Tag Archives: El Salvador

Serving God in The Pit – The 2015 El Salvador Trip Report

2015 El Salvador team

Over the past five years, Timberline Student Ministries teams have been partnering with Pastor Santos and the 92-member congregation of Salem Church in El Espino, El Salvador. Initially linked through an organization called ENLACE, the goal is to help local churches become agents of change within their communities. In past years, the teams from Fort Collins have worked on a giant wall to protect a school, constructed eco-stoves to reduce smoky air in homes, and dug latrines to reduce disease in communities. (You can read more about  some of the past trips here: 2012, 2013, 2014)

2015 El Salvador trench

This year, the team returned to the Mira Flores School to work alongside members of the congregation on the final section wall. When they arrived, part of the trench for the wall had been started but the young men on the team had plenty of work ahead of them to create a trench nine and a half feet deep, three feet wide, and twenty feet long. That’s a lot of dirt! The trench affectionately became known as “The Pit.” The dirt shoveled out of the trench had to then be shoveled away from the area and was moved to the adjoining field that the school is trying to level, thereby making the work on the wall a double blessing.

Meanwhile, the girls got busy tying rebar by twisting pieces of wire to hold the bent rods that connect the long metal rods that are used to strengthen concrete. Once the trench is complete and ready for a concrete foundation, the rebar will be what holds it all together and keeps it from crumbling at the first sign of stress. Of course, the team leaders found an analogy for life right there in building a strong foundation and how the unseen affects the seen in our lives.

2015 El Salvador rebar

Once at least part of the trench was deemed deep enough, the next phase was adding back in a layer of sand and then using hand-made tampers to compact the leveled sand. As one team member put it, “Tamping is basically lifting and dropping the weight over and over and over” resulting in a great core workout and bonus hand blisters.

Of course one of the highlights of working at the school was interacting and building relationships with the school children and staff. Each morning, the youth were greeted warmly by the students and some received handwritten notes with pictures expressing their appreciation and love. The work may have been hot, sticky, and dirty, but the resulting smiles and relationships were worth the ant bites, dirt stuck on every part of the body, and rusty hands. Relationships were also built in the moments of laughter, playing soccer, chasing chickens, and giving names to the local dogs that seemed to hang out around the team every day.

2015 El Salvador children 1

In addition to their labors, small groups were able to go out into the community on home visits to encourage, pray for, and give food staples to people who were ill, disabled, or recuperating. One amazing 73-year-old woman was being cared for by one of the twenty or so children she had taken into her home and cared for over her lifetime. Her legacy of being the hands and feet of Jesus inspired and blessed the team in return.

One afternoon, part of the team headed back to the church to encourage the women leaders. Together, they learned from the Book of Ruth about how we are not meant to walk through life and also talked about redemption. Each of the women received a small gift from the team containing a few toiletries wrapped in a bandana and their expressions of gratitude spoke far more than words.

2015 El Salvador children 2

Another afternoon, the team presented a children’s program at the church. Salem Church is also partnering with Compassion International to reach into their community. The older students come in the mornings to get tutoring, a meal, and learn about Jesus while the afternoons are the same for the younger children. The team was surprised to find 120 kids from ages four to ten but jumped into action with games, a skit, testimonies and songs. It was yet another opportunity to learn that they always get so much more back that what they gave to others.

2015 El Salvador praying over wall

On the final afternoon, the team took part in a celebration and dedication of the work project at the school. The principal expressed her thankfulness for their efforts and then both Pastor Santos from the Salem Church and Pastor Tim from the Timberline team shared their hearts. The finishing touch was when members of the local church, school staff, students, community members, and the Timberline Student Ministries team all laid hands on a part of the completed wall and prayed together, giving glory to God at a public school.

This video from Day 5 captures some of the highlights. Other videos can be seen at http://www.tsmelsalvador.org.


Team Heading to El Salvador

elsal 2015

A 20 member team (13 students / 7 adults) from Timberline Church (www.tsmelsalvador.org) will be leaving for El Salvador on July 4th. Over the next 7 days, they will be building a wall around a public school with the local church through a partnership with ENLACE (www.enlaceonline.org), presenting a one day children’s outreach at Salem Church, encouraging the women leaders of the church with a short Women’s Ministry piece, and going on in-home visits with the Salem church volunteers offering food, companionship and prayers for the sick and disabled.

