El Salvador Water Drilling Mission: God’s Timing Is Perfect

November 30, 2018


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Friday’s Scriptures

Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens

Acts 1:7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”


IMG_8388Enrique and the boys will finish drilling the well next week. Although we hit water which would normally be enough for normal living activities such as drinking and cooking, our goal was to hit ~ 150 barrels a day to sustain the commercial fish and agricultural projects. No drilling today but that didn’t mean we wouldn’t celebrate. After breakfast we headed into the compound where the boys were sitting in white plastic chairs awaiting our team’s arrival. The podium and band were setup.

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Let’s Celebrate

The LWI and prison staff had developed a formal ceremony to celebrate all that we had done together this week. I was honored to open the ceremony in prayer. Each speaker gave thanks. Eventually, the American team were asked to line up in a single row facing the boys. As we sat looking out toward the boys, Enrique lip-synced: “Thank you for giving to the Lord.”


Songwriter: Raymond H. Boltz

I dreamed I went to heaven; You were there with me; We walked along the streets of gold; Beside the crystal sea; We heard the angels singing; Then someone called your name; You turned and saw a young man; He was smiling as he came; He said friend, you may not know me now; But then he said but wait; You used to teach my Sunday school; When I was only eight; Every week you would say a prayer; Before the class would start; One morning when you said that prayer; I asked Jesus in my heart; Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am a life that was changed; Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am so glad you gave; Then another man stood before you; And said remember the time; A missionary came to your church; His pictures made you cry; You didn’t have much money; But you gave it anyway; Jesus took the gift you gave; And that’s why I’m here today; Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am a life that was changed; Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am so glad you gave; One by one they came; As far as the eye could see; Each one somehow touched; By your generosity; Little things that you had done, sacrifices made; Unnoticed on the earth, heaven now proclaims; And I know up in heaven; That you’re not supposed to cry; But I was almost sure; There were tears in your eyes; As Jesus took your hand; And you stood before the Lord; And He said my child look around you; For great is your reward; Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am a life that was changed; Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am so glad you gave.


Usually, the kids would reach out their arms when the song gets to “Thank you, for giving to the Lord” but only a handful made the gesture. I wasn’t surprised that many kept their arms by their side to maintain their “tough” crowd mentality in front of each other. I was proud of those few who follow their hearts. As Enrique closed in song, eleven boys walked out, and one stood in from of each of the team. A gold crown made of yellow construction paper was placed on our heads.

Then many of the boys formed a line and gave each one of us a hug. Some hugs were heartfelt, others superficial, and some boys didn’t approach at all. That’s okay. All we can do is plant the seed and let God do His work. It’s all in God’s timing. Father knows best.

Certificates and plaques were given out to acknowledge those who completed their Bible lesson book. As each boy was called to the front to accept his certificate, Pastor David and Norma shook their hand. I thought of PEP graduation and how thrilled the graduates were in their cap and gown, shaking hands, and in many cases receiving their first diploma.

Most of the boys who talked to the front hadn’t graduated from high school or ever received a certificate for accomplishing anything. You could tell by their faces how proud they were as we clapped. The drillers were given separate certificates for their hard work and contribution this week.

20181130_151229478_iOSCarlos’ proudly accepted his plaque, and of course, no group was to be left out. The Dillon’s Friends received a certificate for coming all the way from America to help Freedom’s Path. I loved how everyone who contributed was recognized. And Casey received a special reward—an El Salvador scene painted on wood with the drillers’ names signed on back. A prized possession by any definition.

IMG_8345The boys cheered when the Director mad the announcement that our team was gifting each boy a pair of white Crocs and a toothbrush/toothpaste [Thank you to all the people back home who contributed to the gift]. Glad we could give them a little extra on top of the well. What they didn’t know was their best gift was yet to come, a sermon delivered by Angel who is the poster child of a man brought back from the abyss by a loving Jesus.

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Last Lunch in Prison

At lunch Casey shared a beautiful story of what this mission trip signified in her promises to God. After her trip to Honduras in 2014, she committed to God that she would drill 10 wells and sponsor 1 well within 5 years. She wore 2 rings—one of titanium and the other of tungsten (two hard indestructible metals)—as symbols and a reminder of her promises. This trip, three and a half years later, fulfilled those promises. She didn’t need her rings any more and decided to leave them behind with Enrique, so he could place them above Hunter’s plaque on the well pad when it was poured next week.

