Less than a year ago, I visited the beautiful country of El Salvador. As in other parts of Central America, God’s redemptive plan is being revealed in the midst of calamity as gangs and cartels wield their systemic influence. Every level of government has been infiltrated and affected by bribes and extortion. Kidnapping, drug and sex trafficking, and merciless killings between gangs are just a few sinister ways that people are victimized. Teens and preteens are targeted for recruitment, as more than 60 percent of gang members join before the age of fifteen. Even more astounding is that one study estimates at least 10 percent of El Salvador’s 6.5 million citizens are involved in gang activity of some form.
I had the privilege of meeting with one pastor who shepherds a Reformed congregation in the middle of San Salvador while also ministering to other pastors in the jungles and villages of Guatemala and Honduras. For nearly two decades, the Lord has been using this pastor to equip disciples to make disciples and plant churches while giving him countless opportunities to teach untrained pastors—some even coming to faith in Christ after hearing and believing the gospel for the first time. In his own community, he started a classical Christian school using a rigorous academic and Bible curriculum combined with fine arts. The school is essentially at capacity for all ages K–12, with nearly three hundred students meeting in a space that would fit into most American high school gymnasiums. Some students leave their homes by five a.m., navigating the dangerous public transportation systems and congested traffic to begin their classes as early as seven a.m. The school’s facility would not be ideal by most Western standards, but ingenuity is a friend of necessity. The administrators found a way to retrofit three adjacent buildings, former residences, to host their classes. The week before my arrival was Reformation Week. Many of the students were eager to share their love for Reformed theology by showing the Post Tenebras Lux (after darkness, light) banners they created to commemorate Martin Luther’s posting of his Ninety-Five Theses. These unforgettable interactions with the students were stirring and edifying examples of God at work as He uses His Word to shed light on those engulfed in darkness.
In the midst of my travels, I’m occasionally reminded of C.S. Lewis’ beloved classic The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when Mr. Beaver tells the four children, “They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed.” Though Aslan was unknown to them, the mysterious weight of his name for the first time produced an unexpected and emotional reaction in each of the children. Time and time again, I hear the precious testimonies of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and my emotions remind me of this: Jesus is on the move. Jesus is building His church, the captives are being set free, and His church is being sent to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). The gospel is going out to the least and the greatest. Christians are picking up their crosses and following Christ in the midst of almost certain persecution. Minds are being renewed (Rom. 12:2) through the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word and the ordinary means of God’s amazing grace.
As I’m reminded of their stories, it’s like cold water for my thirsty soul, good news from far countries (Prov. 25:25). Be encouraged. Take heart. Take action. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. In some of the most restricted regions of the world, the work of God is flourishing. In many of the darkest regions around the world, the light of the gospel is shining forth. In all these places, brothers and sisters in Christ are laboring unto the Lord, and their labors are not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Nevertheless, while the harvest is plentiful, the laborers remain few (Luke 10:2).