A team from The Gateway Church in Des Moines, Iowa, traveled to El Salvador for the first time to spend the week of March 3-10 with Pastor Marta Vaquerano, her church Palabra de Poder and the community of Anemona. Their task was to help build tilapia tanks, but from the very beginning the team was just as focused on building relationships and connecting with the community. While making ty advances toward finishing tilapia ponds, the group also held a children’s program and brought food and encouragement to the poorest families in Anemona. Both the team and the community eagerly await Gateway’s next trip.
Entries in San Martin (16)
Construction work in Santa María has been a growth opportunity for the Church, for ENLACE, and for the community leaders, reflecting a dynamic, unifying process. Gerson Ramirez, Church Coach
For years, the Santa María neighborhood located in the region of San Martin lamented the terrible condition of its main street. During the rainy season, torrents of water endangered their lives of both young children and older residents. Addtionally, the lack of proper drainage created standing water that resulted in mosquito infestation and putrid odors. Even so, years passed and the road continued to deteroriate. Solving the problem seemd too expensive and difficult for a poor community like Santa María.
In 2010, however, Principe de Paz members decided to take a leap of faith and change their community. After receiving training and coaching from ENLACE, the church led an effort that leveraged the participation of community residents, the support of the mayor's office and two international mission teams.
In the second stage the road was completed with gravel and paving. The church hosted students from Vanguard University in Costa Mesa and members of New Life Church in Exeter (both in California). These missions teams gave Pastor Santiago and his leaders more than just greatly needed materials and labor; it empowered them and gave them more confidence that led to closer relationships with their neighbors.
“Our work is more than building a road; It is really building a community. For us that means having a long-term relationship with ENLACE in El Salvador, where we can work as a family and even as a church to make the biggest impact possible for a single community or a single region”. Cristina Robeck, Advisory board ENLACE USA, Vanguard University Team leader.
By the end of the first stage, the church had overseen the construction of 500 meters of storm gutters. The process, however, according to Pastor Santiago, wasn't alwasys easy. "I remeber the day that we had our first meeting with community representatives, and I told them that it was necessary to work together...to construct the road...We had problems [and] got discouraged. Some wanted to quit during the first stage. I told them , 'I won't quit the project... (but) I can't do this alone. If you work along with me we can do great things."
In the second stage, the road was completed with gravel and paving. The church hosted students from Vanguard University in Costa Mesa and members of New Life Church in Exeter (both in California). These mission teams gave Pastor Santiago and his leaders more than just greatly needed materials and labor; it empowered them and gave them more confidence that led to closer relationships with their neighbors.
According to Pastor Santiago, “...this project represents a great triumph...[the church] now [has] become closer to the people in the community. And people are not shy anymore to come to church...I like how they now see us.”
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.
At ENLACE, we define community transformation as a dynamic and continual process that is rooted in restored relationships and sacrificial service. This February relationships were restored and hundreds of people were served through the combined efforts of two Salvadoran churches and the Meadowbrook Community Church from Champaign, IL. They worked together to repair roads and attend to patients at makeshift health clinics organized by the partnering churches in Las Delicias and Santa Maria.
Community and church members in the area welcomed the medical team and a road repair crew who, through their service, turned churches into clinics and sorrow into joy.
The enthusiasm of the group was tangible in their warm greetings and joyful smiles. Aside from parasites and chest colds, the most common complaints from patients were pains and problems with their nerves, surely present due to their abundance of worry and sorrow. Dr. Pierce, who perceived pain that went beyond physical illness, not only prescribed medications, but also shared a special time of prayer with each patient, recognizing that there are some ailments for which the only cure is God’s love and grace.
Meanwhile, other members of the team helped community members to repair the main road in front of the Good Samaritan Church. Although the task was not easy, the presence of old friends from the community motivated them to work strongly day after day during the week of digging, moving rocks, mixing cement, and building a wall that will prevent erosion of the newly repaired road.
