2019 was a topsy turvy year for many of us. It was a year full of heartache and hope across the globe. From ENLACE’s vantage point, the humanitarian crisis on the U.S. border was an endless source of grief.
Many of you who know my wife Jenny and I are familiar with our story.
We met in college and were married in 2002. For our honeymoon, we were invited to volunteer for a few months in El Salvador. After seeing the incredible work of rural pastors, our three-month honeymoon turned into nearly eight years of living in El Salvador. Our children were born in El Salvador, and we’ve now been involved with ENLACE for more than 17 years. I would have never imagined what God had in store for us when we said yes to a trip to El Salvador.
Over the years of working in international missions, I’ve had a chance to meet so many incredible people who want to make a difference in the world. They often tell me how blessed and grateful they are to live in the U.S., and so, as a result, they want to join a mission trip hoping to spread God’s blessings. After raising their money and going to serve, they come home expressing they received so much more than what they feel they gave.
But I also have found that they emerge from the life-changing missions experience with something else: a measure of despair.
As parents and caregivers to children, we all identify at some point with Elizabeth Stone’s well-known quote, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
The first time we send our kids into the wild unknown at any stage--whether it be their first day of kindergarten, a first sleepover or trip to a summer camp, or dropping them off as 9th graders to High School and then saying goodbye at college--our hearts seem to simultaneously expand and contract with something close to physical pain as we contemplate all the potential experiences that they may navigate without us being present.
We know that obstacles will come in many forms, and we desperately hope they will be able to encounter, steer through, and emerge, if not stronger and wiser, at least whole. And when they do undergo painful experiences, the empathetic pain of our heart living outside our bodies is acute indeed.However, as we grow into our parenting, we come to realize very quickly that as much as we wish we could, we cannot fix every bad experience or minimize our children’s suffering. We are faced with our own limits, and we begin to come to terms with the fact that our ability to protect our children from heartaches, setbacks, and struggles can only extend so far.
1. the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.
Homes Transform Lives for Generations
"Working alongside church leaders and volunteers in El Salvador as they helped to build homes in their own communities was an experience I'll never forget. I came on a missions team to help build a home. I left knowing that the heroes were all the women and men in the local church who, despite their own poverty, put the needs of their neighbors first. They gave up their time from work, donated tools, and helped with childcare to build homes together that will last these families a lifetime and beyond! I can’t imagine a better way to spend my vacation time!"
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
– Anais Nin
For just about all of us, it’s hard to imagine a life without friends. Some of the best ones have accompanied us through our lives in times of plenty and in seasons of difficulty. Others may have graced our lives for just a short while, but in that time something brilliant grew and we are forever changed.
The lauds to friendship are plentiful, and to most of us, as noted by the author Linda Grayson, the only thing better than a friend is a friend with chocolate.
There was a time early on in ENLACE’s history that Ron and I would host service mission teams without the incredible staff we now have. Those years were extremely demanding and, as in all small businesses/organizations, it was all hands on deck much of the time. So it was quite common for our children to accompany us as we navigated the roads and byways of El Salvador, facilitating service teams.
“You are the light of the world... Let your light shine so that people everywhere see your good deeds and praise God!” - Matthew 5.14-16
Paula lives with her husband and five children in the rural community of La Labor, El Salvador. Several years ago while working with ENLACE, Pastors José & Jenny Molina of the Fe y Gracia Church and several community leaders, approached her and other farmers in their community to see if they'd be interested in creating small chicken farms.
When I moved to El Salvador in 1996 at the age of 25, I was a few months married and had no children. By the time we moved to England and then on to the United States, I was a mother of three teens and turning 40.
Getting up before dawn amidst the growing cacophony of doves, pigeons, droning insects and waking roosters, Erika, a young mother of five children living in the rural village of Caluco, El Salvador, would coax a fire to life over an open cooking hearth in her living room.
March is a month that celebrates many things. If you're Irish, mad about basketball, a women's history activist, or like to open umbrellas indoors (yes, indeed there is a "day" for that), March has something for you. For us at ENLACE, we love to celebrate Women and Water!
"Pastor Santos and his wife, Mari, are a living example of true love--as a couple, and toward friends from all over their community and the world. They are true life partners. The phrase 'Here is love' epitomizes them perfectly."
- Margarita Campos, ENLACE International Service Team Facilitator
In 2018, so many generous donors and short-term volunteers all over the world came alongside church and community leaders in El Salvador, Nepal and Guatemala and transformed the lives of thousands of families! We are so grateful and are just bursting to tell you about it!