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.
To serve God means to serve where God has placed me and to see my circumstances as his direction for me. Many times I think I have orchestrated my own steps but in reality God has done so and his purposes are always many-fold.
I have had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador over the past several years and have experienced how ENLACE purposes to bring economic and spiritual renewal to communities through the presence and work of the local Church. The foundation of which comes through the cultivation of relationships that are based on the love of our neighbor as ourselves.
My name is Pastor Israel Pineda and I’d like to thank you for giving. Since my church and community leaders started receiving coaching from ENLACE in 2013, we have seen transformation in our hamlet of El Cocalito through physical improvements like a reduction of intestinal disease when we installed latrines. We have built homes for our neighbors and classrooms for our local school. Perhaps even more importantly, we have seen friendships formed between church members and our neighbors. We have experienced a transformed vision and motivation in our church to focus on serving others. And it’s not only me and my community that have this vision. Your support provides coaching for over 100 pastors throughout El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nepal propelling them to impact their communities by restoring relationships with the whole gospel of Christ’s love.
“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 a few days' time, people all over the world will commemorate two Catholic feast days, All Saints and All Souls, with exuberant parties, celebrated with special foods and dances, and quiet candlelit vigils, marked by contemplation and prayer.
The history of these days is fascinating, but having grown up in a Protestant household and community, these celebrations were not a part of my religious or cultural experience. For me, it wasn’t until November 2001 that I was able to see the power that these remembrance days could have.
32 families will have life saving latrines along with health education and technical assistance for building and maintaining their composting latrines. Over the last few weeks you have jumped on board the potty train. You have done your doodie! You paired your potty.
We are celebrating 12 families, individuals, churches, and schools who stepped up as Doodie Directors to raise funds for a latrine. Many others of you gave directly to the campaign. Thank you!
This two minute video gives you a quick overview of the process and benefit of latrines in communities in El Salvador.
Although we have wrapped up the Pair Your Potty campaign and won't keep pushing right now, churches in El Salvador continue to identify families in need of latrines as they work toward healthy communities. There are literally thousands of pottys still to be paired. You can support them by starting your own Pair Your Potty campaign at any point. It's a fun way to get kids, groups, teams, and families engaged in making an impact globally. All the resources you need to start your campaign are at www.pairyourpotty.org
Thank you for giving a crap!
Maria is a 49 year-old, single mother of five daughters. She and her family have struggled to make ends meet for as long as Maria can remember. Like most of her neighbors in Sirigual, a remote village located in the dramatic mountainscape of El Salvador, she has only a 3rd grade education and lives a subsistent life. Her family lives in a small, simple home and collects water from a nearby river for drinking and bathing, which is also where they wash their clothes.
Yay, it's September! Kids are in school, and Autumn is in the air! It's a golden time of busses and no. 2 pencils; of old fashion Pee-Chees and pumpkin lattes. What's not to love?
Hmmm... Like you, I can think of a few things not to love.
How about grouchy mornings and the dreaded lunch-box scramble; the cold and flu season that starts all too quickly; and the science projects that rely on macaroni noodles and copious amounts glue or switch boards and tiny light bulbs, all requiring a parent (and possibly two) to complete.
If you're already overwhelmed, you're not alone. There is one thing we can take off your list.
ENLACE is offering to sign off on Community Service Hours for your child. As a U.S. non-profit, we can provide you with a bonafide option.
And it's easy. Just join the Pair Your Potty campaign by Friday September 15.
Your kids can really make an impact by raising funds for a Life Saving Latrine, health education and ongoing support for a family in an impoverished community in El Salvador! Once the kids have put in the hours raising the funds, email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign off on the hours.
It takes just minutes to sign up as a Doodie Director and we will sign off on any corresponding service hours.
Be among the first two to respond and receive a vintage Golden (Age) Pee-Chee. Totally "Stranger Things" worthy.
Click here at PairYourPotty.org then breathe in, breathe out. One less thing on your to-do list.
Antonio and Maria Caravantes and four of their 11 children have lived in Chantusnene, El Salvador for 17 years. Like most of their neighbors, they never had enough income or expertise to build a proper toilet and instead dug pits near their home. As a result, the water table in Chantusnene had become extremely contaminated.
Did you know that you can pair your potty the way you pair your socks? Why yes! Yes, you can!
We've just kicked off the PAIR YOUR POTTYCampaign and we are hoping to raise $20,000 to provide 40 families with life-saving latrines by September 15, 2017.
Want to help? There are 2 ways:
Number 1 (see what we did there?): Donate Now
Number 2 (yep, we did it again): Become a Doodie Director to rally your friends to pair a potty together.
Here are some more numbers and why this campaign really does matter:
- 1.7 million people die each year as a result of diarrhea. Every minute 3 children under the age of 5 die from dirty water
- 40% of the population in semi - rural and rural areas of El Salvador do not have access to latrines at home
- The 2nd leading reason for medical checkups in El Salvador is treatment of parasites borne from fecal-contaminated water
- 9% of a family's household income is saved when latrines are used at home
- 40% decrease of intestinal infections when a latrine is used at home
"They 'Set Out From Their Homes' to Serve Their Friend in Trouble" International Day of Friendship (UN): July 30
July 30 is International Day of Friendship and ENLACE would like to celebrate the amazing people who have been FRIENDS, WORLD-CHANGERS and VALUED PARTNERS in the transformation work we do.
