Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Day to Remember

The team often doesn't write about their last day, because they are usually getting everything racked to head home the next day. However, I thought you all make get like to see a few pictures!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Carlitos


2-18-17
Shelby Sokolik 

Today was a very successful day! We left the mission house at 7am and drove to Ahuachap├ín, a village about an hour and a half from the mission house, also the village where we built the house on Friday. We arrived in an open field in the middle of the community. The team set up different stations for the children. They were filled with tattoos and stickers for the kids, we handed out popcorn and snow cones, we even had bouncy houses for all the kids to enjoy, and believe me, they did!! Throughout the day I walked around the field watching all the kids, I didn't have a specific job. My only job was to watch Carlitos, he lived next to the family we built the house for. He was the youngest of four boys. All of the brothers were at the festival, but their parents were not. The older brothers wanted to play soccer with the other kids but they had to watch Carlo. They asked me to watch him and of course I said yes. I had spent quite some time with Carlitos the previous day, so they trusted me with him. We sat by a tree watching his brothers and eating snow cones. He eventually fell asleep in my arms. At 1pm our team left to go and dedicate the home to the family receiving it. They were extremely gracious for our work and were so so excited to make it their new home. Just after the ceremony
Carlitos came to me and gave me a hug, at this time we had to pack our things and head back. I gave Carlitos one last hug and he whispered to me "Te amo" this means "I love you" in Spanish. Those were the first and only words Carlitos had spoken to anyone in the two days we were in his village. I've never felt anything like that before, it was the most heart warming experience in my life, thus far. I already miss my little angel and his brothers but I know I will see them again soon. This trip has been such a blessing to me and my team. We are so so grateful for this opportunity!! 


Friday, February 17, 2017

Lives Changed!




Today we had the blessing and privilege of building a home for and El Salvadorian family. The family lives in the small village of Ahuachapan. The team started the day with a wonderful breakfast prepared by Mrs. Judy at the mission house and then loaded up the busses for the hour and a half journey. The drive was beautiful seeing the El Salvador country side. When we reached the village we were introduced to the family. They were so appreciative of what we were doing for them.  The mother cried and thanked us the entire day. We first laid the foundation of the house and next the floors. After that, we put up all four walls and threw a roof on top. After some lovely painting and furniture organizing by the lady's, we had completed the house. The entire village came to watch this process and we got to play and interact with all of them. They were incredibly kind and thankful for what we had done. 

Today was something I will never forget. Building a house for a family is life changing for both parties. To the family, we provided them with four walls and a roof. However, it is much more then that. It is a home. A place to eat, sleep, and live. A new home to contain a lifetime of memories to come. A place to gather with family and friends. A place to worship the Lord. To us we were showed how blessed we truly are. We take so much for granted. Waking up every morning with a roof over your head is a true blessing. We learned that when hard work and love mix, the results can be amazing. Today we changed someone life and today our lives where changed. 

-Ethan Schaaf

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The joy you can't imagine...

                                             

Today was an experience unlike any other. I had the opportunity to see people through God's eyes and realize how great of a life I truly get to live. As soon as I woke up this morning, I knew what the day had in store for the team and I was going to be a total surprise, and we'd just have to take it on with open arms. Most of us, me included, have never shared an experience like this one in our lives, and I am beyond blessed to say that I have. 


     Our first stop for the day was a special needs facility for adults called San Martin. This experience was jammed packed full of dancing, face painting, balloon animals, laughter, and much more. Putting a single sticker on their faces or making turtle balloon bracelets would give them a smile that would last a lifetime. I was personally moved by the ones that couldn't do much but when you smiled at them they gave their biggest smile back. It meant so much to be able to make someone genuinely happy without words. 


     We also made a stop to a children's special needs orphanage called Guirola. I think I made a best friend or two here today. I met the most amazing little girl who could give you the sweetest laugh just by doing the smallest things. We would toss a ball back and forth and then she would hit me with it to make me laugh. She kept that same ball throughout the day and it would be our little thing to hit one another with it to see who could get the biggest laugh.

                                              

     That sound of true joy and laughter is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Today made me truly understand how precious this life God gave us is and how great of an experience it is to share my gifts with those who aren't able.

Today was an emotional one for me and one that will always hold a dear place in my heart.  

                               -Chanyng Floyd
                                                                                                 

Our first full day of service was 10 times better than expected. It was full of dancing, laughter, and games. I had a personal experience with a man named Luis. He had to be in his later 40's, I couldn't figure out due to the fact that he didn't say a word the entire time... He only smiled and held my hand. I will never forget how it felt to be standing in the courtyard of San Martin (adult special needs orphanage) listening to one of the younger patients pray and thank God for sending the "americanos" and that their doors are always open. Even though they thanked us and praised God, I truly believe that going to San Martin was a blessing to me.

