial to the commitment of the church to reaching out to their neighbors.
Modesto Guevara is a rural farmer in the remote community of Sirigual (Abelines Region). Fitting to his name, Modesto is a soft-spoken, humble father with 10 family members living in his dirt-floor adobe home. He is a lay leader of the local Catholic church and very active in the community. However, like most people in the region, Modesto has struggled to provide for his large family by simply growing corn and beans on rented land, making less than a few dollars per day.
Shortly after the local evangelical church began to implement home gardens with ENLACE's help, Modesto got involved and has seen great success so far. Take a moment to read about Modesto's experience with his home garden:
What has your experience been like working with your home garden?
"I'm 56 years old and I've been a farmer all my life, but I had never planted a vegetable garden. But I've noticed that when I plant and have success, I get excited and want to keep learning more so that I can continue growing."
What has impacted you the most about working with your home garden?
"I started with about 25 plants, but I saw how much I could grow and not only feed my family but also sell the vegetables at the market. That's when the happiness came. Not only did I not have to buy vegetables, but I could sell them and I even gave away a lot of the peppers to my neighbors."
What outcomes have you seen since starting your home garden, and how has your family benefitted?
"In June I planted 150 tomato plants, 150 pepper plants and I harvested about 800 peppers and 800 tomatoes. We have a big family, but there was so much we couldn't eat it all ourselves. So we went to town and sold produce there. Now my wife sells here in our neighborhood or people come to our house to buy. We are pretty poor, but there are others around here that are worse off than we are, so my wife has given a lot of food to them. This is helping my family, but also helping other families around us."
What would you say about the local church's involvement with the home garden initiative?
"The best thing about the church is that they've truly showed that they care. They don't show favoritism, they treat us all as equals... We all work together and that is how we can make a difference. If one goes this way and another goes that way, things never move forward... Sometimes these ideas don't occur to you and it takes another brother, maybe with God's guidance, to say, 'let's do this together' and you say 'I had never thought of that!' But when someone gives you the idea you start working and when you see the outcomes you get even more excited to keep working."
What are your plans for the future now that you have a home garden?
"God willing, the idea is that next season, and I'm already starting to work on it, that we'll plant even more. We'll continue selling to pay for household expenses and help other poor families by giving them food."
Modesto's family is just one of the hundreds of success stories we've seen with home gardens. In the past two years ENLACE has helped plant more than 350 home gardens for people like Modesto, and we plan to start at least 400 new home gardens next year! Your donation, no matter how small, helps ENLACE give training and supplies to church and community members all over El Salvador who desire to feed their families and generate income through home gardens and small businesses.
In the semi-rural community of La Loma home gardens have become synonymous with powerful and complete community transformation. Community members have become united in purpose-- teaching, cultivating, and helping their neighbors to accomplish the work at hand. A sweet aroma of change is filling the air in La Loma and is spreading beyond the community’s small borders.
For many years, the members of the Assembly of Christian Churches in the area attempted to serve their community, but they were always met with a negative response. Although they considered the Home Garden initiative as another attempt to get closer to the community, they expected no more than to provide vegetable gardens for members of the church.
However, over time the home gardens have become a revolutionary initiative, impacting not only the participants themselves, but their families, their neighbors and the sellers in the area. As Pastor Felix Amaya says, "This initiative has changed our lives. As a community we've come together, made friends, we take care of each other... and we're making money!”
Taking care of a home garden requires perseverance, patience and care. These three ingredients have not only resulted in healthier and more nutritive vegetables, but also in restored relationships and a spirit of cooperation among the community members.
"People now see the church as a friend... we are no longer distant brothers...There are people who we never used to greet, but now they are benefitting from the gardens and they are asking questions...” Juan Amaya, church leader.
The beneficiaries of this initiative are now helping and motivating others, breaking the ideological barriers that have kept the church divided from its community. This new openness has motivated and strengthened the church leadership and has bolstered church’s image in the community. For example, pastor Felix is no longer seen as just a pastor, but as a friend to the community.
The impact of the Home Gardens Initiative has been so strong that people from surrounding areas have asked how they might have the success and economical sustainability that the people of La Loma now enjoy. The success of the Home Garden Initiative in La Loma represents transformation in every way: restored sense of personal worth, better health, increased income and truly restored relationships.
In the past two years ENLACE has helped plant more than 350 home gardens, and we plan to help start at least 400 new home gardens next year! Your donation, no matter how small, helps ENLACE give training and supplies to church and community members all over El Salvador who desire to feed their families and generate income through home gardens and small businesses.
$250 helps feed a family for a lifetime!
$50 helps feed one person for a lifetime!
Once a year, the ENLACE staff has the opportunity to spend three days in close fellowship with pastors and leaders from all the ENLACE church partners who are daily working to transform their churches and communities. This annual time of learning and sharing nurtures and motivates us all to move forward in the transformation that God has allowed us to start in this country.