I am reminded that God’s timing is perfect. I know many of us were slightly disappointed that we couldn’t finish the well this week and see the fruits of our labor. We know the well is in good hands and will be finished by Enrique and the boys. I take comfort in my belief that God has a bigger plan than we can see in the moment. Perhaps we’re not meant to finish this well, because the boys needed more time with Enrique. Perhaps more time will continue to soften their hearts to accept Jesus. Maybe they needed to feel more love next week to know that change is possible. I don’t know what God has planned, yet what I do know is that I trust God.

Last Praise and Worship

My favorite group of boys [yes, I have favorites] asked if the team would stay after lunch and have one more praise and worship service. We couldn’t say no to a request like that! So, we returned once again to the small building setup with a keyboard and rows of white plastic chairs. Luckily the whole team got to experience a service and converse with these boys.

IMG_8405Before leaving, we were asked to form a circle. Then the boys made a circle around us and started praying and laying hands on us. Afterwards, both the team and boys were hugging and crying. Many boys desperately wanted us to stay—to be a light in their days of darkness. I wish I could stay.

Robert seemed incredibly moved by his experience in his own country, which isn’t surprising for someone taking his first mission trip. For one whose been on multiple trips, I understand the emotional impact of the first-time experience. Robert learned more about the Director’s plans for Freedom’s Path and wants to return and advance the fish and agricultural projects. The prison needs an electrical pump estimated to cost $1,500 to deliver the water to the project site, and he’s interested in pulling together a team to help with the cost and construction. God calls Darin and I to take people on mission trips to break their paradigms and see how God will move them. I love hearing Robert talk about leading this initiative and learn what comes of his passion to invest himself and others in this facility and these kids.

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Transition to Home

We walked out of prison. We are alive, refreshed in spirit, hopeful, and a bit tired. After souvenir shopping in Ilobasco, we made a several hour drive to the beach hotel near the airport. I felt blessed to have a real bathroom, warm shower, and cold A/C.

These last 5 years of mission outreach have blessed me with new perspectives, knowledge, and numerous connections. I consider myself a Christian nomad, who enjoys meeting people and connecting across the globe. My Living Water Trips have been special, especially to El Salvador, and I’m sad that I won’t likely return until 2021. In 2019, Darin and I have our sights set for the Asian mission field, and if God has His way, we will be in Kenya/ Uganda/Tanzania on a Marriage Vision Tour in 2020.

There is a reason and season for everything. Ask Moses after he led the Israelites out of Egypt. One thing most of our team agreed on during our time together is that God never gives you the whole plan; he only shares it in pieces. We can’t get to far ahead of ourselves.

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Several Days Later

Success! The well is complete! Living water pours through the pump. We have the photos to prove it! Glory to God!

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Photos were restricted. For the safety of the staff and youth no photos of their faces are allowed on social media.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and finances. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can visit Sandra at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

El Salvador Water Drilling Mission: How Did We Get Here?

November 25, 2018


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Mission Scripture (John 15:5, NLT)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”


God at Work

God works in mysterious ways—ways in which this mission team could never have imagined. Let me tell you a story—a story of 11 disciples who said “yes” to a mission that forever changed their lives and also many incarcerated boys in an El Salvadoran prison. For the record, the 12th disciple, Judas, stayed home.

The seed for this unconventional water drilling trip was planted in November 2017, soon after our team returned from drilling a well at a school in El Salvador. While Darin and I served at the Cleveland Correctional Unit, many of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) staff and volunteers asked about the mission. After we shared a few highlights and answered questions, several expressed a call to go on our next Dillon’s Friends trip in 2018.

Darin and I have a tradition of organizing teams to drill wells in Honduras and El Salvador but had decided that 2017 would be our last trip for a while. We were headed to Asia and other parts of the world to see God’s hands at work. We didn’t have the heart to tell these people there wouldn’t be a Living Water International (LWI) trip in 2018, but the requests kept coming, especially from men who’d previously been incarcerated.

