El Salvador Journal: Day 7
Tuesday, July 20th 2010
The first began with us setting up benches in the school’s courtyard, as the children began to come out from their classrooms. Most of the children wore a school uniform, which consisted of navy blue pants or skirts with a light blue, button-up shirt. Some of the boys wore a white t-shirt. We were told that, while most of the children elected to wear the recommended attire, it was not a requirement.
The program began with our typical opening performance of “My King Jesus”, followed by a variety of other skits and dramas. The children, here, seemed more attentive. Like American school children, they probably preferred anything over the lessons from which they were just rescued. The teachers and other adults present also sat attentively and seemed interested in the message.
It seemed as though the entire school, which was about 35-40 kids, responded when it was time for a closing prayer. Each of the requests (salvation, healing and peace in homes) was well responded to. One was compelled to believe that lasting decisions were being made, when witnessing the earnest expressions on their faces.
Each program was hard to walk away from. We so enjoyed our interactions with every group of kids. None-the less, there was another school we needed to visit, before we would return to this one for a later program.
While we were leaving the school, Pastor Nick and I stopped and spoke to a couple of gentlemen who were just moving their family into the neighborhood. Caesar, who spoke excellent English, inquired about the purpose of our visit. He responded to our explanation by expressing an interest in networking with Castle’s ministry in hosting visitors to his country. However sincere his intentions, we suggested that he contact a Castle church in his area. He and his dad got some contact information from Oscar.
The second school we visited this day was only a short drive from the first. This school seemed to be three or four times the size of the first, and was quite livelier. It was a rather cool venue, as kids stood in the courtyard, lined the walls and looked on from upper level windows and balconies.
During my team’s time in prayer, I talked about a certain boy who captured my attention during the opening songs. This certain young man was easy to distinguish from the rest as he stood with arms folded, wearing a dark denim jacket. He had all the appearance of a born leader. Each of the team members agreed, as he stood out to them as well. We all began to intercede for him, asking the Holy Spirit to connect the truth of the Gospel message to this young man’s heart.
As we re-entered the courtyard for a final prayer, I asked James to approach the young man and his group of friends, since none of them responded to the call for prayer. James, Pastor Nick and a small group of our guys had the awesome privilege of talking with the young man, Hosea, and leading him and his group of friends in a prayer of salvation, as they agreed to take this life-changing step.
Once our prayers were complete, we returned to our waiting bus. Taking advantage of an opportunity to thank God for all he did at this school, an impromptu celebration broke out as people beat on empty water jugs, rattled makeshift maracas, puffed on half-full water bottles and chanted cheers that were becoming familiar rallying cries at the conclusion of a program. Whether an act of praise or a group of kids simply caught in a moment, we certainly didn’t mind looking foolish for our King.
Returning to the school we visited earlier that day, we welcomed an older group of children into the familiar courtyard. This was only after the team was destroyed by Josh in a game of “Ninja”.
Our second stop at this school was similar to the first, both in terms of the children we met and our ministry to them. As with the first, most, if not all, of the children responded to calls for prayer with earnest desires to find answers to the issues they faced.
At the conclusion of our last school session, we boarded the bus and headed for another playground. En route to our destination, we were specifically warned against taking anything of value into this neighborhood. Although this was a typical precaution, this time it was issued as a deliberate warning. Consequently, we have no photos or videos from this stop.
Upon arrival, we were not greeted by the typical large group of children. In fact, at this stop in our mission, we encountered the smallest turnout of any of our ministry locations. None-the-less, we prayed that God would speak His message of healing and restoration to those who were willing to receive.
Before this program, we tried to attract attention to the court by starting a game of soccer. Although some watched from afar, few were eager to participate. Unfortunately, our team suffered a potential setback when James injured his foot. Although his exact injury wasn’t immediately clear, we knew it was something that couldn’t just be walked off. After praying for James and taking him to the bus, we proceeded with our program.
As the time for prayed arrived, we were instructed by our hosts, to approach the few on-lookers we attracted. Few responded to calls for prayer at this location.
Members of our team approached a particular woman and communicated, the best we could, our desire to pray for her. Agreeing, she nodded. As we began to pray that the Holy Spirit would communicate truth to her heart, she began to cry. When an interpreter arrived, we were able to ask her about any specific needs she might have. She expressed concern for her son, explaining that he was approaching an age where gangs were applying increasing pressure for him to join. She talked about her concern for his safety.
A member of our team received a word from God that He was going to provide for her a very clear and specific example of His ability to protect her and her family. Suddenly, it began to rain. Realizing we were standing beneath a thick canopy of a single tree, we began to tell her about the love and protection she could find by making Jesus her Savior. We told her that God spoke to us about an example of His protection. We said that His example would come as clearly as the way in which we were protected from the rain under that tree. That day, our new friend quietly asked Jesus to be her Lord. As soon as we finished our prayer, the rain stopped. It seemed as if God brought that rain, just to illustrate His protection for her and her family.
In preparation for our final stop, our hosts again warned us of the threats we faced in the next neighborhood. All of their warnings were immediately made evident as we were lead down a narrow alley to the site of our last ministry stop. Although it’s difficult to describe the depth and variety of spiritual oppression we sensed, we were certain of the source of it’s cure.
God’s presence was sensed by all of our team members, as we preformed and prayed in the crowded alley. Parent’s and grandparent’s eagerness to usher children to answer our call for prayer, testified to the desperation in which they lived. As always, we prayed confidently, knowing that God is the hope for El Salvador.
As soon as our ministry was done, our hosts quickly escorted us from a growing threat as evening began to settle over the crowded alley. Thankfully we quickly made our way several blocks to our waiting bus without incident.
Bittersweet goodbyes were exchanged with several of our team members as we dropped some of our new friends off on our way back to the campus. Each of our hosts expressed their appreciation for the sincere love we showed the people of El Salvador. Throughout the week we were consistently thanked for coming, determined to see God’s will be accomplished.
Our students were commended for being among the rare groups of students on whom they could depend to give 100%. This earned our students the privilege of ministering in neighborhoods to which teams hadn’t been taken in several years.
As we headed home on our final day of ministry, we reconciled our desire that our ministry days not end with the knowledge that needed rest lay ahead. In all, we reveled in our confidence that God was continuing a great work in El Salvador.
Here are a few of the skits we did throughout the week, as performed on our last day of ministry.
Herbert kills me in this skit. He’s such a funny guy, and truly skilled at ministering to these kids.
If you were there and remember details or any interesting stories I missed, please add your memories of our seventh day in the comments below. Thanks for reading and look for another post from my journal, tomorrow.