David & Nancy Slinde

Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here

  S– serving those in need

  L– listening to God’s call

  I – initiating projects

  N– nurturing youth

  D– developing support

  E– empowering communities

“One of our reasons for mission work was to see God through a different lens” – David Slinde

“The parable of the seeds reminds us to sow God’s Word wildly, boldly, and lovingly.” – Nancy Slinde

Editor’s Note:  How many people do you know who, after being turned down for mission work by their own church synod more than once – now at ages 65 and 63 with four grown children, –  give up their comfortable lives and move over 3,000 miles away to an unknown rural community in an impoverished country because they heard God tell them to do so?

How many people do you know who belong to two churches – their local one and a second inner-city church?

How many people do you know who actively serve BOTH their local communities AND international communities?

We were fortunate to meet this dynamic couple at a church conference in El Salvador a few years ago.  Recently we asked if we could do an in-depth interview via Skype during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We are privileged to share their story of trust in God and in one another.  This is truly a mission TEAM.


Both raised in homes prioritizing faith:

Raised as one of three children by a single mother, I (Nancy) experienced love and care but also struggle and sacrifice.  My mom worked two jobs but made sure to be home when we returned from school.  She allowed us kids to share the apartment’s only bedroom while she slept on the couch.  Mom raised us in the Roman Catholic faith; I attended a Catholic high school and two Catholic colleges.

I (David) was part of a four-generation Lutheran family dating back to Pomerania {historically between Poland and Germany} who settled into Milwaukee. 

The two of us met through Nancy’s older brother who attended business classes with me (David), and I began socializing at their house where I began noticing Nancy.

As our dating evolved, we respectfully worshiped at one another churches, I (Nancy) admitted to questioning some of the Roman Catholic beliefs during college.  I was searching for a personal relationship with God as my faith grew and developed.  The rituals/rules/guidelines within the Catholic Church were insufficient for my personal faith journey.  I was confirmed in the Catholic Church in 1958 and confirmed in the Lutheran Church in 1968.

We were married in March 1969 and established a nuclear family of four children.  All our boys have Old Testament names and our daughter has a New Testament name.  We are proud that our children are rooted in the Word and are raising their own children (our grandchildren) as Godly children.  Being Christian parents has taught us to trust God during difficult times and that love is reciprocal.  Through experiencing life’s challenges, our faith in God was always strengthened through prayer and friends who nurtured us.  We maintain strong relationships with our children.

Both feeling a call – transformation:

Soon after we married, we felt called to mission and approached our local synod about serving internationally.  We were turned down because we were too young and not ordained pastors.  (In retrospect, we probably were not mature enough to be ready for that kind of work yet).  We laugh because years later after our retirement to another state, we again approached that church synod with the same request and were told we were too old.  We laughed, at least they are consistent.

In October 1971, we both had a transformation in our lives that made us commit to Jesus Christ and accept Him.  We consider it an enlightenment or conversion.  All the things we had read and learned suddenly came together in terms of understanding Christ’s teachings and sacrifice.  That 1971 transformation in our faith life was the beginning of our life-changing moments in ministry.  Our lives have continued to be transformed as we have accepted God’s plans for us.

Beginning in local mission outreach:

The county where we live is a magnet for migrants from Mexico because of the agriculture and manufacturing industries here.  Nancy helped establish an outreach group in 2001 for them because they needed awareness of services and their rights.  They were fearful of being caught.  We involved lawyers, nurses, educators and others.  Now it is a safe haven for migrants as well as a place to make connections.  We also try to stay aware of the political issues happening with immigration in the U.S. 

Both called to Salvadoran ministries:   

Our local church synod sponsored two international missions, one in Tanzania and one in El Salvador.  The amount of time and cost to travel to Tanzania made considering mission work there formidable and impractical, whereas El Salvador was a more viable option.

(Was it a fortuitous, serendipitous God moment when . . .  I (David) happened to be in the church office one day in 2003 when a letter came in saying the missionaries we supported were no longer in mission work.  It was about $5,000 per year.  Our pastor thought the people should have a chance to become involved, so the associate pastor went to El Salvador the first year followed by a delegation of us members the following year.

In 2007, after returning from our fourth trip to El Salvador, it was late at night and I (David) was very restless after the plane ride.  I sat down and asked God, “What do you want us to do?”  His answer was a verbal, “Move there.”  I explained all the roadblocks we would have.  I waited for Nancy to wake up and told her.  She didn’t argue and without any effort on our part, one by one over the next two years, each roadblock disappeared.

We were involved with a group of like-minded people interested in mission and found out about a Catholic group, VMM (Volunteer Missionary Movement).   We had to raise $10,000 for our missionary funds.  It was not easy, but it also started us on a new concept of the reality of missionary work. This country remains a “civil war culture” and seeing the movie “Innocent Voices” about the Salvadoran children before we left helped prepare us.

We were assigned to live in Concepcion Batres in Usulután where we knew no one and had no support.  It took us awhile to even find a suitable place to live.  (This was nowhere near our familiar sister church community of Fe y Esperanza north of San Salvador near Nejapa).

When we moved to Concepcion Batres, we were fearful because we knew no one and had no network.  Yet it wasn’t a matter of whether we could trust God but whether God could trust us.  He will never let us down.  He works with us in spite of our fears and won’t disappoint us.  We just need to work together.  Our gifts complement one another.

