When his mother drowned during a family excursion at age 11, José and his four siblings became orphans. “I never knew my father,” said José, and so from that point on life became a fight for survival. “Our only solution was to join a gang.”
It wasn’t a good life, but in sad ways it kept the children from starving and the family somewhat together. During one particular stint in prison, said José, “I ran into my older brother [and] at the same time my younger brother was in another prison.” And when they weren’t in prison, one brother or another was always there with drugs to help ease the fear, grief and stress.
Eventually, however, José felt like he was going to fall apart. One night in particular he remembers crying out to God asking for help. He was in prison without any hope of release and made a bargain with God in return for help. Five days later, he was called before a judge. Because of some confusion regarding the correct spelling of his name, his three months in jail was considered time served and he was given conditional freedom.
After going home, however, “I completely forgot what I had told God,” said José. Then one morning he watched as groups of young people walked into a local church three blocks away from his home for a crusade. The night before had been filled with drugs and alcohol and had left him hazy and hung over. In that moment José realized that nothing he was doing provided him any peace. “Let’s go to the crusade and hear what those noisy people are talking about,” José asked his brother. But his brother only laughed. José remembers handing his brother his remaining cigarettes and heading to the church.
“When I got to church I was scared and ashamed but the brothers and sisters were so kind. Some of the women took to me as a son. It was what I had been looking for and had never felt. My childhood was about working to be able to eat and now, within a short period of time, I am...sharing in beautiful experiences that I’ve never had before.”
Since then José has gotten involved with many aspects of church ministry including participating in the first year of partnering with ENLACE. “ENLACE has been a great help in my life...and Brother Marco, our pastor, helps us as well.”
Even though José doesn’t yet have a stable job or an education that would provide a pathway to certain careers, he says he’s hopeful and will attend all the capacity building workshops that ENLACE and the church offer. “God has allowed me to be more committed because now it’s not just about my life but about serving the community,” said José. “And in the meantime, I can be looking out for all the needs that come up [at church] and in the community in general.”
Click here to learn more about José and the churches working in the Northwest region of El Salvador!