Three Families in El Salvador for Six Months
This month, the Latin America team from G.O.D. Int’l sent three families to live in rural El Salvador for a six month occupational development term. Michael and Betsy Johnson, Rafael and Anna Reyes, and Jeremiah and Julie Watson, along with their children, will be living on the property that the team has been working to develop over the past two years.
They will be living on the eastern side of El Salvador, near the city of Suchitoto (population 25,000), and one hour from the capital, San Salvador. The Latin America team began working in this area in the summer of 2010, and has returned every subsequent summer. Since then, we have constructed three homes on a piece of land, of which these three families will occupy the next five months.
All six adults and seven children are spending their first few weeks in Suchitoto. These initial weeks in Suchitoto will allow the team to transition to everyday life in El Salvador, as well as provide extra time for the final touches to happen on the houses. The men, along with the five Salvadoran men that have been hired to work with the team over the course of the past eight months, will finish things such as the concrete counter tops, porches, as well as the electricity and plumbing in the homes. While in Suchitoto, Betsy and Julie are attending language classes at the local school. The team is also reconnecting with acquaintances made during previous trips, such as women at the market, friends from a local art center, and men from the local hardware stores.
This team of families is the first group from our organization that will live in El Salvador. This is an exciting season for G.O.D. Int’l in our efforts in Latin America. Though couples have traveled abroad for the better part of a year, this is the first time that we have been able to send a team of families together (practicing the ‘team missions model’). This is in keeping with our missionary paradigm of “transplanting communities.” The original community, in Antioch Tennessee, is the place where our representatives are first invested into, undergoing training in bible, missiology, language, and other competencies. Smaller communities (or teams) then undergo the process of being transplanted into a new environment, where they can embody the value system they have learned, and affect change in their new locations.
As an organization, we do not believe in sending individuals (or individual families) alone for long periods of time, but believe that they could be of even greater benefit by going alongside a larger team, producing an example of how cooperation is necessary for healthy lives. Impoverished people groups do not just need to see aid or relief or hear the gospel, they need to see it lived out amongst a community of people that they could model themselves after. This is what we believe we can achieve through transplanting communities, and this specific extended trip to El Salvador is a beginning.
These families all came to the Institute of G.O.D. International as students in 2005-6, and have been working together and forming friendships over the last 7 years! The houses they are moving into have been built by their own hands, and are currently transformed into homes that will welcome plenty of new friends. This dynamic group of families, alongside their larger Latin America team, have raised all the funds needed thus far for the construction of these homes, as well as designed and built them themselves! The homes are but a sign of their solid commitment to serve the people of El Salvador, beginning in Sitio Nuevo.
Team Objectives The primary objectives that the team has are multifaceted. Some of their objectives are to further their knowledge of the local area, to build relationships with people in the community, to further develop their language skills, to better familiarize themselves with the local school, and to assess the needs present within the population. The team is approaching this time as a time to learn more about the daily lives and experiences of the community members, as well as the opportunity to learn how to better live and work together as a team. We believe that it is impossible for us to accomplish any of our objectives without a sincere love for one another, which will in turn show others the love of God. Becoming greater friends is a priority.
Rafael Reyes will be returning to work in the local primary school, where he volunteered extensively during his last stay in 2011. The relationship that Rafael has already formed with the leadership at the school will open opportunities for other team members to invest time there as well, which is something Betsy hopes to do. Rafael and Anna are using their fluency in Spanish to serve in the realms of communication, logistics, and occasional translation for the team. Anna’s previous experiences during her time in Sitio Nuevo in 2011 has fueled her desire to deepen relationships within the area. Anna also hopes to further investigate dental clinics in and around the area as a means to one day determine how best to implement dental care opportunities within Sitio Nuevo.
Michael Johnson and Jeremiah Watson have made several trips to the property over the past 2 ½ years, where they have used the practical skills they possess in construction and land development to prepare a safe and healthy place for families to reside. Now, they are bringing their families to join them for the first time! Betsy and Julie are eager to meet the neighbors, to assess present needs, and work together with the rest of the team to begin to serve the 22 families living in Sitio Nuevo. Julie will be planting a garden, as well as researching the nutritional needs in the area, which is her occupational area of focus. Betsy is eager to spend intentional time with the local children, by volunteering in the local school, as well as providing informal educational opportunities for the kids in her neighborhood (they are already regularly coming to her porch).
Even as Michael and Jeremiah’s main responsibilities thus far have kept them mostly working on the property, they are constantly looking for opportunities to be of benefit to the population of young men in the area. As they consider various agricultural and building projects that are slated for further developing the property, they specifically consider what practical training opportunities they can offer the young men in the neighborhood, of which has already occurred to a degree. These projects include designing and constructing appropriate fencing to protect fruit trees planted in 2011, as well as developing a water drainage system that directs water toward trees and the garden plot, and away from houses and areas that hold standing water.
This team is diverse and dynamic. They have spent the past 7 years being educated in both the Bible and missiology at the Institute, and rigorously preparing for an opportunity such as this. They have a shared desire to bring qualitative change to the lives of their neighbors in Sitio. As they embrace the opportunity that is before them, they move in faith, anticipating a fruitful season abroad. This 6-month term is one of the final steps towards a permanent presence of G.O.D. Int’l development workers in El Salvador. The team is eager and excited for this opportunity and ask that you join their families and friends in prayer for them.