It’s not all work!

Taking a hammock break in the passageway of the Santa Tecla church until committee meeting time.

My pattern is usually a 10-day trip over two weekends so as to visit each church and be able to attend two committee meetings.  During the week I meet also with leaders, and look up friends from former times there.   Some of them provide lodging and even meals.  My most recent visits:

2023 If you saw the last paragraph of 2022, you wondered if that trip happened – it did. January 12 – 24 found me where I love to be, walking the old familiar places in Merliot, Santa Tecla and Huizucar.

If you want an extensive rundown, contact me – here is the short version. This was the most complex visit I have made there in all these years. I hardly want to use the word “high-lights” here, as there were some “downers” as well. Please pray for encouragment for the church leaders in El Salvador (and for me!)

The fact that the Word and Deed Project stalled somewhat wasn’t only owing to Covid; there was some breakdown in calling meetings and communication between committee members. Some of that is “overload” of the two pastors, both of whom work full-time jobs and have transportation issues. So we needed two informal group conversations and two full meetings to get things back on track; the leaders committed to working out more details and plans over the next few months. Happily, I can report there was no financial malfeasance (yes, that can happen when working in extremely poor places). Project coordinator Hilda Romero does a good job.

If you read the final paragraph of last December’s report, you’ll want to know what if anything happened with the joint explorations with the W. Michigan based Family Church which is now starting a “third campus” in El Salvador called “Iglesia Transformacion.” Pastor Bob Wielenga and I along with national counterparts visited the respective ministries. A conversation then took place which I have to say left more questions than answers. But the purpose was really mostly “exploration” of possible mutual interests. Those will require more time and conversation; some of that will take place when I return to Holland in May.

I want to add just a few all too brief comments about other dimensions of my visit. The Baptist bookstore was happy with a “purchase” I made using your donation funds for local leaders to select books for ministry use. The Semillas de Nueva Creacion houses other ministries to which we also contributed funds. And there I heard an indepth devotional by Pastor Mario Vega (Board president). Knowing as much as I do about the “state of exception” under current national president Nayib Bukele, I understood between the lines of why some people say Vega is “valiente.” He is critical of the jailing of tens of thousands of gang members without charges and trials, and the suspension of some constitutional protections. (For more on the civil and general conditions in the country, see Lutheran lawyer Tim Muth’s

I am happy that I was able to have a conversation with Sr. Samuel Montano and wife Felicita, and remember the service they have given to the Iglesia Cristiana Reformada. More so because now on my return. I was informed of his stroke and death just last week. I was sent pictures of the wake, and the graveside service in Huizucar where Felicita is from, conducted by pastor Joaquin. A humble servant of the Lord now rests.

Please pray for good developments and progress in the rest of this year 2023. Thanks for reading and praying.

2022  Writing this in December, I’m happy to report that some projects are back in place.  A family ministry plan is being prepared for Huizucar but not funded yet, awaiting some specifics as to who will be carrying out the tasks.

In Santa Tecla Pastor Carlos after the recent  death of his mother (92) finds himself re-calibrating his life and ministry.  So prayers are with him and the congregation.  New music classes are in progress, directed by Helmuth Aguilar (Project coordinator Hilda Romero’s husband).

I’m sorry not to get a trip in this year.  Personal conversations and meetings will be important in re-visioning and renewing aspects of the Word and Deed Project.  (See You Can Help page)

Late breaking possibilities… this merits a lot more information perhaps, but I’ll just share this much now.  Locally in Zeeland/Holland an evolving ministry called Family Church has very recently purchased the former bank building that is on the old four-generation Wagenveld farm.  I’ve known the pastor for several years and know of his interest in El Salvador.  He has personally made many trips there, and the church sends work and learning groups.  Now in conversation with missions pastor Bob Wielenga we are planning a mid-January 2023 trip together to explore mutual ministry opportunities.  Your prayers are requested for travel, relationships, what might come of this prospect.

2021  This was the first time in ten years that I didn’t make my otherwise annual trip.  We all know the impact of the pandemic on lives, families, churches, organizations.  In El Salvador a few family and community members died.  While some training did take place, committee meetings were few, and communications sparse.  Lets mostly write it off as an unproductive year…

2020. Covid19 hits! Late February, early March found me in El Salvador; the family thought I would not get out due to the start of the pandemic.  As it was, the day I was at the airport leaving as scheduled, the president ordered the shut down of the airport as of three days later.  Pastor Carlos who works for the national health service gave me one of his two blue masks, and I traveled home with that.  Our kids and Mary Anne were relieved; all well.

Friends, I tell it like it is…What didn’t go so well was the second weekend meetings; owing to perhaps my asking too many and the “wrong” questions, the Huizucar delegation not only didn’t show up, they indicated that they might withdraw from the Project.  Fortunately, over the next months the others brought them back to the table and into further trainings.  Those were “Church, Community, and Transformation” led by Coordinator Hilda Romero and her husband Helmuth Aguilar.

While with the pandemic some of the projects practically came to a halt, we were able to re-designate monies from the fund for relief purposes.  Many families were helped with food packages and cleaning supplies; this was done for both hurricane and Covid relief.  Somewhere is a picture showing supplies in the Huizcar church awaiting distribution. [picture coming]  Over $4,500 was spent to help both church and community members.  Donor response helped to re-supply the Project fund.