The first retreat took place in 2003 and was attended by 20 people from five churches, as well as six ENLACE staff. Now, seven years later, we find ourselves knocking at the door of the 2010 Pastors and Leadership Retreat which will be attended by 120 people from 25 churches, as well as 20 ENLACE staff that will act as workshop facilitators. Participants are expected to participate in the workshops to assess this year's accomplishments, evaluate personal strengths and weaknesses, and formalize their plans for 2011.
Each of these churches realizes that they are not the only ones that have been doing what that are doing in their communities. There are others. They realize that they have gone through difficulties, but also they have had the blessing of truly being a part of their community and helping their community to change its situation. Alfredo Vargas, Director of Operations
This year’s retreat is called, “Lead Like Jesus,” and for the first time, the event is being organized by the pastors themselves. A Pastoral Committee, comprised of seven strong leaders, has been meeting diligently to prepare speakers and plan the logistics of the retreat. This important time of introspection, reflection, and sharing among individuals from different churches and communities allows us to capture ideas, share experiences, and strengthen ENLACE's processes.
We ask for your prayers for December 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, that each pastor, leader, and ENLACE staff will be renewed in their heart and in their commitment to "Lead Like Jesus."
Defining and measuring 'community transformation' can be tricky. However, it is possible to identify and recognize the change that goes on when a church begins the journey of effectively serving its community. To this end, ENLACE tracks six areas of transformation and eight core outcomes for every church and community with which it works.
During a recent trip from US partner church, Covenant Family Fellowship (Portland, ME), many of the team members began to see first-hand what transformation looks like in the remote community of San Antonio en Medio. Of notable interest to the team was the increased involvement of local and national government in the area. Pastor Ron Nevers, on his third visit with ENLACE, noted the difference and when asked about his understanding of community transformation, he said, “The story at the school, and seeing the construction, that says it all right there.” The school project was not one initiated by ENLACE, and that's the beauty of it.
According to community leader Roberto Mejia, the San Antonio church, with support from ENLACE that helped to train and to encourage the church to serve its community effectively, had spearheaded many sucessful community initiatives such as housing, road repair, a clean water, and reforestation. Recently, due to the community participation in these initiatives, the local government of the San Jose El Naranjo region recognized the community of San Antonio as being unusually organized and able to work together to accomplish large projects that benefit its residents. Because of their exceptional organization and cooperation, the government entrusted them with a $111,000 project to expand their public school.
Now, Roberto Mejia and other community members glow as they show off the active construction site. They are proud to mention that the project's labor--paying jobs that rotate every two weeks--is being distributed fairly among the San Antonio community ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to benefit from the additional income.
We often tell teams who are on their first trip to El Salvador to enjoy the details, the sights and smells, and the people in the communities because it is overwhelming to try to see the whole picture of community transformation at first sight. On his third trip, George Thebarge of Covenant Family Fellowshiph expressed his growing understanding of ENLACE’s role in the San Jose Naranjo Region.
“My first trip, I knew that what was happening was exciting but I could not exactly see the big picture. My second trip, it began to make sense and I became familiar with the community and some of the people. This year, my third trip, I can honestly say that I see the transformation in the people and the community.”
Churches like Covenant Family Fellowship who commit to multi-year relationships play an important role in this process of community transformation by visiting El Salvador and encouraging the local church in its endeavors. Additionally, as the Salvadoran churches seek to alleviate spiritual and physical pverty in their communities, US churches help to provide them with ongoing accompaniment from ENLACE.
In dozens of churches throughout El Salvador, we are seeing that this equation of partnership ultimately results in 'community transformation.'
After a lifetime of hard work and service to others, last month Maria Lucia received a blessing that she had never dreamed she would have: a place to call home. Before, Maria was one of the 35 percent of Salvadorans who live in extreme poverty and do not have a safe home. She spent years moving from house to house, struggling to pay rent for herself and other dependents. Now, she and her family represent one of the 25 families in El Ranchador who are benefitting from a housing initiative led by the New Jerusalem Church in Comecayo.
Maria Lucia has two children of her own and cares for her niece, Maria Isidora, who was abandoned by her parents after discovering that childhood polio had caused permanent paralysis in her legs. Maria and her family are originally from the area of La Libertad, but after her husband was killed and there was a series of threats to her then 17-year-old son many years ago, she moved her family to Comecayo for a new beginning. In Comecayo, they eventually had to settle in the community of El Ranchador, a place sadly notorious for high rates of poverty and delinquency. After a few years, Maria remarried and her children now live independently, but the family’s salary of $5 per day from farming and selling tamales still was not enough to afford adequate housing and provide sufficient care for Maria Isidora.