Our work in El Salvador for the next two and a half years was divided between two assignments.  One was with the church to teach English to 138 students ages four to mid ’30s among three churches.  Again we worked in tandem on everything, team teaching or dividing up the groups to teach.   We had to teach skills as well as application.

The highlight of working in the church was meeting college-educated young men that by our standards are underemployed.  One day I asked what they would like to do. The group said, “Start a hardware store”.  We raised $9,000 when we took a month’s break in Wisconsin and returning to El Salvador, we worked with them to open a hardware store.  It now has added two additional branches.  

The other half of our assignment was working with Oikos Solidaridad, an NGO, in the eastern zones of the country on rural agricultural projects. The Oikos portion of the assignment was extremely well-organized.  Oikos staff spent much time taking us to many community locations and events to familiarize us with locals and experience firsthand the reality in which they live before we began doing any projects.  They invested a great deal of time in us which provided us with background before our involvement began.  Benjamin Alas founded Oikos and remains its executive director.  Planning, details, records with full accounting disclosure of all expenditures are all transparent and available at Oikos.  We were drawn to people and projects to help them earn a livelihood. 

We have fund raised for many agricultural projects totaling $175,000 creating small businesses for approximately 250 families. 

It is rewarding to see an entire community benefit from a project.  The growing of crops and raising chickens enabled a community to earn money to purchase things they needed, send kids to school, empowered the women and added protein to their diets, which changed their complexions and over all well-being.

We are currently raising funds for a beach community that previously took turtle eggs from the nest to sell.  This was having serious negative impact on the turtle population.  Our goal is to train the community on different methods for a livelihood while we enlist their help to save the turtle eggs for release in the ocean.  We need $7,500 to fund this $23,500 project.  

We also have been involved in school projects helping seven schools with desks, building repairs, textbooks and computers and countless student scholarships totaling $350,000.  The principal of one of the schools told us we were the first visitors to his school in 25 years.  Yes, the government is now beginning to get more involved and put more money into education, but our observation has been the cities are receiving the bulk of the funds, whereas the rural communities continue to fall behind.

When living in El Salvador, we had to start each day with purpose and precision planning.  Because of the crime, for example, if we were going shopping, we took only enough money to purchase what we needed that day in case we were robbed.  We prayed for protection before we left each morning.  It was a culture shock returning to the U.S. because we have so many safety nets to help us if something goes awry.  We KNOW the police or fire department will come immediately if we call, for instance.  That is not a given in El Salvador.  We learned to respect each other’s spirituality and strengths.  David processes and analyzes, whereas I (Nancy) tend to react more quickly.  David has a gift of discernment.  We each had to temper the other person and reconcile our differences.

Because we are very organized planners, we also had to adjust to the culture and learn to go with the flow, because in El Salvador, things do not happen on schedule; you need to respect that lifestyle or you will become frustrated. 

Local mission outreach:

About thirty minutes away from our home church, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, Wisconsin, is an inner-city church, Hephatha Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, with primarily racially mixed members and a white, single female pastor.  David read in a local paper an article about it citing children who had to play in their basements because it was too dangerous to go outside.  He contacted Pastor Mary Martha to ask how we could help.  We are now in our 15th year of providing an outdoor ministry for the youth there which has grown from an original group of 35 terrified kids leaving the city to go out into the woods to now 60 kids who burst out of the bus doors eager for a day out of the city.  They earn the trip from work they do all year.  We are associate members of this church.  It is located in an area experiencing oppression, poverty, segregation, high poverty, crime, and violence.  Belonging to the congregation has been an eye opener, a struggle, a blessing, and a burden.  As an aside, Pastor Mary Martha teaches that everything they have is from God and encourages her members, including the children, to tithe.  The members of this poor inner- city church tithed $16,000 to be divided equally between the synod’s missions in Tanzania and El Salvador last year alone!  We began serving this church in 2005.

Serving in this local inner-city mission has shown many parallels to our international ministries in El Salvador.  The same oppression, poverty, crime, and violence exist regardless of location. 

We would like to return to El Salvador one more time to see the agriculture projects we were involved with and visit with the friends we made.  We would like to re-visit the seven public schools where we have meet teachers, students and members of the community.

We deal with conflict by using prayer, praise, thanksgiving, and a favorite Bible passage “The peace of God that passes all understanding keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”   (Philippians 4:7)

Our greatest joy is our faith and having an intimate relationship with God who sustains us.  He allows us to do outreach.  Our marital relationship is joyful.  Transformation is an active process that continues to change us.  God helps see us through His plans for us.   

Conclusion:  Their strong, living faith and unwavering witness bond David and Nancy into a relationship with God and with each other.  It allows them to trust what God puts before them.  This couple is rock solid in serving both their local community and the international community of El Salvador.  When they commit to a project, David and Nancy will “move sun and stars” to accomplish it.  These many projects would not be possible without the help of several collaborating groups who partner with David and Nancy.

They are energetic and delightful!  The world is truly a better place because of them.

To continue to follow David and Nancy’s mission work, as well as read about their past adventures in El Salvador which are archived, read their blog:



    Afflicted with Hope / embracingelsalvador.org is one of many outreach ministries at
    Saint Stephen Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA)
    30 West Main Street, PO Box 266
    New Kingstown, PA 17072

    Tax deductible donations for support of this work in El Salvador may be sent to the above address.