Meet Joel Kelderman. He is a real estate investor and ENLACE Board Member. Read on to learn how Joel began to work with ENLACE and why he values its work of transformation in the world.
While growing up in a small, Midwestern farming community I vividly remember asking myself often, “Is this as good as it gets?”
“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.
As parents and caregivers to children, we all identify at some point with Elizabeth Stone’s well-known quote, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
The first time we send our kids into the wild unknown at any stage--whether it be their first day of kindergarten, a first sleepover or trip to a summer camp, or dropping them off as 9th graders to High School and then saying goodbye at college--our hearts seem to simultaneously expand and contract with something close to physical pain as we contemplate all the potential experiences that they may navigate without us being present.
We know that obstacles will come in many forms, and we desperately hope they will be able to encounter, steer through, and emerge, if not stronger and wiser, at least whole. And when they do undergo painful experiences, the empathetic pain of our heart living outside our bodies is acute indeed.However, as we grow into our parenting, we come to realize very quickly that as much as we wish we could, we cannot fix every bad experience or minimize our children’s suffering. We are faced with our own limits, and we begin to come to terms with the fact that our ability to protect our children from heartaches, setbacks, and struggles can only extend so far.
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.
In 2018, so many generous donors and short-term volunteers all over the world came alongside church and community leaders in El Salvador, Nepal and Guatemala and transformed the lives of thousands of families! We are so grateful and are just bursting to tell you about it!
In 2017, your generous contributions helped us to continue to equip churches to transform lives in El Salvador, Nepal and Guatemala.
2018 marks ENLACE’s 25th Anniversary. What is most significant about this milestone for us is that for 25 years we have had the privilege of walking alongside churches as THEY transform THEIR OWN communities. ENLACE has encouraged and equipped, to be sure. Our staff works tirelessly on a daily basis coaching and supporting hundreds of churches’ efforts. But 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.
To serve God means to serve where God has placed me and to see my circumstances as his direction for me. Many times I think I have orchestrated my own steps but in reality God has done so and his purposes are always many-fold.
I have had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador over the past several years and have experienced how ENLACE purposes to bring economic and spiritual renewal to communities through the presence and work of the local Church. The foundation of which comes through the cultivation of relationships that are based on the love of our neighbor as ourselves.
My name is Pastor Israel Pineda and I’d like to thank you for giving. Since my church and community leaders started receiving coaching from ENLACE in 2013, we have seen transformation in our hamlet of El Cocalito through physical improvements like a reduction of intestinal disease when we installed latrines. We have built homes for our neighbors and classrooms for our local school. Perhaps even more importantly, we have seen friendships formed between church members and our neighbors. We have experienced a transformed vision and motivation in our church to focus on serving others. And it’s not only me and my community that have this vision. Your support provides coaching for over 100 pastors throughout El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nepal propelling them to impact their communities by restoring relationships with the whole gospel of Christ’s love.
As I was looking through some pictures of ENLACE’s 2016 Pastor and Leader Retreat there was one photo that stopped me in my tracks. It literally gave me chills. Tears began to well up in my eyes, as I contemplated all that was represented. It looks like a normal photo of two Salvadoran men, just standing there next to each other. However, somehow this picture represents nothing less than a transformative hope for the country of El Salvador.
This year marks 15 years since I began working with ENLACE. If there is one thing that I have learned in all of these years it is that community transformation does not happen overnight. But every so often you get a good look at the enormous progress that has happened over the years. This picture represents progress achieved and an incredible hope to come.
Antonio and Maria Caravantes and four of their 11 children have lived in Chantusnene, El Salvador for 17 years. Like most of their neighbors, they never had enough income or expertise to build a proper toilet and instead dug pits near their home. As a result, the water table in Chantusnene had become extremely contaminated.
When his mother drowned during a family excursion at age 11, José and his four siblings became orphans. “I never knew my father,” said José, and so from that point on life became a fight for survival. “Our only solution was to join a gang.”
The saying “A woman’s work is never done” is true the world over. Perhaps this is because most women are highly connected in a variety of ways to their families and communities. The number of roles they inhabit, that of daughter, wife, mother, friend, leader--can be plentiful, rewarding...and taxing. Whether a woman has biological children or not, I think all women who “mother” (the word is in fact a verb as much as it is a noun) can relate to both the hard work and the rich bounty of wisdom that their lives give them.
One night in 1980 during the height of the Salvadoran civil war, Teresita and her family were forced to flee their home in San Vicente. She and her children settled into the hamlet of Metalio but for many years she was too afraid to leave her home. “I didn’t want to leave my house because I was afraid of everyone and didn’t know anyone.” Then a group from World Vision came to her community and began to offer trainings on caring for children. Not only did this awaken in her a desire for helping others, but it also coaxed her from her home and birthed in her a deep love for her community. Soon after, she ventured to San Salvador to get a degree in kindergarten education.
As the years went by, however, life was not easy. Like many in her community, she and her family struggled to make enough to survive and lived in health-compromising situations due to a dilapidated home and open cooking fire. Despite the challenges, she continued to serve her neighbors and faithfully attended her local Catholic Church.
It was while attending church that in 2013 she met the pastor of the Rosa de Sarón Church, a local pentecostal congregation. He and his church invited her and everyone at the Catholic church to attend a meeting to learn about a project they wanted to propose to the community. As a result she began to participate in a series of ENLACE projects beginning with a life-saving eco-stove and presently a new home.
According to Teresita, however, the projects were only a portion of the blessings that have come from the Rosa de Sarón Church and its community involvement.
“When we were working on [the eco-stove project], I was going through a very difficult time. One of my sons was imprisoned unfairly...very far from here. I would leave my house at one in the morning and when I arrived at the prison I would have to wait four hours standing up just to find out that I wasn’t able to see him. I could only deliver his things and leave. On some occasions when I arrived home I would find the brothers and sisters of the church working in my house on my stove. Throughout this whole process I felt supported by all of the community and the pastor. Even a group of North Americans who were working prayed for me...Also at that same time, my youngest daughter got sick and had to be hospitalized for several days. There were moments when I didn’t know what to do but ask God for strength. Thanks to Him, my daughter got out of the hospital and my son got out of prison free of all charges. Since then I have been committed to working much more for the community because they never left me alone and always supported me.”
When the church proposed to start a housing project that would provide new homes to the neediest families in their community, Teresita was on the top of the list. But she didn’t own any land which is a prerequisite. But according to Teresita, even this obstacle was overcome because of the strong relationships that had been built within the community. “I didn’t have my own land to be able to apply for construction,” she said, “but God touched my boss’s heart and she gave me part of her land...I feel even happier and grateful for this because [the Rosa de Sarón Church and I] haven’t been working for our own benefit but for the community...God has seen our work and without us expecting it, He sent us all enormous blessings.”
Click here to learn more about Teresita and the churches engaging in the southwest region of El Salvador!