Jesus told a story long ago about a man who was planning a wedding feast. At first, he invited "the right" guests, his wealthy and privileged peers. But they all declined the invitation by giving lame excuses. Some sounded like, "I'm washing my hair that night... Sorry." And so the host decided instead to invite everyone and anyone. He invited those who were sick, suffering and lowly in every way. People who offered nothing to him but their presence and willingness to celebrate. They came and had a rocking good time.
This month ENLACE will celebrate its 25th anniversary in Corona Del Mar! We are overjoyed and so grateful.
One of the most important things that I have learned over the last 25 years of working with under-resourced communities is that trust and security between neighbors is even more critical when trying to build long-lasting solutions to poverty.
That day, whether we knew it or not, all of us together, by loving each other through service, we were creating a space in which incredible things were being born.
As a short-term service team facilitator, I get the wonderful privilege of seeing the moment in which everyone–church leader, community leader, government officials, non-government organizations, international team members, community residents and even our staff– come together. It is at this moment that the words, “the Kingdom of God is here,” never felt so real. It is the breaking down of barriers that creates the possibility for us to come together as one, for us to truly love each other and build community.
Right now, there are more than fifty incredible poverty alleviation projects that have been designed and partially funded in communities across El Salvador, Nepal and Guatemala.
Local churches partnering with ENLACE maximize their efforts by connecting strategically with local organizations and local volunteers which provide both valuable resources and labor. These churches have learned how to bring everyone together to create projects that solve very difficult problems such as the need for clean water, waste management, adequate shelter, and food and income security. All we need to do is match their donations.
Celebrating ENLACE’s 25th year means celebrating the Power of With. That is, what is most significant about this milestone for us is that for 25 years we have had the privilege of walking WITH churches as THEY walk WITH their communities to bring about profound change. While ENLACE encourages and equips churches, providing technical support and some project funding during the seven to 10 years in which we walk alongside them, all of us at ENLACE know that the church and community leaders are the ones who, despite facing incredible challenges and daily struggles, live and breathe sacrificial service. As a result, thousands of impoverished people are experiencing better, safer, and healthier lives of economic and spiritual stability.
When people ask me where the idea of ENLACE came from, I have to admit that the vision of equipping local churches wasn't how I always thought things should work.
ENLACE has always relied on the power of volunteers with big hearts and visions. Since the very beginning, three of us met in a choir robe room at a local church in San Salvador. Two of us were volunteers. This ratio has remained rather consistent even as the organization has grown exponentially.
I started with ENLACE in September 2002 when we launched ENLACE USA. So I have been around 15 + years in its 25-year history. (I started when I was young!) My years with ENLACE have expanded my understanding of the mission of the church. Several years ago I had the privilege of witnessing and participating in a celebration in which a church and its community was inaugurating a clean water project. It was THE FIRST TIME in their history to have clean and accessible water which with spigots installed in each home. They laughed and cried as water poured from a newly drilled well that was the result of years of collaborative effort between the church and community.
As I stood there in the midst of the celebration, I was struck by the fact that the church has the opportunity to bring 'living water' to thirsty souls and also physical water to the thirsty body. My take away was that just maybe the two kinds of water are inseparable. Can the church care for the souls of people and ignore the need for compassion and justice? I think not. That is why I have committed the past fifteen years of my ministry to work alongside the ENLACE team to equip churches to bring spiritual and physical transformation to their communities.