El Salvador: Land of Physical Poverty Yet Spiritual Wealth

standard September 30, 2015 5 responses

Last week I testified to God’s faithfulness to allow me to participate in a Mission/Vision trip to El Salvador with Compassion International.  I had mentioned that it was a trip of a lifetime, and it was! Just knowing that I almost didn’t get to go made the whole experience extra sweet and special for me.  I soaked in every moment.

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.”

Psalm 103:1-6 (NIV)

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El Salvador is a beautiful land with rolling hills and lush landscape, and it is sometimes referred to as the “Ireland of Central America.” But despite its geographical beauty, it is a place where poverty runs rampant as do the gang members.  The problem seems to lie in the educational system: public grade schools are conveniently located to the students, but the high schools are sparse, requiring extra transportation costs.  Many of the families cannot afford this extra cost so the child drops out of school making them an easy target for the gangs to pick up as a new initiate.

Our group of women could feel the oppression as we drove through the littered streets.  Gang signs were present on poles, marking their territory lest anyone else try to lay claim.  We were told to put our cell phones out of sight or else they would most likely end up on the black market.  An armed guard or police officer was stationed at most of the establishments we visited.  The average family monthly income in the rural areas of El Salvador is $120.  Let that sink in for a moment. That’s only $1,440 per year to support an entire family.  Yet even through all the impoverishment, I saw a land of hope.  And that hope lies in the faces of the children.

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The first Compassion center we visited was extremely new, only a few months old.  Casa de Pan (House of Bread) is run by Carlos and Candy who have a passion for the children and love them with an agape love.  You could see the gratitude that Candy had for the Compassion sponsors and she teared up several times when describing how much this center means to each child that visits it. It is a place where they can come twice a week to receive a meal (of which they usually save as much as possible to take back to share with their families), tutoring for school, and a chance to hear about how much Jesus loves them.  Most of them do not hear from their parents that they are loved, much less that they are smart or valuable. The center tries to teach them that they have a hope and a future in Christ.

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(The children sang “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord” in English.)

After we visited with different families in the community, we returned to Casa de Pan to pray over those running the center.  But oh my were we in for a treat when Candy started praying over us with the rest of the center members praying out loud at the same time. The Compassion interpreter did an excellent job of translating, but it didn’t really matter. The Holy Spirit’s presence was so strong that it was all we could do to try to keep it together.  We had been to church…in the purest way! Praying for one another, lifting each other up to Jesus, knowing that He will supply every need.  These people are desperate for the Lord and it spills out into their everyday life.  It was a rich moment that I hope never to forget.

The Prayer at Casa de Pan

As I was leaving, I slipped Candy a $20 bill and told her that it was for the offering plate.  She was crying and telling me “Gracias, gracias, gracias!”  It struck me that I had spent more than that on a pedicure before I left, of which the paint was already chipping off.  I am sure that the twenty dollars I gave her went a lot further and will have a much more lasting effect than a pedicure ever could.  Candy had told me that through the church she and Carlos feed the entire community on Christmas Eve.  When I asked her where the funds for that came from she said, “The Lord always provides.”   That’s what I would call being “spiritually wealthy,” wouldn’t you?

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If you are interested in sponsoring a child from El Salvador, please contact me or visit compassion.com/elsalvador.  Release a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.

I Will Testify

standard September 24, 2015 7 responses

Do you believe in the supernatural power of God? I do and I have for several years. But this month I got to experience a supernatural work in my own life.

This is a picture of me with some new friends on a flight to El Salvador that I almost didn’t have the privilege of being on.

