Burger King and beans. That these bookended the life that my family and I shared with others while living in El Salvador may prompt you to think that this post is about the gastronomical changes we experienced while living abroad. To be sure, our eating habits were altered a bit. But this is not a culinary tale. Rather, it is a story about the transformative and lasting impacts of hospitality.
If you were to travel to the southwest region in El Salvador, you would find a small fishing village called Metalio. This beautiful fishing village gets hit with an immense amount of rain each year that causes long-term problems for its residents. In a community where 40 percent of its population lives in extreme poverty (making less than $2 per capita per day), these severe weather patterns impact the daily lives of people.
As many of you know, a core aspect of how ENLACE operates is by building local and international partnerships in order to transform communities. From the beginning, we have seen that community transformation can only happen when people collaborate together to identify the physical and spiritual needs of a community.
With the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, ENLACE began a major pivot in our year’s community development plan and began to provide relief as early as April in Central America. It’s been an incredible effort by hundreds of devoted people. One of our superheroes during this transition has been Dr. Eva Berdugo. Dr. Eva is coordinating all relief and efforts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nepal. Not only has she been instrumental in designing and managing day-to-day operations and communications, but she has also helped to provide solid and capable leadership as ENLACE turns now toward recovery.
For many of us during this pandemic, there have been many dreams that have not gone the way we planned or hoped for. Dreams have been put on hold, re-oriented, or lost altogether. Not only can it be daunting to have to navigate a new world and reality that does not have a firm structure, but it can also be deeply sad to have lost something you were counting on or excited for.
“When our focus is on serving others, our differences become
meaningless and our love for each other prospers.” - Jayger McGough
My childhood lessons and experiences have been paramount in setting the direction for my life. I still remember visiting orphanages and homes with kids who had disabilities when I was nine years old. Every weekend for many years, we would drive 30 to 45 minutes each way to spend time with these children, feed them, hold them, deliver donations to them, and give them gifts we had wrapped for them. Seventeen years later I can still picture my mom carrying and pouring love into the babies, especially a baby called Adonai who suffered from microcephaly.
Imagine a world in which curiosity and respect for others different from us were normal. What would it be like to live in a community that enjoyed diversity and welcomed a multiplicity of cultures? In some ways, it’s easy to imagine. I like being valued. I enjoy seeing others experience a life of peace and happiness. For me, as soon as I imagine it, my heart expands and my breathing actually feels deeper and easier.
ENLACE’s international church partnership strategy is the backbone of how we support ongoing community transformation efforts in impoverished communities. As part of this strategy, we love to work with international mission partners who want to go deep with a region of a country to partner with multiple local churches to make a true impact. We are always looking to work with partners who want to come alongside ENLACE to support local churches and communities as they are working to transform their communities.
2019 was a topsy turvy year for many of us. It was a year full of heartache and hope across the globe. From ENLACE’s vantage point, the humanitarian crisis on the U.S. border was an endless source of grief.
Over the years of working in international missions, I’ve had a chance to meet so many incredible people who want to make a difference in the world. They often tell me how blessed and grateful they are to live in the U.S., and so, as a result, they want to join a mission trip hoping to spread God’s blessings. After raising their money and going to serve, they come home expressing they received so much more than what they feel they gave.
But I also have found that they emerge from the life-changing missions experience with something else: a measure of despair.
There was a time early on in ENLACE’s history that Ron and I would host service mission teams without the incredible staff we now have. Those years were extremely demanding and, as in all small businesses/organizations, it was all hands on deck much of the time. So it was quite common for our children to accompany us as we navigated the roads and byways of El Salvador, facilitating service teams.
“You are the light of the world... Let your light shine so that people everywhere see your good deeds and praise God!” - Matthew 5.14-16
Paula lives with her husband and five children in the rural community of La Labor, El Salvador. Several years ago while working with ENLACE, Pastors José & Jenny Molina of the Fe y Gracia Church and several community leaders, approached her and other farmers in their community to see if they'd be interested in creating small chicken farms.