One of the coolest things about working in community development for over 25 years is that you get to see and experience moments in which the world truly acts like a global community.
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.
Many of you who know my wife Jenny and I are familiar with our story.
We met in college and were married in 2002. For our honeymoon, we were invited to volunteer for a few months in El Salvador. After seeing the incredible work of rural pastors, our three-month honeymoon turned into nearly eight years of living in El Salvador. Our children were born in El Salvador, and we’ve now been involved with ENLACE for more than 17 years. I would have never imagined what God had in store for us when we said yes to a trip to El Salvador.
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.
“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.
When I moved to El Salvador in 1996 at the age of 25, I was a few months married and had no children. By the time we moved to England and then on to the United States, I was a mother of three teens and turning 40.
Getting up before dawn amidst the growing cacophony of doves, pigeons, droning insects and waking roosters, Erika, a young mother of five children living in the rural village of Caluco, El Salvador, would coax a fire to life over an open cooking hearth in her living room.
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.
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.