by Shelana Poindexter
I can’t believe that we have already been here 4 days! They have flown by. Today was our second day in el comunidad El Tanque. I was completely blown away by the people and their reaction to us painting their houses. The pride that they took in a gesture so small, they provided us food, drink, even small gifts to say thank you. Even the kids in the neighborhood wanted to contribute to the work -- asking if they could help us paint. We continued to paint the houses in El Tanque today and we were greeted with the same smiling faces and people of the neighborhood sweeping down their walls and “tidying” up their homes.
I remember back in the late spring when Brett told me about the opportunity to come on this trip -- I told him that I was coming, no question. He smiled and said, "Yeah... Ok." But there was something about this trip that pulled me in. Not sure what God has in store -- but I know that He has a purpose for everything. The sermon that we heard here on Sunday referred to 2 Kings 5. We learned about the “roles” that we play throughout our lives. We will forever play one role, and that is being a Child of God. No matter the role, whether servant, friend, prophet, witness…we all have different roles to play. My reflection is what role am I playing while I am here in El Salvador? From what I've experienced on this trip so far, I do know that many times, our role is simply bless those who are in difficult circumstances with a heartfelt smile.
by Rodney Zehner
After flying into El Salvador on Saturday, it seemed like we'd never left from last year's trip, but rather just woke up from a long siesta. All the memories from the previous two years were coming back into focus as we headed right back to exactly where we left off last year in Nejapa - a small town about 45 minutes from San Salvador (the capital of El Salvador) called Nejapa. We had the opportunity to visit with Rina and the Medina’s who are the family who so graciously brought her into their home last year. When they were asked if they would consider taking care of her last year, their response without any hesitation was, ”Why wouldn’t we?” Last year’s trip was rooted in the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. I was focusing on the fruit of “kindness” and I have not forgotten how kind of a response that was from the Medina’s considering they had never met or knew nothing about the Rina…I still stand in awe of that generosity and how God worked through us to provide Rina with a healthy, happy and loving family…definitely fruits of our labor!
Here’s another thing… I don’t believe in coincidences. I had sent an email the morning we left to the people who helped support our team both financially and in prayer. I shared in the email how, that morning, God had impressed upon me the verse in 1 Kings 19:11-12 which speaks about how the Lord is heard in the “gentle whisper”. Saturday night in Nejapa our team attended a youth worship night in a local church that has just started to recover from some unfortunate circumstances. To see the younger girls and boys at the center smiling and laughing as everyone was dancing around with glow necklaces and bracelets listening to the live music was such a rewarding experience to see the church alive and moving again in the right direction. What was even more encouraging to me was when one of the younger guys grabbed my hand and brought me to the front of the stage to celebrate our Lord by dancing like no one was watching. And here’s the kicker, while I’m certainly not fluent in Spanish and able to understand the majority of words being sung as we danced, what I could understand was the “gentle whisper” as we gave Him praise and worship that resonated with my soul and brought me to tears.
The next morning we attended a local English speaking church that really set the tone for our trip here. The message we collectively heard about listening and obeying God and knowing when we are called to play different roles during various stages of our lives. Our Creator has us exactly were He needs each of us to be, including you right now, at any particular moment in time and this time is definitely no different. Each of us is playing a role down here which has been prepared for us in advance and I believe mine is to simply bring a joyful smile to those we come in contact with and let Him do the work…with a little help from chocolate candy for the kiddos ;) I am so thankful and humbled to be serving the people of El Salvador over the Thanksgiving holiday once again!!
by Brett Gorney
Back in March 2014, one verse in the Bible jumped off the pages and became fully alive in my life. It is nothing short of amazing that these words… nearly 2000 years old, inspired by God, penned by the Apostle Paul… that they would become the catalyst to a series of promptings, divine appointments, prayers and events that have led me to this moment in time… writing this journal entry at 35,000 feet, somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico, en route to El Salvador, with a group of seven friends. The verse to which I’m referring is…
“…for anything that becomes visible is Light
therefore it says,
Awake, O’ sleeper,
and Arise from the dead,
and Christ will Shine upon you.”
… and it became the inspiration and foundation for this humble little organization that God birthed through me and named…
You can read the full story behind it all on our website here. But in a nutshell, Mission 5IVE.14 was created to encourage people to AWAKE. ARISE. and SHINE a Light in the World. I believe that when we press in and intentionally discover and learn to grow into the person God really created us to be, we can leverage our unique gifts and talents to love and serve others really, really well… in the ways which God actually designed each of us to do!
I’m sharing all of this with you is because I believe its important to know the “WHY” behind these impact trips to El Salvador and Love & Hope Children’s Home. And btw, I’ll admit that I borrowed the term, ‘impact trip’ from another organization. I like it. It makes more sense than “mission trip.” And this now being my 5th trip down here, I’m beginning to see the fruit, or the impact, of our commitment to continually return to serve at Love & Hope. It’s been my prayer and desire that we’d be able to build lasting relationships with the kids and hopefully make a lasting impact in their lives… and of course not to mention the lasting impact that God makes in the lives of those who join me on these trips.
So this trip is really exciting for me on a new level because those prayers are starting to be answered as we’ve earned the right to invite the older kids into a small group, conversational, environment. The topic of conversation is: “AWAKE - Discovering who God created you to be.” Me and the team cannot wait for these conversations to happen!
The theme for this trip's journal entries by each contributor is going to based around how each of us has discovered (or is in the process of discovering) the unique gifts and talents that God has given us and how we've intentionally sought to use those gifts to love and serve others. My encouragement (which is actually one of my gifts) to you is that these stories we share will be a blessing in your life and might ignite a desire to start asking yourself, "Who was I really created to be and how can I use my unique gifts and talents to love and serve others well? Who knows...you may just step onto a path that helps you 'Shine a Light in the World' brighter than you ever have before!
p.s. - Two Things!
1. To learn more about what we're doing on this current impact trip click here.
2. If you'd like to take step toward being more AWAKE. in your own life and "Discovering who God created you to be", there's some resources to get you started on the Mission 5IVE.14 website,
“They shall build up the ancient ruin’s; they shall raise up the former devastation; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.”
This is my third trip to Love & Hope Children’s Home, and what a blessing it is to be back here so soon after our trip last October. As we were about to board our flight to El Salvador, I was saying to Brett, “It feels like we are going home for the holidays, like Love & Hope is also our family now.” When you have to wait a year to spend time together it can be difficult. It really has been such a blessing to be back, spending time with all the kids and staff here.
Yesterday we spent the day in Nejapa…the same town where we built the room for Rina last year. Nejapa also has a strong gang presence and Bobby and Brittany Hibbs lead the Love & Hope Youth Ministry there. Their mission is to teach the teens about the love of Christ and to about building a community of disciples instead of gang members.
They have lived and run their ministry for 9 years and used to hold church and the youth gatherings in their home because they didn’t have a space to rent. So last year they started looking for a bigger space to occupy and God led them to an empty building that was the perfect size…but it also needed a lot of work. Brett and I had a goal to raise financial support to help with some of the renovations of this building. We got to participate in painting the front of the building as well as help tear down some old walls inside that needed to be rebuilt. It was awesome to see some of their teens helping out with the process, and getting their hands dirty for Christ. As we all come together to help build the new “Centro de Esperanza”, I keep thinking of the verse in Isaiah 61:4 that says, “They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” And then I smile in amazement at how God is moving in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. When there are people willing to be used by him, he brings light where there is darkness. We are humbled and grateful to be a part of what he is doing here, and can’t wait to see what his love will do for the children and families of the community in Nejapa.
