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
Entries in Infrastructure (9)
Another group of students from Willow Creek Community Church came to El Salvador for Spring Break. The team from the Crystal Lake campus spent the week with The Arca de Dios Church in El Ranchador helping begin construction for a new medical clinic. The team ministered to children in the community by visiting a Compassion International site and challenging students from the public school in a soccer game. They served with joy as they took part in the ongoing transformation of El Ranchador.
By Kim Frederick
After an hour of listening to the foreign praise songs in the church, everyone’s hands were sore from clapping and our legs were tired from standing. We had printed and translated the lyrics of the songs we thought the church would sing, but the spirit took them off into a beautiful time of praise and worship that went far beyond the words on our pages. For all of the youth from Willow Creek Community Church who came last week to help the Zurisadai Church build homes in San Jacinto, the church service on Sunday was their first real experience in El Salvador. When the word Alleluia finally broke through all others, I think we were all relieved that we could join in their joyful noise and cry out with them, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Dios está aqui!” God is here. Later in the week, one of the team’s young leaders would recall this moment as “the clearest picture of heaven” she has ever had. “At first we couldn’t understand, but suddenly we were all singing together in one voice, just like we will be singing one day in heaven.”
At first glance, moving dirt and bricks, mixing cement by hand, and carrying heavy water containers from the well to the worksite might not seem like heavenly activities. However, the sense of community that the youth from Illinois shared with the church members, the housing recipients, and other residents of San Jacinto was clearly a blessing from God for everyone involved. Any language or cultural barriers with which they had arrived fell away, and we all left with a new understanding of God’s unconditional love and the strong faith of His people.
Just as they proclaimed “Alleluia!” in one voice on Sunday, the team expressed that they felt people’s joy and pain with one heart during home visits. The youth from Willow Creek brought energy, excitement, and encouragement to the Zurisadai Church and the community of San Jacinto, while receiving a clearer picture of what God has called His Church to be--a place of love, a source of a light, and a spring of hope and healing for it’s neighbors.
If your church would like learn more about becoming one of our U.S. church partners, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule a vision trip to El Salvador.
Visit our picture gallery for more photos of last week's adventures!
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.
Over the past year, several leaders from Willow Creek Community Church have visited El Salvador to see how they can partner with ENLACE in the work of equipping churches to transform communities. As it turns out, ENLACE's model is a perfect fit for Willow Creek. Last year, they decided to partner with ENLACE and invest in the region of Santa Ana over the next five years, a commitment that will likely impact a large number of the region's 700,000 people in the coming years.
In July they sent their first short-term mission team in order to encourage and assist the New Jerusalem Church in Comecayo in their community transformation efforts. The team worked on one of the church's most significant initiatives to date: a 300-meter sidewalk that will serve to protect thousands of people in the area. In addition, the team visited 15 needy families identified by the church and community and brought them basic food supplies and prayed with them. Pastor Wally Marshall also led a small seminar with the church helping them refine their cell-group efforts that have helped to grow the congregation to more than 1,000 members with dozens of sister churches in the region.
Team member Earl Casas wrote a blog during his trip and had this to say about the week,
I’ve seen poverty and violence while here. I’ve seen situations where it seems there should be no hope but I’ve also seen faith in action here. I’ve seen a force, stronger than the crippling grip the gangs can maintain, penetrating the darkness and pushing back the fear, loneliness, and hopelessness of the poor and destitute. I have seen the Church in action. As we left our new friends we were comforted to know that the work here continues through these compassionate brothers and sisters in Christ who are simply trying to live out their faith as God directs and in so doing they are changing their world.
By partnering with the region of Santa Ana, the Willow Creek Community Church will most certainly be part of the burgeoning transformation in the lives of tens of thousands of Salvadorans in the coming years. However, Earl Casas and the Willow Creek team learned a concept familiar to missionaries and donors; It is often through the act of giving that one receives the greatest blessing.
We came to be a blessing but instead were blessed. We came to bring hope but instead received it. We came to bring resources but left with much more than we gave. We came to teach and encourage but instead we learned and were inspired.
Contact us to find out how your church or organization can partner with ENLACE to make a direct and lasting impact in the lives of thousands of people in El Salvador.
Click here to donate or become a Friend of ENLACE and to help ENLACE work with 100 churches by 2015.
Click here to see the riveting story of Pastor Rafael Gonzalez, pastor of the New Jerusalem church in Comecayo.
El Salvador’s vulnerability to natural disasters was made apparent once again as Tropical Storm Alex battered the country over the weekend. Flash flooding and landslides caused schools and businesses to close. At least three people died, and more than 1,200 people were forced from their homes.
