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.
Entries in San Jacinto (14)
A group of high school students from Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, IL, came to El Salvador to spend their Spring Break serving with Zurisadai Church in San Jacinto. They helped build a storm drain to prevent dangerous flooding during the rainy season and painted a recently constructed water tank. The team also enjoyed eating mango everyday, playing with kids, and visiting the homes that returning members helped to build last year. The team continued building the relationships from last year and formed new friendships as well.
This summer we were visited by 10 work and 4 vision teams totalling more than 160 people who served their global neighbors in the churches and communities of San Jacinto, El Progreso, El Ranchador, San José El Naranjo, San Antonio En Medio, El Espino, Santa María and San Martín! Thank you all for your sacraficial service to El Salvador!
Two groups from Seacoast Grace Church in California came to the region of Ahuachapan to work hard and create friendships with the Nueva Jerusalen Church in San José El Naranjo and Voz Que Clama en el Desierto Church in San Antonio En Medio. The first team repaired more than 300 feet of a steep road that had been prone to mudslides and endangered the lives of pedestrians and motorists. The second team completed digging almost 300 feet along the community’s main road. When finished, the water channels will prevent road erosion, keeping the road safe and clear. Not only do these projects generate safety and more opportunities for agriculture and other economic activities, but they also help the local church reach out to their neighbors in ways that create profound connections and long-term transformation.
The Miraflores Public School is one of the only public institutions that exists in the area of El Espino. For years, the school's only security was a wire mesh fence tethered by concrete posts. This substandard security left students, teachers, and the infrastructure itself exposed to outside disruptions such as animals, passersby, and gang members. Since 2008, the need for a perimeter wall has been a priority to the administration, parents, and community members. Stregthened by their work with ENLACE and the newfound confidence in their ability to transform their community through cooperation, Tabernáculo Biblico Salem Church partnered with the local community association and the councillor of San Pedro Perulapán to work on this project. Timberline Community Church from Fort Collins, Colorado came twice this year and was an integral part of the first stage of this project. They helped build the wall and supported local health initiatives by bringing a short-term medical team.
Vineyard Church from Pataskala, Ohio returned to support Zurisadai Church in San Jacinto this year. In 2010, during their first visit to the region, they joined the work of the church to help construct a retaining wall which prevents landslides along one of the area’s main roads. This year, they supported the local church in its effort to give shelter to one of the 25 families that the church and community identified as being the most vulnerable. 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 Jose Marroquin and his family. While in San Jacinto, Vineyard Church members also helped move materials for another housing recipient, directed activities for the community’s women and children, hosted a marriage seminar, and visited homes to those in need of food and prayer.
Despite his best efforts to provide for his wife and four children, Pablo never had the opportunity to afford adequate housing for his family. Their makeshift home was repeatedly flooded during the rainy season, bringing them sickness and stress. They did not have much hope of improving their situation alone. When the local church reached out to him and other neighbors with a community housing initiative, he was overwhelmed yet extremely joyful at the prospect of finally having a secure shelter for his wife and children.
God is doing great things in San Jacinto. Things we would have never imagined. In the past, our church wasn’t reaching out and serving in our community. It wasn’t until we started working with ENLACE that we learned how God cares for this community.
Starting to serve your community is like jumping into water. You can’t tell others what it’s like until you’ve jumped in yourself. Until you yourself have tested the water, you don’t know what it’s like. Is it hot or cold? And you can’t invite others to join you unless you yourself get wet.
Now we are more effective and have gained momentum. Serving our community with you didn’t feel like work but a privilege. We are excited, renewed, and have a new vision of God’s heart for our community. God has much more work in store for us.
Please continue to pray for us because God has a lot more work for us to do. We will send you a picture of when these bricks that you have spent time to build into a house become a finished home.
Thank you for the blessing you have been to us. Thank you for caring for us. God bless you.
By Kim Frederick
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)
Quietly standing in the shade of Marivel’s home as her children lingered around corners, on hammocks, and inside of their dirt floor adobe home, I helped translate as we boldly practiced a pure and faultless religion. When we arrived at their house, a skinny teenage girl shyly opened their scrap metal gate, and two muddy barefoot boys were doing their homework on an old wooden table outside. Marivel’s eyes filled with tears and she gave thanks to God as we explained that we had come to visit and pray with her. She is a widow with eight children. She is a strong believer in God and member of a local church called Arca de Dios, but she and her children rarely go to church anymore due to threats from a local gang. She says that she hopes this “difficult time” will soon come to an end, but she appears tired and worn. Her pastor, Franciso, knows her well and visits often. It is Pastor Fransico who brought us to her home to encourage her and share a bag of basic foods with her family. He knows and visits many people in his community, despite the prevalent gang activity in the area.