Today, on Good Friday, we’re headed to help participate in the lunch outreach event at the Hope Center was also part of our the financial support we raised. Bobby and Brittany have been hoping to host this event for a while so that they can introduce themselves to the people living in this part of the community. 100 invitations went out to the families of Barrio San Antonio, and 200 people are expected at the event…and we’re hoping they show up because we’re cooking about 200 hot dogs! Brett and I, along with Bobby, Britney and the teens will be working together to make and serve these free lunches to the community, as well as have some fun activities for the children. I am excited to see God move today as we come together for His glory!
"Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone."
That's a great 'sticky statement' don't you think? Andy Stanley shared that a few years ago and its definitely stuck with me. With that message he continued, "Because if we all did for one what we wish we could do for everyone, it might change the world. But certainly, it would change one person’s world. It may even change your world."
I was reminded of this powerful statement as we descended into San Salvador on Monday night. This is my fourth trip to El Salvador now but the first time I've arrived at night. As usual, the flight path takes you right along the southern edge of San Salvador and you get this great view of the whole city and its volcanic guardian...El Boqueron. What my eyes saw was a city of lights just like any other city, but the reality is, as I'm sure many of you have heard, is that El Salvador was recently dubbed the new "Murder Capital of the World" - great moniker eh? The massive gang populations account for the majority of the murders, but the brokenness of the country and the myriad of neglected kids and teens is what usually keeps the gang families growing as they offer exactly that...a family...if that's what you want to call it.
As I scanned the night sky, the city lights and thought about what goes on in this city on a daily basis, I reflected back to my first trip here in December 2013. It's a longer story of how I even ended up at Love & Hope Children's Home, but I can tell you that there was definitely some divine intervention involved because I was originally supposed to spend time with another children's home. I remember the last day of that visit. As I was saying goodbye to Rachel and all the kids, I got that little tug on my heartstrings that told me I needed to continue to build my relationship with them and that God would lead the way with opportunities to continue to love and serve the kids and staff down here.
Love & Hope was founded to care for orphaned, abused, abandoned and neglected children and give them shelter, safety and support in a family setting. Through Rachel, the staff and volunteers, they provide solid examples of Godly living for the children so they can grow to have happy and healthy relationships with existing family members and others. Having witnessed and experiencing this first hand, I felt that desire inside that I wanted and needed to "Do For One..." with this new found family.
Fast forward 2 years and 3 months and here I am again...with my friend Melissa whose been on both of our previous two team trips...and I'm still in awe of what God can inspire in us and what He can do through us. My hopes and prayers for these kids is that God would use our acts of love and service to help "Shine a Light" in their lives and to add inspiration to their dreams and hopes for a better future than what is typical for countless other kids in this country. We may not be changing the world or the city of San Salvador...but we might just be changing one kid's world. For that its all worth it.
Thank you again to all of you who continue to support our mission to love & serve down here. Whether with financial, material or prayerful support...I'm always humbled by the generosity that is extended. Muchas Gracias.
In His Love & Grace,
Today our journey ends in El Salvador and a new chapter begins.
As usual most of us are up early. Some strengthening muscle through yoga at the beach, others in the word to strengthen spiritual muscle. Maura prepared an amazing desajuno (breakfast), El Salvador style; plantains, frijoles with rice, eggs, pineapples and strawberries. I opened in prayer, lifting His name for all His glory. This last day of rest is a reminder of the abundance with which He provides us comfort and compassion so that, in turn, we provide comfort and compassion to others.
Today I gave my devotion to the group on the last of the Fruit of the Spirit…Self-Control. We talked about ways to utilize self-control to manage our emotions, behavior and desires…hence, ways to overcome challenges. Just as God constantly speaks to us, so does the devil in trying to fill us with temptation. We discussed how to anticipate the devils influence and to preempt attacks. We cannot do this unless we're constantly in God’s presence, and learn to remain in Him. With every interaction we look to grow closer to Him. This takes daily discipline and it takes self-control.
We discussed the following questions and quotes, among others:
2 Timothy 1:7 - "for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."
Proverbs 25:28 - "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls."
It's great to see how each of us share testimony in group, but equally brilliant to look around and see brothers and sisters having one-on-one conversations to dig deeper in personal relationships, overcoming challenges, as we continue to develop a deeper relationship with God. Each of us leans on others to gain strength in Christ, by softening our hearts and breaking barriers, to better serve His will. This interaction is reinforced by the words written in Joshua 1:8-9, "you never fight alone”, which is the group verse for The Rock - our men’s group back in Atlanta.
As we finish our last day in El Salvador, we're reminded of how grateful we are to those who contributed to make this mission possible. I'm forever thankful to each of the sponsors (over 200) for helping us complete this mission. Your generosity raised $7,000 to support Love & Hope’s annual education fund and to help support Rina’s continuing needs. And an additional $5,500 was raised for supplies and paying a local contractor and his team to build the new addition at the Medina’s home where Rina gets to live and flourish. I want you all to know that I have personally grown in Christ because of your generosity and prayers...a priceless and eternal gift...so thank you!
Humbled and Grateful,
I had the pleasure of leading the discussion on “Gentleness” this week. Gentleness is not weakness, but a Fruit of the Spirit in which we choose to place the will of God before our own. Like a strong stallion that has been trained and taught discipline, the stallion keeps all of his strength, but operates under the control of his master.
Sometimes it is our tendency to use our strength or advantages to belittle or supercede others. In Gentleness, we use our strength to help others instead of trying to be superior to them. In this, Gentleness stems from a spirit of real love for the individual and compassion for their well being. It is not only in our actions, but also in our thoughts.
Proverbs 15:1 states, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” We must remember that our words are very powerful, and that we must think before we speak, because you can’t take back a word after it is spoken.
God wants us to be Gentle in our thoughts and actions, so that when are ready and he gives us power, we will not use it cruelly. As in John 8:1-11, the woman is caught in the act of adultery. Instead of casting the first stone, accusing her or chastising her, Jesus takes the opportunity to elevate her life by telling her to, “Go and sin no more.”
God is Gentle with us when we need correction, and expects us to be that way towards others. Gentleness shows the world that violent encounters and situations ruled by emotions is not the better way. The Fruit of Gentleness calls us to be surrendered to the will of God.
One of my favorite quotes is, “People don’t always remember what you say or did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
In these last nine days working with these nine great and unique folks, we definitely had challenges and our ups and downs. But I must say, I witnessed many acts and thoughts of Gentleness in each person, and on every day. I am grateful for the experience. Thank you to all of my friends and donors who made this possible! Thank you for your support and Gentleness.
Last year before I came to El Salvador on the first 5IVE.14 mission trip, I knew God had called me into missions. I knew it would be continued work I would do with Him. I tried to envision what that might look like imagined hopping around from place to place. I had no idea of the relationships that would be built and the connection that would be developed at Love and Hope. I didn’t know that His plans were different than my visions. After I left Love and Hope last year, God had encouraged me to continue to invest in them throughout the year and He had placed it on my heart to go back to serve there again.
