The Word of God changes lives and equips believers for every good work. This powerful reality is what drove a team of Gideons and Auxiliary to reach the people of San Salvador, El Salvador, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in late 2019.
God and gangs
El Salvador has a population of over six million people. San Salvador is the capital city, yet it is a poor area with little income for families. A good education for students is hard to come by due to heavy gang influence and activity. The primary result of gang activity is an extremely high rate of homicides.
In the midst of the ongoing violence, God is continuing a great work in El Salvador. Francisco and Elijah are two great examples. Alcohol was a way of life for Francisco. One night after a bout of drinking, he came home to find his wife had left him and taken their children with her. The only thing she left behind was a sack of dirty clothes and a sack of trash. With nothing left, he decided to continue drinking with his buddies at a local bar. Later, he returned to the empty house and laid down on the bare floor. As he laid on the floor looking up at the ceiling, all he could see were his children now gone. Depressed and hopeless, Francisco decided to hang himself. He searched through the trash, looking for materials. Instead, what he found was his wife’s Testament from The Gideons. He sat in the middle of the floor and read the Scriptures for hours. As he read, God’s Word ministered to his hardened heart. He accepted Jesus Christ as His personal Lord and Savior.
Nearly thirty years ago, Elijah was broke and had nothing but time. He began to wander all over El Salvador and ended up in Panama. He was hungry with no money, so he stopped at a Salvation Army. While there, he received a warm meal and a Testament from The Gideons. Elijah sat for hours as he began to read. He read the entire Testament in one sitting. When he got to the back page, he read the plan of salvation. At that moment, he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.
Francisco and Elijah are now both Gideons in El Salvador. Hearing the testimonies of these two Gideons last Fall fueled members to continue being used by God during the following week.
The gospel in Action
The team of Gideons and Auxiliary met every morning for prayer and came back together in the afternoon to share testimonies and information from the day. Guided by the Holy Spirit and the power of the Word of God, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 were theme verses for the week. In this passage, Paul reminded young Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV) These verses resonated in the hearts of those who participated throughout the week. By the end of the event, over 79,000 people in El Salvador were reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including work from the Auxiliary as they ministered to nurses and other medical personnel in hospitals.
The Word changes lives
The team visited public schools and some Catholic schools during the week. Students were open to receiving a personal copy of God’s Word, and one principal who had received a Testament as a child said, “The Word has changed my life.”
A huge move of God took place when the team received permission to do ministry at the University of El Salvador. Locals were excited by the opportunity to reach people on campus as nearly every student took a Testament.
On the first day, the team was eager to start at a large school. A security guard met three team members at the front gate. A local Gideon named Moises led the conversation, and they were allowed inside the first gate, followed by three other team members. The later three members were able to bring 600 Testaments in and wait while the first three members headed back towards the principal’s office to ask for permission to distribute the Scriptures.
They approached the secretary and explained the purpose of their visit. The secretary said she did not think distribution was possible, and the principal was not in his office. Just about that time, the principal arrived and invited the team into his private office. He listened to Moises, and graciously said, “No, I cannot have a group promoting religion.” Being prompted by the Holy Spirit, Moises tried to kindly persuade him to reconsider. The principal said, “If the government official over the department of education will tell me directly, I will reconsider.”
While Moises was looking through his contacts, the other Gideons prayed. They knew the principal cared for his students, and they knew the Word of God had the power to make the students better citizens in the community.
Soon after, Moises got the number of the person in charge of education, and she answered the phone. Moises shared the request with her, and then he handed the phone to the principal. As soon as the principal finished speaking with her, he said, “You may distribute the books.” This was an incredible answer to prayer.
“The Word has changed my life.” –a principal in San Salvador
Further, the principal had someone take the team to every classroom. He also called another school in the area and instructed them to allow the team to distribute at their school.
While team members were waiting outside in the courtyard, so amazed at what God had just done, Moises began to get emotional. He shared, “Last night, I got a text to me of the national director of education in a group photo. I thought to myself, ‘Why am I getting this picture?’ Now I know why, as this is the picture I just shared with the principal.” The entire team was filled with gratitude as God opened a previously-closed door so students could get a copy of His precious Word.
A new creation
God also used the team to encourage church members in San Salvador. One of the Gideons spoke at the Iglesias Chistiana Josue Church. After the service, a couple of people approached the Gideon and humbly asked for prayer. As the Gideon finished praying, a young man in his 20s named Carlos walked up to them. Carlos shared with the Gideon he had strayed from the Lord and had not been in church for some time. The Gideon asked Carlos if he had ever trusted Jesus as His Savior. He replied, “No.” The Gideon shared with Carlos he could be a new creation in Christ and experience peace and joy. Carlos prayed with the Gideon to receive Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. A smile came over his face as he embraced his new identity as a follower of Jesus.
Revival in El Salvador
During another moment, a local man named Henry came up to Scott, a Gideon from Georgia, asking for help. As a regular church attender, Henry asked Scott to help him stop cussing. This led Scott to question Henry about where he would spend eternity. Henry did not know with certainty what this looked like for him.
Scott showed Henry several Scriptures. After going over those Scriptures, Henry accepted Jesus as his Savior.
Henry is studying public relations and wants to become a writer. Scott says, “I believe God is going to use Henry to restore and bring revival to El Salvador.”
Stories like these are reasons for hope throughout El Salvador, as God continues working through Gideons and Auxiliary to expand His Kingdom.