||“The Least of These”
||On Wednesday, February 21st, 2001, I flew to the earthquake devastated nation of El
Salvador. It was truly one of the most exciting mission trips I have ever been on. By God’s
help and grace, despite my fears and shortcomings, Jesus allowed me to be a part of
ministering to “the least of these,” His brothers. I’m sure all of you know by now, that this
nation had three deadly earthquakes in a little over a month. Even the week I was there, I
experienced six or seven earthquakes and aftershocks are measured in the thousands.
The quakes have damaged or destroyed about one-fifth of all homes in El Salvador as well
as schools, hospitals, churches, and government offices. According to the president of El
Salvador, the quakes have left about one in four Salvadorans homeless. At least 1,240 are
dead and 8,000 have been injured.
As I left I thought I would be only a tiny part in the big equation. I was only prepared to give
them spiritual comfort, words of encouragement, and prayer. I imagined I would be
surrounded by literally hundreds of aid workers, passing out food, clothing, blankets, and
medical attention. This wasn’t the case. In fact, in my eight days in the country, I never saw
one aid worker. I certainly do not mean to imply there aren’t any, only that the need is so
great and there are so many refugees, that the workers are few and far between.
Everyday except Sunday, I had the privilege of walking the cross among these precious
people. I would like to share with you, on the following pages, some of my journal accounts
from the trip.
Seismic Activity & Harsh Reality!
Thursday, February 22
5:00 a.m. This morning I awoke to a rumbling aftershock. It was not too violent, but was
very noticeable. It only lasted about ten seconds. At 10:00 a.m., my guide/translator picked
me up at the hotel. His name is Erick, and he is a very affable young man. First he drove
me around Santa Tecla and showed me some of the damage.
During this time, he told me a little about El Salvador and the January 13th quake. He said
they have a saying in Spanish that the locals use to describe El Salvador—“It is the land of
the swinging hammocks” because there is so much seismic activity in this little country. He
told me that they very often have quakes and tremors that are short in duration. But he
said he was at home for the January 13 quake and he knew from the beginning this was
something different. He said it felt like there were waves in the ground, rolling under your
feet and that it lasted 38 seconds.
First he took me to the government’s Then we left and found an
“model” refugee camp. It was guarded
heavily by soldiers with machine guns,
who stopped us at the gate. We
explained our intentions and they said
they would have to speak with their
captain. After a few minutes, we were
ushered in to see the captain in his
tent. He was not a striking authority
figure and seemed fairly low key,
compared to the guards. The camp was
very orderly and looked neat and clean.
He said we would have to be put on a
schedule for the next day at 4:00 p.m.
“unofficial” camp less than
a block away—conditions
here were truly squalid.
This is more what I
collection of ragged tents
and dwellings thrown
together with tarps,
cardboard, and a little bit
of tin. It was dirty and very
desolate. There were zero
aid workers or anyone else
for that matter, to care for these people. They were literally on their own. Erick explained to
me that these are people who arrived at the model camp too late. Once the model camp
had reached capacity, those outside were left to fend for themselves.
Erick and I approached the nearest dwelling, made of cardboard and plastic tarps. There
sat an older woman with a couple of small children. I began to tell her that she was not
alone and that Jesus was with her. I spoke to her about 10 minutes and prayed for her. Her
reaction was friendly and cordial, but no joy registered on her sad face. But regardless of
her reaction, the situation itself somehow smothered my good intentions. These people
had lost everything—their homes, their processions, their livelihood, as well as hundreds of
loved ones and neighbors in the space of about forty seconds. Now they were living under
tarps with cardboard walls with no hope of anything better. My words about them not being
forgotten or alone seemed hollow and resonated back to me in loud echoing mockery. I felt
as though I’d been hit in the head with a 2x4, utterly overwhelmed!
Instead of plunging forward to the next group of plastic tents, I retreated about 20 feet
away to think and pray. I noticed as I left, Erick lingered a little longer, speaking to the
people in Spanish. When he came back to me, I said, “We have to go to the market and
get something for these people.” He told me that is exactly what he had been discussing
with them, asking them what they needed most. He said they needed powdered milk and
food more than anything else.
