In a partnership that “truly works both ways,” the Shenandoah District and The Wesleyan Church of El Salvador have been participating in mutual ministry expansion together for well over a decade.
Rev. Rene Melendez, who serves as the national leader of The Wesleyan Church of El Salvador, said he was first introduced to The Wesleyan Church through missionaries Tom and Lydia Hines in the early 2000s, and since then, 17 churches have been planted “thanks to the missionary groups and the fellowship that has been maintained with the district.”
While the Shenandoah District is able to assist the El Salvadoran Wesleyan Church financially, it also faithfully sends teams for week-long missions trips, hosting medical clinics, bringing clothes, organizing food giveaways, preaching or offering vacation Bible school days or hiring doctors to provide basic medical assistance.
In return, Shenandoah District Missions Director Jonny Blatt, who has served in this position since 2019, said the church in El Salvador adopts pastors or leaders to pray over and offers endless support to the teams who travel to serve in El Salvador.
“It truly is a partnership both ways, both from us to the Salvadoran Wesleyan Church, and as well from them to us,” Blatt said. “They’re faithfully praying for us, and they help support our teams while we’re there.”
Following his first mission trip to El Salvador, Blatt said, “I really fell in love with the people and the culture and everything about life down there. And then I ended up feeling called to go for longer. And so, I went to El Salvador for three months in 2016 and stayed with Pastor Rene and his family, and then went again in 2017. That’s when I stayed for one year and really became involved in a lot of what was coming in and out of the country and within our district.”
In doing so, Blatt said he sees multiplication happening within El Salvador, specifically because of this partnership.
“Rene’s motto that he always uses is, ‘I will plant a church for every mission team you send me.’” Blatt said. “So, every time we bring a team down, the churches we work in always see a growth in people. We are seeing people step up and do more, and through that they’re able to grow new leaders within one church, and then take the current leaders and use them in a new location, through a house church or Sunday night ministry or Bible study or a youth ministry.
“We’re just a small piece; we’re only coming for a week, and we’re providing some quick finances, but we’re also equipping Salvadorans to continue the work throughout the year there, as well as in multiplying churches and multiplying disciples.”
Melendez said the first church planted through the Shenandoah District partnership was The Wesleyan Church in Cojutepeque. A second church in La Cima 1 has since been planted. Several churches in the Shenandoah District have partnered in planting these churches, including the giving of finances or sending teams to El Salvador to help plant them.
“Last year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to close three churches because the rent could not be paid,” Melendez said. “However, this year in 2021, we are planting two new churches in Santa Ana and San Miguel. We have three preaching points, and we have currently six ordained pastors and six pastors studying for their ordination.”
Melendez credits much of the success of the Shenandoah District partnership to Superintendent Greg Reynolds, the district board and the pastors and churches who have faithfully participated.
“The partnership with the Wesleyan work in El Salvador has been a blessing all the way around,” said Reynolds. “For those from Shenandoah (Virginia and West Virginia) that have traveled to and invested in the Salvadorian work, our lives are richer indeed. When it comes to the partnership, I tell our people that we are ‘all In’. May the Lord richly bless Pastor Rene and our wonderful El Salvador Wesleyans!”
“They have been a great help from God so that The Wesleyan Church in El Salvador has grown, and many souls have been sanctified and saved,” Melendez said. “I want to thank God and the love of Christ in Pastor Greg as superintendent and all the pastors and churches with the missionary groups they have supported. We need this companionship to continue saving lives, planting churches and strengthening the message of holiness in El Salvador because we are part of the Shenandoah District in El Salvador.”