The Official El Salvador Feb/Mar 2016 Report (#ES16)
In February 2016, WCCM returned to El Salvador for a two-week trip with dual goals. The first goal was to provide training in each of the three regions of the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) El Salvador National Offices. The second goal was to provide a fresh coat of paint to Fundacion Exodo, an orphanage near the San Salvador Airport, and provide its residents with love and the Word during the hottest parts of the day and the evening.
WCCM #ES16 Week 1
Ministers from St. Louis, MO; Baltimore, MD; and Lakeland, FL areas of the United States spent three days traveling the nation of El Salvador. During the day, the group trained and encouraged pastors in the Church of God’s three annual Regional Conferences throughout the country. Each evening, an evangelistic and healing service was held.
The Regional Conferences each consisted of three outlines—”You Were Made for a Mission” presented by Rev. Dr. G. W. “Bill” Wilson, “Why People Follow” presented by Rev. Shaun B. Wilson, and “Go Forward” presented by Rev. Dave Dorsey. Though unplanned, the Holy Spirit had given a theme throughout each of these messages about being confident in their mission and that the Lord had equipped them to lead His people according to His calling on each pastors’ life. The sessions closed out with circles of pastors praying for one another and promising to love each other no matter what. (See an excerpt of You Were Made for a Mission on YouTube!)
During the trainings, WCCM Partner and American Registered Nurse Stephanie Leake also took blood pressure readings for the pastors from each region and gave general health and wellness advice. For many pastors, this might be the only nurse they’re able to see this year.
Each evening, the people of the region gathered together to worship God, expecting their miracle. One such miracle happened on the first night when a young woman who had been standing near the edge of the outdoor pavilion began weeping loudly. After being called forward by evangelist Ben Ratchford, the young woman explained that she suffered from scoliosis of the spine.
Nurse Leake came forward to the altar to examine the young woman’s spine. As she was being examined, the Spirit of God came suddenly upon her and she fell to the ground. When she was picked up, she began to just stand there, loudly praising the Lord. She stood at the altar so long that the minister asked why she was still standing there. Was there something she still needed to be healed of? She explained that because of the curve in her spine, her hips and legs had been misaligned. Her doctor had told her that her knees would never touch again. She stood there just soaking in the feeling of her knees being able to touch.
Nurse Leake also testified that she felt the muscles, ligaments, and bones of the spine straighten out when she examined the young woman, and another team member who had been standing with a profile view of the young woman had watched as her spine straightened out.
Our Saturday evening service was held in the pavilion on the grounds of the El Salvador Church of God headquarters in San Salvador. It was electric from the very beginning. Following a wonderful time of worship, a word of knowledge was given concerning people suffering from back conditions. A line of people formed at the front of the pavilion and each one testified of being healed after receiving prayer.
At the conclusion of the message, the front of the pavilion filled up with young people surrendering their hearts to the Lord. Many were filled with the Spirit as His holy fire consumed them. (See Photos from the Saturday evening services on Facebook.)
WCCM Partner and Coordinator in El Salvador Janis Watkins is the founder of Abigail Association and oversees the Exodus Foundation (Fundacion Exodo). Here’s what she had to say about Week 1:
There were so many miracles. But not only the physical miracles! Something that maybe only I feel—but I think others as well—when a team such as the one that WCCM brought that first week comes here, it is like a supernatural injection of faith and encouragement! We see God move here all the time, but not in such great numbers. When He heals many in the same service, that does something to me. It reminds me of how very powerful HE is!
The miracles during the evening services were so numerous that it required its own article. To hear more about the miracles that took place during #ES16 Week 1, please see this post’s sister article “Evangelistic and Healing Services #ES16“.
WCCM #ES16 Week 2
Week 2 of ES16 was a special one for WCCM. Usually, WCCM trips focus on pastoral training and evangelistic services, but ES16 week 2 revolved around the “Provide for the Physical Needs” portion of our mission statement as it primarily focused on manual labor. This week’s team was made up of a diverse group of 11 people, ranging from those who had never been on a mission trip before, to those who were seasoned travelers. Through their collective sweat equity, and the expert handyman skills of the team, the team was able to completely rejuvenate and breathe new life into the homes of the Fundacion Exodo orphanage and share the love of Christ with its residents in the process.
Because of the children’s schedules, the team really only had three days to paint and patch all four houses of Fundacion Exodo—one house for the younger boys, one for the younger girls, one for the older boys, and one for the older girls. Wednesday was the first big work day, and Rev. Wilson kicked off the endeavor with this thought: “Do it well enough that you’re proud to put your name on it.”
Each WCCM Partner took it to heart.
As the team began the task at hand, Carlos Cruz and WCCM Minister Dan Hawkins coordinated the repair efforts while Michael Reynolds led the painting team. There was no nook too high, cranny too low, or job too small for the team. In fact, it didn’t take long before the Hawkins twins found themselves precariously perched on the corrugated metal roofs to paint the parts of the walls overlooked by previous painters. Jamie Brunson found himself using every bit of the combined height of a ladder and his reach to paint the tippy tops of the walls, and Hayley Landers found herself patiently edging around every window and corner and base of every wall.
After lunch, the team divided for the afternoon. Half continued the painting and improvement work, and half had a two-hour devotional time with “Ninos Grandes” — the older children (aged 12-18). Twelve of the older children were able to attend, and Sonia Cuz and Regina Leake led the teaching while Hayley and Daniel Hawkins came along to help.
After the devotional time, the team reunited in labor for the last hour of the day. All the children were home from school as well, which meant Team WCCM soon found themselves surrounded by little “helpers”.