This was extraordinary—a nearly full team one year in advance of departure. Darin and I could only assume God was trying to tell us to go back, and we needed to be obedient and plan another trip. One of the only weeks available was the Sunday after Thanksgiving! Our annual Thanksgiving road trip would have to be pushed, and we’d give thanks by serving in El Salvador.

The mission vine sprouted, the branches grew, and some were pruned to grow in a different direction. People committed to go and then withdrew. Mark and Robert were excited to join as they couldn’t go on the 2017 mission, because their houses flooded in Hurricane Harvey. They were able to apply their trip funds quickly to our 2018 trip.

20181125_185206570_iOSI asked Carlos, the LWI El Salvador Director, if we could drill a well in another school, because it’s so much fun to spend time with hundreds of kids. Shouldn’t be a problem, and LWI found a sponsor for the well—Real Life Christian Church in Chesapeake, Virginia. We thought we were set.

Trials and Tribulations

As a serial planner and scheduler, this trip couldn’t have started and run any more smoothly, which was confirmation for me that this must be God’s plan. And then… Carlos reached out with a question, “How would you like to drill a well in a youth prison?” This one question changed everything, and I started to see a new direction for which this mission vine was reaching. Without hesitation we said, “Yes,” and soon learned that answering the call was the easy part.

20181125_195345265_iOSLWI had never drilled in a prison before—unchartered territory. A few times, we thought the prison mission wouldn’t happen. Yet at every turn, God was faithful, and we pressed on. Carlos had to get permission from LWI Headquarters to drill in a prison, find a new well sponsor, and secure sufficient safe housing for the team. We’d be too far away from the LWI house south of San Salvador to stay there. We waited for LWI Headquarters. Finally, they said, “Yes!” Casey’s other LWI team waned, and she brought her well sponsorship—dedicated to her grandson—to our team. Sponsorship—check!

Only a month before departure, Carlos sent a message that we may not be drilling in the prison, because he couldn’t find lodging. I replied, “If God wants this mission, He’ll make it happen.” And He did. Carlos found a place that could safely accommodate all of us on his very last look—Hotel Los Heroes.

The 11 Disciples

Once we were 10, and then surprisingly we became 11. After reading my last journal entry, Marcus asked to join the team at the eleventh hour after learning we were going to prison. God was putting His final touches on the team. We have such a powerful team, many of whom have been on mission before with us. You could say we are a seasoned group except for Peggy, Charles’ mom, who affectionately became known to all as Mama Peggy.

Several mission mates, including those on the in-country LWI team, have known the pain of incarceration and its effect on their families. We also have Roberto, who was born in El Salvador and has a heart for his country’s people. We are the 11 disciples, the fishers of men. I prayed this trip would be a testimony of what a team can do when they lean into Him. I prayed our branches, attached to the vine of Jesus, would bring forth the living water to pour through us and into the staff and youth in the Ilobasco detention center, otherwise known as Freedom’s Path.

Feet on the Ground

We arrived in San Salvador, fighting the crowds of families at the airport, to find the white Aqua Viva van. Angel and Enrique would be our drilling masters with Norma and Kathy leading the hygiene/teaching team. After grabbing some local cafeteria food, we drove to Cojutepeque to settle into our hotel—home base for the week. The accommodations were a bit rough with no hot water and inconsistent running water. Most had air conditioning but not all. The owner struggled to keep A/C units in working order. We heard later that our stay was a blessing, because it gave the owner income to make repairs and sustain his business.

After checking in, we walked out of the hotel to hear a sermon preached through blaring loudspeakers. The Word was in Spanish. “Damn,” I told myself, “When am I going to learn Spanish.” We walked to a local coffee shop to plan for the week and hear the guidelines. Rule number one—be flexible. We are walking unchartered territory. Afterwards, we walked a few blocks to eat at the infamous Pollo Campero after shopping for snacks, water, and supplies at the Supermercado. After our stomachs were full of chicken in some form, we returned to the hotel for a good night’s sleep for tomorrow we drill.

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About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and financial coaching. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

El Salvador Living Water Mission: Meet the Dillon Friends Team


September 10, 2018

Dear Friends & Family,

What I love about mission trips are the surprises and interesting twists that unfold as the team prepares for mission. We’ve had some surprising team member losses and some wildly wonderful additions over these couple months, and as always, I believe God put together the perfect team to go drill a well at a youth prison in Llobasco, Cabanas, El Salvador.

