Don’t Forget the Children

by Joel Comiskey, Winter 2019

In 2002 a five-year-old boy named Carlos came to Marisol’s home cell group—one of the hundreds of Elim’s children’s cell group meetings in neighborhoods throughout San Salvador, El Salvador. Although he was only a child, Carlos was rebellious, disturbed the other children, and created havoc in the group. Marisol was patient and continued to invite Carlos to the group, gently correcting his discipline problems.

The other children told Marisol not to invite Carlos because his family was involved in crime. The parents of the other children also warned her that if Carlos continued to attend the group, they would not allow their children to go to the cell.

Marisol felt Carlos’s behavior was a product of his desire to attract attention, so she decided to visit Carlos’s family to know what was happening. When she arrived at Carlos’s home, she found out that his father had abandoned him and that he had grown up with his mother, who was now in prison for theft. Carlos was now living alone with his older brother and another twelve-year-old boy who was part of a violent gang. Marisol also learned that Carlos had two uncles who were killed in gang violence. Neighbors said  Carlos’s family was under a curse.

Marisol decided to stand-up for Carlos and continued inviting him to the cell. Some parents stopped sending their children, wanting to avoid exposure to him. Marisol continued praying and ministering to him, warning Carlos not to follow the example of his brothers, but to follow Jesus and the Bible. Carlos eventually received Jesus as his Savior.

Slowly, Christ began to change Carlos and as Marisol observed those changes, she allowed him to lead parts of the group. As he assumed more responsibility, his behavior changed even more. As the years passed, Carlos grew in faith and his character became more Christ-like. Eventually, he joined a youth cell and was baptized in water. Carlos is now eighteen years old. He loves Jesus, is respectful of others, and has graduated from high school, something that no other family member has ever accomplished. He currently plans on studying physical education at the University of El Salvador with the goal of becoming a P.E. teacher.

Children, like Carlos, are being transformed throughout El Salvador through Elim’s children’s cell ministry. Mario Vega, the lead pastor of the Elim Church, said, “If children are not our present focus, the church has no future.” The goal of Elim is to develop more people like Carlos and change the culture of El Salvador in the process.

Books and seminars abound on small group dynamics, multiplication, coaching, church planting, and many other cell topics. Yet, the focus usually lies on adult ministry and the discussion of children takes a back seat—or is not discussed at all. Children are the silent majority that can’t argue their case and are often overlooked because they are not a source for revenue or immediate church leadership.