The Students have been raising fund for the project costs over the last several months and were so blessed by the support of Timberline Church at the Car Wash Fundraiser this past weekend. They are happy to report that 183 cars were washed and they reached their fundraising goal of $19,000. “Thank you all and to God be the Glory!”

While they are gone, please pray for:

  • Team unity, openness to God’s plan for this trip, and health for the team as they enter into areas of poor sanitation.
  • The local church and their impact into their community for Jesus.
  • Openness in the hearts of the community members the team will be working with to see the reason they are being served is out of a servant heart’s love for Jesus.
  • Openness of the teams’ hearts to learn and grow in the ways God has planned for each individual.
  • Continued openness with the school children and staff at the Mira Flores School.

Introducing Timberline Ambassadors Bo Carr and Rebekah Hill

Bo CarrRebekah Hill








This summer, two young women from the Timberline Church family will be working in El Salvador. Bo Carr is a 3rd grade teacher at Riffenburgh Elementary School while Rebekah Hill is going to be a freshman at the University of Northern Colorado this fall with plans to study nursing.

They are going to El Salvador to serve with Harvesting in Spanish in the capitol city of San Salvador. The ministry has an orphanage, health clinic, feeding center, and they also teach English to the locals. While there, Bo and Rebekah will be helping out in the clinic and possibly a school.

Bo decided to spend some time in El Salvador this summer because there are so many ways to serve there and is especially excited about helping in the new clinic that was recently opened. Meanwhile, Rebekah fell in love with the people of El Salvador during trips with Timberline Student Ministries the past two summers and is excited to go back, especially since her hope is to use her future degree in medical missions.

Bo is praying that God finds the perfect spot to place them while they are there. “I just want God to use me in the way He wants to … a way that brings Him glory.” Specifically, Bo wants to leave El Salvador knowing that the people there saw Jesus in her and that they were able to grow closer to Him through her service. Rebekah is praying that this trip will not only help other people, but also help her grow closer to The Lord. Both ask for the ability to communicate with the people and be able to share the love of Christ.

To Finish The Work: Pray, Give, and Go

marlene medical

As we move closer to Missions Week 2015, the Love Reaches team is continuing to share the stories of others engaging in missions with their time, talent, and treasure.


“I have close friends that are missionaries that I pray for on a daily and weekly basis. Other missionaries I pray for whenever I look at maps (which is quite often). When I receive the monthly missionary email, I pray for each of them at that time as well.” ~Troy Knuppel

Troy and his wife have gone on several missions trips and treasured the prayers of others. “When we are out on a mission trip, to know that there are people that are diligently praying for you back home is encouraging, strengthening, and humbling. We had multiple times where very specific prayers were answered, even if they were not answered exactly how I thought it would happen. To be prayed over as a team and be SENT out is a remarkable experience.”

timheist2014 elsalvador


“It is a joy to give to missions.  My wife and I budget a fraction of our tithe each month for support of missionaries.  It is also fun to spontaneously give to someone going on a short term trip or for a special need for a particular missionary. Our giving method is usually the way that gets the money to the person as efficiently as possible. I do like to have updates and good communication from missionaries I support.  I definitely like to feel like I am part of the team.”  ~ Anonymous

“I started giving financially to missions in the ‘70s when I was in high school and college.  Now we have most of our giving automatically withdrawn from our account. We try to make giving to missions a priority and have tried to teach that to our kids. Giving financially to missions has freed us up to know what is really important in life and what will last for eternity.” ~Anonymous

“I came on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) in 1980 and spent 17 wonderful years working with college students in the U.S. as well as in Eastern Europe. I was responsible for raising all of my financial support and thankfully I never really had any financial worries because God always took care of everything right when I needed it.  When things became challenging and I knew I was in a Spiritual battle, I would remember that it was not just some organization that paid me to do a job.  I knew that the support came from God and that He used people in a financial way to keep me on the field.  I always felt like I was part of a team with my financial supporters.”  Marianne Elsheimer

troy haiti

Go: Troy and Kendra Knuppel (also leading a trip this summer!)

From Troy – Kendra and I went to a Missions Celebration in 2010 and a fire in us was ignited that had been simmering for a couple of years. I believe that I always wanted to go on a mission trip. When Pastor Mark asked me if I would like to go to Haiti, I did not have any expectations of what it would be like and just wanted to enjoy the entire experience. The first time I stood in the orphanage, I was changed forever. My heart grew many times for children, especially for the suppressed and persecuted. I have gone back many times since that first trip in November 2011 and would go back in a minute.