I’m a big Bob Goff fan after I read, or should I say after my husband read to me all the short stories in Love Does. I just finished reading Bob’s second book, Everybody Always, which was released earlier this year. Bob’s personal stories really challenged my thinking on how much could I love like Jesus. After you read the story about Kali, the witch doctor in Uganda, we’ll talk and see whether you agree with me.

On a lighter side, Bob states that God views the world as just one big neighborhood and that Jesus never went on mission trips. He just walked among the people and was with them. I questioned what would I choose to call our adventures to El Salvador if I wanted to be more like Jesus? After some thought I decided I wanted to call them Love & Learning Journeys. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I like the name, because it doesn’t imply one-way service or giving. We get as much from the people as we give—it’s just different stuff. Our time spent in the villages, schools, and prisons have lots of love, lots of learnings, and it’s always a journey.

I’d like to introduce you to God’s 11 helpers who are joining me on the Dillon Love & Learning Journey. They all love God and Jesus, and I look forward in seeing how Jesus shapes them in the field.

  1. Audra Abel – wife of Will; mother; grandmother to Jessie; joined Hope City Church after we invited them to a service; speaks enough Spanish to be both dangerous and helpful; fun and outgoing; taught hygiene lessons in El Salvador (2016); LuLaRoe business woman; excited to see what this talented lady does with the second half of her life
  2. Will Abel – husband to Audra; father; works with Darin at Convergint as an account sales executive; went with us to Honduras on our first LWI well trip (2015); well was dubbed Will’s well because he didn’t leave it to do pump repair; met his future daughter-in-law (Sarah) for the first time when she and Will’s son joined last year’s trip
  3. Roberto Benavides – husband to Cristy; father to 3 boys; home country is El Salvador; joined the team to drill in 2017 but Hurricane Harvey kept him home to recover from flood damage; works in security for Chevron; excited to have him finally get back to his birth country to give back
  4. Casey DeShazo – single mom; doting grandmother; first time home buyer—perhaps she’s giving up her nomadic ways; Plexus business owner; Controller at Dowley Security, caught the LWI fever (2015)—she’s been on 10 trips since we first took her on her first trip to Honduras; witty with words—have you checked her Facebook posts
  5. Darin Dillon – husband to Sandi; father to 3 girls; not a grandfather—yet; no words can describe him; you know him well
  6. Sandi Dillon – wife to Darin; mother; not ready to be a grandmother—too busy; your mission trip leader; I’ll let you describe me; you know me well enough
  7. Todd Dina – husband; father to 4 boys; one of the original Dillon Friends Team to Honduras in 2015; wished he was living in Colorado—we can be neighbors; former colleague from TPC Group; director at IHS Market; dedicated the first well the team drilled in Honduras
  8. Charles Hearne – single guy; fitness fanatic; long-time Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) friend; second LWI trip with the Dillon Friends; awesome singer; introvert who acts like an extrovert; big smile with warm heart; senior partnership manager at Gregg Partners helping non-profits get grant money
  9. Peggy Hearne – mom to Charles; nurse; part of our first mother-son team brought on a mission trip; beautiful spirit; met her at a PEP event; in our circles more well known as “Charles’ mom”
  10. Marcus Hill – God loving man; husband and father; can pray like no other; makes awesome compression sleeves; joined team last year to drill in El Salvador; part of the small team who toured and talked with the warden in El Salvadorian prison; he can’t wait to pour into the boys in the youth prison
  11. Mark Halleck – husband; father; and grandfather; ministry over-doser—don’t worry the addiction won’t kill him; known for chasing a live deer around his living in the middle of the night; part of the first team to drill in Honduras (2015); swore to Carlos Molina he would make a trip to El Salvador and he’s fulfilling his promise this year; friend and colleague in the security industry

What a diverse team of Jesus-loving people—2 couples, 1 single man, 2 single women, and 4 married guys with wives back home holding down the home front and all from different ethnic backgrounds. We can change the world when we unite for Christ! God can use anyone who is willing to just say YES.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and financial coaching. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.