Working with her church, the Neighborhood Church Assemblies of God and the organization King's Castle, Outlook's Tarah Cruz recently returned from her second trip to El Salvador where she helped spread the word of God.
During the summer of 2009 Cruz went on a two-week mission trip to El Salvador. Most recently, Cruz was an intern for King's Castle. She spent June and July of this summer in the Central American country.
"We did spectacle evangelism," Cruz explained.
Cruz said her group would go into the streets of an El Salvadoran city and draw a crowd using music, songs, clowns and dances. Once the crowd had gathered the group would play games the first half of the program and then get more serious in the second half, singing songs and staging dramas.
"In the end we would ask if anyone wanted to accept Jesus Christ into their hearts," she said.
Cruz said the group also prayed to help ward off any sickness or problems in the family. The program lasted about 60 minutes and Cruz said her group would do about five or six programs each day.
King's Castle was founded in 1989 with the purpose to raise up an army of young, spirit-filled warriors who would invade Latin American with the simple message that Jesus saves and is coming soon.
The country of El Salvador has many problems and one of them is gangs. Cruz said there are two major gangs in the country that cause havoc. During her last trip she said a gang shooting happened during one of their programs.
"We have a problem here in the Lower Valley with gangs, but in El Salvador, it's at a very different level," she said.
Still, she wasn't scared.
"I felt no danger," she explained. "God called me there and if He called me, then He was going to protect me."
Besides spreading the word of God, Cruz said medical teams also were dispatched into the communities to offer health care. The team set up health stations dealing with issues such as eyes, diabetes and blood pressure. There was even a traveling pharmacy, as well. After people would finish visiting the various health stations, Cruz said they would hear the word of God.
"A lot of people got saved that way," she said.
As an intern, Cruz said her job was to motivate the teams and to coordinate their efforts. She was the first one up and the last one to go to bed.
"I'm not used to taking care of anyone," she said. "This trip kind of stretched me. It taught me to be more servant-like. That was a good thing."
She saw some things that shocked her, but she also saw things that warmed her heart. One incident involved talking with a 9-year-old boy who was connected with gangs. He asked Cruz if God could ever forgive him for the things he's done.
"It was shocking that this was coming from a 9-year-old," she said.
As a whole, she said she enjoyed the experience.
"I loved it," she said. "I saw healings, both physically and spiritually. It was inside me, as well. I didn't want to leave."
But what brought her back to the Sunnyside area was the realization that she can do some good here, working with Sunnyside youth and spreading the word of God. She knows God has her here for a reason.
"God used me as a tool and if he calls, I'll follow. It's all about God," she said.
But Cruz does hope to return to El Salvador soon.
"I had a great time and I would encourage people to go out and do something they haven't done before," she said.