Meadowbrook’s relationship with the Good Samaritan Church has strengthened tremendously over the past six years, and they are now excited to have new friendships in the Prince of Peace Church in Santa Maria, as well. Both the Meadowbrook team and the communities were blessed as they opened the church doors to the tired, the sick, and the poor in hopes of bringing rest, health, and restoration through the ongoing process of community transformation in San Martin.
by Kim Frederick
“God created us to serve and we have the power to fulfill God’s mission because he wants people to be saved from their sins, but He also cares about their needs. He also cares if they have food to eat, that they have clothes to wear, and good health. It’s not a coincidence that we are here on earth; We are here because God has a purpose and he wants to redeem His creation. We are God's answer for our community.”
-Pastor Miguel Duran
During my time as a volunteer in El Salvador, I have had the opportunity to listen to Pastor Miguel Duran on dozens of occasions. His words are powerful and are matched by the compelling way he chooses to live his life. Although I know his story well, hearing him speak never ceases to inspire me and remind me why I am here, serving with ENLACE. His church was small and struggling, his congregation discriminated against and spit on by others in the community, yet Miguel Duran continued to seek God and continued to fight for his community and for the Good Samaritan Church. Enduring the personal loss of two children in the earthquakes of 2001, he continued to follow Jesus’ example of service. He has led his congregation down a path of growth and transformation that is having lasting effects on his community, on the region of San Martin, and on church partners in the U.S. who strive to follow his lead.
The Good Samaritan Church started in 1979 as a traditional church which believed their only mission was to preach the gospel and address the community’s spiritual needs. Believing that if Christ was truly in their hearts they would not suffer from a lack of food or clothing, they spent most of their time in church or in prayer, but did not address the population’s glaring physical needs. They kept to themselves and were rejected by community members in the predominately Catholic region. Over the years, however, Pastor Miguel discovered, through his own suffering, that God also cares about physical needs. He began preaching about reaching out to those in physical need, but felt inadequate due to his own church’s needs. After having the opportunity to rally church support to feed one family in need, the church felt empowered. It was then that he sought help and found ENLACE. With the guidance of an ENLACE church coach, he realized the key to being able to reach others was to first get to know them.
Pastor Miguel uses the story of Zacchaeus from the gospel of Luke to emphasize some of the first changes that occurred in the Good Samaritan Church. Zacchaeus, a man rejected and despised by the Jews because of his work with the Romans, is befriended and visited by Jesus despite his poor image and faults. While studying this and other scriptures with ENLACE staff, Pastor Miguel and his church were motivated to befriend community members outside of their church. They became friends with members from the local Catholic church, as well as social outcasts in the community, such as individuals with addictions to drugs or alcohol. They learned to accept others despite their social or religious differences, and they began to form strong relationships by promoting respect, harmony, love and mercy.
According to Pastor Miguel, building relationships in the community is a necessary first step to impacting those in need. “We can’t solve material and spiritual needs if we don’t know them,” he stated. New-found friendships became the best way to discuss issues effecting the community, and the best way to rally support for community meetings in which everyone could have a voice. After learning about others’ needs, church members slowly began to put others before themselves and developed hearts of service despite their own difficulties.
“We believe that the Church has a call from God...There are many institutions that serve the community, but the Church serves with a love and justice that come from God.”
-Pastor Miguel Duran
As in any church, some members still disagree with the church’s new mission and vision of service. Pastor Miguel is praying that one day the entire congregation will become aware of God’s heart for those in need so that the whole church will become involved with community initiatives. He remembers that several members left the church when its mission and vision began changing because they did not believe that the Church should address the community’s physical needs. However, he encourages other churches by sharing that many members, after seeing the work and its positive outcomes, have returned. “They join and participate, but we have to be patient,” he advises.
