Throughout our time in El Salvador, we partnered with an organization called Project RED. The aim of Project RED is to aid the families in El Salvador whose children were once living in orphanages, but have been sent back home. You see, El Salvador has enacted a law stating that all children currently residing in orphanages must be sent back to live with their original families, be it biological parents or extended family members. In most (although not all) cases, the parents of these children couldn’t take care of them, thus sending them to an orphanage in hopes of the orphanage providing them with a better future. However, despite the circumstances in the home, children are being placed back into their families. The government sugar coats the situation by posing questions such as, “What child wouldn’t want to be back with their families, and what parent wouldn’t want to hold their child again?” or “Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could just be together and happy?” Some families would have overwhelmingly positive answers to those questions, however that is not the case in many situations. The law seems to be doing more harm than good, to both parents and children. Parents are struggling once again to provide necessities for their families. That’s why Project RED exists.
Project RED finds families whose children have been sent back home and who need a little help getting back on their feet. They take families in and, over a span of about two years, walk them through a restoration process. They aid in Reintegration, which helps smooth out the bumps in, what can be, a rough transition. Depending on the living situations of the families, Project RED will build homes, bathrooms, or kitchens for the families. There were many days where our sole job was to paint the newly constructed homes so that the families could move in and begin their new, hope-filled lives. It’s incredible how a solid roof over a head can completely alter the course of a family’s life. Project RED also holds the Education of the children at a precedence, which means sending as many children to school as they can. Whether it be providing the children with bus fare to get to school or giving them uniforms to wear, Project RED does what it can to send every child in their program to school. Education is always important in the life of a child, but in many areas of El Salvador, gangs are active and on the prowl for new members. Keeping children in school can keep them off the street and give them the hope of a brighter future. Lastly, Project RED aids in the Development of the families. The development phase can range from providing families with toiletries (and also teaching them how to use said toiletries) to giving them a monthly supply of food to aid in the nourishment of the family.
During our time in El Salvador, we got to meet some of the families under the care of Project RED. Similar to my time in Guatemala, this was one of my favorite parts of the week. I love getting to put faces to the stories I’ve heard. I love getting to love kids whose eyes can look so troubled and hurt before we arrive, but light up the moment they see us. I love seeing the humbled smiles of the parents when they see how far they’ve come. But most of all, I love hearing their praise and thanks to the Father for everything He has done for them. It’s such a beautiful story of redemption and hope, and such a perfect picture of what the Lord longs to do in the life of everyone on earth. He longs to redeem us, to capture us and have us to love forever. One of my favorite chapters of the Bible came to life this week while we served in El Salvador. Psalm 103 is a psalm by David and portrays beautifully the idea of redemption. Verses 2-4 say,
“Bless the Lord , O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with love and mercy.”
When we let Him into the deepest, darkest corners of our heart, He pulls us out of the dark, scary, lonely pit and crowns us with his unconditional, undeserved love and freely gives us His grace and mercy. As we served this week, I saw families who were once in that pit; who were once so lost and desperate for something.. anything.. that they didn’t see a way out. But the Lord reached down into that dirty pit and pulled them out. He brushed them off. He sent Project RED to help restore. And He is now giving them a hope that they never thought they could have. Their futures no longer seem dark and questionable. No! Instead, they can see a light at the end of the tunnel. They have purpose. Most importantly, they walk with confidence in knowing that their Creator, their Lover, their Redeemer has taken them out of the pit and has set them on a road that leads straight to Him.
This past week has been such a beautiful reminder of what the Lord has done for me. I was once in that pit, rolling around in sin, shame, self pity, and regret. But He ever so gently lifted me out of that darkness, wiped me clean, forgave me, and set me free to live a life that reflects Him. It fills me with joy to think that the Creator of the universe values me enough to redeem me from my sin and give me a clean start. Just like the families involved in Project RED, He has given me hope for my future through His redemption, love, and grace. Hallelujah!
It’s hard for me to believe that the trip is coming to a close. I’m sad to part with the incredible people that have become like family throughout our travels. However, as I look back on all the memories made and the experiences shared, I am overwhelmed by how blessed I’ve been this summer. The Lord has taught me so much about many, many things and I’ve met quite a few amazing people. It truly has been a trip of a lifetime! So as you’re reading this, join me in praying for every member of my team. Pray that we will not cease to serve as we return to our lives in America. Pray that we will apply everything we’ve learned this summer. Pray for their joy and laughter to never cease and for their faith in the Lord to grow evermore strong. Lastly, pray for them to continue to love Him and love His people well. I know they can, and I don’t doubt they will!