El Salvador Rises
And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
It wasn’t until we stood on the top of a mountain several days into the trip that we saw the first white person in El Salvador besides those on our team. People don’t travel to El Salvador for tourism or business. It’s not really advised.
El Salvador feels almost muffled behind a violent gang culture and a corrupt political and judicial system. As we walked the streets, we didn’t see any open violence or extortion, but there was an oppressive feeling of hopelessness and fear that cuts through the shy smiles and long stares.
Here’s some stories we heard:
A gang member wanted a daughter of a single woman as his girlfriend. When the girl refused, the gang threatened to kill the entire family for resisting. Thankfully, the family was able to relocate to Guatemala for a while, and they recently moved into a safe house in a mission compound. They loved the new house because they had never lived in a home with windows.
One pastor explained that the government is trying to crack down on the gangs, so anyone associated with a known gang member is liable for arrest. This means if a gang member walks into his church to learn about Jesus, the pastor could be arrested for “assisting” him.
But the violence and threats have not stopped the churches.
One pastor we trained lost two brothers to gang violence, but he will soon be running a school with seven ex-gang members who are now believers. He showed us a picture of one of the future students whose face is covered with blue tattoos. This man will now be trained as a missionary through Live School to take the gospel back into the gangs he came out of.
Alex grew up homeless in Los Angeles, got involved in gangs and drugs, and went to prison until he was deported to El Salvador. In El Salvador he repeated that lifestyle until he was radically saved in prison. Now, he works among juvenile prisoners in San Salvador – teaching them English, soccer, and most importantly, about Jesus.
Alex will soon start a Live School with some of the young prisoners he has led to the Lord. Once they turn 18, many of these boys will be moved into the regular prisons, prisons where no one is allowed in or out. Alex’s hope: train these young men as missionaries who will go into a place that no one else can get into…and share the gospel.
The two facilitator trainings went incredibly well in both Guatemala and El Salvador. The facilitators were attentive and excited even though the days were long and the material rigorous.
Altogether, 11 Live Schools should start within these countries by the end of the year! These schools will train around 90 believers as missionaries! Praise the Lord for these first schools!
These pastors and students are brave. They reach people groups within Central America that very few of us could reach. They face opposition and violence and arrest.
Can I, as white American woman, reach El Salvadoran gangs on the streets? Probably not. But God has drawn to himself many El Salvadoran believers who are ready and willing and able to reach those groups.
God has supplied his Church with everything it needs to reach the world with the gospel. It always takes bravery to bring the gospel to someone – whether you’re in the Bible Belt of the South or on the El Salvadoran streets.
So that’s what I returned home with – be brave with the gospel. Even when it’s terrifying to be obedient in sharing.
We are placed precisely where we are, in a particular culture, among certain people, each with our own personal history to be the disciple-makers Jesus told us to be.
Who is the Lord calling you to minister amongst? Look and then go. Let’s be brave with the best message on earth.