Our family had the privilege of spending three weeks ministering to the people of El Salvador earlier this year. My husband, Pastor Mike Bauler, has the opportunity to travel frequently to many countries as he assists Mission Projects International in its efforts to support mission work. Frequently my three daughters and I send him off, just a bit wistful that we could be going too. So, it is a special blessing when we have the opportunity to travel and work together as a family in an area where there is a need. This year my parents, Rodney and Cynthia Clark, joined us and were very helpful, both directly with the ministry work and in freeing us to be more active by helping us with childcare.
Although we have traveled to several other Central American countries this was the first time any of us had been to El Salvador, so we left with some questions in our mind: What would the country be like? Would we find many active workers in the churches, and would we be able to work well together? How receptive would be people be to the messages?
In the airport in El Salvador we were so happy to see our dear friend, Nestor Socha, with whom we worked in Costa Rica several years ago. He had traveled to El Salvador to assist us with translation as none of us speak more than a little Spanish. We were to find his services invaluable, and because he was the only translator he was kept busy from morning till night assisting in all the outreach efforts. We trust that the Lord will richly repay his faithful efforts!
The first few days of the trip were spent visiting churches, holding a mini camp meeting on Sabbath for believers throughout the country and preparing for the evangelistic efforts. The local brethren had made arrangements to hold the evangelistic meetings in the small town of Panchimalco outside of San Salvador. The town was not far from a small church group who had been preparing for the efforts. The majority of the church is one large family: Brother Ephrain, his wife and their eleven children. As we had the opportunity to get to know this family while working side-by-side with them I was reminded of this inspired quotation, “The greatest evidence of the power of Christianity that can be presented to the world is a well-ordered, well-disciplined family. This will recommend the truth as nothing else can, for it is a living witness of its practical power upon the heart.” Adventist Home, 32.
These eleven young people, some of whom are married with spouses and children who are also serving the Lord, having been energetically working to reach their country with the gospel. Whenever they have sufficient funds, they rent a truck and travel as a group to some part of the country and distribute the tabloids they have received from Cornerstone Publishing. In this way thousands of tabloids have been distributed in a systematic manner covering several hundred towns and cities including nearly all of the large city of San Salvador. Each of the areas covered is marked on a large map of the country and this map is literally peppered with colored dots indicating areas that have been saturated with truth-filled literature.
Several family members are also active in personal evangelism, and not only had preparation been made for the meeting by printing and distributing fliers to the entire town, several interests we prepared to accept the truths presented because they had been receiving Bible studies from various members of the family. In the days before the meetings were to begin, we intensified the advertising efforts by distributing more fliers and driving through town announcing the meetings over a loud speaker.
Our evangelistic effort combined medical missionary work with the gospel. For three to four hours each afternoon we held free medical clinics to provide help to those in need and to break-down prejudice for our gospel work. Although El Salvador has a universal health care program that provides basic health care and emergency care free of charge and medical clinics and hospitals appear to be accessible to much of the population, we found health education and management of chronic conditions lacking. Poor diet, limited water intake, hard work on farms and the lack of modern conveniences that make household chores hard work (washing laundry by hand, carrying water/food on your head, etc) contributed largely to the most common conditions we saw (muscle strains, headaches, constipation, etc). We spent nearly all our time teaching our patients how to apply the eight laws of health to relieve their symptoms or prevent disease and the use and benefits of simple natural remedies (massage, hydrotherapy and the use of charcoal and local herbs). We did see a number of patients with much more serious health conditions who came seeking a second opinion or for help they had been unable to find. Because the price of medications and specialist care is very expensive many who need more than basic treatment do not get the care they need because they cannot afford it. We did all we could to help these patients and frequently wished that our stay could be longer so that we could do more.
Every evening for 10 nights we held evangelistic meetings, beginning with meetings for the children. They were eager pupils and enjoyed teaching me and our daughters songs in Spanish, but were even more pleased when we taught them songs in English. They enjoyed the health talks and Bible stories and were very pleased to be able to color a picture each evening (this church has only limited Sabbath school materials and crayons were a rare treat).
This was followed by the meetings on Bible prophecy for the adults. Each night the audience attentively listened to the testing truths from the books of Daniel and Revelation, and thanks to the speaker system many outside the building we were using, also heard the messages presented. During the meetings and after they were finished we had the opportunity to visit the interests and as we got to know them better it was clear that there were battles going on and people taking their stands to follow the Lord. Let me share a few of their stories with you.
A father with his three young children faithfully attended the meetings each evening. We learned that his wife had passed away just a few months before from cancer. Now a single father, he was striving to raise his children for the Lord. He had been studying the Bible for some time with one of the members of Brother Ephrain’s family, and as the truths were presented during the meetings, he made the commitment to follow the Lord all the way. After the Sabbath was presented, he determined that he was going to keep it and he and his children fellowshipped with us the last two Sabbaths we were there.
The building we rented for the meetings was owned by a relatively well to do young woman who lived next door with several extended family members including her mother. Her mother attended the meetings faithfully each evening. As soon as she heard the theme song, she would leave her work and join the meeting. And every evening she took the truths she had learned home and shared them with her family. When Mike visited them, he found that her son-in-law, who had not attended any meetings yet, was full of questions about the messages presented. With a Roman Catholic background, this family had found the messages startling and intriguing. Although they did not make a commitment to the truth while we were there, they were open to continued study, and we pray that the Lord will further open their minds and help the seeds that were planted to spring up.
Sister with arthritis, Brother Nestor and local workers.
We found the clinic to be an effective way of breaking down prejudice and producing more interest in the evangelistic meetings. A number of people attended meetings who had received care in the clinic. One young woman stands out. She was in her mid-twenties, a single mother with a young daughter. She was struggling with constant pain and loss of mobility in multiple joints from rapidly progressing rheumatoid arthritis. Three to four months before she had been seen in the local hospital and given a diagnosis, but no treatment was offered and she was scheduled to see a specialist this coming summer. During the months of waiting her condition was rapidly declining to the point where she could no longer work and walking was slow and painful. With great effort she walked nearly a mile to see us in the clinic and returned again the following day for more teaching and therapies to help relieve the joint pain. The following Sabbath she was getting ready to make the long-walk again to join us for Sabbath services, when we stopped by to pick her up. One of the sisters of the church was taught how to do simple treatments, and she will continue to help and encourage this young woman.
Please pray for these dear people and for Brother Ephrain’s family who continue to push the work forward in the little country of El Salvador. We so look forward to the day when, if we are faithful, we will all be part of one large family that will never again be parted. Let us work together to hasten the soon coming of our Lord!
By Amanda Bauler.
Support for the continued mission trips of Mike Bauler can take can be sent to Mission Projects International, P.O. Box 59656, Renton, WA 98058. 1-800-467-4174.