When an earthquake struck El Salvador in 2001, the Christian Reformed Church in Santa Tecla was so badly damaged that it had to be torn down.
But the congregation itself was not destroyed.
Meeting in makeshift quarters, church members laid plans to rebuild. And last month, a new sanctuary was dedicated to the glory of God and for service to the community of believers and beyond.
The event was a milestone for the work of Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) in El Salvador, which began in the late ‘70s just as a civil war was developing. Turnover in the mission presence was a problem, and when the civil war was over, only two small congregations survived. One was the Santa Tecla church in New San Salvador, just a short distance from the capital city itself.
For four years, the congregation gathered for worship under a roof made from salvaged tin panels as it considered plans for its new building. Rev. Lou Wagenveld, a former missionary in El Salvador who is now retired, offered help in fund-raising.
In January 2006, the congregation cleared the remaining rubble and began building. Construction continued as funds became available. A joy-filled service of dedication marked the building's completion just over a year later.
Rev. Carlos Mejia, the pastor at Santa Tecla, invited one of the regional pastors--and close friend--Rev. Eduardo Aparicio from the Costa Rican CRC to be the guest speaker at the dedication service. Aparicio preached on the doctrine of justification, in keeping with the congregation's desire to be faithful to its Reformed heritage.
Pastor Carlos came to the CRC through the denomination’s literature ministry. In a letter he wrote that he felt the theology and world and life view of Reformed writings held the answer to the problems of his war-torn country. If a “presbyterian” ministry were to begin there, he said, he wanted to be included.
Almost finished his theological studies, Pastor Carlos was ordained early because of need; in fact, he is the first ordained CRC minister in El Salvador.
The CRC’s work in El Salvador continues through the work of CRWM missionary Ruth Padilla DeBorst, who is currently in the United States on study leave, along with her husband Jim, who worked for many years in El Salvador with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC).