By Allen Palmeri
SAN VICENTE, El Salvador –
Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director David Tolliver made the first foreign mission trip of his administration Nov. 9-13 when he crisscrossed the Central American nation and ministered to flood victims of Hurricane Ida.
Tolliver returned to the Baptist Building with a sense of urgency that Missouri Baptists through their elected representatives on the MBC Executive Board have a responsibility to rebuild homes that Baptists have lost in El Salvador. He said he plans on taking his findings to members of the MBC Administrative Committee before the entire board meets on Dec. 15.
On the fourth day of his trip, Tolliver was about 10 minutes away from San Vicente, where a Memorial Service for nine people who died because of the hurricane and flooding, when he learned that they were requesting him to speak. As it turned out, he delivered the main message that day in a church that was mourning the loss of seven children and two adults from the La Primavera housing area.
“I felt unworthy,” Tolliver said. “I didn’t know these people. They’ve suffered in ways that I’ve never dreamed of, and yet I’m the one standing there expounding on the Word of God to them.”
Tolliver preached out of II Samuel 12:4, where David had to deal with the loss of his own son.
While he was preaching he noticed out of the corner of his eye a man to his right. He was seated on a chair with his leg propped up and bandaged, with crutches off to the side. Tolliver figured he had been injured from the storm.
“As I’m watching this guy get more and more emotional, I’m thinking he’s probably the father of one of these kids that died,” Tolliver said. “I found out later that in fact his mother died and he had hold of her, trying to save her, and the water swept her out of his hand and they never found her. In the process of trying to save her, that’s how he got hurt. It was a very emotional time for him.”
The service, which was introduced by the pastor of First Baptist Church, San Vicente, David Ayala, was held on the foundation of what used to be a home before the floodwaters came.
“They had dug into the ground a small, rectangular hole that could have been for a small casket,” Tolliver said. “After we were all done, they had a rose and a heart-shaped card with a name on it of every person that had died. They put those one by one into that grave, calling their name off, and then they had another guy standing there and he covered it up—very emotional time.
“And this guy (the man with the bandaged leg) was sitting right beside that little grave, and in the middle of it he reached down and grabbed a handful of dirt out of the shovel as the guy was shoveling it to spread it out himself. It was just a really emotional time. It was a meaningful time, though, because also at that service there were two people, a man and a women, who asked for more information about Jesus, and David Ayala witnessed to them.”
Tolliver also met with Sonia Valiente, president of the Association of Baptists in El Salvador (ABES), and the ABES Executive Committee to sign the extension of the MBC’s partnership with El Salvador through 2011. Tolliver’s time overall included visits to pastors’ conferences in four locations as well as trips to various churches.
“What I saw was very productive,” he said. “The partnership is good and it’s strong.”
He plans to return Jan. 8-11 for the ABES annual meeting, where he will preach and his wife, Myra, will sing.
Meanwhile, Missouri Baptists on a medical mission trip to El Salvador treated more than 1,000 people, reporting that more than 2,700 prescriptions were being filled with 77 conversions of souls.
The 13 people who made the trip Nov. 5-13 were: Larry Gibson, pastor, Fellowship Baptist Church, Kirksville; Dan Wilford, pastor, First Baptist Church, Milan; George Head, pastor, Chariton Ridge Baptist Church, Atlanta; Robert Harrison, associate pastor, First Baptist Church, Unionville; Dr. Thomas Williams, member, First Baptist Church. Unionville; Sandy Williams, member, First Baptist Church, Unionville; Betty Baker, member (nurse), First Baptist Church, Macon; Marjory Klingenberg, member (nurse), First Baptist Church, Macon; Connie Roberts, member (nurse), Lancaster Baptist Church; Anita Smith, member (nurse), First Baptist Church, Milan; Sandra Wakefield, member, First Baptist Church, Milan; Sharon Harrison, member, First Baptist Church, Unionville; and Kaitlyn Williams, member, First Baptist Church, Unionville.
They ministered in the following five churches: Caleb Baptist; First Ahuachapan; El Coco Baptist; First Chaluchuapa; Mission of First Chaluchuapa.
Head, a retired military pharmacist, was of particular help in the distribution of medication.
“God put this team together in such a way that harmony and love bonded us, not just as a medical team, but as a family. That truly created a bonded experience that we will never forget,” said Harrison, who served as the team leader.
When the team left El Salvador it left behind one of its nurses, Smith, who wanted to stay another week to work alongside a pair of Salvadorian doctors to help the victims of Hurricane Ida.
“I was very impressed with the medical clinics,” Tolliver said.