Two church leaders in El Salvador were moved to help the country’s children and build toward a better future.
In 1961, John and Lois Bueno were invited to El Salvador to become the pastors of Centro Evangelistico Church.
They left their home in California and moved to El Salvador’s capital to start a new life and ministry, hardly guessing the magnitude of the plans God had in store for them.
The moment their hearts would ignite with a new dream for the ministry would wait until a year after their move.
The Spark of New Ministry
John was driving home late, and he was tired. It’d been a long day, and he was ready to be home with Lois. Complete dark had fallen, not even a ribbon of pink left on the western horizon.
The intersection light ahead flicked yellow, then red, and John grimaced as he had to hit the brakes. He rubbed his eyes as the car idled.
A tap at the window made him jump. A little boy with a few newspapers folded under his arm knocked on the glass again.
“¿Quiere El Diario de Hoy, señor?” he said, pulling out one and offering it to John as he rolled down the window.
The boy still had a few newspapers folded under his skinny arm, and he’d stay out here on this dark corner until he was able to sell them all. How many children like him had John seen, appallingly young and already working to bring in a few colón for the family income?
Gangs and unhappy dissidents roamed the streets in the wake of last year’s military coup, and this boy might just as likely be shot on this corner, caught in the crossfire like many of San Salvador’s poverty-stricken.
“Here.” John pulled a sheaf of colón out of his wallet. “Give me them all. Go home, kid.”
The boy grinned and passed over the crumpled newspapers, paper slightly sticky in the perpetual humidity. John watched him scamper off, a sinking feeling in his stomach. The boy would be back on this corner tomorrow with more newspapers.
Lois met him at the door of their home, and he told her, “We got to do something for these kids.”
The Heart of the Problem
At that time, over 50 percent of El Salvador’s population was under the age of 18 thanks in part to La Matanza, “the slaughter” where the Salvadoran government killed between 10,000 and 40,000 people.
Oddly wide range of deaths is due to how many people, often political opponents and their families, who simply disappeared. Sometimes their bodies were found, but the policia didn’t want to hear about it. Thousands with Pipil blood or other indigenous roots were hunted down.
Most of those who remained lived caught in the cycle of grinding poverty.
Determined to help children break free, John and Lois went about setting up a Christian school in their church.
Their aim was to encourage kids toward a genuine relationship with Christ, instill in them a sense of their value as citizens of heaven, and give them education alongside real job experience.
Since that first school was created, 36 more have been founded throughout the country. 400,000 students have taken part in the Liceo Cristiano School Ministry, and presently 15,000 new students are enrolled.
All parents are required to contribute to their children’s education according to their means, even if it’s only a few cents a month. The church sponsors the rest.
The program and schools have been officially recognized and approved by the Salvadoran government for their important contributions to El Salvador’s future.
Many graduates are now beginning to take positions of influence in the country, one of whom is Eeileen Romero.
An Incredible Life
On February 3, 1974, Eeileen was born with seven bone fractures. Nurses hurriedly put her in an incubator, and the doctor finally came to see her mother with grave news.
Eeileen had osteogenesis imperfecta; every bone in her body was extremely fragile. “She won’t survive more than 6 years, at the most. Her life won’t be worth living,” he pronounced.
She would go on to prove him wrong over and over.
Her father was killed in the 1980s civil war, and thanks to Eeileen’s chronic health problems and the family’s struggle without its primary breadwinner, she would not start elementary school until she was 13 years old.
Most of the country’s schools had no infrastructure or accommodations for people with disabilities. They looked at Eeileen and her health issues and politely—or not so politely—explained that they could not help her.
Finally, she joined a Liceo Cristiano School.
There she excelled, her brilliant mind sparkling as she worked with teachers. When she graduated, she decided that she wanted to attend a Christian University, and six years later, she received a legal sciences degree.
Eeileen traveled to the United States as a representative of El Salvador, and she now serves as a lawyer and congresswoman, working to represent those with disabilities in El Salvador.
She is living proof that God has had great plans for her life from the very beginning.