Like highlighted during the Missions Celebration in March, the 29-member team from Timberline Church partnered with Pastor Santos and the Salem Church congregation to continue serving their community in El Salvador. On their first day, they all gathered to worship together. During the service, the Timberline Student Ministries team was introduced and presented with a banner the Salem church had made. The interesting God-moment was that while the banner was being made, one of Timberline’s team had been making a quilt for them!
The main project for the week was building latrines in El Carmen with Pastor Jose and his congregation. (Pastor Jose is being mentored by Pastor Santos and is beginning the journey with ENLACE to connect his people with their community.) The Timberline team divided into four groups each with a local mason, interpreter, and members of the local church. Each location had its unique challenges since some sites were located quite a hike from the road, some holes needed more digging, and others had the hole dug too wide. With the help of the masons, they were able to come up with solutions and soon found a rhythm of taking turns working and playing with the children. The families being blessed were very welcoming and excited.
As hard as they worked on the latrines, the trip held so much more. One day they visited the Mira Flores School in El Espino at the invitation of the principal. This was the site of work in 2011 and 2012 where teams built a retaining wall around the property to help prevent mudslides and gang recruitment activity. During their visit, they presented a short program to the 5th and 6th graders including a skit, testimonies, song, and invitation to receive Christ. The foundation to share the gospel had been laid by previous teams and the ongoing work of the local church to support the public school.
That afternoon, after lunch at the Salem Church, some of the team did leadership training with Pastor Santos and the El Espino church leaders centered on the analogy of having healthy roots, a stable trunk of community, and then fruit produced by God. The Salem Church youth group then did a special presentation of a human video to a Casting Crowns song. The day ended with a soccer game between the El Salvador church and the Timberline Student Ministries team. Timberline emerged with a 3-2 victory and believed Pastor Scot at 6’7″ could be the tallest goalie they had ever seen.
In the afternoons on two of the work days, half of the group went on home visits with Pastor Jose and some church members. The visits were unique opportunities to go into homes selected by the church as having a special need of some kind and may or may not have been members of the congregation. During the visits, they were able to learn more about the people, pray with them, and leave them with some food staples put together by the church as a way to show God’s love in a tangible way.
They discovered that with God, nothing is a mistake or a surprise. When one scheduled stop found no one home, the visitors ended up at the home of an elderly woman and her sister who swept the patio and entertained the group. The amazing part of their visit was the fact that the sisters actually did not know where their next meal was coming from. The blessing of food from the church was a front row opportunity to watch God at work and be part of His personal plan.
The team was happy to report that, at the end of the week, 20 latrines had been completed. While they had raised enough money to build 65 and aren’t sure how or when the rest will be built, they know they will get done and felt blessed to know God used them to touch so many lives. During the project dedication service at the church, they were able to hear from some of the new latrine owners as well as pray for the pastor, church, and the community. Goodbyes were hard knowing they might not see each other again this side of heaven.
Their last day in El Salvador was spent playing at the beach, enjoying the terrific friendships that form in a mission community, and processing the inevitable emotions as they prepared to return to their lives in the United States. As they concluded their group study of Philippians, the main topic of discussion was how they had been changed and how they could allow that change to be used by God in their day-to-day lives. After all, their trip to El. Salvador had been about more than latrines.
Read more about their adventures and see their daily videos at www.tsmelsalvador.org.