Hope in San Salvador
Oscar Hall, chaplain at Houston Methodist Hospital and pastor of Iglesia Bautista Melrose, has led frequent trips to El Salvador, one of the most dangerous countries in the world. In 2016, the Los Angeles Times identified the country as "the murder capital of the world" with a murder rate 17 times higher than the global average. (article) God is at work in dark and dangerous places. Read Pastor Hall's account of a young gang leader's encounter with God.
We arrived in San Salvador the 23rd of January and remained there until the 30th. I had the privilege of preaching in three churches in two different cities: Santa Elena, and Santa Rosa De Lima. The evangelistic services were held “outdoors," and the two lectures for pastors and church leaders were held in the churches. We had 12 pastors, and 56 church leaders present at the conferences.
The evangelistic services had a lot of people re-dedicating their lives to Christ; however, we only had 1 person accepting the Lord for the first time. Most, if not all of the people attending the services, were members of the churches participating in the events.
Now I would like to share an incident that took place in a village outside of a place known as San Dionicio. This village is located about 50 miles outside of Santa Elena. To put this incident in context, in San Salvador, the gangs dominate the outskirts of the big cities. The pastor of the church in Santa Elena invited us to this elementary school because we were donating 120 backpacks and shoes for the kids in the school.
It was a scary ride because we knew it could be dangerous for us to be outside of the city, however, we felt that God was leading us to this mission. We got there and before we delivered the gifts, the Principal of the school told me that I could present a “devotional.” In the midst of my presentation, I saw a young man standing way back; he was not there at the beginning, so I never knew who he was. At the end of the presentation I did not see where he went.
Later that evening, the principal of the school, who is a member of the church in Santa Elena, called the pastor to explain what had happened. The young man is the head of the ruling gang in that area. He had come by to investigate what meeting we were having, and to reprimand the Principle for having “out-side people” visiting the school without his permission. However, he stood there and heard the presentation that I was giving to the students. I was basically saying that all people are created with God-given potentials, and people can accomplish great things in their lives if they would only give their lives to Christ. Well, after we left, this kid went into the principal’s office and broke down in tears, and his question was, “Why has nobody ever told me about this before?” He ended up giving his life to Christ, and last Sunday he was in church, and it seems that God has begun a powerful work of transformation in his life. To this I say, Glory to God!
Pastor, Iglesia Bautista Melrose
Chaplain, Houston Methodist Hospital