This past weekend, Britt Edwards and Rafael Reyes traveled to El Salvador. Their objective was twofold: to deliver necessary biblical education tools to our new cooperatives there, and to outfit and finalize our music room for youth.
Our cooperatives in El Salvador, Lorena and Antonio Mejia, just moved onto our land where they are working at our youth center. In the area where we work, youth are often blamed for the problems that exist. Struggling to regain a peaceful equilibrium after their brutal civil war, youth in El Salvador have been born into brokenness, and given few options in life. Many young men are lured in by gangs who offer them a sense of security they’re desperate for, and countless young women are taken advantage of, leading to a teenage pregnancy epidemic. Many just look at the youth and shake their heads, or even blame them for the problems.
We choose a different approach. We choose to believe that the fate of these youth is not yet sealed, and consider their needs: an opportunity for healthy outlets, a sense of belonging not wrought through violence, the care and concern of God’s people. We believe that creating a place for youth, coupled with a staff who genuinely loves them, could hold the potential to introduce them to a Lord that loves them and cares about the direction of their lives.
To do that best, we need to invest into our leaders, the specific investment being God’s Word. This, and this alone, will be able to sustain them when things are hard, to ground them in an overwhelming task. Biblical literacy is the necessary beginning. Because of this understanding, Gregg Garner has recorded bible classes made specifically for our international cooperatives. Britt and Rafa have then worked together to record these video courses and translate them into Spanish subtitles for our friends in El Salvador. During this trip, Britt and Rafa helped Antonio and Lorena begin this class together and be available for questions and dialogue. This is an answer to a prayer Lorena and Antonio have prayed for years. We are happy to respond.
As God helps us to respond to the needs of these leaders, we believe God will help them respond to the needs of others in their area, in a biblical way. For the youth in El Salvador, we have already given them wonderful weekly opportunities to fill their time: music class, bible studies, building projects and athletics. Lorena reflects on her time with these young people: “The work with the children and youth has been a great blessing for our lives because we can support the girls and boys who are in cycles of violence, a large majority who are from broken families. We can offer them love since at home it seems they do not receive much care. Through the Word we have learned God’s will and how to care for our neighbors, and that is what we are trying to do. This word can transform their minds as well.”
For Britt and Rafa specifically, this mission was also music related. Both skilled musicians, they have been crucial players in the music education we’ve offered in this area for the last five years. Rafa helped the young boys build their own guitars and taught their first music class. Britt and Rafa helped them record their very own songs written about the Lord. Now, they have a more permanent and appropriate space to hone their craft! Carrying instruments and equipment for the music room, Britt and Rafa not only set up the space, but also trained Antonio as the lead studio technician.
Of this opportunity, Britt says, “This trip is one that I looked forward to for quite a while. We have given music lessons and seminars to youth in the hope that they would be inspired to create their own compositions to share with others.”
In the airport, Britt writes: “Sitting here in the airport I'm seeing so many people with earbuds and headphones, listening to the music that they enjoy, or that inspires them. Recorded music is a powerful tool that affects all of us, sometimes even without our awareness. Empowering these students with the ability to record their own music is not trivial, but part of our effort to provide more salt and light in this world--we want to show people that good things can come from these youth. It will also provide an outlet for creative expression that can be both life-giving and life-saving. Their involvement with music, along with our emphasis on Biblical education, will give these students the necessary tools to soon provide their friends and communities with songs of hope.” The room they prepared is much more than just a music practice and recording room. It’s a refuge for youth who need a place to call their own, to connect with God and be involved in healthy leisure activities.
Please pray for the ongoing work happening in El Salvador. We are so thankful that the Lord has sent us Lorena, Antonio, and so many youth who love the Lord. He has given us a place to serve and vision for our presence there--such a blessing! Please join us in prayer for our work there each day.