Every year, just before Christmas, ENLACE hosts a Pastors and Leaders Retreat. It is the one time when all of our local church partners and staff get a chance to learn together, pray and encourage one another, and have a lot of fun! Every year it has been something special. There was one year, however, that stands out and continually reminds me of ENLACE's purpose and vision.
“These people seem so happy! They seem so thankful, even though it seems that they have so little to be thankful for.” This is a sentiment that I have frequently heard during my 15 years of introducing North Americans to people in rural El Salvador. While El Salvador does indeed rank very high on the “happiness index” there is something disconcerting about calling impoverished families “happy” and “thankful.” I think something else might be going on here. Could it be that visiting an impoverished community simply shifts our baseline for how we measure happiness and thankfulness?
As I was looking through some pictures of ENLACE’s 2016 Pastor and Leader Retreat there was one photo that stopped me in my tracks. It literally gave me chills. Tears began to well up in my eyes, as I contemplated all that was represented. It looks like a normal photo of two Salvadoran men, just standing there next to each other. However, somehow this picture represents nothing less than a transformative hope for the country of El Salvador.
This year marks 15 years since I began working with ENLACE. If there is one thing that I have learned in all of these years it is that community transformation does not happen overnight. But every so often you get a good look at the enormous progress that has happened over the years. This picture represents progress achieved and an incredible hope to come.
In many ways, Flor and José Hernández are a typical family in rural El Salvador. They have two young children and live in a simple home on a small plot of land. They work very hard but are very poor. Like most families in their village, they lack indoor plumbing. They haul water from a community well and use it for all their cooking and cleaning needs. And instead of indoor bathrooms they dig pits near their home.