Love and Hope has become like family to me. I was having a talk with one of the teens there, and she expressed how happy she and the kids were when they heard that some of us were coming back. She said, “It is better when people come back because you get to know them. You guys play with the kids and make them laugh, and that is what’s important...that the kids are happy.” That was confirmation for me on why God has me continuing to invest in Love and Hope. It isn’t about me, it’s about Him and His plan, it is up to me to be faithful to where He leads me.
Today the team had a full day at the beach to decompress. The fruit of the spirit that we focused on today was faithfulness. I couldn’t help but reflect on how faithful our Father is and how He has shown His faithfulness in so many ways on this trip. The way He orchestrates is so beautiful. It is written in Phil. 1:6 “He who begins a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day Christ Jesus returns.” That is the verse that comes to me when I think about Rina’s story. Rachel met Rina about 10 years ago, and God had placed it on her heart to invest in her, and she has been faithful to Him by continually checking in on her and providing for her in any way she can for all these years. Rachel connected Bobby and Brittany Hibbs to Rina and they also showed their faithfulness by investing in Rina, and helping to care for her. We don’t know why God chose this time to give Rina a new home with a family that will give her the love and care that she needs, but the Medina family did not even question taking her in. A family that has so little in terms of worldly possessions is still able to provide so much for Rina, so much love and care.
I can’t help but be humbled as I see how rich in spirit is Love and Hope including all of those who are connected to Love & Hope as well. It is clear that Jesus dwells within them. It is beautiful to really see that material richness is not important, nor does it define success. Rachel strives to not only raise the children of Love and Hope up in a Jesus centered home, but to extend Jesus’s love out in the community by allowing God to lead her to people who need prayer, love, food, etc. Whatever the need is - Rachel and those connected to Love and Hope allow God to use them to fill that need.
Bobby and Brittany also gave up their lives in American and planted themselves in Nejapa, a city with extreme poverty and where gang violence is right outside their door. They created a ministry that is currently held in their home that addresses gang violence at the root, by discipling the youth in the community to help them to know the love of Jesus, which is life changing. They also provide a home for the homeless youth in the community. We painted a room in their home while we were here for any future youth that may need a place to stay. The Hibbs' door is always open for youth in the community, and they have made it clear that they will make room for as many children as God calls them to provide shelter and love. Their home is a safe place where these youth can blossom in their walk with Jesus. We saw the fruit of their ministry through Jonathan Nelson, an amazing young man who is now walking with the Lord, and leading other people in the community to Jesus. His trust in Jesus and joyful heart is inspiring, especially considering his circumstances, considering both his father and brother have been murdered because of involvement in gangs.
I am blown away by the faithfulness that is shown in all of this. God hand-picked each of us for the team, as well as those who have sown into this trip through prayer or financial support. Planning for a mission trip is not easy; raising the money, leaving your job and responsibilities at home during a time that might not be convenient. The enemy will be trying to pull you away from going, but we all stand firm knowing that the Lord will provide as he always does when he calls us to something. The best part about God is that even when we are faithless he is still faithful (2 Tim. 2:13).
I can write for hours on how God has worked through and in all of us on this trip. This has been the most fruitful trip I have ever experienced, and I say that from the bottom of my heart. It was no coincidence that God led us to “The Fruits of the Spirit” for our devotional for this trip. I am looking forward to continuing this journey with Jesus in El Salvador.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” More than a casual observation, the invitation remains for encounter. God longs for us to experience His presence and to know the desires of His heart. Not unlike Moses of old, dare we put aside the distractions or “lesser things” of this world to climb the mountain to meet with God?
My fear is that many of us aspire for too little. Content with mere imitations or shadows, we stop short of Presence. We have been seduced or lulled to sleep by the world and its systems trading our crown or birthright for a bowl of porridge. Our affinities and desires are too much shaped by culture instead of the Living Word of God. It is said we become what we worship and it easy to see that many are kneeling at the altar of fame, status, position, or mammon instead of drinking deep of the wellspring of true life. No man can serve two Masters. Either He will hate one or love the other.
God is good! It is not a description but rather who He is in His essence. James reminds us that, “every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord, who does not change like the shifting shadows.” He is the true source of all goodness. Ever since creation He has been speaking or breathing out His “goodness” shaping, forming and molding us into the pinnacle of His creation. Serving as the Divine architect, He formed and fashioned us into His own “likeness” to be exact representations of Himself. He then placed us to rule and reign as His ambassadors of goodness to all Creation.
It is time we leave behind the lesser things or as the Hebrews writer says “weights” and instead run with perseverance the race marked out for us. His goodness is alive and longs to be displayed or unleashed in us. In a world filled with so much pain, suffering and disillusionment, Creation is crying out for a fresh awakening to the true goodness or fullness of the Lord. The invitation remains, how will you respond?
It never ceases to amaze me how the creator of the heavens and earth reveals himself if you take the time to observe just how fortunate we are to serve a God that truly demonstrates his loving-kindness to us every day and today was certainly no different. With that said, sometimes its difficult to see God when the alarm calls for an early morning rise to beat the traffic to get to our daily jobs. Or, in our case, to divide and conquer by having the girls and Marty stay behind at Love and Hope Children’s Home to paint bunk beds and help clean the house while the rest of the men returned to the Medina’s house. With muscle and determination we relocated a stack of over 700 cinder blocks that was delivered this morning and then finished digging 'The Trench'. The Trench was a retaining wall foundation ditch about 20' long, by 2' wide by 5.5' deep...that we dominated with a pick axe and shovel.
Today was the third day of construction at the Medina house. It was a day of getting to know the local builders and some of the Medina family a bit more as each of us shared what are professions are. It was awesome being able to get to a more personal level than the previous days with a lot of laughs, smiles, pictures and hugs along the way. After lunch today we ventured to the local hardware store in Nejapa to buy the supplies to build wooden ramps to make the Medina house a little more wheelchair accessible. The wheelchair is truly a blessing as Rina has not had much time to interact with people outside of her bed for the 20 years she has graced this earth with her presence! Once again, we were reminded of the comforts we have in the USA to be able to run to a Home Depot where supplies are endless.
That night our ladies made a delicious dinner for us and everybody at Love & Hope and Rich graced the kids with one of their favorite desserts...tres leches. We continued building our relationships with the kids through conversations, futbol and games, followed by devotional on the Fruit of the Spirit - Kindness. We learned that being kind means leveraging one’s strength on behalf of another. When we’re kind, we put our strength, abilities, and resources on loan to someone who lacks them ultimately making kindness serve as love’s response to weakness. We can only imagine that if Rina could speak to us, she would say that our team has been immeasurably kind to her in her weakness. Like patience, kindness is a decision that we can make at a moments notice and the consequences of kindness are incalculable. This fruit of the spirit can ripple out to touch the lives of those far removed from the original act…like all of the people we've come to know here in El Salvador... the children of Love and Hope, the security guards protecting our guest house and people in the nearby park, the local grocery store clerk, the Medina family and their friends, the local contractors and on and on.