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In the early summer months, I received an invitation from a Compassion Advocate to attend a women’s only mission trip with Compassion International in September to El Salvador. Knowing that I would be taking eight credit hours in my Master’s program this fall I was somewhat hesitant to commit right away. But earlier that spring, through the Compassion Experience, the Lord had led our family to sponsor a child from El Salvador. His name is Jaime (pronounced Hi-mee) and he was absolutely adorable in his white tennis shoes. My husband was instantly drawn to him and claimed him as our own. We began praying for him and writing him letters, and in one such letter Adams sent him a verse, Jeremiah 33:3: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’FullSizeRender 2

I told my friend, the Compassion Advocate, that we were actually the sponsors of a child from El Salvador and I wondered if I could meet him while on the trip, however, I did realize that El Salvador is a country, and it may not be feasible to ask for such a request. My friend was quick to call Compassion and they answered that it could indeed be done. I took this a sign from the Lord that I was to participate on this trip and I immediately began brushing up on my Spanish. (Hola!)

Two weeks before I was set to leave on my trip to El Salvador, I began to feel ill. I called my husband (thinking it was possibly food poisoning) and asked if he was feeling the same way, but he was not. I brushed it off and that next day he left for a spiritual men’s retreat in which he had been planning for several months. The following day the pain in my stomach worsened. I thought possibly I had an ulcer, so I contacted my good friend and pharmacist and asked her for antacids to help relieve the pain.  But the pain in my stomach was substantially increasing each day and eventually I was not able to stand up straight.  I finally accepted that I was in a real predicament so I drove myself to my doctor’s office and begged to be seen. He was gracious to see me, but when he delivered the news that my symptoms pointed to appendicitis I was upset.

I do not have time for this! I am leaving for my trip to El Salvador in two weeks. My husband is out of town. Doesn’t this require surgery? I can’t have surgery. I have school on Monday. What should I do?!

A CT Scan was scheduled for the following week and I was given strict instructions on what to do if I needed to go to the Emergency Room over the weekend. I called my husband and relayed the bad news with a shaky voice and more than a few tears shed. Ever the voice of reason, he assured me that the Lord was in control and he began making phone calls to surgeons to put together a game plan for us. I was grateful for the support, but I knew that his concern over my situation was taking away from his effectiveness at the retreat…which was exactly what the enemy wanted.

The next day I woke up with a pounding headache, no doubt detoxing from sugar and caffeine due to my lack of appetite. I forced myself to eat a small bowl of cereal and slipped outside to do my Bible reading before my girls woke up. While I was in the middle of reading, I started praying for healing. It was in that moment that the Lord met me where I was.

I kept saying, “I will testify. Lord, please heal me and I will testify.” And while I was praying, I literally felt the pain leave my stomach and disperse into thin air.

When I closed my eyes I saw everything that I had on my plate: Seminary, Bible Study, a Women’s Retreat, the Compassion trip, my ministry with Reflecting Light, my girls’ schoolwork. I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me, “All these things are good and important, but you, April, are trying to do them in your own strength and not Mine. Give them back to Me and let Me accomplish what I want done.” So I did and the burden was lifted.

You may be asking yourself, “Why is she telling me all this?” The reason is, dear friend, I told the Lord that I would testify and so I am here to do just that: to testify of His faithfulness once again in my life.

The Bible Study that our Wednesday morning group is currently doing is on Spiritual Warfare and putting on the Armor of God. I don’t think that it is any coincidence that my health was attacked prior to my Compassion trip and other ministry opportunities. Ephesians 6:10-12 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Rest assured, our God is victorious! But sometimes our faith requires us to stand firm and fight the enemy. Not in our own strength, but in His! And then we need to testify.

To conclude, I did have the CT Scan performed the following week so that everyone’s mind could be at ease before I left for a third world country. We were not surprised when the scan came back “normal” and there was no inflammation in or around my appendix. I was truly healed and cleared to go on what would be a life changing trip for me. But more on that next week…

Thank you, sweet reader, for taking the time to hear my testimony. The Word of God says that the accuser (Satan) will be overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.  (Revelation 12:10-11).  Believe it! There is power in the Word of God and in our testimony.

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Now it’s your turn! Please share any story you might have of God’s supernatural work in your life.