We left the cross there and went to a market and filled the trunk of Erick’s car with bags of
beans, rice, and powdered milk. And then huge bags of candy for the kids. Then we
returned. Within minutes, the whole camp joyfully surrounded us, this time dozens of faces,
animated and excited. I preached a short message to them on how Jesus did not live
simply in heaven or only in church buildings, but how He lived in the middle of people and
loved them right where they were. After I preached, we all prayed together.
Then we had the head of each family come up and we were
able to give each one of them a bag of rice, beans, and
powdered milk. They were so appreciative. Then I gave candy to the children. This was
naturally a clamorous, well-received treat. Then Erick and I walked through the whole
camp, talking to the people individually. It seemed the whole camp followed us. Naturally,
what they wanted to do was share with us where they were when the earthquake hit. They
shared their experiences and sorrows. Somehow it seemed they were desperately waiting
to tell someone what they had been through.
At one point I especially remember an older woman. She began to describe her ordeal
during the first quake. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she told me of a neighbor who was
killed when a wall fell in on her. Hundreds of others simply disappeared forever under a
wave of earth hundreds of feet thick. I just remember hugging her and telling her that
Jesus came to heal broken hearts. When it was time to go, Erick and I could not seem to
leave. The people just kept following us until we reached the edge of the camp.
Then we drove about 45 minutes or so to another camp on a huge hillside. This camp was
much larger. Instead of makeshift dwellings of cardboard, many of these people, though
not all, did have tents—though they appeared ragged and dirty. But even though I could
see many more tents, the people in this camp seemed more scarce. It was late afternoon
by now, and very hot, so I suspect many were in their tents. Finally at the edge of the
camp we found an area where water was running out of a pipe. There was some temporary
showers and a large concrete table for washing clothes. This was a bevy of activity with
many people. So I preached and comforted the people for a very long time, while many
children scrambled all over the cross.
Then I walked all through the camp. I stopped and spoke with a group of older women. One
in particular broke my heart. She was pretty old and in a wheelchair. Because of this and
her salt and pepper hair and the way she sat slumped over in the wheelchair, she
reminded me of my mother at the end of her life. My mother lived the last few years of her
life in a nursing home because of a stroke. I used to bemoan the conditions there, but here
I found a woman in a similar condition in a wheelchair in a dusty, exposed camp living in a
cardboard shelter. The only toilet facilities I saw were four or five dirty, old porta-potties,
marked “women and children.” They were located two or three hundred yards away over
extremely rough, rocky ground from her family’s shelter. Somehow I couldn’t help but
wonder how this poor woman was managing.
Oh Jesus, as a Westerner who grew up in a middle-class home in America, it is difficult for
me to grasp how people manage in these conditions. As we prayed together, I just wanted
A little further on we found a girl with crutches, laying on a wooden bench with a broken
leg. She described how when the quake hit, she grabbed her little daughter and a nephew
and tried to scramble out the door, but they didn’t make it. A wall fell on her leg, pinning
her in the rubble. Her little girl, only about three, also suffered a broken leg. And they were
trapped in the rubble for hours. We spoke with her at length and encouraged her with the
words of Jesus and prayed together before we moved on. I spoke with dozens and dozens
of people that day, all with similar stories.
As I thought back over the day, overall things are much more bleak than I expected. I
thought I would be just one part of a bigger equation. I expected to be bringing only
spiritual hope and encouragement. Somehow I imagined I would be surrounded by
hundreds of aid workers providing food, water, blankets, and medical attention. So far, I
have not seen one. In every camp everyone tells me the same thing, “Yes, there were
some here, but only the first few days after the first quake. Then they all left.” Others
spoke of lists in the newspaper of communities who will be relocated and helped by the
government, but most felt forgotten because their communities were never on this very
||Great Joy in the “Model Camp!”
Friday, February 23
Once again in the night, there was a long rumble that was more pronounced than
yesterday and made my heart beat faster. Then about 10:00 a.m. a sharp, quick jolt—the
most violent so far. The hotel building popped and groaned for a few seconds following this
one. Then between 12:30 and 1:00 p.m. another tremor that lasted about 10 seconds.
Today at 3:00 p.m. Erick and I will return to the “model” camp.
I was just in the gift shop where I was speaking to the young lady working there. As we
talked, the ground began rumbling and objects hanging on the walls began to sway!
Although our conversation was in Spanish and therefore confined to very simple ideas, she
began to tell me how afraid she was and how living like this was so hard on her nerves.
Then she spoke of the big quake on January 13th. I tried my best to tell her to trust in
Jesus and pray to Him when she was afraid.