If someone is thinking of going on a mission trip or as an Ambassador, I would say GO. When you are in a foreign land, your senses are heightened to a point that you cannot do this without divine intervention. And then you live where Paul did: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor 12:9)

Marlene and Mariah

Go: Marlene Zbacnik (returning to El Salvador this summer!)

From Marlene – I came to missions in a roundabout fashion. I never thought of a pharmacist being useful for a medical team. Doctors, dentists, or nurses, yes. But me? No. It truly was a case of God equipping the called because I had no idea what we should take for medications or how to package them. We learned as we went along.

In my first two years as a volunteer, I only supported the teams going out and gathered feedback when they returned. We transitioned from using gleaned physician samples to directly ordering medications and supplies through organizations whose mission is to support medical teams like ours. One of my favorite things is seeing the teams help package the medications before the trip because it is so cool to see them start to work together and begin relationships that will be forever cemented in the shared love of God.

The youth construction side of my missions life wasn’t planned either. My daughter Mariah wanted to go to El Salvador as a sixteen-year-old. After attending the meeting with her, I offered to help chaperone if they needed parents. (I always had a secret desire to see what a construction trip was like, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine being with 20+ teenagers in a 3rd world country!) Well, my husband passed away the end of May when we were scheduled to leave in July. One of the first things Mariah asked when we were more coherent was, “Are we still going to be able to go?”

The answer was “Yes, Ted would have wanted us to go.” Working hard with the kids and studying the Bible passages from the Book of James during that trip was healing in its own way and I know it added to my recovery. That year, there were three mother-daughter teams and ENLACE wanted to film a Mother’s Day promotion for the next May. What Mariah and I said so touched the leaders that they used our testimony. Kind of amazing that brokenness ministers to others.


Go: Pastor Tim Heist (also returning to El Salvador this summer!)

From Tim – My first missions trip was actually a Christmas present that I will forever be thankful for. A church student ministry leader and mentor of mine approached my parents about the possibility of taking me and a few other students on a trip to England to partner with an organization and church for a VBS style kids camp in the heart of Eastern London. My parents, looking to create a great environment of learning about Jesus, the global church, and finding ways to challenge me, thought the trip was a great idea. That Christmas morning I opened up a present and felt confused. It was a piece of luggage, every 15-year-old’s dream. Little did I know how much that gift would change my life!

We went on the England trip in February of 2003 and when I look back on it, not only am I shocked how young I was, but I am thankful for what that trip taught me. It taught me the value of being on a team and serving. It taught me that no matter your age (young or old) you have a part in the work God is doing through his church,  It taught me that Jesus changes lives. Throughout that week I was challenged by the team I was serving with to go beyond what I knew was comfortable and step out into trusting God. It’s hard to fully put into words, but it was a physical trip that showed me a need for a spiritual trust in Jesus.

If you are considering a short term trip or perhaps a longer one, I would encourage you to step through the doors God opens and go. Going takes courage, trust, and a lot of hard work as you prepare and fundraise, but trips like these have forever changed my life and could be a positive change in yours. Will it be hard? Hopefully! Looking back on this trip, and the many others I have been on since then, it is through the trials, daunting fundraising, and the situations where I didn’t know how to respond, that God makes himself known. Every summer we take students to El Salvador to partner with a church and be a catalyst for change in the community. We tell our students to never let money keep them from going. I would encourage you the same way: If God opens a door for you to serve and experience His work in the global church, Go! After all, we never truly know how life changing a small conversation can be.

For me, it was a leader’s invitation. What will be the start of something great for you?

More Than Latrines – The 2014 El Salvador Trip Report

2014 El Salvador team

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.

2014 El Salvador latrine

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.

2014 El Salvador team 2

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.

2014 El Salvador banner

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.

Team Heading to El Salvador

latrine el salvador

A 29 member team (23 students/6 adults) from Timberline Church will be leaving for El Salvador on July 5th. Over the next 7 days, they will be building latrines with the local church through a partnership with ENLACE, presenting (at the invitation of the school principal) a skit and song at the public school where previous Timberline student teams built a retaining wall, playing games and interacting with the school children and staff, and going on in-home visits with the Salem church volunteers offering food, companionship and prayers for the sick and disabled.

