In April of 2019, we had a national conference in San Salvador to commemorate fifty years of assembly testimony in El Salvador.
El Salvador is the smallest country in continental America, bordering Guatemala and Honduras, with a population just under seven million. We are thankful for what the Lord has done in this small and very populated country over the past fifty years. The following is a bit of history bringing us to the present day.
In 1969, when the Sawords arrived in El Salvador, war had broken out between Honduras and El Salvador. Because of the war between the two countries, all Salvadorans living in Honduras had to leave and return to their native land. There were those that while living in Honduras had heard the gospel, been saved, and were taught the truth of gathering in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Assembly testimony started in the late 1800s in Honduras. Honduran brethren contacted Jack Saword regarding different believers that had moved to El Salvador and desired Christian fellowship. Jack and Craig Saword have several amazing stories of how they found some of these Christians living as refugees scattered throughout El Salvador.
It was not long before at least three assemblies were established in different parts of the country, one in the east, one in the west and one in the centre. Over the next five years, several missionary families and a few single women moved to El Salvador from New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Some moved to the east of the country, others went west and some stayed in the centre. The gospel was getting into areas that not even the Catholic priests would go. My dad, Jack, and others tell of how they would go to some of these places on horseback.
In 1979, political instability began to shake the country, and by 1980 El Salvador entered a twelve-year civil war. Beginning in 1979, the missionaries began leaving El Salvador and a few years later the only assembly missionaries still in El Salvador were Jack and Ellen Saword and Hazel Brownlie. During the 80s, the assemblies that were planted continued to move forward, but it was not an easy time. As the civil war intensified, several were forced to move into bigger cities and several migrated to the United States and Canada, leaving huge gaps in some of these new works. It was during this time that Craig Saword got his pilot’s licence, and a plane was purchased to be able to travel from one end of the country to the other. As the war escalated, all major bridges were destroyed, and it was not safe to try to travel about the country by car. Craig would fly his dad out east, and Jack would try to visit as many of the assemblies as possible before Craig would come back to get him.
Prior to the signing of the peace treaty in 1992, missionaries once again started moving to El Salvador. The assemblies were again visited on a regular basis and the gospel was brought to new areas. As of today, there are twenty-one New Testament Assemblies in El Salvador.
There are several outreaches where the gospel is being preached that have no assembly as yet. Gotera is in the eastern part of the country and Christians from San Miguel and Santa Rosa have been going there on a regular basis for the past few years. Several have professed to be saved and have obeyed their Lord in baptism. We trust that a New Testament assembly will soon be formed.
Pasaquina, also in the east, is a town where for years different Christians have had some contacts. In January of 2020 we were able to go door to door with John 3. 16 texts, calendars, and VIA magazines. During the ten days, we had children’s meetings in the mornings and gospel preaching in the evenings. Craig Saword was able to get permission to use the local school for these activities. During the meetings, several of the teachers and the director of the school were in attendance. At the end of the ten days, a building was rented so we could continue preaching the gospel in Pasaquina. By the middle of March, restrictions due to the pandemic were put in place but Christians from the nearby assembly of Los Jiotes continued to keep in touch with those that were coming to the meetings. Once restrictions were lifted, preaching resumed in the rented house twice a week. We trust the Lord will continue to work in this town.
The missionaries currently living in El Salvador are Jack Saword, Hazel Brownlie, Helen Griffin, Craig Saword, and Kevin and Patricia Flett. The assembly of San Miguel, in the east, has commended Antonio and Edith Guzman and Raul Aguirre; in the west, the assembly of El Amatal has commended Mario Canas, and the assembly of Scandia, in San Salvador, has commended Israel and Elizabeth to full-time service.