El Salvador is where it all began back in 1993. It’s ENLACE’s world headquarters and a fount of community development wisdom that is spreading around Central America and the world.
Guatemalan pastors had been studying integral mission for a decade when they invited their Salvadoran neighbors to help them serve their communities in Central America’s most culturally and linguistically diverse country.
ENLACE Nepal began as a 2012 response to concerns about human trafficking. Christians are a poor, marginalized 0.1% minority where ENLACE works, but steadily gaining respect even as they proclaim the gospel.
Our newest operation, ENLACE Nicaragua was founded by veteran ENLACE missionaries with experience in El Salvador and Nepal. Born of overwhelming pastoral demand, it is home to some of our biggest opportunities and challenges.
In 1993 a group of Salvadoran pastors noted that following the Jesus they saw in the Bible meant serving their communities by responding to basic needs like food, water, and economic development. They envisioned their churches as redeemed bodies responding to physical as well as spiritual needs within their communities. Then they created a plan to manifest that vision. They’ve been refining and improving that plan ever since. Today, ENLACE serves 61 churches across the country with church coaching and technical support as they build relationships with community leaders, government offices, non-profits, and new friends who visit from around the world to see what they have achieved. ENLACE El Salvador leads our global family in measuring multidimensional poverty and creating sustainable solutions to end it in their communities. Some of our partner churches have worked with us for more than 20 years. It’s been a joy to watch them grow as examples of Christ-like service. Between 5 and 10 new churches apply for an ENLACE partnership each year, so we hope you will help us continue to train and equip them to end poverty in their communities as a demonstration of the gospel.
Guatemala is a beautiful and culturally rich country that attracts non-profits and teachers from around the world. Church leaders had been meeting for ten years to study the integral mission of the church and discuss how to best serve their communities, but what they really needed was a specific methodology and the long-term accompaniment of church leaders experienced in implementing it. When they learned what their Salvadoran neighbors to the south had accomplished, they invited ENLACE to design a pilot project with them. Over time, that pilot project evolved into a full-scale operation.
ENLACE Guatemala is unique among our Central America programs, both in its challenges and opportunities. Non-profits from around the world are well established there, resulting in many opportunities to link churches with non-governmental organizations that focus on water, sanitation, housing, agriculture, micro-finance, and many other areas of specialization. The country’s cultural and linguistic diversity has presented challenges to overcome, but also opportunities. Indigenous Mayan peoples, for example, have an ancestral as well as biblical love of the natural environment, which has translated into creation care programs like reforestation projects to restore deforested areas, prevent erosion, and restore groundwater levels.
Missionaries in India followed a human trafficking route to its source in Nepal where parents were promised work for their children only to never see them again. Nepalese Christians concerned with the situation said the only real solution to their problem was long-term economic and social change at the community level, so they asked if ENLACE could help. We partnered with Nepali Christian leaders Tina and Sam Magara. At first, progress was slow in this 99.9% Hindu context where Christians are low caste, marginalized, and at times persecuted. Over time, however, ENLACE has helped Christians ascend into leadership roles, gaining the respect of their Hindu neighbors, and raising the status of the church in their communities. A courageous and faithful ENLACE staff of seven Nepali Christians now serves 40 communities through 30 churches. Between 5 and 10 new Nepali churches ask for an ENLACE partnership each year. We are praying for people like you to help us partner with these churches to end poverty in their communities as witnesses for the love of Christ.
Felix and Dina Orellana served as ENLACE Church Facilitators in El Salvador where Felix is from before moving to Asia to help establish ENLACE Nepal. Once that work was firmly in Nepali hands, they returned to Dina’s home country, Nicaragua, where they encountered bigger challenges and opportunities than ever. Next to Haiti, Nicaragua is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Nicaraguan church leaders wanted to tangibly serve their communities, but Bible school hadn’t taught them how to do that. ENLACE offered these pastors a methodology for developing sustainable solutions to poverty in their communities. Just as importantly, we became a partner in helping pastors and congregations alike develop a fuller understanding of the biblical basis for church participation in community development.
Christian leaders, notably denominational leaders in the Assemblies of God Nicaragua church, embraced ENLACE with overwhelming enthusiasm. The opportunity to help churches end poverty in their communities is near-limitless in Nicaragua. Challenges include government structures that exclude non-profits from community development, which limits our opportunities to form partnerships. All nonprofits, including churches, are required to demonstrate social service. This means we must take extra care to distinguish between churches that just want our help fulfilling a government requirement and those that truly have a God-given passion for serving their communities. Despite such challenges, Nicaragua is a land of near-limitless opportunity to restore relationships and help churches end poverty in their communities in the way only ENLACE does.