Tag Archives: youth

The road to redemption

18 Feb


El Rosario is one of those troubled neighbourhoods where nobody wants to live. Located about 20 miles east of El Salvador’s capital city, the roads are unpaved and uncared for. Between huddles of shabby houses are paths leading to the hideouts of men wanted by the law. Many are the tattooed members of the vicious gangs or maras that terrorise the country with drug, gun and people smuggling, theft, hits for hire, arson and of course, strong-arming the locals. Ironically, this country named in honour of the Saviour has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

We stop at a whitewashed elementary school in the centre of El Rosario and meet the principal, José Atilio López Erazo.

“I’ve seen every kind of problem here,” states Erazo after showing us around. “There’s much poverty and violence and sexual abuse within families. Our teachers often have to counsel abused kids, but sometimes nothing is done to help them. Some who live here follow occult practices, like going to a medicine man when they’re sick. People don’t know how to spend their money wisely or make the best choices. Most parents have little education, but if we offer a programme to teach them to read and write they don’t come. “

The principal has been a Christian for eight years. Six years ago, he admits, he was ready to quit because of problems and threats from gangs. Then Mauricio Hernandez, OM Country Leader and a pastor in San Salvador, decided that El Rosario needed to witness more of the power of God.

“His church began to come here and bring help and pray for this community,” relates Erazo. “For the first time I felt we were not alone. I began to hope. In our school we began to talk about the gospel and teachers started praying before the day started. At first parents objected even though we don’t talk about religion, we just talk about Jesus. But now they’ve seen what a difference it’s made and they’ve changed their minds. Some students and their parents have accepted Christ and attend Pastor Mauricio’s church in the city because there’s nothing for them here.”

OM’s involvement included practical distributions of food to families in need. And aware that youth as young as 11 or 12 were being recruited by gangs, students were offered the chance to take English, computer classes and Bible studies in a San Salvador private school. A team also held a series of “Life at the Crossroads” classes in the community to encourage the confidence and self-worth of young people.

According to Principal Erazo, only about 80 per cent of children who enter first grade in his school continue to the ninth grade. By the age of 15 most girls are already coupled with men; at least one of them has a child of her own attending school with her. “But in the last two years we have more students going on to high school because we’ve convinced parents that an education is important for getting good jobs.”

Daniel Caballero, who took over the leadership of OM El Salvador from Mauricio in 2012, is resolved to continue the good work already begun in El Rosario. One strategy is a scholarship programme for promising young students, allowing them to attend a Christian high school. Seventeen-year-old Eber, the first recipient nominated by Principal Erazo, has a goal of becoming a computer engineer. Besides receiving a much better education in a private school, Eber will benefit from the mentoring of OM staff.

How do you change a community like El Rosario? By giving it hope: one person at a time, one day at a time. Pray for OM El Salvador as it walks this rough and often lonely road.