God’s mercy is His kind response towards us, and may we continue serving Him every day of our lives and the rest of our trip. May God’s glory shine around us and all those who so graciously gave out of the kindness of their hearts to support us on this trip.
It’s hard to put into words what this experience in El Salvador has been like so far, but one thing is for sure….God is good and has shown up in BIG ways! To see and experience the work He is doing through Love & Hope, the Hibbs family, the Medina family and the entire city is amazing. It’s humbling that the Lord chose me to be a small part of His plan here, but I’m so glad He did.
Today we spent another day in Nejapa. As I walk into the Medina home, I’m instantly overwhelmed with a sense of love. The way that the family loves Jesus and others is so evident! Compared to us, the Medina family has very little. They already have 5 people living in a small home and to take in Rina is not only an act of selflessness, but a testament to God’s faithfulness and their obedience. We got to hear part of the Medina’s story and their decision to care for Rina’s as one of their own. When initially asked about caring for Rina, their response was simple: we have a home, we can make space and we can love her…why not? They knew it wouldn’t be easy and it would be a cross to carry, but they were willing and able. It made me think about how often we oversimplify things. When God presents an opportunity we may talk it over with family and friends, pray on it for weeks, make a pro/con list, etc. But, what if we responded in a way like the Medina’s…more of a why not versus why? What a bold way of living that would be!
The boys had another hard day of work, laying down more cinder blocks and digging out a drench to finish off the foundation. I took a break from the construction and joined the girls to finish painting the rooms in the Hibbs house. Brittany shared with us how she let the boys pick out the paint color for their room. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but they were so excited and asked if they could look online to get ideas. For them, getting to select a paint color was a sense of empowerment. They’ve never lived in a home where they could be part of making something their own. Those are the little things I take for granted and I love when God opens my eyes to that.
Today’s fruit of the spirit is patience and it’s a fitting one, as we’re half way through the trip. So far all of us have been stretched out of our comfort zone, been in situations where there was uncertainty and have worked side by side with a team of 9 different personalities. There have been plenty of times where showing impatience would be very easy. But, the Lord sweetly reminds us what it looks like to “have great endurance and patience, and joyfully give thanks to the Father” in Colossians 1:11-12. Our team had a chance to gather and share with each other what those impatient moments look like for us. We also focused on what it looks like to be patient with God in the big things as well. When we are waiting for the Lord to come through…rather it’s a decision regarding a job, a move, a relationship, etc. How can we discern what God’s timing is versus our own? I love how 2 Peter 3:8-9 states it: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anymore to perish, but everyone t o come to repentance.” What a great promise, to know that the Lord is not slow in keeping His promise. The problem is when we try to get in the way of that, we miss experiencing God’s full plan and His glory that can come of it. One of my favorite quotes by Paul Tripp says it so well “God’s grace invites you to be part of something that is far greater than your boldest and most expansive dream. His grace cuts a hole in your self-built prison and invites you to step into something so huge, so significant that only one word in the bible can adequately capture it. That word is glory.” Let me desire the greater plan!
I can’t wait to see how God continues to show up in these remaining days in El Salvador. Thank you for your prayers and being part of this journey with us!
I'm not sure really where to start with the numerous ways that God showed up in our day today? We believe that He is in ALL THINGS...and today, me and my team got to experience just how real that truth can be when you lean into Him and into the callings He puts on our lives.
After breakfast this morning, our team loaded into the van to make our way to the town of Nejapa which is where we're working on our construction project this trip. Nejapa is a small town located just a bit north of San Salvador and it is where Rachel first planted Love & Hope Children's Home in 2003 and it remained there until 2010. It's also where Bobby & Britney Hibbs and the Medina family live. The Hibbs' pastor a small church gathering in their home and also lead the Love & Hope Youth Ministry. They've been helping provide care for Rina for several years and are the catalyst to getting her into the care of the Medina family. The Medina's have the home that is receiving the additional room that is being built. Through the generosity of over 150 people, our team was able to raise the funds to hire a local contractor and his team to build this addition as well as support Rina. Our team gets to serve alongside of them for several days and help expedite the building process. Rina gets the privilege of living in safe, family environment where she'll receive the much needed care and, most importantly, the love that we all believe will help her flourish.
The Fruit of the Spirit that I had drawn back in August as we began planning this trip was "PEACE". I love this gift that we get to receive from God! It's one of those things in life that so many of us desire, but yet why is it that so many of us make daily decisions that can rob us of that peace we want so bad? This all hits home for me as I have had several personal experiences happen in my life since I decided to follow Jesus that should have robbed me of my peace. But it never happened because in the midst the stormy seas that arose, I knew that my anchor was secure in Christ. Had it not been secure or not strong enough, I could have drifted into un-peaceful times in my life. Yet more recently I did experience a drift and it definitely disrupted my own personal peace. But as soon as I grabbed ahold of the rope to begin the process of reinforcing and resetting my anchor, I began making the better decisions I needed to make to get back closer to God and into that place of peace that surpasses all understanding.
Today, as we arrived at the Medina's house, I got to meet Rina for the first time. She's 20 years old and weighs only 37 pounds. Severely disabled, non-verbal and it's been in question on whether or not she's aware of what is going on around her. It's heartbreaking to see with your own eyes and even more when I know the backstory of the neglect over the years. Living in our country where we have access to the best doctors and hospitals specifically designed to care for young children who are born with developmental deficiencies, we can tend to take it all for granted. Being a person who hasn't had to deal much with anything like this in my own life, I take it for granted even more. But truth be told, it's sad to hear that El Salvador doesn't have much to offer children who are born this way and many end up suffering the same plight of Rina unless they are born into a wealthy family.
As the day progressed our team jumped into working with the contractors. Some of us mixed and poured concrete, some laid cinder block, a few knocked down an old wall and, chopped down a tree that needed to be removed and started digging a trench for more foundation. A few of the girls went to the Hibbs' home to paint a few rooms. All in all it was hot and sweaty and dirty work day. But the most memorable experience that I took in from the day was the overwhelming sense of Love, Joy and Peace that filled the entire place. Funny how those are the first three Fruits of the Spirit. Coincidence? I think not as I have two words for you..."ALL THINGS!"
You see, we're here in El Salvador on a mission trip to serve this young woman in need and to help the people who have been called to help provide a better life for her. It's not about us, its about what God is able to do through us all. It's His kingdom, we're His sons and daughters and when He wants to show off and get His Glory, God does just that. Today we got to see a glimpse of that Glory as Rina got to lay in her new bed for the first time and feel the touch of the loving, caring hands on her hands. We saw His Glory in her as she smiled and waved her arms around at the sounds of the music we were playing...something that Rachel said she'd never seen before. And then we got to see and feel God's Glory in our own hearts and souls as Rina was placed in the new wheelchair that our team brought down for her...the smiles and non-verbal sounds that she shared with everybody in the room was, no doubt, a sign that she was aware of what was going on around her. God's spirit filled that entire home today, and He filled every person's heart with His Love, His Joy and His Peace...even Rina's. He most definitely is in All Things and we can't wait to get back there tomorrow to experience more of Him.
Peace Be with You!