Wow, what a day! I took the cross to the model camp—the biggest so far. I don’t know how
many people are staying here, but it is definitely several thousand. First we were taken to
meet a colonel. He was very, very gracious and told me that I had free reign in the camp.
Then Erick and I started walking with the cross. A huge group gathered even as we
approached the first row of tents. I was totally surrounded so I really could not tell how
many people—maybe about 60 or 70. I preached to them from Luke 4:18.
Oh, they responded so beautifully to the very tangible presence of Jesus. Then I prayed
for them all. It was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life! This first little impromptu
meeting must have lasted almost half and hour. Then we went up and down the rows of
tents, stopping, preaching, and praying for the groups that gathered. Plus, it seemed all
the other groups tagged along behind us as we went. Everywhere, the same wonderful
Sometimes I stood and preached—sometimes I just sat down in the midst of the groups,
hugged the little children and encouraged the adults. To describe scene after scene of this
would be impossible. I wish I could remember all their names and describe their beautiful
faces and excited responses, but at some point it just all blurs together into one huge,
great memory. I can only say there is a connection with people at this level that is
completely incomparable with anything else.
Today was victory, such joy and love! Oh, thank you, Abba, for being my Jehovah Nissi—
my victory, my banner, and my confidence! Children hung all over me and the cross. Old
ladies and even some men wanted to hug me. They were so warm, the whole throng
followed us to the gate and would hardly let us go. Oh, what a day! Today I saw pain and
suffering, but I also saw the love of Jesus was still stronger.
Tremors continued all day. There were at least 5 or 6. Everyone everywhere was speaking
about them and talking about how scary it is to live this way. Though my Spanish is
inadequate, I always try to get across to them to put their trust in Jesus. So exhausted and
tired—but my heart is so full as I think back over this day.
He is Near to Those Crushed in Spirit!
Saturday, February 24
Today was one of the most fulfilling days I have ever experienced. It was truly beyond
words. No early tremors to wake me up! I got up about 6:00 a.m., had breakfast and took
my morning walk and tried to prepare my heart for the day ahead. Erick arrived to pick me
up and had brought along another young man to help. His name was Vicente’ and he was
about 22. We all traveled to a small city called Cohutepeque’. It was only a little east of the
capital, about an hour away.
Driving through Central America is always an experience in itself, cars weave and thread
through busy streets carelessly, constantly honking. Slow old busses and even more
ancient trucks trundle up hills, while the cars wildly pass them with little care for oncoming
traffic. The air is thick with dust and exhaust fumes belched out by the old busses, trucks,
and cars. The beds of small pickups are crammed with humanity, talking and laughing,
oblivious to their chaotic surroundings. Meanwhile, the sides of the roads are a stream of
pedestrians, strolling perilously close to the frantic traffic. And sprinkled in to the whole mix
are dogs, burros, and an occasional goat.
So far, we have been in
camps or makeshift tent
cities, thrown into any open
spaces, parks, soccer
stadiums, and so on. But
once we arrived in
Cohutepeque’ we found a
very different situation. We
stopped and asked a traffic
policeman where the
earthquake victims were
located. He informed us
they were not organized,
but were simply scattered
throughout the city, wherever
they could find. The damage
to this city was much more severe and was a result of the second quake on February 13.
We drove around the traffic-chocked town—debris and rubble still lined the sides of the
road and many streets were blocked off all together by massive piles of concrete and brick,
that were formerly peoples’ homes. The streets were slightly frenzied and full of milling
crowds. For 45 minutes or so we searched for a place to begin. I noticed Erick was
Finally he told me there were serious problems in this city with gangs who kidnapped and
robbed people often. He said that we needed to be careful here. He had expressed to me
other days that as a foreigner there were many areas where I would not be particularly
safe. I could tell he thought this was one of them. Inwardly I felt myself stiffening up as we
drove on and on looking for a “safe” place to park the car and get started. A small battle
began to rage in my mind. How conspicuous I would be with my life-size cross on my
shoulder. But somehow I also knew that the cross was my disarming symbol and could
equalize any situation. I knew once we got started, it would be all right.
Once we parked the car, Erick said he was hungry and launched out to find a tienda. I felt
really uneasy, standing there by the trunk of his car, looking like the only “gringo” in town.