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.”
The Road to Heaven: When Good Intentions Meet Best Practices in Short-term Missions and Church-based Community Development
Once upon a time there was a member on an international short-term service team that had really enjoyed his time in El Salvador. He wanted to say goodbye with one last gesture of kindness. He decided that on his final work day, as he left the community, he would throw candy to people from the back of a truck. When the moment came, however, the treats did not bring about a happy scene; Fights erupted between children--some had caught nothing while others too much; Packs of stray dogs nipped and skirmished trying to get their share; One full bag of candy landed on the roof of a home, broke through the thatch, and knocked over a clay water pitcher that spilled on a man working at his sewing machine. Needless to say, it wasn’t quite the farewell this team member intended.
While this story is slightly embellished, it demonstrates something ENLACE has learned in almost 25 years of working with short-term service mission teams:
Unintended and negative consequences can result when
best intentions are not paired with best practices.
The number of people in the United States going on short-term mission trips is growing every year. As Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, the writers of Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions, report, there were 120,000 short-term missionaries who went abroad in 1989. That number increased to between two and three million by 2010, and the number has grown since. According to Robert Wuthnow, a professor of sociology at Princeton University, the likelihood of a U.S. church member to go on a short-term mission trip at some point in her or his lifetime could be as high as 25%.
This virtual “tidal wave” of U.S. short-term missionaries who may or may not be effective, has led some to wonder if “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” is an apt description of this phenomenon. They wonder if teams would be more effective remaining home and sending the money they’ve raised directly to organizations on the ground. And this is a good question to ask. Every organization that works abroad with short-term mission support, should be asking it.
ENLACE has been asking this question ever since we hosted our first team back in the mid-1990s. While working with churches and organizations that work internationally can be a double-edged sword, overall the experience has not just been helpful, but it has been vital. “Our international church partners play a key role in helping our work go forward.” says ENLACE El Salvador Team Coordinator Karen Chavez. “In our case, the service teams pray for and resource community-led initiatives while also mobilizing volunteers that work alongside a regional consortium of local churches. Without their collaboration, we couldn’t do the work we do.”
ENLACE believes that facilitating service teams is one important component to fulfilling its mission and vision provided that two key “best practices” are maintained. The first involves the identification of projects and the second, the identification of beneficiaries.
Supporting Roles: Project Identification and Short-term Missions
Executive Director, Ron Bueno, founded ENLACE in 1993 and has observed that poverty is a result of broken relationships between God, self, others and the rest of creation. “The church,” says Bueno, “is the most effective tool of restoration. And it is vital that short-term teams support the local church in its efforts. Identifying projects or beneficiaries on their own or giving cash or other gifts when they come to work undermines the local church’s role and in the long-run seriously hampers sustainable poverty alleviation and other aspects of the church’s transformation work.”
ENLACE’s role is to prepare the local church to connect with its community and short-term service teams are incredibly helpful when they perform a supporting role to the priorities identified by local churches working with their communities.
Respecting the Experts: Beneficiary Identification and Short-term Missions
We believe that local churches working with their communities know best the needs of their own communities. Local leaders who are working night and day with great heart, devotion and an incredible amount of sacrifice, are the experts. ENLACE comes alongside them to help fortify their efforts and expand their capacity to serve. ENLACE relies on locally elected community committees to manage all aspects of the projects they have identified. It is these committees that identify local families in the greatest need of housing, water, latrines, eco-stoves, etc.
If a visiting team (or any outside group) identifies and/or provides funds directly to an individual or family (at the time of the visit or later after pursuing independent interaction) it often damages the efficacy of the church and community’s established committees while diverting limited resources from a community-wide, integrated approach that is meant to help the greatest number of people in need. And ultimately, it is the poorest in each community who lose.
“We don’t just want 10 families who were lucky enough to be seen at a church event to get water,” says Gersón Sánchez, ENLACE’s Church Coach Supervisor in El Salvador. “We want to fortify the church’s ability to create and manage projects, and help it to grow into a role of problem-solver within its community so that everyone gets access to water, to home gardens, to health care, to waste management now and for many years to come.”
ENLACE’s approach is committed to maximizing available resources to help the greatest number of people in need in a particular community. If short-term service teams identify their own beneficiaries, they disrupt that effort and produce grave consequences for those who are poorest.
The Road to Heaven
Having the best intentions for others is absolutely necessary to bring wholeness to the world. If we don’t care for the plight of poor, if we do not choose to be God’s hands and feet, how else will the “kingdom of heaven be close at hand” as mentioned in the gospels? But empathy without a long-term perspective is only half of the equation. When we are affected by the suffering of others, we sometimes would rather provide a quick relief--even if that act is perhaps superficial--in order to feel better ourselves. It’s like giving someone with a toothache a lollipop instead of arranging a dentist appointment.
Instead, ENLACE believes and is committed to a better way, a better road. This “road to heaven” is only paved when we walk with each other in humility and truth. We must choose to take on a supporting role as local churches work with their communities and respect the long-term and broader community vision that champions the poorest. Best practices in short-term service teams hinges on these commitments and ultimately reflect God’s love and promise of wholeness.
For more details on how to plan an effective short term serving trip, download this free resource: "How To Make a Long-Term Impact With a Short-Term Serving Trip"