“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,
El Salvador - Nov 2016