The Good Samaritan Church continues to bring the gospel to its community by serving them, by restoring relationships, and by creating new friendships that allow them to work together on sustainable solutions for the entire community. Since the Good Samaritan Church began working with ENLACE over 12 years ago, the church’s outreach committee has helped to lead numerous community initiatives, including road and home construction projects, clean-up and health campaigns, and the management of a local health clinic. Pastor Miguel expressed his gratitude for the way that ENLACE partners with his community, emphasizing that “ENLACE doesn’t impose its projects. ENLACE supports church and community projects.” Pastor Miguel is currently the president of a water board overseeing a water system that is designed to benefit 10,000 people and he remains a prominent leader in his community.
You can help Pastor Miguel and dozens of other pastors in El Salvador continue the work of transformation by becoming a Friend of ENLACE. Gifts of $25, $50 or $100 monthly enable church coaches to accompany committed churches to change lives in their communities. Your consistent giving will enable pastors like Miguel Duran and other leaders to overcome adversity and continue to be the facilitators of change in their communities.
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.
by Michelle Zuniga
Less than three weeks into my year-long journey as a volunteer for ENLACE, I had the privilege to witness the impact people can have when they are willing to cross over borders as well as cultural and language differences in order to serve sacrificially. Over the past several years The Crossing, a church from Costa Mesa, CA, has been living up to its name by crossing over barriers to make an impact in the lives of thousands of people in El Salvador through ENLACE.
As soon as the team arrived in Las Delicias and spotted Pastor Miguel and his family, they jumped out of the vans eager to greet them. Not even weariness from the red-eye flight from Los Angeles could hold the team back from smothering the community members with long-awaited embraces. The joy in everyone's face was testament to the strong relationship between the two churches, picking up right where they left off last year.
This partnership with the region has been marked by the creation of strong friendships between individuals in The Crossing Church and the local church aptly named The Good Samaritan. When asked what compels Dawn Ralph, the leader of this year's team, to come back year after year she responded, “It’s really the family we have here.”
The team chose to break into four groups of service: women's ministry, dental services, latrine construction and youth work. I particularly enjoyed participating in the youth activities which were geared toward listening to the youth and learning together about healthy friendships. This theme is especially important, as the neighboring city of San Martin is well-known for being an area with heavy gang activity. The choice of befriending or joining a gang is an ever-present option for most youth in this area and is all the more reason for the the local church to collaborate with visiting teams like The Crossing, to reach out and provide a better way.
Both the Good Samaritan church and the Crossing showed me the power of the church; change is possible for everyone despite harsh circumstances. They showed me that restored relationships are crucial to bring forth transformation, reconciliation, and development, all of which only Jesus can sustain. This is part of the reason ENLACE hosts mission teams; they serve, empower, and witness firsthand the transformation that is already taking place by the thousands of community members ENLACE walks alongside. Las Delicias is just one of many communities throughout El Salvador that has shown us so much about friendship, whether it was praying together at a Bible study, having someone pull you out of a latrine, holding the hand of someone getting her tooth pulled, or enjoying some great sopa de gallina with Pastor Miguel’s family. I can’t wait to help other teams that come to visit communities in El Salvador, teams committed to crossing barriers to make friends.
by Kim Frederick
Building a healthier future while building relationships was the theme of last week's trip from the New Life Assembly of God Church in Exeter, CA. The team partnered with old friends from the Good Samaritan Church in Las Delicias to dig latrines for two homes in the Las Animas area. Their efforts are in support of a larger latrine initiative, headed by Pastor Miguel and his congregation, in which 22 additional latrines will be built for families in need.
Rain poured down in Las Animas on Monday as the team began to dig. Bailing out buckets of water, as well as buckets of mud, the team worked joyfully through the discomfort they must have felt from being soaked “to the bone.” Chipping away at the "talpetate," or hard dirt, was a strenuous task as the narrow holes approached the ideal depth of about four meters (13.12 feet). Pastor Miguel thanked the Exeter team for their efforts, and claimed that their working through the rain, on a day during which most people did not even leave their homes, was a testimony of their faith; something that did not go unrecognized by the community.