He came back after about 8 or 10 minutes with some fruit juice but no food. All three of us
were hungry and I had brought three 3 ounce cans of tuna and a few cashews. So we sat
there on the side of the street and ate a quick lunch. Then we put the cross together.
Once again we had the trunk full of beans, rice, and powdered milk and candy for the kids.
Our new team member, Vicente’, had a huge backpack and we loaded the poor guy down
like a burro. We also hung bags of rice and beans in plastic bags all along the horizontal
beam of the cross—so my load was considerably heavier than usual too. We walked in
circles for blocks, trying to figure out where the victims were staying. Finally we got near
the town center and the most heavily damaged area, and there they were. They were
simply living in the dusty streets, next to their crumbled homes.
In the other camps and tent cities, people had army tents or at least real tarps with some
wood. But here many had no shelter. Some had just pulled couches and beds out onto the
sidewalk and a few pots and pans, and this was their home. A great many more had a few
pieces of bamboo with sheets or bedspreads stretched over it.
What little shelter others had was old
poly plastic (always with gapping holes).
I saw little infants whose only shelter
was the cover of their old, beat up baby
buggies. And I saw very old people
living out there on the streets, and
every other age in between. A great
many were simply in crude lean-tos
made of sheets and bedclothes, or
These flimsy shelters, oddly enough
were often leaning against the cracked
and damaged walls of buildings with the
roofs caved in. This, in a country still
experiencing thousands upon
thousands of aftershocks, as well as
several full-blown new earthquakes
every week. It seems to me the ground
under my feet is always moving a little
And so we approached them, one family
at a time, or in little groups clustered
together. We gave each family a bag of
beans, rice, and a bag of powdered
milk. Even though it seemed like so
little, they received it with such
gratitude. I spoke a simple, similar
message of hope to each family or
My Speech & My Preaching
I would always start off in Spanish, introducing myself and telling them I had seen their two
terrible earthquakes on the news in the U.S. I just wanted to come and do something to
encourage you and do whatever little I could to help, in the name of my Lord Jesus. By
then my thin reserves of Spanish were almost spent. They always responded so warmly. I
have found people the world over love it when you try, however poorly, to speak to them in
their native language.
I would turn and introduce them to Erick then continue with his translation.
I know you have been through so much pain and suffering. I know many of you have lost
not only your homes but loved ones and neighbors. But I just wanted you to know that you
are not alone. Jesus has not forgotten you. In fact, the Bible tells us Jesus came to heal
the broken hearted and that He is especially close to those whose hearts have been
crushed. The last thing I want to do is to minimize your sorrow and what you have been
through. I know many, many people think “God doesn’t understand my pain.” But I promise
you He does. He sent Jesus into this world to experience our lives. He walked in our
shoes—He got His feet dirty with the dust of our world.
The Bible says He was hungry and that He was sometimes tired. He grieved the loss of a
good friend, John the Baptist. He was so touched by peoples sorrow, the Bible says He
wept. But mostly He understands our pain and sorrow because of the cross. There He
experienced first hand our pain and suffering in a way that is beyond imagination. He died
a slow, agonizing, even torturous death. There He took away our sin! He knew what it was
like for everyone dear to turn their back on him. He even experienced death in our place!
And He did all that because He loved each of you!
But He rose from the dead, and He is alive now. I would like to read a scripture from the
Spanish New Testament: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my
voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” You have a door
into your heart and Jesus is waiting on the other side of it knocking and calling to you. All
you have to do is open your heart and He will come and live with you. He will give you
peace and a new heart for Him. I want to encourage you today to take hope! Someday
Jesus will come back and take all those whose heart belongs to Him to heaven. There won’
t be any earthquakes in that city! In fact, the Bible says there won’t be any more pain or
sorrow. There will never be anymore death—and best of all, despite everything you have
been through, Jesus Himself will wipe away all the tears from your eyes.
Then I would exhort them again to open their hearts to Jesus and we would all pray and
call upon the name of the Lord together.
Then I would stand or sometimes kneel and pray for them. I would sit and listen to them for
a while—their stories about the quakes. Sometimes they would show me their wounds. I
remember one old woman who had been struck in the head by falling debris. But mostly
they spoke about their fears of more quakes and also of how desperately they needed
help, but how until now no one had come.
