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.
Just before our third retreat back in 2004, I was playing with photoshop at the office in San Salvador and decided to paste the faces of three Salvadoran pastors onto the Three Amigos movie poster. The close friendship of Marcos Melara, Miguel Duran and Victorio Paz was something really special and since laughter was always a part of their interactions, I wanted to celebrate that as well.
These men are among ENLACE's “founding pastors,” and their work and experiences have significantly shaped our approach. They formed part of the first pastoral steering committee which continues to guide the major decisions taken by the organization each year.
I printed out a copy of the poster and took it to the retreat. I had no idea how big of a hit it would be and many more copies were made. Since that weekend, it became common to see a poster taped to a staff member's desk or on the wall in a meeting room.
I was glad that the staff, who love these guys dearly, enjoyed seeing their friends in this manner. But what was even more surprising was that years later, when I was visiting Miguel Duran, his copy of the picture was framed and hanging on a wall in his home! Even now, the picture of our dear "Three Amigos," or “Tres Mariachis” as they call themselves, continues to be talked about and remembered fondly at every retreat.
What is truly amazing though is that this weekend, instead of just the “Three Amigos” at the retreat, we have more than “Three Hundred Amigos” from more than 80 churches around the country! This is due in great part to the hard work, collaboration and strong friendship of these three friends. Year in and year out they diligently and lovingly served their communities while supporting other pastors to do the same. Their friendship has been a model for hundreds of other pastors and leaders who desperately want to see their communities changed.
And just as I love to tell and reflect on this story of friendship, I also want to take the opportunity to tell you that we value YOURS! Through the supportive friendships of our donors, we have been able to host this event every year. And every year we have grown. For every new church that is serving its communities, thousands of people have been blessed with things like clean water, health care, food security and much much more.
If you have a moment, please pray for everyone this weekend as we gather again. We know that even more miracles of friendship and service are right around the corner.