This is not an exhaustive study on travel, missions, gang life, or history, but it is part of our story, and some of what we know from research and from our personal experience (others, may have a different experience, or different convictions on the matter).

El Salvador has a long history of war, violence, and oppression - dating back long before the 12-year-long civil war that began in 1980 (or ’79).

Look at the history of El Salvador (I could say SO much about this, and I love history, and studying cultural roots, and world view). So much of the violence, culture, and religion, stem from this history. A great book on the subject can be found here:

  • Violence, and worship of violent gods (including human sacrifice) were part of the culture of the Pipil and Mayan people.

  • Violence, oppression, and war were part of the Spanish Conquest in 1524/5. The Spaniards also brought a whole new violence, oppression, culture of infidelity, and Catholicism (from Spain, who had blocked the Reformation - think Martin Luther), and they kept the Bible and Mass in Latin - Central Americans did not have the Bible in Spanish until 1960!! And even then, were not encouraged to read it! And even now, we see examples all the time, in our community of people not understanding the Bibles that they do have (think old King James). Two examples are: 1. One youth memorized a scripture, and when I asked him what it meant, he thought it was about an animal coming down from the mountains, when it was about lifting our eyes up to God, who brings us help. 2. recently a pastor was talking about John 15, but didn't know what the word, pámpano meant, so his sermon had nothing to do with Jesus being the Vine, and us needing to remain in Him to bear fruit.

  • The Catholicism, was mixed with Animism, and later, during the war, many Catholics "became" Evangelicals, because it was dangerous to be Catholic. But there was little to no discipleship, and even today, generally speaking, Christian/evangelical churches are filled with pastors, leaders, and church goers, who look more like the cultural norm (of infidelity, etc) around them, than the Holy Priesthood of believers described (and commended) in the Bible.

  • A couple of hundred years after the Spanish Conquest, came the wars [revolutions - during Napoleon’s occupation in Spain)], that brought Independence in [around] 1821.

  • Then the oppressive Oligarchy rule (of 14 families, who controlled the country’s economy and ran the coffee, sugar cane, and cotton plantations. (from those same families, there are 8 business groups that still run the business and money of the country, mostly decedents of those families - about 2% of the pupation own 60% of the land today)).

  • Then from 1931-1979 the country went through several military dictatorships (and thousands of indigenous people were slaughtered) …

  • During the 12-year war, thousands (Wikipedia sites that “hundreds of thousands”) of Salvadorans fled the war, for the USA.

To protect themselves from rival gangs in Los Angeles, the Salvadoran youth created their own gang, “Ms-13”, and then some Salvadorans also joined a Mexican-American gang called “18 street” (formed in LA in the 1960’s).

After the war, the USA began to deport Salvadoran gang members, back to El Salvador (and is continuing to deport to this day). But they were not sent as criminals to a waiting justice system and prison. They were [mostly] sent back to the street. Now the war was over, but all they knew was violence and “territory protection”.

The word, “gang” usually makes one think of drugs, and drug trafficking. Ms-13 & the 18-street gang in El Salvador, have an unknown relationship to drug traffickers. There is definitely a connection with the higher-up members, and those across North America (these same gangs (especially MS-13) extend through the Americas), but for those living in the country, and joining the gangs on a daily basis, the lure has nothing to do with drugs or drug money.

We know several gang members, and we know very few youths who refuse to join, or who try not to, but feel like they have no other choice (boys and girls). What do you do, if your grandmother, mother, uncles, and cousins are all gang members? you may find yourself a member by “default”, or you may be forced into a gang initiation. Once in the gang there are only two ways out:

1. Death

2. Being born-again, and living in complete integrity and obedience to God’s Word

If you mess up, then you revert to number 1 (death). But even if you are born-again, and “safe” from your own gang, you are not safe from the rival gang.

Out in the country, and certain areas of the nation, it is not safe for Salvadorans from one community/village to travel, even to work or to school, if they have to pass through rival territory, if they have any type of gang affiliation, and even if not, there is no guarantee. Out of 60 grade 9 grads