Today was a strange day in San Salvador. For one thing, there weren’t many buses running. I noticed that this morning on my way downtown. I also noticed that I needed to stop by a school and office supply store (called a Liberia) to get a few things for the kids for school. It took me awhile because most of them were closed. Something else was strange when I stopped at the grocery store. There were military all over the parking lot.
So, what’s going on?
The government in El Salvador recently passed a law making it a crime to belong to a gang. The gangs don’t like this so they issued widespread threats today causing an uproar. Buses stopped running because gang members threatened to carjack them, or burn them. This isn’t an empty threat. In June, 16 people died on a burning bus.
They also threatened shop owners, whom they often try to extort so many shops just shut down. In fact, over half of the city’s business establishments had closed signs on them today.
The military and police stepped up their presence too in response to the threats. A lot of people are not resting easy in San Salvador tonight.
But tonight, I feel a sense of peace. Don’t get me wrong, I could give in to the temptation to worry incessantly that something will happen to Jon, or my kids, or myself, or any of our friends. Some of you may even be reading this and thinking, “now are you regretting moving your family to El Salvador? Everyone knows they’ve got a gang problem!”
But I’m not regretting it because I’ve got a promise from God Himself. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
These aren’t empty words because God is just as much God here as anywhere else and He is still in control. He is still the God who has made the universe, conquered armies, and had the last word over death. And He, that God, is with us.
The problems don’t go away…they are still around us. Today many people lost a valuable day’s work and when you live day to day that’s no small problem. Today many are experiencing stress and fear. Today many are involved in a gang, perhaps even delivering and acting on threats, and wondering how they got there. Today there are youth all over El Salvador who have no where to go…what is their future? And this is why we are here, to reconcile the lost to their God, and to give them a future.
So I ask you to join me in praying for El Salvador. For the government, the gangs, the people, and my family too. We don’t know what tomorrow brings for El Salvador but we know that there is no reason to fear.