Jay Dewhurst was our guest speaker this morning. Jay is the founder of Nehemiah International University, an outreach to El Salvador designed to provide a low-cost higher education to poor students to help lift them out of poverty, make them transformational leaders, and change the nation from the grassroots level. He told of being on the way to meet with his doctoral committee at Regent University when God gave him the vision for the school. That became his dissertation, and he has been in El Salvador for 13 years.
The university is located on five acres along Lake Ilopango, just outside San Salvador. The former resort property was listed for sale at $800,000, but in prayer Jay asked God to provide the land to the ministry. However, on the eve of a meeting to discuss a possible lease, the owner canceled it. Still, Jay was able to later look at the property and offered $10,000 down and $1,000 a month—at a time when he had $300 in the bank. The owner wasn’t interested, but Jay asked him to consider the offer. The next day, the owner called and said, “Can you pay $1,200 a month?”
In addition to the tarantulas, scorpions and snakes on the property, Jay also learned MS-13 gang members were coming there to sleep at night. When Jay and another staff member meet with about a dozen gang leaders to discuss the situation, one got angry and said, “Who do you think you are?” The staff member said, “I’m not here to tell you anything. I want to tell you about the vision God has given us.” That created a peace with the gang; one member got baptized two days later. Jay said he had asked God to get rid of the gangs, but the Lord said they were victims too. The evil is the principalities of darkness, God told him.
Jay said they work holistically and accept 40 students a year for studies in computer science, accounting, or business administration. They also go into area schools and work with gang members, do community-oriented activities, and are raising money to build a medical clinic. One of their success stories is a woman who used to live on $5 a day, but is now earning $700 a month.
Jay said they need support and what matters most is the $25-a-month gifts they receive from a number of people. Celebration is planning a mission trip to do construction at the university next year.