 I was then humbled once again visiting Guirola (children special needs orphanage) when a little girl who couldn't speak, grabbed my hand and pulled me to the dance floor. She wrapped her arms around me and rocked back and forth. It was one of those moments I wish I could relive everyday. The adults and kids have been one of the biggest blessings, and I will never forget what it felt like to be wrapped up in those moments. 
- Kendall Mclean 



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Off to a Great Start!

The team was up and at the airport by 4am! They flew to Atlanta, and then on to San Salvador!! They arrived safely with 45 checked bags, 32 carry-Ons. 32 back packs, and 32 tired travelers!  When they got out of the airport, they loaded a bus and headed for the world famous States Diner! 

The diner was started to give training and a job to kids that had aged out of orphanages and could not get a job. This is part of the transition program for young people. The food is incredible, and the service even better!

When they had eaten all they could, they headed to the mission house. Their "home away from home" for the week.  They quickly unpacked and began preparing food to feed the homeless. One third can go and feed per night, so the first third went tonight, while the others got ready for some much needed rest!

Tomorrow they will hit the ground running, by visiting and having fun with both adults and children with special needs! Please keep our team in your thoughts and prayers!

Laura Roberts

Travel





Friday, October 7, 2016

If You Could See What I See

There is no better place to be than where God wants you! Today I was blessed with the peace of feeling certain that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. 

This story starts in the Chicago airport, as my son and I were flying here to El Salvador to join a team that had been here since Saturday. Our first flight  took us to Chicago where we ate breakfast at a little cafe.  He sat with our luggage while I went and stood in line to order. Suddenly, a tall, thin gentleman ran directly into me. The man had a service dog, who was leading him, I quickly realized that the man was completely blind. I was about to offer him assistance when someone who worked there came up to him and offered herhe, which he gladly accepted. 


After sitting near him, to share breakfast with my son, I could not get the man and his dog off my mind. I thought about how difficult and frustrating it must be to navigate life without vision. I thought about how much he must have to rely on that dog. I thought about all the beauty and experiences that you would miss out on, if you were blind. This was not just a passing thought, I absolutely could not get this man (who I had never even spoken to) off my mind. 

Today we went to a center for orphaned children who have Special Needs. We picked them up and took them for a rare day at the beach. I didn't know which child that I would be responsible for, but assumed in my head that it would be a young girl, because that's who I tend to gravitate toward. When people started choosing who they were going to actually take down on the beach, I kind of hung back and waited to see who was left without  someone to help them. This time it was a young teenaged boy, who was completely blind. 

I led the boy down on the beach. He had both hands on me, as if he were hanging on for dear life.  When we got to the waters edge, it was obvious that the water was rough, true to the fact that the undertow is one of the strongest in the world!  I tried my best to use my Spanish and translators to describe to him what things looked like. He wanted to sit down at the waters edge. I stood beside him with him ever so tightly holding my arm with both his hands. Eventually I had a translator tell him that I would make him a deal, that if he would let go of me, so that he could feel of things and experience them with his hands,  I would promise to hold on to him, and not let go for anything. He agreed, and I held onto him for over an hour. 

I wish there was an adequate way to express to you, reader of this blog, the pure joy that this young man had. I had never seen anything like it! He smiled from ear to ear. This young man swung his head from side to side, in a "Stevie Wonder fashion.  A friend gathered shells for me, and I had him take each one in his hands and feel it inside and out. He ran his fingers through the sand. We poured water from hats over his head, and he loved it!

I stood there, holding on to the boy (for his peace of mind) thinking about another person, one that I never met, but had "bumped into " the day before, one who God had used to prepare me for meeting this young man, and being on the beach with him! 

Sometimes when God is standing there, hanging onto our arm, while we are in the sinking sand, we forget that He's there, and so me times (like my experience today), we can look back just a short distance of time and know that we are exactly where He wants us, and that He has put people and in our lives to prepare us "For such a time as this".

I am super thankful for Gods guidance and goodness!





Thursday, October 6, 2016

It Was All Part of the Plan

Today was honestly one of my proudest moments in life.  It is also my single most proudest moment as a teacher.  Although I was very proud of the work that my team and I did, I would like to take a few minutes to explain the events leading up to the construction of this home. 

I came to El Salvador for the first time this past July.  The minute I set foot on U.S. soil, I felt God tugging at my heart and telling me that He wanted me to go back.  I tried to fight it and rationalize it by telling myself that it was just my emotions talking, and not really God calling me back so quickly after being there in July.  Even though I knew in my heart that coming back was what God wanted, I had no idea why he wanted me to come back.  However, each time I began to struggle with the questions, I would become overwhelmed with emotions thinking about all of the faces I met in the village of Nahuizalco,  the faces of all of the orphans, and the homeless living on the streets.  