Today was awesome! I cannot thank the Lord enough for the love and strength he has given this team in San Salvador. We started our day with a time of devotion about the second fruit of the spirit: JOY. The Lord’s joy can manifest itself in many ways but in this particular case I focused on the joy of God’s presence. God is in our hearts at all times. Psalm 16:11 says “You fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” We talked about how we have to find the joy in all situations God puts in front of us. Each one of us has had a particular time in our lives recently where we have felt beaten. We have had times in our lives where we have been challenged. We talked about looking back over Psalm 16:11 and reminding ourselves that God has put that challenge in front of us and we must find the joy in it.
I also pointed out Matthew 28:8 and Luke 24:41 “The woman who went to Jesus’ tomb and the disciples were overjoyed that he rose from the dead.” We discussed how the words “death” and “die” are associated with negative connotations. However, that’s not what God intended for us. Here we have the death of our savior, our Lord Jesus but his disciples were overjoyed! By giving our life to Christ we have let our old life die and are reborn with the joy and love of God inside us!
Next we went to La Union Church for Sunday service lead by Pastor Gary Powell. What a great service. I was so moved when he spoke about being merciful. That God makes it our duty to glorify him by being merciful to our enemies. Too many of us, feeling that mercy involves some way of feeling sorry for someone but Gary pointed out that real mercy involves forgiving our enemies and helping them…very powerful and emotional stuff to think and pray about. I found myself holding back tears as Gary told the story of he was able to show mercy to a man who hit had his daughter with his car. She was crossing the street and was hit, dragged, and put in the hospital with a severe head injury. When the police brought the man to Gary, instead of condemning him and charging him for negligence, he forgave him! Wow! He helped this man and prayed with him instead of putting him in jail. What an unbelievable act of mercy by someone with the spirit of God in his heart.
Next we went to Multi-Plex, a large shopping mall in San Salvador which was very American. We had lunch in the food court as a team and then headed on our own to experience the mall for ourselves. Not much different from any other mall trip but a good time nonetheless. We also stopped by the local artists market for some trinket and gift shopping. We finished up the day with a taco dinner at Love & Hope with the kids. The kids wanted to see me eat one of their hot peppers from the garden, I’ve developed somewhat of a reputation as the guy who can eat very hot peppers, so they brought one to my table. It was funny to see them all huddled around me watching so I ate it and watched the excitement leave their faces when it wasn’t hot enough for me.
We ended the night back at the house and sang along to Marty rockin’ the guitar. What a truly amazing experience this has been. Each one of us has something unique to share and each one of us has an experience they felt and I just thank God that he has put me here to hear it. I’m so humbled His presence is with us and I just look forward to Him continuing to speak to me and fill my heart with love and challenges.
In His Joy!
Today was an amazing day! In the morning we headed to Love & Hope to make sandwiches (ham & cheese!) and pack bags of rice & beans which we then took to an impoverished local community (barrio) in San Salvador to hand out. When we got there, we walked throughout the community greeting the people and giving out the rice & beans. They were all really happy and thankful to receive these gifts and had such warm smiles for us. Seeing the way the people in the barrio live in such meager means, my heart goes out to them as I just wish life were easier for them and I realize how blessed I am to have all of the comforts that I so easily take for granted. I saw several pregnant women out in the heat and I know they don’t have air conditioning in their homes and probably can’t afford the best (if any) medical care, but at the same time, they are such a close-knit community and really love and look out for one another. They were very welcoming to us. Many of the kids asked for rice & beans for their friends and neighbors, making sure that everyone was taken care of. After we passed out all of the rice & beans, we invited all of the community kids to join us at a nearby park for some activities. At the park we played soccer with the kids, jumped rope, and made bracelets. We all had a great time and got some exercise chasing the kids around the soccer field. They are so full of life/laughter/mischief and love to have fun. After playing awhile we handed out the juice, snack packs, and sandwiches to our hungry and grateful new friends and said our good-byes, heading next to the local Volcano park. We had lunch up on the mountain overlooking San Salvador. We hiked up from there to viewing points where we could see the crater and the steep canyon that were formed when the volcano last erupted. It was a beautiful view from up along the ridge and when we got to the top we got to see a few (so adorable!) kids dancing and singing a song about the volcano. We were all thankful for the opportunity to take in this breath-taking sight. In the evening we had dinner with the kids back at Love & Hope and then went to the park next door to play soccer. Team “El Salvador” which was mostly the kids beat our (mostly adult) mission team “USA” pretty easily, but we all had a great time and we are looking forward to a rematch!
We closed the night out with a time of devotion about the first fruit of the spirit: Love. We talked about how the Hebrew root of the word “love” means “to give” or “I give” and how when we love others by unselfishly giving of ourselves out of concern for others we exhibit the same mind-set as Christ and fulfill God’s command to love others as he loves us. 1 John 4:16 - And so we know and rely on the Love God has for us. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. John 13:34-35 - A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
I am so happy to be here, with this great team, serving and loving these amazing and humble people. Many strong connections have already been formed among our team and with the kids & staff of Love & Hope. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week has in store as we continue this journey together.
To Him be the Glory.
I want you to close your eyes for a moment...take a deep breath...clear your head... and then think of a time when got on a plane and took a trip to see family or friends whom you hadn't seen in a while.
Think about the feelings of excitement you had as you were walking off the plane, grabbing your bags and getting ready to walk into their presence again.
Do you remember the feelings of Love, Joy and Acceptance?
Do you remember the physical feelings of the hugs and the smiles?
How about the feeling of just simply knowing that you are welcome into the arms of those you were going to visit?
I felt that today as we arrived into San Salvador...and then some. My heart was jumping as we landed and our team walked off the plane and up the familiar jetway that I've walked through three years in a row now and a second time leading a team of friends on a mission trip to this place. Then knowing that in just a short while we'd be getting our passports stamped into El Salvador, grabbing our luggage and then walking out the doors into the mass throngs of people waiting to greet their friends and loved ones.
And then that feeling just filled me up. Seeing Rachel and Justin, the familiar smiles on their faces, being welcomed with open arms, big embraces and a ton of love.
This is a place that grows nearer and dearer to my heart each time I come here, each time I Skype with Rachel to make plans for our trip, each time our team meets in preparation for a trip like this. Even every time my email lights up with a new notification that someone has supported this mission trip...I receive that little nudge from God...just reminding me how much He loves us and how much He's got all of this already planned out. And I can simply rest in the truth that He is in All Things!
I can't wait to see what God has in store for these next ten days. We're excited and expectant of the great things He is going to do through us and in us as we love on and serve the kids and staff of Love & Hope Children's Home.
I'm also excited for these next 9 days as we focus on the each of the Fruits of the Spirit as written in Galatians 5:22-23.
When our final team member had committed to the trip, that gave us 9 team members. So I Googled the the biblical significance of the number 9. I found that it pertains to "completeness" and "finality". It also pointed out that there are 9 Fruits of the Spirit. So God impressed upon my heart to assign one Fruit to each of our nine team members and that we would all begin praying for God to show us how to share that fruit in our lives and how to receive it in our lives as well.
So for each of the nine days in El Salvador, we'll be opening each day with a devotional that each team member has prepared in accordance to the Fruit of the Spirit they've been assigned and then being expectant of how God shows us that Fruit throughout or day!
