ESL team joins ongoing MBC mission effort
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador—The country of El Salvador is slightly smaller than the state of New Hampshire. Weather and socio-economic differences range from sea level in a very commercial and rich area to a high point of 2,730 meters above sea level where a family of six lives in a small hut among unsafe rocky terrain with no electricity and a poor sewage system.
Not long ago, from 1980-1992, the indigenous people made up of the Peninsulares, Criollos, and Mestizos people groups went through a civil war and its resulting death and poverty. The conflict killed a total of 75,000 people with 8,000 more people missing; two million people were either left homeless or exiled. This left El Salvador dependant on the U.S. economy.
Roman Catholicism is the primary religion, touching 75 percent of the population of seven million. Many large and beautiful Catholic cathedrals mark the countryside, even in places of poverty, but one would be hard-pressed to find a decent-sized Baptist church, even in the large cities. So the president of the El Salvador Baptist Association, Manuel Enrique Rivas Hernandez, is seeking God’s wisdom as he tries to plant 48 new Baptist churches in the next three years.
“So far the 59 already in existence have started 95 missions,” said Hernandez. “We think that the assistance Missouri Baptists have given has been very effective.”
The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) continues to support El Salvadoran Baptists in their evangelism work, and Hernandez is grateful for every last drop of physical and spiritual labor that the short-term missionaries are bringing. He hopes to spur the overall effort by purchasing land so that conferences can be held in a central building some day.
“We are working on training Christian translators so that when we are able to rebuild the seminary we can train pastors,” Hernandez said. “We need to train both men and women leaders. We are also planning to build a convention or training center, and currently we have two students working on a plan for construction.”
Once this training center is built, he hopes to accommodate various ministries such as a section that will be focused on working with youth, one for women’s ministry, a pastor’s association, and eventually a retirement home for pastors. Out of all this a seminary will spring forth which will have different ministries of Christian Education, Church Administration, Church Minister Relations and White Cross, or Crisis Relief.
In an effort to help begin this process the MBC on Aug. 2-11 sent a team of 13 under the leadership of former MBC staffer Mike Dennis and his wife, Maryetta, on a vision trip. The outcome and findings of this trip were astounding among the El Salvadorans, who are an amazing people of love and compassion. One can obviously see that God is at work in this small country, but one can also see that there is so much work left to be done. Many are lost and without hope.
Despite the strongholds that the people of El Salvador face, evangelicals are making a difference in large cities and small villages.
The MBC planted and helped grow one of the larger Baptist churches near the capital city of San Salvador. Nazaret Baptist Church was where the team of 13 was able to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). The classes were separated into three levels of difficulty: Basic, for those with little to no knowledge of the English language; Beginner, for those with some knowledge; and Advanced Interpreter Training, for those who are very familiar with the language but who want to learn more about proper usage.
Missouri has sent at least a dozen teams thus far in 2007.
“Missouri Baptists have taken part in helping support, and through their support in evangelism have been very effective,” Hernandez said, emphasizing that more support is needed with finances, training and prayer.
Men from the Missouri team were sent to different small churches to preach to and encourage the members. Gardell Powell, a bi-vocational pastor at Yates Baptist Church, said the Lord moved mightily where he went.
“For eight years I had been praying that my son would accept the Lord Jesus as his Savior and it wasn’t until this Sunday (Aug. 5) that my prayers were answered,” said Francisca Nunez, a church member who sat under the preaching. That Sunday God was glorified by people getting saved as well as 10 people rededicating their lives at Gethsemane Baptist Church, just outside of San Salvador.
The ESL teaching was a common bond as Powell, Retired Engineer Jerry Kinsey and Mike Dennis taught the advanced class where they studied communication types. “These young people are dedicated, excited about learning, and improving,” said Powell, commenting on his class and the entire school being held at Nazaret Baptist Church.
Helping translate in the various classes were Missionary Marilu Solorio, Hispanic Church Planter Luis Mendoza, and MBC Multi-Cultural Planting Strategist Mauricio Vargas. On Aug. 7, Vargas helped the students practice conversations in English between each other. “To be a good interpreter you must be willing to learn not the vocabulary, but you must be intentional when you start learning,” he said.
Retired Teacher Janelle Nelson joined Fifth-Grade Teacher Kathy Anders and Second-Grade Teacher Judy Smith, members of First Baptist Church, Arnold, who taught the Beginner class. They practiced many things including how to ask questions to one another. As the week went on, the students grew more excited as they spoke short phrases to teachers as they entered school each morning for announcements given by Mike Dennis and translated by Mendoza and praise and worship led by Real Estate Agent Karen Crews, who also is a member of First Arnold. The group would then split off into different classes.
Crews, Retired Librarian Eleanor Ratliff, and Shelly Enloe, a teacher’s aide in Monett and a member of Monett Community Church, taught the Basic classes. They taught the English alphabet and taught basic rules such as differences between capital letters and small-case letters, the sounds of both consonants and vowels, and other important rules in the English language.
Maryetta Dennis taught the young children of the custodian of Nazaret Baptist Church, Mariana and Daniele. “They were both precious and we had fun,” said Maryetta. On the last day of classes the two children led the entire school in the fun children’s song “Hokey Pokey.”
Nazaret is an MBC church plant that has also planted missions in the city of Santa Tecla. One of those missions is called the Philadelphia Baptist Church.
Rolando Rivas and his wife, Faviola Alexandra Merino Rivas, lead the mission. Mendoza spoke there on Aug. 5, using 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” The message was intended to challenge the church to go out and reach others for Christ.
El Salvador brims with beauty and potential. It is a lost, but seeking country filled with people who are longing to be filled. They are so eager and willing to learn, but how will they know if no one will tell them?
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “But how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
The team led by Mike and Maryetta Dennis was sent by the MBC to bring the Good News of Jesus. The El Salvador Baptist Association is training nationals to be messengers of this Good News. Will you join them?