While this storm will make the news because of its severity and regional impact, it also highlights the fact that inadequate housing and infrastructure is compromised every year during the normal six-month rainy season in El Salvador. Storms such as Alex exacerbate an already challenged situation.
ENLACE works with local churches that identify opportunities to help reduce the effect of these storms and seasonal rains by building stable homes, retaining walls, bridges and improved roads.
The Prince of Peace Church in San Martin has identified a road improvement project as one of their first initiatives to be completed in partnership with their community. They will pave a 254 meter section of this road which is heavily traveled by hundreds of people and is currently prone to landslides due to erosion and heavy rains.
The first stages of this initiative will cost approximately $31,000 and will include gutter construction, septic tank, and paving the road. Multiple local entities are already involved; The mayor's office is contributing more than $14,500 and the church and community is contributing approximately $3,200. ENLACE is committing to raise the final $3,333.50 with your support.
The local church and the community have worked hard overcoming obstacles in order to repair the road. The church is ready and willing to serve its community with this road construction.
ENLACE Church Coach
For as little as $30 you can help three people walk safely on this road and positively impact their daily lives! Partner with ENLACE, Prince of Peace Church and the San Martin communities today!
by Michelle Bueno and Margarita Campos
When you ask Fabio Mejía, an ENLACE technical assistant and soon-to-be father, why he works with ENLACE, the answer’s simple: Change.
Change means a lot of things to a lot of people. For Fabio, two major automobile accidents early in his life changed him forever. He emerged from both unscathed and believes that God cared enough not only to save him once, but twice. As a result Fabio gave his life to serve Jesus and that decision took him down the life-long path of serving others.
Because of the change that God brought to Fabio’s life through a tragedy averted, Fabio now participates in bringing miracles to others. He studied at the Assemblies of God Bethel Bible College in San Salvador and pursued a degree in engineering. Both tracks of study converged as he began working for Samaritan’s Purse in 2002. When that ministry closed in El Salvador in 2008, Fabio applied for a job at ENLACE. About his work at ENLACE he said, “It is a place where I can do ministry and at the same time apply my technical skills.”
To Fabio, it’s not just change that he values--the kind of change that blesses a family once they have adequate housing, giving them shelter and security--it's the miracles that happen when a church and its community are empowered to bless one another in a sustainable manner. In a recent interview, Fabio said, “ENLACE empowers the church to use its own ideas, resources, creativity and organizational power, giving them the chance to lead and become a real blessing to their communities. I’m so excited to know that I can contribute with a little change in the lives of many people.”
“I have seen people in a community join with the church to work on initiatives together. People are motivated to come together even to the point of donating days away from their own jobs. This really touches me because people are not just thinking about themselves but about helping others and learning skills like how to build a house or repair a street.”
True, life-giving change can only come from a heart that has been transformed by God’s love. That’s what Fabio knows from personal experience and continues to live out in his own life and work as God engineers transformation in the lives of those in need.
A group from Faith Chapel Church in San Diego, California visited El Salvador in late February. The group partnered with the Jerusalem church and community leaders in the construction of two homes. Last year, the group's visit marked the beginning of the housing project in the San Jose El Naranjo area. The group was very happy to learn that the church and community collaborated with ENLACE to build a total of 10 houses in 2006. They were even more thrilled to learn that local mayor's office has now stepped up and will be offering 22 homes for the neediest families in the area in addition to the church and community's 10 homes planned for 2007. It is amazing to see how a little initiative can cause a ripple of collaboration and hard work.
In addition to building homes, two dentists were also a part of the group. With their help, the local health unit in San Jose El Naranjo coordinated visits to surrounding clinics and added the services of a local dentist. The Jerusalem church offered volunteers to help register patients everyday. It was truly a collaborative effort of the local church, community and visiting church to bring dental care to over 90 people in just four days.
Click here to find out more about how short-term trips with ENLACE can have a long-term impact.
The community of El Cambio in El Tinteral celebarated the completion of a new access road. This small settlement community has seen amazing progress since it was founded after the 2001 earthquakes. Families in the El Tinteral area took refuge in what would be called El Cambio ("The Change") after a small plot of mountainous terrain was donated to put up temporary shelters. El Cambio's Ebenezer Church was established with the vision of collaborating with its community in order to bring positive change to the area. ENLACE has partnered with this church, community leaders, the mayor's office and other organizations over the last 6 years to bring sturdy homes, sanitation facilities, potable water, improved cooking methods, a local library and community center. All of these initiatives have truly brought "a change" to El Cambio.