Humbled, Expectant & Grateful!
As I sit here trying to think of what to write as a final journal entry our first ever MISSION 5IVE.14 team trip, I can't help myself from simply singing a Song of Praise to God for every ounce of every single detail that went into and came out of this adventure.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have come up with the stories and the experiences our that our team shared together. It literally gives me goosebumps as I sit back and recall it all. Then to see the thread of God's Love, Faithfulness and Grace intertwined throughout everything we saw, heard, did, said and received is nothing short of amazing!
Psalm 145 - A Psalm of Praise of David
I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will praise you and extol Your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.
One generation will commend Your works to another; they will tell of Your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and I will meditate on Your wonderful works.
They will tell the power of Your awesome works, and I will proclaim Your great deeds.
They will celebrate Your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.
All You have made will praise You; O Lord; Your saints will extol You.
They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your might.
So that all men may know of Your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of Your Kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is faithful to all His Promises and loving toward all He has made.
The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He has made.
The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.
My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise His Holy name forever and ever.
Thank you Jesus for blessing us with immeasurably more that we could have ever dreamed of on this adventure. Thank you for this abundant life. Without you we are nothing and I can honestly say, "It is well. It is well. It is well with my soul."
In His Love & Grace,
If you followed our mission trip journal, you know that each of our team members took a day to document our experiences. I was scheduled to blog on Thanksgiving Day.
This day turned out to be one of the hardest days of my life. I got a call from my stepmom that my dad passed away unexpectedly that morning. At that moment, far away from Atlanta, the people on my team stepped in to be the love of Christ that I needed at that moment. The God that we had shared with the people of El Salvador was the same God to whom I cried out. I was broken-hearted. I felt guilty that I was away when it happened. I was not sure what to do next....
Thank goodness..."The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." - Psalm 34:18
I made the decision to come home a few days early so I could go be with my family. On the flight home, I realized that I had something in common with the people I had met in El Salvador. Whether they were children without a home, fatherless, neglected, job less, not sure what tomorrow held - God loves us just the same and He sees each tear that falls from our eyes. I don't know their stories, but I do know that we have the same God. We live in a fallen world and things will happen in our lives. It is a fact. When we start to see each other as "beloved" then we understand that we need each other. We need to share God's love with each other, even when don't speak the same language.
We need to serve each other. We need to live each day as a gift. God brought me to El Salvador to show me His love. He knew exactly what was going to happen to my dad. He wanted me to go and serve and see how His love expands to his beloved people. He wanted me to know that even when I feel like my heart is broken, He is the ultimate heart healer and life giver. He speaks the same truths to my new family in El Salvador.
Our trip was so rich. Each day was a glimpse of God's faithfulness. We hiked, we built, we sang, we ate, we laughed, we served, we prayed, we loved, we were uncomfortable, and we were humbled. I believe this is the perfect picture of the body of Christ.
Thank you for your support and prayers for what is the beginning of something big going on down at Love & Hope Children's Home and in the country of El Salvador.
- Beth Cheatham
Today is our last full day here and it has been an amazing week of Thanksgiving in the lovely nation of El Salvador. We were blessed with another gorgeous day and got to spend it at the beach with all the kids playing in the surf and having some dizzy lizzy races for some prizes. We also got to take this awesome group photo with everybody!
Shortly before they were about to head out, we had the opportunity to bless Rachel, and Love & Hope, by presenting them with donation check of $8000!! It was so cool to see the expression of surprise and excitement on her face! Our budget had them expectant of around $2,000 but due to the generosity of so many people, God blessed them in true Ephesians 3:20 style with...Immeasurably More than we could ever imagine!
It was then time to say our good-byes to all of the kids. This was by far the hardest thing that I had to do the entire week. The relationships we built with them will last forever and we’ll definitely continue to pray for them every day.
Once the kids were gone, our team headed down to the beach for one last amazing sunset. It was great to take in the magical sunset and decompress all that God had done in us and through us this week.
When you go on mission trips to places in need, you experience a much needed perspective change. God gives us a new way to experience the world and we begin to see it through a different set of lenses. In a world full of hardships, sadness, disappointments, poverty, and brokenness, we need the life changing lenses God has to offer. We often have the mindset that we are going to “help” other people in the world, when in reality our work really ends up “helping” us. There is a lesson to be learned from the simplicity of the lives that they live and the strength of their relationships. The people we met were very relational, caring, grateful, family centered, and live a “What can I do for you?” lifestyle. In contrast, we live in a prideful, ego driven, self-centered, and a “What can you do for me” type of culture. The people of El Salvador may not have much from a material perspective by USA standards, but there is a joy inside of them that is unlike anything I have ever seen. There is a definitely a lesson to be learned from that as well.
Our lives will never be the same and we are so grateful for the opportunity to serve in El Salvador. We are so lucky to have a God that invites us in to play a part in His eternal story. One of the great lessons we learned can be found in 2 Corinthians 4:18, which reads, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but, what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” I am so glad that God impressed this important thought on our hearts before we were even there. It would be easy to focus on the physical work that we did on this trip to determine the amount of impact that we had. The problem, however, is that when we focus on the things that are “seen” (or temporary) we miss experiencing God’s eternal work in the “unseen.” Nothing will ever take away the eternal impact our team has made from the relationships we built. Even the simple smiles that were exchanged with everyone we came in contact will go so much further in light of eternity than any physical work that could have been done while we were there. I have heard the saying “A picture is worth a 1000 words,” but I after this trip I am confident that a smile is worth a million words.
Until next time El Salvador!
What an amazing and eventful day! On Friday morning we enjoyed a time of worship and then discussed what it means to have hope, strength, and joy in a broken world. How could it be that the people we’ve encountered in El Salvador are so happy and friendly? By having very little in a material sense, the people here have found wealth in family, faith, and simplicity of life. God allowed us to experience firsthand that socio-economic status has no bearing on the condition of our hearts. We can recognize that true joy may be found in maintaining humility, gratitude, and hope in Christ!
After breakfast, we enjoyed another scenic ride from the Santa Tecla area of San Salvador to our beautiful beach house in an area called Costa Azul. This country is just covered with volcanoes and ridiculous vistas!
After getting settled into “Rancho Marvioli” (the name of our beach house) we were treated to an amazing lunch prepared by our housekeeper and cook, Chaba and her daughters. She served up fresh caught, fried, whole fish with rice, & a tomato/cucumber salad. It was awesome!
Next we decorated the outdoor cabana for a graduation party for our new friend, Jocelyn who will be Love & Hope’s first to graduate from high school next weekend…a special accomplishment for sure! All of the kids, Rachel and some of the staff of L&H arrived a short while later for our planned graduation party with all the fixin’s - all of the kids in tents, hamburgers and hotdogs, bon-fires, music, and lots of laughing! I’m thoroughly enjoying my interactions with these awesome kids, and seeing the warm connections that the rest of the team is making with them.