Needless to say, Maria Lucia was ecstatic when she was chosen by the community's housing committee to receive a home.
Despite economic hardships, Maria has remained an active member of the New Jerusalem Church for 21 years and has served other members of her community along with her life-time commitment to her niece. At a recent event at the church, Maria, through tears of joy, expressed her gratitude to God, the New Jerusalem Church, and to ENLACE for her new house, which is now in its final stages of construction. Maria is looking forward to having a home which will provide a place of refuge for her family and a better quality of life for her niece.
Thanks to the housing initiative in El Ranchador, Maria Lucia and 25 other families have finally found a place to call home. There are countless hardworking families like Maria who are still waiting patiently, serving selflessly, and praying for a home, for clean water, or for change in their community. You can support ongoing community initiatives like this one and become an answer to the prayers of people just like Maria Lucia. Join the Friend of ENLACE program and donate monthly $25, $50 or $100.
ENLACE aims to encourage, equip and accompany churches through the process of becoming effective agents of change in their communities. The Principe de Paz church in San Martin is one of many churches paving the way to transformed communities in El Salvador.
María Gladis Valladares has lived on 24th Street in the neighborhood of San María for more than 14 years. Over the years Maria and her neighbors have experienced countless difficulties due to the horrific condition of their street. The youngest and oldest community members are most effected and rarely attempt to walk during or after a rain storm because of the great torrents of water that cut through the dirt street. Many areas of the street do not have proper drainage and the storms leave behind stagnant water that breeds insects and causes foul odors. The street has been detoriating in its condition for many years and community members have been actively looking for ways to fix the road for more than a decade.
Santiago Alfaro, pastor of Principe de Paz in Santa Maria, has become well-known to his neighbors. When Don Santiago, as the community respectfully calls him, announced that his church would collaborate with the Community Association, the mayor's office and ENLACE donors to finally fix 24th street, the community was thrilled. As Maria explains,
“It is Don Santiago who has been working hard in all of this. We all want to see the street repaired and our community improved. That is why I decided to volunteer with the Community Association. This is a great opportunity to bring improvement to our community."
Gerson Ramirez, ENLACE's church coach in the region, explains the importance of the church making positive connections with its community. “For years the community and the church said this initiative was impossible because they didn’t have any help from the mayor’s office. But when they decided to work together to manage the initiative and went back to the mayor’s office as an entire community, they found open doors and a quick answer. They consider it a miracle from God."
Maria Valladares and other community members are excited now that the first stage of the process is nearly complete. This stage consists of more than 500 meters of cement drainage as well as the construction of septic tank. Nearly 60 percent of this first stage was financed by the local government entities. The remainder was supplied by the local church and ENLACE. Maria, Pastor Santiago and the entire community are eagerly awaiting the completion of such an important initiative that will significantly improve the quality of life on 24th Street.
Then sings my soul, my savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
On a hot and humid September afternoon the lyrics from this familiar hymn filled the walls of God's Ark Church in Planes del Ranchador, El Salvador. More than a hundred people packed themselves into the small church to celebrate the completion of 25 new homes. Every recipient family was present and expressed thankfulness to God and to their their neighbors. This theme of grateful acknowledgement flowed throughout the service and especially in Pastor Rafael Gonzalez's moving sermon.
Two leaders from God's Ark spearheaded the housing initiative. They worked hand-in-hand with community leaders to identify the families in need of a secure home.
"We wanted to do something for our community and this initiative was an opportunity to help some of the neediest people in our area, but also build relationships with people. We're not meeting their needs just so they'll come to church, but the impact has been so great that many of the housing recipients and their families are now coming to our home-groups. They are also becoming involved in other initiatives in the community like home gardens and the Health Committee. A seed has been planted." -Mario Ernesto Mejía, Small Group Leader in El Ranchador
Many of the previous homes were made of used plastic and metal with mud and bamboo. The local church leaders and community members helped to coordinate the construction of houses and provided transportation, storage, materials, and more than $9,000 of volunteer labor. From May to August of 2010, the church and community successfully completed 25 secure homes benefitting 91 people.
According to Pastor Francisco Mendoza, the housing initiative has helped his church fulfill its continuing vision of service.
"My vision of ministry has always been to help people in need with whatever resources are available to us. The gospel is integral. It is about meeting people's spiritual needs, but also their physical needs and this housing initiative has helped us take this approach with our community... We must remove the gospel from four walls of the church in order to take it to those in need."
"God listened to our prayers!" said Noemí Morán with tears running down her face. "We didn’t have the money to build a house, and many times we didn’t have money to pay our rent. But now everyday I wake up and say 'Thank you Lord for this roof over my head that you have provided.' I have confidence that no one will take me from my new home until that long awaited day when God calls me to go, but to go be with Him!¨
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"