We picked our way through the rubble, block after block, speaking to family after family,
group after group living in the most pitiful little plastic coverings. I cannot say how many got
saved—because they would all indicate they opened their hearts to Christo! Only Jesus
can know their true spiritual condition. I only know He loves them and is filled with
compassion for them.
The Cross & the Sewage
At one point toward the
end of the day we found
a narrow cluster of
dwellings in an alley
damaged houses. There
were piles of rubble
blocking the way partially.
As I started into the little
canyon of rubble and
plastic, my foot sunk six
inches (ankle deep) in a
little channel of raw
also served as the path
up into the little row of
cardboard and plastic
shelters. I pressed on and
naturally the wheel of the cross went into the sewage. I thought what a picture of how Jesus
left the Holy glory of heaven to our dirty, contaminated, sinful planet to seek and save the
We ran out of rice, beans and milk and found a tienda and practically bought them out.
Then on the edge of the town near a cliffside overlooking a spectacular valley, we found
another whole group of plastic shanties. Little naked brown children, soaking wet from a
bath, clamored all over the cross. Finally we wound up under a little covering, sitting with a
family of seven. I spoke to them and prayed for them and we gave them bags of milk and
Finally a girl named Janet with a beautiful, bright countenance began to weep. As she
brushed away tears, she explained to us that they were Christians and had been praying
for help to come. They were discouraged because they had heard some help had reached
San Vincente’, the next major town, but then the aid had run out and there was nothing left
to bring to their town. Days had passed. Then she said when she saw me approaching with
the cross, she felt like it was a sign that God had truly not forgotten them. I was thrilled to
see the hope the cross had brought them, but still I bemoaned the fact of having only a few
bags of beans, rice, and milk to give them. We sat there under their little tarp and
encouraged them a long while.
A man came up to us late in the afternoon, jabbering excitedly about three more quakes in
San Salvador. My Spanish is not great, but I understood, because these words about
earthquakes and tremors are very familiar to me now. This is all anybody speaks about in
this little country now. In restaurants, shops, and my hotel or on the street, it is the topic of
almost every conversation. We had been driving at the time, so we did not feel this series
of tremors. I later learned in the newspaper headline the magnitude of the situation.
10:42 a.m. 10:43 a.m. 10:44 a.m. 10:46 a.m. 10:48 a.m.
4.2 3.6 3.1 3.1 2.3
We finally got home to San Salvador, hungry and exhausted, about 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. You
could tell people all over the city were on edge. I want to rest tomorrow and spend time
praying for the people in the camps.
Another Seismic Sunday!
Sunday, February 25
Wow! I’ve just been jolted awake by a strong quake. It was about 2:31 a.m. A huge jolt and
the building started swaying, popping, and groaning and then things really started shaking.
I think it only lasted 10 or 15 seconds. Naturally, I began praying, my heart started
pounding, and I’m still shaking a little. At first, I did not know what to do. I looked out my
window, then I started hearing doors open and shut all over my floor. So I got dressed and
The lobby was already filling with guests bewildered but not panicked. People milled
around in the lobby. My favorite desk clerk tired to reassure other guests by saying, “I think
it’s ok, I’m not sure!” It’s now 3:25 a.m. and I’m back in my room. My heart is still beating
fast, but I’m not shaking. It will be interesting to hear where this falls on the Richter scale.
(Next day’s newspaper told me it was a 4.6.)
I finally got back to sleep about 5:00 a.m. I think. I had hoped to have a great day of
spiritual refreshment and rest. But I’ve been a little less than relaxed. We had another
“shaking” about 6:00 a.m., not as bad as earlier. Mostly in the morning I did try to relax.
Then I took a walk for about an hour or so. I did get some praying done for the victims, but
not as intensely as I had hoped. The ground shook in little waves all day. I ate a can of
tuna for lunch, then allowed myself a nice meal here at the hotel for supper about 5:30 p.
m. I had a lovely meal and was finally relaxing. Classic guitar music played in the
Then it hit…another big shock! The building shook and groaned violently, window glass
rattled loudly. And this one lasted quite a long time. This was the first time I’ve been in
public during a tremor. There were three or four waiters standing in the hall. They
panicked and took off running toward the door. Somehow this triggered a reaction in me
too. I thought they must know something I didn’t. I was sitting near some big windows, so I
jumped up to run also. But only about four feet later, I realized it was over.