The 65 latrines the students have raised funds to build will benefit an estimated 325 people living in El Carmen, reducing diarrhea prevalence by 25%, diarrhea morbidity by 35% and infant mortality by 33%.

While they are gone, please pray for:

  • Team unity, openness to God’s plan for this trip, and health for the team as they enter into areas of poor sanitation.
  • The local church and their impact into their community for Jesus.
  • Openness in the hearts of the community members they will be working with to see the reason they are being served is out of a servant heart’s love for Jesus.
  • Openness of the team’s hearts to learn and grow in the ways God has planned for each individual.

Learn more and get blog updates while they are gone at www.tsmelsalvador.org.


Building Hope in El Salvador – 2013 Trip Report

El Salvador 2013 6

After long hours of travel, the Timberline missions teams were warmly welcomed by the church in El Espino, El Salvador. The group stayed in the country’s capital, San Salvador, but worked with families in El Espino and La Labor. The bus rides were long, but the beautiful green and volcanic landscapes fueled entertaining and exciting conversations. The journey over the week was filled with laughter, challenges, joy and hope. The teams worked with an organization called Enlace, which means “to link.” Enlace’s goal is to link churches in America with churches in El Salvador, then help them to serve their community.

On Sunday, the teams worshiped with Pastor Santos and his congregation in El Espino. Although there was a language barrier, it did not stop the love that was shared and the relationships that were formed. The youth team taught the Sunday School leaders some games to help engage the kids in learning about the love of Jesus. They also taught the leaders some actions to a Spanish/English worship song, “Trading My Sorrows/Cambiaré Mi Tristeza.” Seeing the congregation worship together emphasized the importance of having the teams in El Salvador. They brought hope to the community.

el salvador 2013 27

In just four days, the youth team tackled the overwhelming challenge of building 20 EcoStoves in La Labor. Until now, families have been using open, wood-burning fires, which cause many respiratory diseases in addition to harming the environment. The EcoStoves provide a safer, cheaper and more effective way for families to cook. The youth team had a fantastic time building the EcoStoves, using their feet to mix the cement. The cement even contained a secret ingredient–molasses! They used molasses to protect the bricks on the outside of the stove. It was such a blessing to be a part of something that will change the lives of Salvadorian families. One lady had a huge smile on her face and could not wait to light the first fire on her new stove. By the end of the day, they were exhausted, covered in dirt, but feeling satisfied about each day’s work.

Meanwhile, the adult team kept extremely busy at the clinic, serving over 450 patients through the week. Not one person was turned away and the team was able to meet the needs of every patient. Many kids had developmental disabilities and it was amazing to witness how their families met their needs with limited resources. When the teams met to make house visits in the afternoon, it was eye opening to see how strong the families were and how they shared unconditional love for each other. Each day was challenging and filled with incredible experiences.

El Salvador 2013 2

Both the adult and youth teams met at a rural school where the team started building a wall two years ago. It was exciting to see the wall completed and being used to benefit the school. Both teams spent time playing games and worshipping with the smiling kids. The kids were very welcoming and loving and it emphasized the importance the teams of being in El Salvador.

The youth team received a banner from the school in honor of the work they have done. The plan is to display the heartfelt gift in the youth office of Timberline Church. There was a wonderful dedication of the project at the church in El Espino. The pastors spoke about the very exciting new relationship formed between the churches in El Espino and La Labor. After the dedication, they enjoyed a celebratory dinner of pupusas, which was a great opportunity to share in praise with the local church members.

El Salvador 2013 12


It was a very emotional and exciting week for both teams. The last day was planned as a fun day at the beach. It also was a day to mull over what they have learned over the week before heading for home. They asked the question, “What do we do with our heightened relationship with Jesus once we return?” They learned that we serve a truly amazing God who will provide no matter what. It’s important to always trust in Him. After a fun day of walking through the warm volcanic sand and splashing through the waves, it was time for the team to go home. Everyone arrived safely at home very early Sunday morning. The teams would like to thank you so much for your prayers and support over the week. It’s exciting to see how the Holy Spirit will change the lives and bring hope to the people of El Salvador.

Read more and watch the daily videos from the youth team at www.elsalvadortym.blogspot.com.

(Courtesy of Storyteller Nicole Sutton)