One night through the amazing use of technology, I asked one of the Salvadoran translators, Josue’, “How do the homeless get food when there are not teams of ‘gringos’ there to go out on the streets and feed them?”  His reply was, “Good question.”  When I asked what he meant, he replied, “There is no food for them when there are no teams.  There just isn't enough money.  So unless we get donations to go out and feed them, they don't eat.”  I think I already knew the answer, but hearing those words were like a dagger to the heart.  Neither of us realized at the time, but that one conversation would cause a chain reaction of events. 

I am a public school teacher… let me rephrase.  I am someone that has been called to  missions that also happens to be a public school teacher.  I cannot openly talk about my faith with my students.  However, I wanted to share about my experiences with them and expose them to the culture that this beautiful country holds.  My students have heard many stories since the beginning of the school year.  One of the stories that I told them was the one about that my friend Josue’ had told me about the homeless.  To my shock, it that brought several of them to tears.


One month ago, I met with a group of leadership students at school to decide on a yearlong project.  The project had to be one that showed the use of technology, leadership skills, and made an impact.  After discussing several project options with the students, they decided on one that met all of the criteria and then some.  The students decided to adopt the country of El Salvador and try to raise money various ways to help with orphanages, the homeless, and those in extreme poverty.  As the students began to set their goals for the project, I will not lie… I tried to discourage them.  The kids wanted to build a home for a family in need and feed the homeless once a month.  I am sure most of you can imagine the money required for this was not something that could be raised in a bake sale.  I was afraid to even let them pursue this HUGE goal, because I didn't want them to be disappointed with the outcome.  

Let me just say, do NOT ever discount someone or their ideas because of their age.  In less than 3 weeks time, sixteen 10-12 year old kids raised enough money to feed the homeless once meeting their short term goal.  However, they also met their long term goal and raised $2200 to build a house for a family.  I cannot express in words, how overwhelmed with emotion I was to hand the keys of the home today to a mom of three young girls who recently lost her husband.  


“Dont let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”  - 1 Timothy 4:12

As I mentioned earlier I am a public school teacher, and I have to abide by certain rules and laws.  And although, I cannot openly talk about my faith in Jesus Christ with my students, I don't think that anyone can deny that God’s hands were all the construction of this home.  Let me explain…
1- This small team of 5 people were not even going to build a home.  We were going to be visiting orphanages and helping the children celebrate “The day of the child”.  Steve, the logistic manager already had the entire week planned.  However, we all know that our plans are not always God’s plans.  
2-  When the students set their goal, we were trying to shoot for having the money raised by the end of the school year.  I cannot tell you how many times I sat at my computer looking at the spreadsheet of numbers as it grew each day.  Again, God decided that May was not what He wanted to happen.  He wanted it to happen now!
3- In July, I took a photograph of a beautiful baby girl after giving her a dress.  She had the most solemn, yet beautiful look on her face as her grandfather held her in his arms.  To my shock, we returned to the village of Nahuizalco to build where I first met her.  That beautiful baby girl, her two sisters, and mother would be the recipient of the home. 


I know that God’s fingerprints are all over the construction of this home the past 2 days.  From my willingness to follow God’s call, to the conversation with my friend Josue’ weeks ago, to the every single child that is in my leadership group, to each translator & Sus Hijos worker that labored over this house, to each team member that came to serve, to the students in the school I teach, God had it planned all along.  However, for me the one thing that stands out is that kids built this house.  Yes, it was adults that did the physical labor, but children are the ones that paved the way for a family to have a roof over their heads tonight…those same children that I doubted and tried to discourage are the ones that diligently pursued their goal.  Children!  Just let that set in for a minute.  

We as adults should be the ones guiding and showing our children how to serve others, how to show love, and how to show compassion.  We as Christians should be the ones teaching them how to be the hands and feet of Jesus…however today, it was the children that taught me.  

We as Americans have so much compared to other countries.  However, we always seem to find an excuse not to give…not to serve… not to go.  However, God doesn't say He has called just a few of us to serve or share His love with others.  He called us all.  I am not saying that everyone should go to a third world country as a missionary.  However, we can all do something.  If a small school of less than 250 students can singlehanded raise the money to build a home and feed the homeless, think about how much we as a Christian people could do if we just followed their example.  So what is your excuse?  Maybe you can spare $10 a month to send to Sus Hijos to help with their efforts of showing the love of Jesus.  Maybe you can donate your time at Starfish.  Maybe you can give a week and spend with the people of this beautiful nation of El Salvador.  Or maybe you still have an excuse. 

I now know why God wanted me on this trip.  I cannot begin to explain how thankful I am that I said yes instead of making excuses.  

As I sit here on the couch on the porch of the mission house getting ready to head out to feed the homeless, I know I will come home with tears and a broken heart.  However, tonight my cup runneth over.