War Refugee to Community Servant: Teresita’s Story of Moving From Fear to Helping Others

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!

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