I glanced over my shoulder toward the open kitchen door. Another waiter was standing
calmly up against a counter. We made eye contact and he smiled broadly. I sat back down
and started finishing my dinner. He approached me and started talking. His name was
Jose’. We had a nice chat. Naturally we started talking about seismic activity. But then we
talked about the Lord a lot too.
After another short walk, I went back up to my room. But at 7:21 p.m. another big round of
shifting and shaking. That was the last big one, but there have been numerous small
waves all through the evening. Now it is bedtime and for the first time, I can tell this has
started to add up. I’m kind of on edge about going to bed. Need to pray. The words of Paul
really come to mind—“We face death all the day long.”
Lonely Corner of a Huge Camp
Monday, February 26
Today Erick, Vicente’ and I traveled to the nearby town of Panchimalco. I had bought
another trunk full of beans, rice, and powdered milk and candy for the kids. But once we
arrived, the people in the town said all their victims were elsewhere and inaccessible
without a four-wheel drive vehicle. Erick told me there was still the largest camp in Santa
Tecla, so we returned there.
This camp was huge, someone told me ten
thousand—but I have no way of knowing. It was a
sports complex with six or eight soccer fields
converted into a refugee camp. Although their
conditions certainly were not as bad as those in
Cohutepeque’, by sheer volume of people living
together in a camp setting, things were definitely
less than sanitary. In some of the fields in the
middle, things appeared better than a group of
several hundred tents located in a remote corner. I
don’t know if they were late arrivals or what, but their
area of the camp looked much more thrown together
and bleak. So we headed to them.
I felt the deep compassion of Jesus as I ministered to
these people. At first I spoke and prayed with people
one on one. Then Erick suggested gathering them
together. So they came and sat on concrete
bleachers (remember this is a soccer complex).
There were maybe a hundred adults and lots of
dirty, beautiful children. I preached about half an
hour and then prayed for the people.
As usual, all indicated they wanted to open their heart’s door for Jesus. I simply cannot
second guess or analyze if these people are already saved, predisposed to being
agreeable, or are just utterly rattled because of the earthquakes. I know Jesus knows their
hearts and hears those calling on His name! They truly seem in a very humbled and
repentant mode. I can only say, God can see hearts and I’m happy to leave the results with
Him! “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” was sufficient to usher a dying
man into Paradise.
After I preached and we prayed together, we had them line up with the head of each family
receiving one bag of rice, beans, and milk. We passed out candy to the kids. Within
minutes everything was gone! There were scores in this camp we couldn’t get to; it was
heartbreaking. But we made a huge impact on our little corner. We encouraged them
joyfully for almost an hour more. It was windy, dirty, and hot, but there was great joy in this
lonely corner of a huge camp. We asked the people how long they expected to be here.
They said they have been told, “Una Ano”—one year.
Today the ground moved a little all day, but nothing so violent as yesterday. Today’s paper
said there have been many, many tremors in the last few days, many 3s, 4s and at least
one 4.6 and one 5.
The Capital of Tent Cities
Tuesday, February 27
Thank the Lord there were only small tremors during the night and this morning, so I slept
well. This is my last full day in the country. After breakfast, I was walking to the gas station
on the corner to buy a coke. As I prayed and mused about the events of the last week, I
felt so thankful to have experienced the compassion of Jesus for these needy people. But
still I felt the weight of knowing it was so little in the face of such monumental suffering. So I
started praying that God would multiply our little efforts, like Jesus feeding the multitude
with a little boy’s lunch.
I was praying this all the way to the door of the store. Once inside, I looked at the local
paper. There in big headline letters in Spanish it said, “Europe says yes to reconstruction!”
I could understand just enough of the article to see that the European Union is going to aid
in the reconstruction of the damaged areas. What a blessing to know help is coming. I
have no idea how much or how soon, but I feel like it is an answer to prayer.
Erick will pick me up in a little while to go to the little makeshift tarp neighborhoods here in
the capital. They have sprung up all over the city as a result of all the powerful shocks and
tremors of the last few days.
Erick, Vicente’, and I drove to the store and bought more food, then we went back to the
little plastic village near my hotel. It seemed so small that we bought only enough for a few
homes. But once we arrived, we realized this tiny corner had about 38 families. It could not
have been much larger than a typical driveway in the States—but spreading out in several
directions of necessity to fit in the confines of available space.
