Whether it’s a small house, a busy apartment, or a simple place to live, the warm feeling of being home is something we can all understand. Within the loving embrace of home and family, our hearts find solace and our spirits are nourished. For Love Link, finding a place to call their own was challenging. Through the Lord’s grace and guidance, however, they were led to a home that surpassed their expectations, where they can continue caring for those in need, extending love and support to families and babies. This new home stands today as a testament to God’s power, a token of God’s unwavering faithfulness to His children, and an inspiration for us to cling to the Lord and pray without ceasing, just as He says in His Word.
Love Link, Oakseed’s ministry partner in El Salvador, is a nutritional rehabilitation center that helps malnourished babies on the verge of death, restoring them by giving proper care and nutritional support. The ministry began when an American couple, Sam and Julie Hawkins, visited El Salvador in 1986 and saw infants and children dying of malnutrition. Realizing that more babies will suffer and die if not given the proper care and nourishment they need, they founded what is now Love Link (Vinculo de Amor). This non-profit organization aims to help severely malnourished babies and their families. Thanks to the couple and Love Link’s efforts, babies who would have lived a lower quality of life or even died are returned to their families with restored health and a chance to live.
To help us understand the significant number of infant deaths due to malnutrition in El Salvador, we must understand the contributing factors. Poverty and the lack of education in proper infant feeding are elements proven to be fatal. Poverty makes it difficult for a family to buy the foods needed to feed the mother and her baby, and the lack of information on the proper care of breastfeeding mothers and their babies intensifies the problem. When a breastfeeding mother does not receive adequate nutrition, her nutritional intake affects the quality and production of her breast milk, affecting the baby’s health. If the mother lacks essential nutrients, her breast milk may lack vitamins, minerals, and calories necessary for the infant’s growth and development. In the worst cases, the mother cannot produce enough breastmilk to feed the infant. When this happens, the family feeds their baby with the only thing they can afford and know could satisfy the baby’s hunger – atol.
Atol, typically a drink made of corn flour dissolved in water and cooked to a soupy consistency, is given to babies in El Salvador as a breastmilk substitute. While this may satisfy hunger, it falls short of the nutritional value babies need to help with rapid growth and well-being. As a result, the baby becomes severely malnourished over time, and most pass away before age two. God has seen the difficult condition of the dying infants and parents who have lost their children early, and He has placed a heavy burden on the hearts of those at Love Link to accomplish His plan.
Love Link’s ministry has grown rapidly as more children have been brought to the center for proper care. What started as a nutritional center has expanded to an organization offering 24-hour care to nurture malnourished babies below two years old back to health. They also carry out feeding programs for children in nearby communities and provide free medical consultations for families to raise awareness of proper care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies. Love Link provides not only programs for physical healing but also spiritual reconciliation with God as they share the love of Christ and the hope that is found only through Him.
Like other ministries, however, Love Link soon faced their own challenges as their founders grew older and their health began to deteriorate. They knew they needed someone to succeed them and started asking for prayers that God would send a Salvadoran couple to continue the work they had started. They prayed for someone who intimately understands the culture, language, and unique needs of the people in the community they have grown to love. After many years of prayer, at just the right moment, the Lord answered these prayers and sent a couple, Gerson Roque and his wife Mariela, to lead Love Link.
While we celebrated the Lord’s goodness at the arrival of a new ministry leader, the early years of the Roque’s leadership weren’t easy. The unforeseen events of the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected communities around the world, including the ongoing operations of Love Link, brought about new obstacles. Lockdowns, restrictions, and the need to prioritize the health and safety of the staff and babies added to the ongoing pressure of finding a permanent place they could call home. For years, they had constantly moved from one place to another, which affected their operations and added to their already heavy financial burden. The need to pay rent has strained their budget, making it more difficult to allocate funds toward more essential areas of their operations.
Despite the difficulties and the heavy responsibility Roque bore as Love Link’s new leader, his perseverance and reliance on God’s guidance and wisdom allowed him to continue serving, offering hope and support to the staff and the families during difficult times. Gerson, Mariela, and the entire Love Link team found strength in the face of trials, knowing that God always remains faithful. God’s grace sustained them through all these trials so that they, through their service, would touch many lives as they cared for the babies.
When Oakseed invited Roque to our annual banquet after the pandemic last year, we anticipated hearing how the Lord had been working through the ministry of Love Link and being blessed by their dedication to nurturing the babies and their families both physically and spiritually. Little did we know that God would bring about an incredible surprise during his two-week visit to Oakseed in the US. During the banquet, Gerson shared the need for a new building to accommodate the growing number of babies they cared for in-house and the desire to specifically have room to care for children ages 2-4 who were still the size of infants due to long-term malnutrition. It was his heart’s desire for Love Link to have its own home, but it seemed impossible to purchase one due to the hefty rent they were paying. The idea of a new home for Love Link sparked excitement among donors at the banquet that night, and they immediately began praying for the project, aware that it could take at least ten years to complete. God, however, had amazing plans for Love Link!
In His perfect timing, God called an anonymous donor to step forward, answer the need, and support Love Link’s vision of acquiring a new building. God demonstrated his unwavering faithfulness and provision, showing us again and again that to Him, nothing is impossible! Through the donor’s generosity, our prayers for a new building for Love Link became a reality much sooner than anticipated. Within four months, Love Link found a suitable building in Santa Tecla, in the western part of San Salvador, where the weather and the environment are perfect for raising healthy babies. It allows them to be close to the baby hospital and nearer to families traveling into the city to visit their children.
Now that it has been fully renovated, repainted, and furnished to suit the babies’ needs, it is obvious that God’s hand was undeniably at work through the entire process. It was thrilling witnessing the sudden turn of events and how God can use one’s heartbreak to bring about comfort and hope for others. Love Link’s new building, Casa de Esperanza y Amor, will allow Love Link to care for 25 babies in-house and 8-10 outpatient daily.
This turn of events has been a humbling experience. The building started as an item for prayer, a simple wish from a man of God, but it has now become a beautiful reality. The journey from a simple prayer to the tangible manifestation of God’s provision of Casa de Esperanza y Amor is proof of God’s unlimited power, demonstrating His providence and perfect plan for His dear children. May we be encouraged by the Lord’s work in this ministry and emboldened in our prayers!