Having arrived at the year of Jubilee, a great mile marker, we are very grateful to the Lord for His faithfulness, goodness and mercies shown to this country that bears His name, El Salvador (The Saviour). I would like to give a summarized report to hallmark this milestone, and pray that it would cause you, in turn, to think of the One who is building His Church, working in the world, and calling all people unto Himself.
Jack and Ellen Saword, who were commended by the assembly in Arlington, WA, drove down with Dawn and me in an International Travelall, arriving in San Salvador on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1969. There was indeed much thanksgiving from our hearts, as the Lord had protected us over the 4,000 miles we had traveled. When we arrived, the only place where we could find an accommodation was the garage of a hostel, as all the hotel rooms had been taken.
After arriving in the country, we discovered that there had been a 100-hour war beginning on July 14 over a soccer game between Honduras and El Salvador. The result of the conflict was the expulsion of 300,000 Salvadorian refugees from Honduras who had previously migrated looking for better job opportunities in the banana plantations. These refugees returned on foot with the bare essentials, leaving behind their earthly possessions. The borders remained closed for 11 years until a peace treaty was signed with Honduras in 1980.
Among the refugees were many Christians who had heard the gospel in northern coastal assemblies of Honduras, received the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, been baptized and received into the fellowship of one of the various assemblies, where the work had been ongoing since 1910. These Christians were forced to flee Honduras, and they settled across the country of El Salvador. It was much like the first church that was established in Jerusalem but because of opposition, they were scattered abroad throughout Judaea and Samaria, preaching the gospel. Because of this influx of believers, the work in El Salvador prospered in its infancy. The first assembly was established in San Salvador on April 12, 1970, with 18 believers in fellowship, and within the first five years, six more assemblies were established. There are now 21 assemblies, the last one having been formed on October 28, 2018, in Guatajiagua, also with 18 believers in fellowship.
Over these 50 years we have had visits from other missionaries and helpers in the work: Doug and Janet King, Al and Dolores Flett, Tom and Nelly Baker, George and Margret Trew, Florence Ronald, Craig Funston, Trudy Odom, Minerva Rincon, Emily McCandless, and Shawn and Heidi St. Clair. We appreciate each who came and shared their spiritual gifts, dedicated their time, and invested their resources in this work.
Presently, we have four national workers: Raul Aguirre, Antonio and Edith Ochoa from San Miguel, and two more families who were commended in 2018, Israel and Elizabeth Castro from Scandia, and Mario Cañas from Amatal (his wife passed away in January 2015). Of our missionaries today we have three couples: Jack and Lilian Saword, Allan & Diana Clark, and Kevin and Patty Flett, along with Hazel Brownlie, Helen Griffin, and myself.
During these years of service, some of our coworkers have finished their earthly course, and we appreciate their years of dedication and service in this country. We know the Lord will reward each according to their labor: Gladys Nafzger, Ben and Helen Goatley, Vern and Elda Markle, Ellen Saword, and Corina Saword.
On April 18-19, 2019, we were able to celebrate our 50th anniversary of the beginning of the work in El Salvador by bringing everyone together in one central conference in San Salvador. There were over 1,000 believers present from the 21 assemblies spread across the country. We felt the ministry was very appropriate and very uplifting for the Lord’s people. Our hearts were overjoyed as we gathered with the many believers whose hearts have been reached for the Master with the precious gospel message. “Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward” (Psa 40:5 KJV).
The work continues on in 2020. In the first two weeks of January, we had our Seedsowers distribution in the town of Pasaquina. It is close to the Honduran border, and it was our first time to preach the gospel there. Many came to the nightly meetings with a true desire to hear the message of salvation. There are many in our world still waiting to hear the good news of salvation, and the Master is calling for YOU to work for His harvest!
We are thankful for the numerous IBH Spanish calendars, printed Scripture texts and Via magazines that we were able to distribute to many homes and workplaces over the years. We pray that even now, as many find themselves quarantined due to COVID-19, God’s Word would speak to them and the message of salvation would become clear.
We still have lots of work ahead, with four of the 14 departments still untouched with any assembly work. Corina and I prayed many times that if the Lord tarried, our desire was to see at least one assembly outreach in each department, and even though my wife was called home, we continue to strive to see the gospel preached in new towns and villages across this land.
While reading through John’s Gospel, we’ve been enjoying our Saviour’s wonderful examples of personal witnessing. For the past 50 years, Don Chepe has been the local gardener of our house and other homes in our area. He also took care of homes during the war, and even though unsaved, he was very honest and well-spoken of. He had received countless tracts and we had many Bible-oriented conversations over the years. Now in his mid-80s, he called from the old folks’ home on November 18 and said, “Brother Craig, guess what? I GOT SAVED!” I told him, “Praise the Lord!” He said he knew his time was getting short and that he needed a Saviour. We rejoice to see the new life in him. In some cases, the Lord allows us to see the fruits of our labors, and the rest, eternity will unfold.
Even in these uncertain days, we can find true comfort in our Lord, who knows the end from the beginning. The work continues on, and we know that He who has started the work will see it completed. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Php 1:6 KJV).