So after being trapped in an elevator on day 1, and 3 days on a construction worksite without any injuries or setbacks, we were feeling pretty confident and available to the good works God would yet accomplish through us. By mid-afternoon, most of us were out on the beach and having a blast out in the waves without a worry in the world, yet we were completely unsuspecting of the powerful undercurrent that caught us by surprise. We all experienced the scare of a lifetime as David, Melissa, and Brandon struggled to get back to the shore. Quick actions taken by Doc, Brett, Ryan, Scott and others, along with many frantic prayers, brought relief as the waves miraculously stopped for several minutes. There was a moment when I could no longer see David, my buddy of 27 years, in the water from the beach as I was retrieving a piece of drift wood to run down to him. Through heroics and the grace of God, everyone made it safely back to shore. What a scare for all of us! Following such fearful incidents, we are only affirmed in our faith and reminded that God is in total control, and we can trust Him! Then, just a few short hours later, we had the pleasure of witnessing perhaps one of the most beautiful sunsets any of us had ever seen. Contrasting the powerful undercurrent and the tranquility of the ocean at sunset, I’m reminded of how much I’m in need of God as my anchor, my guide, and my hope in this life, and that I can praise Him for His amazing works all the while.
Once we finished our dinner and celebratory cake and singing to Jocelyn, we headed back to the beach to continue the celebration with a bonfire, roasting marshmallows and a game of "Red Rover" under the stars with the kids. Between all the cards games, pool time, and the beach, all of the kids (our team included) have had a blast. We’re all really enjoying serving and loving on some really awesome kids! God is so good!
- Ward Johns
1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 states, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, GIVE THANKS in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
I read that verse in a devotional when I woke up this morning. I immediately felt so much gratitude for so many things. But what stood out to me most on this day was the thankfulness, first to God for giving me a new life through my faith in Jesus and abundantly more than I could ever ask for in my life. Second was for my family, close friends, the nine others on this trip with me, and for everybody we've spent time with here in El Salvador. Simply put, this trip has been nothing short of amazing and we' still have two more days to go!
We took this morning to spend time with the kids of a nearby impoverished community whom Love & Hope supports and visits frequently. After a soccer shootout with the boys and some serious jump rope exhibitions by the girls, we prayed with the 75 kids and then gave them sandwiches we'd made, along with chips and juice boxes. Next we got to walk through the small community and handed out bags of rice to all the adults. It was a really special time as this entire community just permeated a sense of gratitude via the smiles on all the faces as well as the numerous bible verses painted on the walls all over the place. Enjoy these images below! I'm so thankful that we got to spend time here...I wish we could have stayed all day.
Spending time in this community made me realize, so much more, how grateful I am for the over abundance that I'm given. I was certainly served up a big ole plate of PERSPECTIVE today...and it was good...so so good!
Our Thanksgiving Day was not without our own delicious turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn and green beans. All prepared by Rachel, Mandy, Justin and the kids and staff at Love & Hope. We were so blessed to sit around in a circle and hear what all the kids and everybody else, including us, were most thankful for. I shared that I was so thankful that God and allowed me to connect with Love & Hope last December on a trip down here...without that divine connection our team would not have been here this week...called to do what we came here to do...and that was to love and serve others through the love and grace of the Name above all names...our savior Jesus Christ.
We're off to La Playa Costa Azul tomorrow for some fun in the sun, surf and sand with 20 kids! I can't possibly feel any more grateful than I do right now. I'll be falling asleep with a smile on my face for sure!
- Brett Gorney
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but, fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
- Ephesians 2:19-20
Amazement and Grace are the only words that I can use to describe the last few days spent here in the mountains working diligently on the house for Kevin and his family. Pictures will tell a story, but our time here has revealed that the Lord is good and each of us now has a place we ourselves will call home here in El Salvador. Just as the verse above states, we are now fellow citizens united with the heart of Jesus and what He is accomplishing through the lives of these incredible people. They truly are some of the most humble and loving that I have ever met and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to come and see His light shine so brightly here.
We spent the better part of today putting the finishing touches on our portion of the surrounding structure of the home. Cinder-Block walls stacked on top of each other rising to the sky allowed us to complete each layer by being able to really see the whole project for what it is- a home for a family that will be a light for their community and every person they welcome into it moving forward.
The work will be completed in the next few weeks and we are each excited to see the finished project, but will never forget this chance to come to an unfamiliar place and leave it knowing that we are now united with our God family here in Christ Jesus.
Prayer: “Lord, thank You for these people and this place- they both are Beautiful and full of Your presence. Please continue to bless the work of Your servants here at Love & Hope and throughout El Salvador as they continue to open their doors and welcome foreigners in as family. Amen.”
- Doc Holliday
Day 5, our second full day in Berlin and on the work site, began with another outstanding traditional Salvadoran breakfast – scrambled eggs, refried beans (think fresh), caramelized plantains, bread, cheese and local coffee. Today we were able to work it out to use a more direct route to get to the work site, which involves most of us piling into the back of a 4x4 pickup and ten minutes of steep hills, tight turns and bumps with the occasional low-hanging branch to the face if you don’t stay alert. Best work commute I’ve had in a while. Ha!
This trip has been fantastic so far on so many levels. There are so many things to be thankful for and I want to stay in the spirit of this Thanksgiving week. I’m sure you’ve read of many of those in previous posts, so I will give you a small sample of a LONG list:
So, yesterday we were able to (eventually) come up with a system for laying blocks (to build the walls) that allowed most of us to be involved, and seemed to maximize our efficiency. Additionally, it allowed us to honor the detail-oriented nature of Nelson, the local contractor directing the work, to preserve the integrity of his work. Today, although a little more physically demanding due to less cloud cover (= HOT), was another very successful day. We were able to stick with the system we developed and continue to make very good progress towards completing the walls of Kevin’s new home. On a personal note, I call any day that you unintentionally wear flip flops (don’t ask) to a construction site and return home with both feet intact and undamaged a success…
It is easy to come in and want to accomplish many things (with great intentions, of course). It can also be easy to sacrifice quality for quantity. However, we are called to do our best work at all times, as we represent Christ in all we do. The beauty in the work solution we found on our first day of construction lies in 1) finding a way to be efficient AND produce quality work, 2) trusting that our best work is sufficient for Him, regardless of how we judge the measure of its quantity and 3) the peace we receive in knowing that He is glorified in our best efforts and His plans will be accomplished. That we are allowed (even invited) to be a part of His plans is such an astounding and humbling concept. This speaks to me on a personal level as I often try to balance my own detail-oriented nature with the normal demands for productivity that are placed on us by society (and in particular, work). I hope we can all realize and remember that He is always at work in and around us, and that He wants us to join Him in all that we do – to the best of our ability – in full confidence that He will use it to bring Himself glory, our ultimate purpose.
Blessed, thankful and eager for the next page…
Day 4 in El Salvador found us waking up to the cool air of mountain life, in the little city of Berlin. This place is beyond beautiful. To say that it perfectly demonstrates God’s Glory is an absolute understatement. There is such splendor in the way of vegetation, fresh air, and natural beauty all around us. Nearly the entire mountainside has some sort of crop growing – coffee, bananas, corn – and the slope on which these items are planted is dizzying. I can’t imagine how these “farms” are tended to – yet you know they are managed just the same. Our hostel, as maybe could be expected, is filled with a variety of artifacts & antiques…as well as plants, flowers, and even a lime tree. We certainly don’t want for much here. The surrounding area, though, is a site to behold. Mixed in with the natural beauty – there is extreme poverty - not everyone – but it’s hard not to notice the living conditions that are a normal part of life for so many – and I just wonder what becomes waste, from excess, in my own life.
