El Salvador day 7 and reflections

“For as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 56:10-11
 

 
As we prepare to leave El Salvador and return home, we leave with mixed emotions. Each one on our team has seen the Lord work in great ways this week. We have formed wonderful friend relationships with the WOL team – when you partner together in ministry there is a strong bond that is built. Last night we were able to spend a couple hours with the WOL team at the office celebrating what the Lord has done this week. Marcelo grilled a la argentine tradition (it was incredible), and we were able to share and spend time together.
 

 
I have asked a few of our team members to share briefly one take-away from our time here:
 
“I have been humbled this week, and become more thankful for the Lord’s provision in my life. The Salvadorian people have less and yet are more thankful. They are willing to give. They invited us in and welcomed us. We have so much and yet can learn so much from them.” – Cameron
 
“I am impressed with how well the WOL team works together. It’s amazing how much they are able to accomplish with each other.” – Ed
 
“I appreciate the receptivity of the people here. They may not receive the gospel message, but the are glad to have a conversation with you about it.” – David
 
“It is the Lord who saves. No one comes to the Lord unless he draws them. We can speak the gospel clearly and passionately, but we need him to work in hearts.” – Carter 
 
“I have been reminded what the church really is. Worshipping in a place without walls and a bamboo roof, we see that the church is more than a building, it is the people gathered together to worship God.” – Ellee
 
“Sharing the gospel is our responsibility, whether we are in El Salvador or at home. God gives us opportunity to share, we need to respond to those opportunities.” -Teresa 

El Salvador day 6

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,
and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.    2 Timothy 2:1-2
As we start our last day of ministry here in El Salvador, I have been encouraged by the gospel message over and over. When you share about the grace of God in Jesus and the new life we have in Christ, and then see people of all ages respond in faith, it is such an encouragement to the soul! In sharing, I have been reminded of the vastness and the depth of my sin, the necessary punishment of a righteous and holy God, the sacrificial death of the Son of God in my place, the gracious gift of forgiveness and righteousness, new life in Christ, and eternal life in fellowship with our Creator. And getting back into our van, I hear our students sharing stories of grace, methods for sharing the gospel with clarity, and anticipation for sharing again. Wow!  We never move past the gospel!
Yesterday, we had the privilege of sharing the gospel with 3 more schools (approx. 700-800 students) – presenting the “Empty Heart” drama and breaking into small groups to teach.
A few other highlights from the day:
  • Seeing a group of students huddled around Ed because they liked to hear him talk.
  • Eating lunch at McDonald’s – let’s just say the Big Mac knows no cultural boundaries!
  • Eating pupusas for the first time overlooking San Salvador.
  • Seeing Carter rocking out his role in the skit – moon walk, electric slide, macarena, and much more. (Usually those participating in the drama stand with their backs to the crowd, but we changed it up due to the heat and then we could see the other parts.)
  • Showing little Salvadorian kids pictures of the snow – Rachel Delaney, there are some kids here who think you are a professional snowboarder because I still had that pic on my phone of you sledding. #translationprobs

El Salvador Tourism Day


Yesterday was “Tourism Day”, and we were able to travel north through the beautiful Salvadorian countryside to a coffee plantation, Cafe Ataco. We saw the entire coffee production – from picking the coffee cherries from the tree to final product poured in the cup. It was an amazing experience for several reasons: 

1. We saw another region of El Salvador that was absolutely beautiful.
2. Most of us enjoy coffee and were amazed by the amount of work and precision that goes into the process.
3. Each of us left the plantation with a whole new respect for the Salvadorian work ethic. Men, who weighed approximately 150lbs, were loading sacks of coffee all day that were equal to their weight. Women processed beans by hand for quality control inspection.
 


 


 

As we return to San Salvador city, it is amazing to see the distinction in the way people live in this country. After serving in rural, poor communities (homes with dirt floors) for several days, it is a little overwhelming to come back into the large city – that is more similar to an American city.
And yet each person here, and around the world, had the same need, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for us today as we minister the gospel in three schools around San Salvador. Pray that our hearts would continue to be impacted as we serve that the Lord, and that He would give us a passion for sharing this wonderful truth.

