East Texas Church Invests Financial Fruits in El Salvador
Trinity First UMC takes a leap of faith in El Salvador thanks to member Doyle Burchett’s leadership.
Doyle Burchett never expected the turn of events that followed his Uncle Ernie’s death last February. “When I heard the news about my Uncle Ernie, a missionary in El Salvador,” shares Doyle, “I originally just planned to attend his funeral and tie up some loose ends for him. Little did I know what God had planned for me -- and my fellow members of Trinity FUMC.” Adds Doyle, “When I went to pay Uncle Ernie’s men, the foreman, Carlos, who speaks NO English, told me that he had a dream (or vision) that we were to build a church in Cangreje, El Salvador.” Doyle responded as anyone would, thinking: “That was not in my plans...it was not in my wife's plans… and I knew it wasn't in my church's plans!”
Looking back on how God’s plan unfolded, Doyle realizes he had many inspirations for making this project a reality on behalf of his uncle – and equally as many hurdles. “All of the challenges,” he admits, “seemed insurmountable—from the language and culture barrier to the money and time required. I wondered how and where would I start, and does God really need me/us to do this? Will the church back home think that I am crazy? Where do I stay? What about the gangs and other dangers? Can I drink the water? What if the church falls down after we build it?”
Doing this in any capacity defied logic. When faced with this opportunity, according to Rev. Kim Hagedorn, Trinity was having an average worship attendance of 55 but soon experienced double-digit losses due to death and family moves. Notes Kim, “We now know that size does in no way limit the missional outreach of the church. When you are in conversation with God, your leadership team, and your congregation, you will be more open to the Spirit moving in ways that may seem outside the box,” she shares, “and more willing to take a leap of faith.”
Doyle agrees, saying, “After talking to Jesus and my wife, we were committed! All the hurdles then seemed to fall away or disappear!”
Big Bold Move
According to Kim, “Doyle shared with the church that he was going to fulfill his uncle's plans, and we collectively decided to help raise the estimated $14,000 needed. We announced what we were doing, just put out a basket for two Sundays, and gave people the opportunity to help however they felt led.” She is quick to add that the giving didn't stop with just monies to build the church, and it didn't just happen for those two Sundays.
She reports, “Almost $10,000 was raised, and through the work Doyle did in El Salvador, the building ended up costing a little less than was raised!” The additional monies were spent to beautify the church, help buy some medical supplies and gifts for the children that were present as the building went up, and for Doyle to use for Bible school there this summer.
“Our financial support allowed us to be the hands, feet, and presence of Christ in a way that we couldn’t have done, physically,” adds Kim. “We were excited to be able to help pray and give to them and Doyle was great in keeping us updated with pictures and reports as the building of the church progressed. This allowed us to see the fruit of our financial support, and kept everyone's interest piqued and waiting for more news.”
The unfolding story created quite a buzz. In fact, the pictures and reports were often the subject of Trinity’s pre-Sunday school fellowship time and lunch conversations after worship. Members also shared photos and stories with those who didn't have Internet access.
Adds Kim, “I had thought this project might give the congregation a feeling of pride of 'ownership' in the building of the church and in providing for those whose needs were far greater than we can ever begin to imagine. Sure enough, one Sunday I heard someone say, ‘you know, it's kind of like... WE birthed a church!’"
When Doyle had completed the project, he brought the message to worship one Sunday with all the pictures and stories of his extended mission trip. Additionally, he presented the church with a tile just like the one placed in the little El Salvadorian church. Doyle reflects that the toughest point was saying “no” to the needs at every corner in El Salvador. “I had to replenish my first aid bag weekly—sometimes daily,” he shares. “Men would come to me begging for any job and my heart was broken that I couldn’t hire more.”
Trinity now has a specific fund supporting future El Salvador mission projects. Several members have expressed interest in going with Doyle on future trips. Kim proudly notes that laity on the Ad Council, Finance Committee, and Missions Chair provided the leadership and donations that allowed the building of not just one church, but also the completion and 'upgrading' of a second small church.
Three weeks after he left El Salvador, the pastor’s son notified Doyle that six members of the new church had been baptized in the local river. “That made me wonder how many our Texas churches baptize in an entire year,” he says.
Big Vision Continues
According to Mission Chair Daina Baker, Trinity FUMC collects monthly for a program-specific need in the community including SAAFE House, Kailyn's Center, Boys and Girls Club of Trinity, and Clothed by an Angel - a mission started by, and fully funded by the membership of the church. This mission outreach purchases clothes for children of Trinity ISD schools. Offerings are also used for members filling food baskets to use when people come to the church when the community food bank is closed. “I have attended here all my life,” she shares, “and know what a loving, giving congregation we are. If there is a need, all we have to do is ask and it is taken care of because we are a praying church. God has blessed this church so richly through the years. We have been here since 1872 and I am confident that our Lord Jesus Christ is not through with us yet.”
District Superintendent Rev. Chuck Huffman is also beaming with pride over this global example of making disciples for the transformation of the world. “Trinity UMC is a relatively small congregation, and yet, as they prayed and actively listened for God's voice; as they sought and followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, they were able to truly make a difference and help to change the lives of countless other people of El Salvador who will come to faith in Christ and become his disciples through the ministry of the two new churches!”
Adds Chuck, “Stories like this remind us that God has purposes and plans that far exceed what we can dream or imagine on our own – and remind us that ‘with God, all things are possible!’”
Doyle would enjoy nothing more than sharing his slides and dramatic stories of God’s provision and protection with other groups and congregations. “I have another letter of request to build a third church,” he shares. “It would also be exciting to bring one of the El Salvador men back to Texas to report how God is working to improve the communities there.”
Chuck adds, “It is my prayer that, as this story is shared, every congregation will be inspired to ask: What does God have in mind for us, in store for us? What is God calling us to do to make a real difference in the lives of others, to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ with those in our community and beyond in the world?”