Our day began with breakfast here at the hostel, before heading out to the build site. Having a driver to taxi us around gives us a chance to take in all of the landscape; so as we worked our way down, around, and back up the mountain, the video and still cameras were firing away. It’s kind of crazy how different the pace of life flows out here. We encountered lots of people walking, chickens, cows, and horses…to go along with the CRAZY number of wild dogs that abound in this area. The terrain varies from paved, to barely traversable. The air is some of the freshest I’ve ever breathed in my life…when it isn’t mixed with smoke from someone’s fire…which we seem to encounter somewhat frequently. There were one or two times we had to get out of the van in order to keep moving…and those were some of the best parts of our morning journey, as we got to hike up the road and see the terrain up close. As someone who admittedly LOVES coffee, I had never seen a coffee plant up close… so that, in particular, was a treat for me.
Upon getting to the work site, we met up with our contractor for the build – Nelson – and his two helpers – Christian & Juan Alberto. We didn’t take long to drop our belongings, and dive right into working. They had already built a retaining wall, and started the first few rows of cinder block. We started with digging holes, mixing concrete/mortar, and helping to move materials around. As can be expected, the work itself tended to take a back seat to connecting and building relationships. Aside from connecting with Nelson, Christian, and Juan Alberto, we had opportunity to meet the neighbors who live immediately adjacent to the home we’re building… and then, we finally got to meet the actual people for whom this project was created– Kevin and his sister, Lilly. They looked to be beside themselves. Kevin’s smile out shined the sun.
Seeing their joy brought me joy – and I had a thought: This. Doesn’t. Just. Happen.
What does it take for 10 people from major American, metropolitan cities, to raise money for the purpose of traveling to a Central American country they haven’t seen– to build a house for a family they don’t know?
It takes Jesus.
He has changed the life of each person on this trip…and He has called us to something greater than ourselves. We are exceptionally grateful to be a part of this trip. As for myself, even though I’m missing a wedding, Thanksgiving with Family, and the birthday of one very special girl – His calling has been most fulfilling. I pray it’s something that I’m allowed to continue to do – to serve Our Father in the way that He sees fit, according to His Will.
Your support to this point – however it manifested itself - is priceless. We start another day tomorrow, God willing, submitted to, and aligned with His Plan. Please continue to keep us in your prayers… they’re working!
Love & Blessings y’all,
We are three days in, and each day I wake up with more gratitude than the last. It is so beautiful to see God work through each team member spreading His love throughout this trip. Connecting with everyone, especially the children, has been such a blessing!
Today, we started the day attending La Union Church, the local English Speaking church where Love & Hope attends weekly. The church was small and very family oriented; we were welcomed as soon as we walked in the door. I looked around to see how God could use me and I saw a little boy grab a Children’s Bible off the counter and bring it over to his father. I was familiar with that specific Children’s Bible, so I walked over to Michael and his father Abraham and introduced myself, and asked Michael if I could read the Bible to him. His father excitedly grabbed me a chair to read. Just to see that boy smile as I read him the word made my day.
The message at church discussed the importance of having an attitude of gratitude. Being thankful is how you live your day, because you recognize where you came from. It just reminded me of how much I have been thanking the Lord for being chosen to be part of this mission trip, and what zeal that brings! I thought how important having an attitude of gratitude is while being on this trip, especially with the children. The children need as much love and happiness they can be around, and that is something that can’t be forced it is something that comes from within.
After Church the group headed out to the local mall where we had lunch. I ate lunch with one of the teens, Raquel, and we shared a few laughs while playing a few jokes on others. She reminded me of what it was like to be her age, finding enjoyment in just the smallest things.
The team said our temporary goodbyes to the children at Love & Hope and headed off to Berlin to Hostal La Casa Mia where we will be staying for the next three days while we are building the home for Kevin and his family. The ride to Berlin was about two and half hours, and I admired the scenery the entire time. It was amazing to see how the people live here, and although very poor, how could you not see God’s beauty in all of it. The Hostel is very beautiful- it’s like walking into a 1940’s time warp, which is so me! I could live at this Hostel! We had a chance to walk around, and experience the local eateries in the town square. I am looking forward to the start of our build tomorrow! 6:30am is an early start so I’m off to bed! Adios!
- Melissa Ciancia
Today was our first full day in the capital of San Salvador and we spent the majority of the day immersing ourselves in the culture and focusing on our purpose and connection with the people of El Salvador. We started the day with breakfast and a time of sharing to reflect what it means to be “radical” for God by staying focused on what is in front of us, being present and not looking back.
Our first stop of the day was to the El Salvador Cathedral in the heart of downtown to reflect on the heritage of the people and pay our respects to Archbishop Oscar Romero, the man most famous in El Salvador for the love of those that he fought for that are less fortunate in this county. He served only three years as the
Archbishop of El Salvador but was unfortunately assassinated in 1980 while serving the Catholic mass which was the spark that started the civil war. His legacy will live forever in the hearts of the people here for the love he demonstrated to the common person. It just goes to show that it is not about how long one serves in a community, but the impact and lasting effects that is delivered and felt by those in the local community. Our next stop of the day took us to Iglesia El Rosario to observe the artistic rendition of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection and the overall beauty of the architecture of the church.
We then made the trek up the steep mountain terrain of El Boqueron, one of the many volcanoes scattered throughout the El Salvadorian mountains. We took in the awe inspiring views that helps shape the landscape of this beautiful country. God must have known that we needed some extra exercise, because along the way we had to walk off the papusas from Friday night on two different occasions to complete our climb due to too much weight in our minivan. However, this gave us the opportunity to interact with people along the way and take things in on a more personal level.
Next we stopped by the local Wal-Mart…yep, they have one those here along with many of the usual fast food suspects that you would expect to see the in US… to pick up food and supplies for our house building excursion which starts by driving to the site tomorrow afternoon. Before that could happen though, we had to be tested. Along with a family of three, which had a young boy about four years old and pregnant mother, we got stuck in the elevator between the parking garage and store for about thirty minutes. Needless too say, we passed that bump in the road with flying colors, made some new friends along the way and of course captured some hilarious memories as well.
We then traveled back to Love and Hope Children’s Home, albeit a little late from our extended grocery shopping experience, and ate the tacos that the children and staff prepared for us and then we all went to the local park to play the game Tantarro. This game is known to many in the US as “kick-the-can” except for down here you play the game with a soccer (futbol) ball…imagine that! That was actually just what the doctor ordered for us, as it helped us to connect further with the all the children and helped us to run off our meal before bedtime. However, I’m still attempting to figure our how the “alto gringo” was volunteered to be “Tantarro” for the second half of the game…I’m sure that must have been a God thing! Nonetheless, we are very excited about what God has in store for us tomorrow as we’ll attend La Union Church with the kids and afterwards, travel to Usulutan where we’ll be helping build the home for Kevin and his family. To God be the Glory!
- Rodney Zehner
El Salvador - Nov 2016