"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
Santos & Mari are pastors of the Tabernáculo Biblico Salem Church in El Espino, El Salvador and the strength of love in their relationship is quietly making their church and community stronger.
Their church is a vibrant and growing congregation of 117 members, 25 of whom are strong leaders. They began partnering with ENLACE in 2008 and serve a population in which approximately 34% of families live in extreme poverty (making less $2 per person per day). The church created an outreach committee that works closely with a variety of community organizations, such as the mayor’s office and ministry of health, to create and implement projects such as home gardens, tilapia ponds, latrines, a water project, the construction of 24 homes and an incredible chicken farm initiative which is helping small scale entrepreneurs create and expand their own laying hen businesses.
The church also has a vibrant ministry to people with special needs, which is something very close to Pastor Santos' heart due to his own struggles. Pastor Santos suffers from fibrous dysplasia (Jaffe-Lichtenstein disease), a rare bone disorder in which bone is replaced by abnormal scar-like (fibrous) connective tissue thus weakening it. While any part of a person's skeleton can be affected, the disease has left Pastor Santos' face and skull misshapen, producing much pain, both physical and emotional. He and Mari often speak about the struggles Santos faced growing up in a community that didn't understand and sometimes treated him as an outcast. And a surgical intervention he went through a few years ago did not produce much physical relief.
Despite these setbacks, Pastor Santos and Mari rallied their church to see and care for people struggling in their community. With support through ENLACE's Church & Community Program the church outreach committee accessed and implemented a grant from Joni & Friends and other international donors and U.S. churches to create a county-wide effort to help physically and mentally challenged people and their families. They installed wheelchair access ramps at schools and homes, facilitated therapy for children and therapeutic training for families with special needs members. Their work continues to this day.
Pastor Santos is quick to point out, "It is through my pain that I have learned to identify with those who are physically and mentally challenged. It is our job to care for them in all the ways we can. No one is forgotten."
Over the years, Santos and Mari have become greatly respected leaders and have helped to transform both their community and entire region. During their tenure with the Tabernáculo and ENLACE, the church has become a "LIDER" in its community. The term LIDER is an acronym ENLACE uses to indicate that a church has "graduated" from its training by fulfilling specific service and transformation milestones, including becoming a resource for other churches and creating and implementing many of their own development projects.
You can help Santos & Mari and so many other couples working together for change in their communities! All donations are tax deductible and matched by local resources.
Learn more about ENLACE's 4 out of 4 star rating on Charity Navigator.