Boys and girls in El Salvador are mercilessly harassed and beaten—and may even have body parts cut off—if they refuse to join gangs in a country where organized crime and violence are a way of life.
There are more than 25,000 gang members in El Salvador (one out of every 245 citizens) and the murder rate is among the world’s highest.
Children as young as six are recruited by gangs as ‘watchers’ to keep an eye out for police. As the boys and girls grow older, the gangs assign them even more sinister tasks.
“My (gang member) brothers told me not to follow their steps into what they are doing, but I found out my mom is part of the gang too,” says Fernando, who has already witnessed unspeakable horrors, including having a brother die in his arms from gang-inflicted gunshot wounds.
Samaritan’s Purse is partnering with a Christian organization in El Salvador to reach out to children—offering pastoral mentoring, Bible teaching, soccer, and other sports as well as nutritious meals—to help them leave gangs or resist being lured into them.
“The boys and girls look to this place for a sense of refuge and hope,” says the pastor leading our anti-gang ministry in El Salvador who we aren’t identifying for his safety. “They can have fun, receive spiritual and emotional support . . . but above all, they can feel love from Jesus.”
Fernando says his life, and the lives of several of his young friends, have been transformed by Jesus and by their courageous pastor who relies on Canadians’ donations to Samaritan’s Purse to enter some of El Salvador’s darkest of places with the light of the Gospel and promise of new life.
“We have promised God and each other to stay away from drugs,” Fernando says. “And even though we are invited to be a part of the gangs, we explain to them that we are Christians, thanks to this program.”
He called me first even though I’m the youngest, so that my entire family will come to the Gospel.
“I can feel the peace I was looking for,” he adds. “I will try every day to persevere in God’s way and I hope that my mom will leave the gang one day, along with my brothers. I know He called me first even though I’m the youngest, so that my entire family will come to the Gospel.”
Please join with us, through your donations and prayers, in reaching out to children in El Salvador and many other countries where they desperately need our help. May we always remember Jesus’ words: “Let the little children come to me . . . for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 14:19 NKJV).
Your gift of $15 can help supply kids with sporting equipment, such as soccer balls; $40 can help provide healthy meals for two children for a week, and $100 can help provide Bible study materials for dozens of children.
In each of these ways, you can help provide struggling children with a safe and happy future.
Samaritan's Purse is caring for children who are struggling to survive in the face of poverty, hunger, violence, sickness, and abuse. Globally, our projects are providing children with shelter, food, medical care, education, and most importantly, sharing the hope found in Jesus.