El Salvador day 4


After a few days here, I am realizing that El Salvador is very different from our American culture and lifestyle. Driving down the road and seeing a pick-up truck with 10 guys hanging out of the back is not the American way – here riding in trucks is encouraged, not prohibited. Police officers carrying machine guns. Families welcoming complete strangers into their homes – stopping all that they were doing and gathering the whole family together – to have a conversation about the gospel. 


Yesterday was another example of a completely different culture. We were able to share the gospel in 3 public schools – approximately 600 to 700 students total. When we arrived, the teachers dismissed their class to the commons area to see our program. The WOL team gathered and welcomed the students, introduced us, and then we started the gospel presentation. Our team participated in the “Empty Heart” drama that depicts a young man who is searching for satisfaction in the things of this world (materialism, popularity, drugs and alcohol, girls, religion, etc.). His heart can not be filled with any of these pursuits and he is left in despair until he is introduced to the “Christo”. Jesus Christ not only offers eternal life, but following him in this life brings purpose and satisfaction.
After the drama, a WOL missionary summarized the drama and clarified the gospel. After a few minutes, the students were gathered into smaller groups for discussion. Our team had the opportunity to lead these small groups and teach with the help of translators. The Salvadorian students are given the opportunity to respond to the gospel and contacts are given to a local church. I believe the WOL team is coming up next week to assist with follow up and train the churches to engage these students and their families.
Reflecting on yesterday’s events, the Lord is really at work through the WOL ministry here. Would this happen in the USA? Probably not, but praise the Lord that these opportunities are a reality here. Please pray for these students and their families. Pray that the churches would be able to engage them and that they would be connected to a church body for support and discipleship growth. Please pray the the schools will continue to be open to WOL sharing the gospel to the students.
 

Today we are heading out on a tourism day to see more of this beautiful country.

El Salvador Day 3…

El Salvador has almost 7,000,000 people. How do you reach them with the gospel and teach them to become disciples of Jesus Christ?

In the past few days our team has spent a lot of time driving around the Salvadorian countryside, in route to our next ministry destination. I have been able to hear from the WOL leadership about their vision and goals – to reach this beautiful country with the Gospel. WOL seeks to share the gospel with 20,000 Salvadorians each year – which is a huge goal and yet a drop in the bucket compared to the total number. And how could a team of 22 effectively follow up with and disciple that many people?
[enter the local church]
As I have heard and witnessed, the WOL team is committed to the local church. Even in short, passing conversations with WOL missionaries, I hear their love and commitment for their church. Each are committed to teaching the Bible (they call it “Bible Clubs”) and developing leaders and making disciples. Each day we have partnered with churches, a pastor and several members, to go into homes to share. If the gospel is going to continue to increase in this country, it is going to need strong, healthy churches to make and grow disciples.

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Yesterday morning, we traveled to Santiago de la Frontera (a small town near the Gautamian border) and were welcomed by brothers and sisters from Oasis Evangelical Church. This open-air shelter constructed from tree limbs and corrugated sheet metal was filled with life – children were singing, warm greetings from the adults, and strategic planning for the day’s work.
The Lord is at work here and I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the gospel ministry here. Please continue to pray for our team. Today we are heading back to Santiago de la Frontera to preach the gospel in the school. Please pray for the churches to be strengthened and for more churches to be planted.

El Salvador day 2…

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Matthew 5:3

The morning started with a “Super Match” in a small community that was about 30 minutes from where we’re staying. A church gathered the the youth together (they have been working with them through an afternoon program). We played a lot of fun games and then the gospel was present. Rodrigo led the large group time and then we broke into small groups for our teams to share (the WOL crew translated for all of us except Cameron, who was able to share completely in Spanish!)
 

After lunch, we had the opportunity to share the gospel door to door in a small rural community with our Spanish brothers and sisters from the church Dios Es Amor (God is Love). The remoteness and the poverty of this region create certain obstacles, and yet the people were gracious and hospitable. Each family welcomed us and we were able to discuss the gospel and our hope in Christ.
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We met several teens and I had the privilege of seeing/hearing our group share their faith with them, pleading with them to believe and trust in Jesus. It seems that whether you are in rural El Salvador or in Cave Spring, we are all tempted to live for ourselves and temporal pursuits rather than the everlasting hope and satisfaction found in Christ.
We returned to the church for a worship service (all in Spanish) and Alex from WOL brought the word. Roy asked him to keep his message short, for he is known to preach for 2 hours!
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We finished the day with a meal together and retired for the evening. A good and full day of ministry!

El Salvador Mission Trip Update – Day 1

We spent most of yesterday traveling to El Salvador. After many hours of flying we were graciously met in the San Salvador airport by Word of Life director Roy and two other missionaries, Rodrigo and Oscar. After grabbing a quick lunch and meeting up with the rest of the WOL team, we set our course northwest to the town of Santa Ana. Traveling through the countryside was an enlightening experience, as we were able to catch a small glimpse of the lifestyle of many who live in this country. 

 

Arriving in Santa Ana, we settled in to our hotel, Tolteka (which are wonderful accommodations), had dinner with the team and spent some time planning and praying. For the next several days, we will be working with churches in this area. As I am learning, the Word of Life team partners with local church to share the gospel and make disciples. There are 268 municipalities in the country of El Salvador, and WOL has been able to partner with churches in 162 of those municipalities, over the last eight years. Our team will have to privilege to minister in the towns of Metapan, Santiago de la Frontera, and Candelaria de la Frontera – frontera can be translated frontier or border. These rural communities (near the Guatemalan border) are very poor and in the words of Roy, are “also poor in spirit – very humble.”
This morning we will participate in a “Super Match” which is a strategy that WOL uses to reach out to high school students. In a local park, we will set up games and activities for the students to participate in and then share the gospel with them through a skit and a message. After lunch we are planning to serve with a local church Dios Es Amor,  going door-to-door to share Christ with their community.
Please continue to pray for us and our partnership with the WOL team. The people we seek to engage today most likely have a familiarity with Jesus through cultural Catholic heritage that is strong here. Please pray that the gospel of grace would disassemble a works-righteousness penetrate through a tough religious shell.

A Glad and Generous Christmas…

6570744841_69c6cfdc16It’s the most wonderful time of the year…filled with decorations, cookies, presents, music, and all the Christmas cheer. As a Christian dad who is trying to lead my family well through the holiday season, I am trying to help my children think rightly about Christmas.

Enter Santa Claus.

My soon to be 3-year-olds hear songs about Santa, watch Christmas movies with appearances by the big man, and see him at the mall. So what do we do with Santa Claus? Embrace him fully, reject him totally, or find a happy medium? That’s a question that Christian parents seem to be asking this time of the year. To some, it seems that the modern Santa Claus (much different from Saint Nicholas of church history) represents the consumerist and materialistic problems that plague the Christmas season and holiday. The most wonderful time of the year can easily become the most stressful time as desires become demands and take the throne of our hearts.

James, writing to believers, asks a pointed question to them about the origin of their sin:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (4:1-3).

James, why is our culture so materialistic? Why do my children have a Christmas list a mile long? Why do I have a Christmas list a mile long? James seems to be saying that our hearts are the source of our competing desires, our envy and covetousness. Ouch! I thought it was Santa’s fault, not my own heart’s sin struggle.

wordmadefleshEnter Jesus.

Christmas is a season where we celebrate the incarnation of our Savior, which is “good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2: 10b-11). Jesus came to live and walk among us. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to save us and to give us a new heart. And he left the Holy Spirit with us to root out the sin that so easily entangles, and to help us wage war against the remaining sin that finds its home deep within. The gospel is our only hope in fighting discontentment, materialism, selfishness, enviousness, and all the other sins that grow so freely around the Christmas time.

As a church, we have been studying the Treasure Principle together. Randy Alcorn has a helpful section “Changing Christmas” found on pages 386-387 in his larger work on the subject, Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Here are his remarks:

Can we change the pattern of materialism in our homes? Certainly. Take Christmas, for example. We can buy far less. We can hand make presents, set a budget, and buy presents in advance to avoid the unnerving jostling through stores. Any change is good if it helps us to focus on Christ rather than ourselves. We can visit shut-ins or take food to the needy – to focus on giving rather than receiving….But even if you still exchange presents, you can make Christmas different. Don’t be victimized by the world’s materialism. Worship Christ in simplicity.

This Christmas, maybe we should be less worried about jolly ole Saint Nick lurking in the chimney and more concerned with the war within our soul. Let’s help one another find the joy in Christmas – that One freely gave his all for us. In turn, let’s model for ourselves, our families, and this world what Christmas is really about.