They welcomed us and the cross and brought us to a central awning and gathered
everyone around. I preached and encouraged them from Acts 10:38 and they responded
beautifully. All seemed to want to open their heart to Jesus. Afterward, we gave the food we
had brought and it came out way short. I told them Erick would bring more, enough for
everyone. The kids were great. One little girl grabbed my heart. She had the sweetest
nature. Her name was Jessica.
Then a lady wanted to show us their house they had abandoned. She took us on a rather
extensive tour. Many houses were built precariously on a cliff. They were demolished. But
even the rest were shaky and full of massive cracks. Walls would sway at the touch. I kept
thinking “why are we walking around in these damaged houses when tremors occur daily?”
I prayed none would happen. But it seemed important to them for us to see their houses
and what they had been through. We just couldn’t leave and they did not want us to. I
hugged the children over and over and over! The kids followed us around everywhere,
draped all over me. When we finally pulled ourselves away, we went back to the market
and bought enough food for everyone.
Then we went to Erick’s house and I met his family. His mother is Baptist. I could sense all
week how God was working in Erick’s life. Not only did he become completely enthusiastic
about our work, he spoke more and more about Christ. We had some great discussions on
key subjects about how to follow Jesus. I gave him a New Testament and a Greg Laurie
book, “How to Live Forever.” I think he may already be a Christian, but learned a lot about
discipleship this week.
My Last Hour in El Salvador… The Big One!
Wednesday, February 28
At the airport, I made it fine getting to my gate. I felt calm and relaxed, knowing it was my
last hour in El Salvador and would soon see my wife!!! I was standing by the large plate
glass window, hoping to watch them load my baggage (especially the cross) onto the
aircraft. About 12:41 p.m. I muttered a little prayer under my breath so as not to forget,
ignore, or neglect my faithful traveling companion, Jesus. In my prayer I included thanks for
His faithful protection.
Not ten seconds later, a big quake struck. Pandemonium broke out! People began
screaming and scrambling for some kind of cover. The lady next to me dropped to her
knees and began screaming and praying in Spanish. In fact, most people in the terminal
were panicking. All over the terminal people were praying and calling upon the name of the
Lord at full volume! Unlike most tremors that come and go rather quickly, this one seemed
to intensify and go on and on. Many people charged the only exit they could see—the jet
way. At first the gate attendant tried to resist them, but the more the building shook and the
tremor lingered, she let everyone that wanted go into the jet way. Some plaster fell from
the walls and people just kept yelling and praying. Some people with video equipment
started filming the chaotic scene.
After what seemed like to me 30 seconds or more, the ground and building quit shaking.
People, including the airline employees, seemed confused and still panicked. During this
whole episode I felt perfect peace. I don’t even think my heart raced, it was like I was
watching the whole thing through a view finder or something. I was in the middle of it but I
felt insolated from it. I know this was because of all the people who were praying for me. In
fact, right afterwards I met some very nice Christians, because I had heard them praying.
For the next 15 or 20 minutes, a lot of tension hung in the air as everyone waited to see if
we could proceed by boarding the aircraft or if the airport would be closed.
Fireman in full gear walked about checking for damage. Finally, when the time came to
board the aircraft, people couldn’t care less about seating row instructions and just moved
or pushed their way into the jet way. The gate attendant didn’t seem to want to go through
the normal formalities and pretty much just quickly took boarding passes and let people on.
People were glad to be out from under concrete buildings. Now I’m on the plane, getting
ready to go home!
(When I got home that night, I found out on the Internet that the last quake while I was at
the airport registered a six on the open-ended Richter scale and lasted 40 seconds.)
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these my brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matt.
25:40). A couple of days before I left on my trip to El Salvador, a friend of mine mentioned
this verse. It was on my heart constantly. I want to say “THANK YOU!” to all of you who so
generously responded and helped send me to El Salvador. Because of your generosity, I
was able to give away more than three hundred bags of beans, rice, and powdered milk to
these beautiful people. I know with all of my heart that because you did it for the least of
these, you did it for Jesus. I felt overwhelmed by the needs I saw all week, but in the end, I
saw in every camp the great joy and hope that Jesus and His cross brought.
I told the people everywhere, “I pray that God will imprint your faces in my memory so I will
not only pray for you today, but tomorrow, next week, and in the months to come.” I also
promised them that I would share their stories with churches and Christians in America so
they can pray too. Please join Becky and me in praying for the people of El Salvador!