One evening, the team had the unique opportunity to have dinner at Pastor Miguel’s home and listen to the pastor and his son share their testimonies of the hardships and joys of the past year. Keeping in mind that pastors, who spend their days serving others, are too often overlooked in times of prayer, the group from Exeter spent time encouraging Pastor Miguel and praying for his family.
The team’s enthusiasm to serve and their dedication to the community was apparent. While half of the team spent their days getting to know the community at the worksites, other members of the team spent their days in the local schools giving free haircuts to the students and teachers. “We left our children at home so we could come here,” one team member said, “but now, it’s just as hard to leave the children here who we know and love.” The team from the New Life Assemblies of God Church did not leave saying, “Goodbye,” but instead, “See you later,” as they know their church's plans to continue partnership with the Las Delicias community.
According to Gerson, the ENLACE church coach who works with Pastor Miguel and the Good Samaritan Church, there are about 75 homes in the area that still do not have access to a latrine. Latrines play a major role in the health of a community by reducing fly propagation, water contamination, and the spread of disease. Access to sanitation facilities, clean water and preventive health education have been proven to reduce infant mortality rates by 50 percent.
Take a moment to read our Summer Newsletter highlighting ENLACE's Economic Development Program.
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!
The semi-rural area just outside of San Salvador called Las Delicias, or The Delights in English, is a major thoroughfare for thousands of people who live in the various villages and hamlets just beyond the city. The highway that leads you through Delight is framed by broken-down factories, chicken processing plants, dusty tire repair shops and lean-to eateries. Windy paved roads like tributaries lead you away from the highway through rows of low-income housing where factory laborers work 15-hour days and come home to two rooms, occasional running water and a flickering TV.
You would think that life here was anything but delightful. Poverty seems to envelop everything, eating up the means to live through disease and lack of opportunity. But on this highway just past Las Delicias, where we leave the pavement behind and walk through a corridor of vegetation to descend steep steps made of used tires that help prevent erosion and landslides, we find the hamlet of Veracruz. It is here where you find Rosa and are welcomed into a small, cement patio strewn with hanging plants and stream-washed clothes drying in the humid air. It is here where we discover the unexpected reality of hope and delight.
Rosa Alba Sandoval de Granados, a wife and mother, is among the few women who work in agriculture, farming being a typically male profession in El Salvador. She is no stranger from doing what is necessary to feed her 10 children and she dedicates much of her time to cultivating beans and corn on two acres of rented land. Her husband works long hours as a security guard at a local market, a job that is tiring and dangerous but provides some consistent income. Despite their long hours, Rosa is proud that she and her husband have put seven of their children through High School and the three who are in elementary school are well on their way to graduation. This is an accomplishment indeed, as most in rural El Salvador do not go beyond a sixth-grade education.
When they are not studying, all the children help in the field alongside their mother planting, weeding and harvesting. However, three years ago, Rosa knew that her family needed to expand their farm in order to have the income to cover living expenses and create savings. Despite their hard work and successes, she did not qualify for a loan from any formal financial institutions. Loans for those who straddle the poverty line are seen as too risky and expensive to manage. That was when she turned to CREDATEC, the mirco-lending arm of ENLACE.
While she had initial success with her farming and was enjoying the first fruits of a productive season, tropical storm Ida crossed El Salvador and eighty percent of Rosa’s crops were ruined. Her home’s roof was also heavily damaged, setting her back substantially. ENLACE’s credit program worked together with Rosa until she was able to repay her loan and repair her home. The inflexibility of a traditional bank’s loan repayment schedule would have undoubtedly disabled Rosa from repaying, and crippled any possibility of a prosperous future. In November 2009, Rosa took out her second loan for seeds and fertilizer. Through more hard work, she and her family experienced an excellent growing season.
What the future brings is always uncertain--especially for those who live on small daily margins. But the access to financial help that looks to prosper micro-entrepreneurs rather than prey on them, is a delight that Rosa and her family know first-hand.