This week, a group from Willow Creek Crystal Lake in Chicago came to build relationships with the people in El Ranchador and construct two cement block homes to support current efforts of the local church to serve those in need in their community. The group’s desire to learn from the community and willingness to listen and respond to the community’s needs was admirable.
Throughout the week, everywhere we went, Psalm 23 was written, sung, read or taught. It was laughable each time a reference to the verse seemed to pop out of nowhere. Although the reference (in some translations) to walking “in the valley of the shadow of death,” and it’s popular use at funerals or hospital beds was a little discomforting, it seemed to build a nice theme for my week. Despite the physical labor of moving over 300 cement blocks, mixing cement by hand, and hauling dirt and rocks, being in El Ranchador all week away from desks, computers, phones, clocks, and advertisements was a restful time. The images of “lying down in green pastures” and “leading me beside still waters” provoke powerful feelings while surrounded by mountains and enormous Ceiba trees in a small town filled with mud and metal houses with waste water running through the streets.
Despite the numerous gang tags and knowledge that we were being carefully watched, we never felt threatened; we never felt alone. Instead, the truth came alive through our presence there, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff--they comfort me.” We ate all of our meals in the community with the pastor and other volunteers from the church, and we were welcomed with overwhelmingly open arms which reminded me that He “prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” and “my cup overflows.”
1 Jehovah es mi pastor; nada me faltará. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Before leaving Marivel’s home, the Crystal Lake group gave her a large plastic bag with basic foods like rice, beans, oil, sugar, and cornflour. She asked me to pray for her daughter, Marivel de los Angeles (translated, Marivel from the Angels). She showed me a that her hip bone was protruding awkwardly beneath her skin. It looked broken, and her mother said it was from a golpea, or some kind of blow. We prayed with her and asked that God “restore her soul” through these difficult times. Her certainty that she would one day have the freedom to return to church was a proclamation of the strong hope to which she clings. Thanks to the local church’s work in El Ranchador, Christians and non-Christians alike are receiving mercy and esperanza (hope) through home visits, latrines, home gardens, new houses, and restored relationships. This church’s efforts are just another example of how we, as the body, can reach out to one another, helping others to experience the truth in the last verse of Psalm 23: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”
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!
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!
“This house represents security and peace, a gift that could have only come from God,” expressed Pablo Chacon with great joy as he set the roof for his new home located in San jacinto. Neighbors from the local church worked alongside him, glad to be a part of this grand blessing. For Pablo, this new home has not only given safe and secure shelter to him and his family; it has given him new hope.
For at least 35 percent of rural Salvadorans a decent home is only a dream. They live in homes made from sheets of torn plastic, rusty aluminum, crumbling walls and dirt floors. A six-month rainy season adds to the problems as rain and humidity seep into cracks and holes causing property damage and chronic illnesses. Such homes are often built on mountainsides and marginal areas prone to danger as excessive rain makes roads impassable and landslides a constant threat.
For Pablo, his wife Rosa, and children, building a home had been impossible. Pablo, a landless farmer, could no longer make enough from farming to rent land. Even- tually he found work at a local bakery, but the pay was never enough to build a home. The best he could do was to maintain their old home, which was composed of scraps of wood and aluminum.
The situation was even more dire for 90-year-old Erlinda Garay and her daughter Catalina. They lived in a dwelling made from pieces of wood and plastic. At their age, they cannot work and rely only on a small sum of money given to them by a relative. When it rained, they would move and cover their meager possessions no matter if it was noon or past midnight.
During the dry season, their uneven, dirt floor was difficult to navigate; Erlinda is almost blind. And when it rained a stream of water turned their floor into a pool of mud. The Zurisadai Church in their community of San Jacinto has worked with the community association to identify cases like Pablo and Erlinda. The church recognized that addressing the need for adequate housing was a great opportunity to serve its neighbors. They helped to identify both Pablo and Erlinda’s families and 23 others in most need. ENLACE technical staff helped the church and community to design a two-bedroom, electricity-ready, improved adobe block home which cost no more than $6,000 to build. Church members worked alongside beneffci- aries (if able) to offset the cost of labor.
Having a decent roof over your head and a clean dry floor under your feet is nothing short of a miracle for families living in poverty. However, knowing that God is at work through your neighbors who reach out in sacrifice and love is the seed of a community-wide transformation of spirit. In this and many other ways, hope is “made flesh” in Santa Ana, El Salvador.
"Everyone had ideas about who was supposed to fix the problems around here, but no one would step up and say, 'I'll fix it.' But after our first [ENLACE] training we realized this was an opportunity right in front of our noses, but we had not previously had the eyes to see it that way."
Within days of its first contact with ENLACE, Zurisadai Church had already connected with their mayor's office and was working to repair the main road into their small town. Their motivation and sense of calling to their community continue to drive them toward a total transformation of their community.
Partnering with Pastor Mauricio and ENLACE may just be the opportunity right in front of your nose to impact thousands of lives.