Although instructed not to let them paint because many of these kids only have one or two sets of clothes (not nearly enough to let some get dirty in painting), that didn’t stop them from trying. That afternoon, Regina acquired the best ladder-mover a girl could ask for in the form of a smiling little boy named Alejandro. At the end of the day, the group had completed the painting on House 1 and had mostly finished House 2.
That evening we enjoyed an evening of singing worship songs together on the back porch of the Abigail Retreat Center.
The team worked hard again on Thursday; painting and doing home improvements in the morning, then dividing in the afternoon so half the team could have devotional time with the “Ninos Pequenos”—the younger children (aged 6-11). Nineteen of the younger children were able to attend, and this time Pam and Samuel Hawkins and Jamie came alongside Regina and Sonia to help with both the older and the younger children.
It was Regina’s first time having the full responsibility of leading the teaching, and Sonia’s first time translating in such an official capacity, but it was obvious that the children heard Jesus’ love through their words. At the end of that second day of work, the team had completed most of the painting on all but House 4!
That evening, Janis gave the team a special treat. She made a fire in the firepit of the Abigail Retreat Center and the team enjoyed roasted hotdogs and s’mores under the beautiful Salvadoran sky.
On Friday, Rev. Wilson and Janis told the team that if they managed to finish all of the work by the end of the day, the team would be able to take a special trip on Saturday. Somehow, everyone found another gear! The team stayed focused all day, painting and fixing. They finished all the jobs they knew about, and several that popped up along the way. (A familiar phenomenon to anyone who has embarked on a home improvement project, or who has worked alongside Pastor Wilson—in his book, there is always time and room to go the extra mile!)
When all the dust had settled at the end of the day, not only had the team completely re-painted the four homes of Fundacion Exodo, but they had also brought all of the wiring and plumbing up to American code, and had fixed half a dozen other things along the way!
WCCM Partner Regina Leake:
There are two special memories that stand out to me from our workday on Friday. First, there was a duo of boys who were determined to lend a helping hand. On previous days, they had shown their interest and dedication by scraping off all the loose paint on the bottom of the house walls. So Friday we gave them an extra special job. We armed them with brushes and a bucket of this white paint that acts as insect repellant, and instructed them to paint the trees by the children’s houses. They embraced the task with gusto, of course finding a way to half work and half play and somehow be fully effective in their task. They were rewarded with a special gift at lunch: a secret service pin from one of our team members. It was such a simple, small thing, but they loved it.
The second memory is a little more personal for me. Since I had been dividing my time between painting and teaching, I had focused my painting energy on the patio areas at the front of each house. Each house had a concrete table accompanied by two benches, and Janis had just enough extra paint to refresh them all. I was working on the set in front of the older girl’s house, when this one girl came over to see what I was doing and said she liked the green color I was painting. I smiled, put a little paint on the brush, and handed it to her. (Admittedly bending the rules a bit, but I thought I could take a chance.) That led to hours of us working alongside each other: painting the green patio set, finishing the walkway in front of the house, touching up all the white paint on the house, and even washing up all the team’s paint buckets and brushes…not hindered at all by the fact we shared very little of a common language. I’ll remember her smile, her giggle, and her servant’s heart for a long time to come.
With #love, language is not a barrier. ・・・ Via @leakeyfaucet: This is my buddy Marta. It all started when she came over to see what I was doing and said she liked the green color I was painting. So I smiled, put a little paint on the brush, and handed it to her. That led to hours of us working alongside each other: painting the green patio set, finishing the walkway, touching up all the white paint on the house, and even washing up all the team’s paint buckets and brushes…not hindered at all by the fact we share un poquito espanol. I’ll be remembering her smile, and her giggle, for a long time to come. #es16 #elsalvador2016 #JesusLove #missions #missionstrip #painting #lovingjesuslovingothers #travelwithpurpose
One of the biggest blessings for me personally was watching the younger team members. There were four 18-year-olds with us, and it was their first time on a trip like this. Their work ethic, humble spirits, and camaraderie was a wonderful thing to watch. In a way, we had three generations of faith working side by side, accomplishing an amount of work that was truly astounding.
And while it was amazing to see the transformation a new coat of paint can make on a building’s appearance, what was more precious was the transformation we saw on the faces of each of the Tias and each of the children. I think they truly saw and felt the love of Jesus in every detail: from every brush stroke, to every clean edge, to every light switch that worked the way it should. Each one a tangible and visible reminder of an intangible truth – that they are important, remembered, and loved.
That evening on their way to celebratory ice cream, the WCCM Team was treated by a special “Thank You” from all of the children. It was a very meaningful time to everyone.
After a day of rest on Saturday, the team ministered at the Abigail Association’s home church on Sunday morning. Daniel and Regina were able to join in with the local worship team, then WCCM Minister Dan and Pam Hawkins ministered together to bring the message God had laid on their hearts.
During the altar time, the Holy Spirit moved in amazing ways. There were seven people who reported feeling the healing touch of the Lord: a woman with a headache felt cooling relief, a woman with a foot and hip injury said the pain was gone and she could dance, a woman who was nearly blind could see someone 20 feet away, and a woman battling cancer said she could feel it burning away.
As a grand finale, on Monday morning, just hours before boarding a plane to head home, some of the team took on the “extra mile” project of repainting the entry sign of Fundacion Exodo. This was a team that truly took advantage of every moment to serve. It was a different kind of ministry for WCCM, and it was so special to see God work, not just through the word of our testimony, but also through the work of our hands, because it was also a work from the heart—both our hearts, and His.
See this post’s sister article “Evangelistic and Healing Services #ES16“.