It is noon on Sunday in El Salvador. The traffic starts to increase slightly as the shadows move to dwell perpendicular under their owners. There are people going in different directions in downtown San Marcos, many of them coming out of the Sunday service at “Tabernaculo Biblico Bautista (Baptist Biblical Tabernacle, or BBT) San Marcos,” a Baptist church that partners with us and now implements a child development center named “Light of Hope.”
The streets of San Marcos look old and dry, like in a little town in the western United States – old streets, old buildings and 95 degrees in the shade.
The last people remaining inside the church say goodbye and go back home. The ushers turn off the ceiling fans and close the windows. They walk down the stairs and gather with the rest of the staff at the other side of the parking lot.
Pastor Daniel welcomes the staff and leads a prayer for lunch. After the prayer, he stops and looks at the food served before him, and a question burns like a fire in his heart.
“What is on the tables of our children right now?”
Pastor Daniel and his staff gather some staples and take off to visit the families they have identified in most need. The heart of the pastor was burning for a reason that Sunday at noon; many of the families they visited had nothing to put on their tables. It was the Holy Spirit who led the staff to visit the children and provide for their needs.
The Birth of Church Outreach in San Marcos
We have a strategic plan for the next five years,” says Pastor Edwin, the church administrator. Right from the beginning the church has aimed at providing the community not only good news of salvation, but also a solution to the rest of their needs.
The church is located on the main street of San Marcos. San Marcos is located about 5 miles south of downtown San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. San Marcos is a place known as a “dormitory city” because most of the people leave town and travel to San Salvador for job opportunities, and come back late at night, just to sleep.
A good percentage of the people work in Maquilas, since near San Marcos is an industrial free zone with factories that offer products from jeans and textiles to food products.
San Marcos also has a violent environment – in part marked by the civil war during the 1980s, and now with the new threat of gangs.
The church started in 2000 as a small prayer group in a neighborhood named Florencia. The people who started to attend the prayer group have seen the church grow and now hold the leadership positions of the different ministries. The group grew and they saw the need to rent a space for 500 people.
The authorities in the International Baptist Mission saw the impact and the work of the church in San Marcos and decided to support further development.
“The idea was to have the full capacity to take the gospel permanently to the people.
“The vision of Pastor Daniel is that the church must work for the community. And it must be done not in words, but with acts,” says Pastor Edwin.
To perform this, the church has divided its ministries in two groups, internal and external. The internal ministries include the ushers and Bible school teachers, as well as mentors for the people who want to learn more from the Bible.
The external ministries, as Pastor Edwin describes them, are “battalions of evangelism.” There are different groups that visit hospitals, jails, and the poor communities in the area of San Marcos. The most successful ministry is called “Bread and Hot Chocolate (B& HC).”
Until 2002, B&HC went out on Wednesday nights and looked for people on the streets with drug or alcohol problems, gave them something to eat and preached the gospel, until the staff realized that many other ministries were doing the very same thing. B&HC was then redirected to the most vulnerable areas in San Marco, places and communities with a lot of economic and spiritual poverty.
Now, the B&HC ministry goes on Wednesday nights with bread, hot chocolate, food, clothes and the gospel to those communities, knocking door by door.
“Because there is no door, sometimes we just go inside the home. We visit the family, bring hot chocolate and bread, eat with them and share the gospel. We also take note of some needs they have and come back with some supplies the next week we visit. We also have a clinic with medical doctors from the congregation. Every now and then, the doctors join the B&HC team and visit the communities as well.
“Apart from that, we have ministries that visit jails, go to the bus terminal, and we also work with shelters that help people with addictions.”
Now the communities recognize the church and even ask them to visit more often.
In 2010 the ministry vision expanded. The church already had a strong program that reached the most vulnerable people in the surrounding communities. The staff decided that they needed strategic alliances if they wanted to expand further.
God showed His hand with the church, by providing institutions such as the Evangelical University to provide medical services. Sponsors through the child development center provide the resources the church needs to give the children additional health support, school supplies, Bibles and meals.
“We want to show the community that for our church, children are the number one priority,” says Associate Pastor Walter.