From April 6-12, 2011, I was able to spend a week in El Salvador. It was a tremendous experience and I enjoyed meeting some wonderful new friends who are doing great things for people in their home country with great needs. Here are some FAQ’s (Frequently-Asked Questions) regarding the trip…
Q: Why did you go on this trip to El Salvador?
A: As a pastor from our church, I was invited by Compassion International to represent our church at the beginning stages of their “Church-t0-Church” partnership program. This was called a “Discovery Trip” to meet leaders of churches in El Salvador and see the good work they are doing in their communities with the help of Compassion’s ministry.
Q: Did anyone go with you?
A: Yes, it was a thrill to have Dave and Esther Pacheco along from our church. Dave is our youth pastor (junior & senior high). We were also joined by pastors and church leaders from Washington, North Carolina, and Texas. The team was led and trained by Mark Gehri, Compassion’s director over the C2C Church Partnership Program.
Q: How did you afford to go on such a trip?
A: Actually, Compassion paid for much of this trip, with help from an anonymous missions donation to our church. We agreed (with enthusiasm) in hopes that God would guide this process and allow us to meet a church partner and help us build some meaningful opportunities to “team up” for missions work.
Q: What do you mean by “church partner?”
A: Compassion wants to match churches in the USA with churches in El Salvador (or other underdeveloped countries) to get to know one another and serve God together in some way. The best I can do is ask you to read this article if you’re really interested.
Q: So, how was the trip?
A: It was a jam-packed five-days, full of meetings, tours, introductions, and events. We spent our first day in the town of La Libertad, visiting a church and Compassion project there. On our second day, we went to a church in Plan del Pino, not far from San Salvador. On Friday and Saturday, several of us traveled three hours East (near San Miguel) to connect with a church in the rural village of Tongolona. We were delighted to spend nearly 2.5 days with Pastor Jose Angel Rivera and his family and his church. It was wonderful to get to know them and to see what God is doing in their church and community.
Q: What, exactly, would you say God is doing there in this church and community?
A: Well, their church is called Iglesia de Dios Manantiales de Vida Eterna.
Q: Can you put that in English?
A: Yes. It’s “Church of God, Springs of Eternal Life.” It’s a church of 100+ adults and nearly 100 kids. They have a Child Development Center that teaches kids to read, write, and work with numbers. They also learn trade skills like sewing, farming, crafts, and playing music. The church also hosts a Child Survival Program (CSP) for newborn babies and young mothers, helping teach the moms how to feed, love, care for, and train their little ones. Overall, the church reaches nearly 205 more children in their community through these projects!
Q: That’s great! But do they have a radio station?
A: Funny you should ask! Their pastor is in his second year of directing a Christian radio station that broadcasts to much of the country of El Salvador, and has an online streaming website for their radio!
Q: Really? You mean we can listen to it online? Here?
A: Yes. For real. Just click here – Rains of Blessing!
Q: So, what are the next steps (if any) in your partnership with this church in El Salvador.
A: Well, we’re in the “relationship building” stage, and really want to keep getting to know them. We will connect with their leaders and people via E-Mail and Facebook. I hope to talk with Pastor Angel on Skype. We will talk about sending another team of people from our church sometime early next year. There are many potential ways to work together and to get to know them. For now, I’m grateful for the opportunity and excited to see how God directs this partnership.
Q: So, why El Salvador and not somewhere else?
A: For one, El Salvador is a place of great need and poverty. Compassion International reaches nearly 40,000 children in this country alone. Compassion staff also works well with these local churches to help us have “solid ground” when we are able to get involved. They can help with translation, travel arrangements, cultural challenges, and safety issues. They can also help train our teams to be effective servants to God and others when we go there.
Q: What was one highlight of your trip?
A: Hmm. That’s tough. One afternoon, we had the privilege of visiting the home of Alberto Jurado – the boy that my wife and I sponsor through Compassion International. To see his home, the living conditions, the floor he sleeps on, and the difference in lifestyles… that was challenging and affirming… affirming that – though the resources are poor, the people are precious, and we have the opportunity to help… first with relationships and support… and sometimes with resources as well.
Our team from Delaware meeting leaders from the El Salvador Church - Pastor Angel is on the far right.
Q: How can we pray for the church in El Salvador?
A: Pray for the leaders, including the group here on the right – Pedro (far left), Ulysses (next on left), and Pastor Angel on the far right. Pray for their safety and for their families. Pray for God to provide a bridge to span the river that divides their town. Pray for the young people who are so often tempted or forced to join gangs in this country. Pray for their Compassion center, reaching 200+ kids each week. Thanks for your partnership through praying for the brothers and sisters in El Salvador!
Q: How do I as a church member (who will probably never go on a mission trip) partipate in this relationship?
A: Sponsor a child (through Compassion International) who is part of this church’s ministry. Your monthly support for that child ($38), your prayers and your letters will change the child’s live…and yours! Don’t be surprised if God does call you to go on a missions trip to our church and to hug your sponsored child in your own arms!