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.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Children serving Children!

“Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, you his servants; praise the name of the Lord.”
Psalm 113:1
Today could simply be describe In one word,"joy." There is no greater feeling in this entire world than doing Gods work. To see gratitude in the eyes of those who have prayed for the Lords servants! To hold the hand of a seven year old boy at a memorial for his deceased father. To show love and compassion for those who need it most! Today we were blessed to participate in building a house for a family of 4! We worked, we laughed, we played! But most important we came together to honor God!
To start of we set the flooring by digging out spots to set center blocks to hold the floors. After setting the post and getting the floor assembled we began to put the walls up! While putting the walls up you can see the faces of the family thinking "this is actually happening" which was a constant reminder of why where doing this! One of the best parts of today was not just the construction aspect but the socialization as well! Over all God has blessed us overwhelmingly today!
***When the Reidland Intermediate School students had a vision of building a house in El Salvador their teacher Kelly Clapp Russell explained to them that was a great goal to set but one that would take a lot of time and work but she admired their goal and would see what they could do. Well ONE month later, these students raised approx $4000 and they are having a house built for a family in El Salvador this week and have money left over to feed the homeless for 3 months! What a joy it is to see the huge hearts this group of 10-12 yr olds have for helping others in El Salvador. ***
Starfish is so proud of these students and the way they are inspiring others! They are proving that anyone can make a difference, one child at a time!!!

Monday, October 3, 2016

A mighty God He is...

Jeremiah 32:26

"Behold, I am The Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for me?"

It is said the eyes of a person go directly to the soul.  As the team visited two different

facilities for special needs adults and special needs children we saw much of the same 

looks in their eyes......loving gratitude. It was more than a "gracias" it was a blessing! 

The first stop was to a facility for special needs adults. Some maybe in their late 40's 

and as young as 19. They all enjoyed the music and many enjoyed dancing and 

singing along. Others took whacks at Angry Bird and Dora piñatas. Is was very 

moving to see the appreciation for just a few pieces of candy and trinkets.

From last night, feeding many in dire and desperate situations living with a 

dependency on God to provide the most basic needs of food and shelter to children 

that are totally dependent on someone to meet every need from hygiene to feeding to 

touch. For these people, we did not have to speak Spanish to tell them we cared for 

them, all it took was a touch. A touch to the hand, arm or face; a touch would almost 

always bring a smile. But for even the vocal ones, we could not understand their 

language, but their eyes spoke more loud and clear than their voice ever could. What 

was said was their deep gratitude for someone caring. They were not impressed with 

our nationality, status, or position, all they knew was we were someone who loved 

them for "this" day. We hope they know The Lord will always love them for they are 

precious to Him!

Sam 26:24 

24 Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.”


It was good to see the impact of volunteers to these communities and the improvements and provisions to these facilities! There is a long way to go!  I hope many more will help by giving and going!

This is the First Day of the Rest of My Life!

Saturday night we arrived in El Salvador. We had great flights and our team got to spend time together and get to know each other.  God always does amazing things if we don't limit him. 
 John 14:13-14 (ESV)
      Whatever you ask in my name, this will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. 
 This is what prayer and hard work can accomplish. There have been do many praying for this kind of success. Everyone that has taken a trip to El Salvador and eaten at States Diner has helped accomplish this. We got to spend time with the kids from the transition house. They were having a celebration/ going away party. Four kids left Sunday morning to work in the United States for a short time. The time spent in the transition house has helped teach the English, and teach them all aspects of having a job. States Diner plays a part in giving them an opportunity to build their skills. 

 We woke early and got ready for church.  We went and worshipped with brothers and sisters from here. We spoke a small message to the church, and ministered to the children.  

In the afternoon we went to an orphanage and had about 200 kids. We celebrated Day Of The Child!  We saw smiles that would not have been there if God, and others that supported us would not be on these precious faces.  We gave treat bags, stuffed animals, served snow cones and pop corn, face painting, balloon animals, had bouncy houses, piñata, a DJ for music,  and played sports with them,  mostly Football, which in the United States is called soccer. 
 We came back to our home for a week, the "mission house ". We prepared meals to take to some people that God loves that don't have a " home". They live on the streets. We give cardboard boxes we put meals in to carry and they use these for shelter. It's raining as we begin to leave, someone asked if we were still going? Are these people still there? Does God still love them?
The rain stopped and the clouds gone. A silent night. No activity, so quiet as we drive the streets, calling that we have food. Seeing people crawling from under cardboard or plastic. They had struggled through the rain and now we're fighting the cold weather. We handed out all the food we had prepared. There were many people that came up that did not get fed. The thing that had most impact to our team was the moms that came up with small children. There looked to be about ten small children that we could not help besides the men & women. We felt helplessness, even though we fed so many. We pray God uses us the rest of the week. Our team has already been touched.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


Reflection, an image, a fixing of the thoughts on something, careful consideration.  Those are a few definitions but it's so much more when trying to wrap your mind around all the experiences and feelings that have occurred this past week during our reflection time with our team from KY and the home team here in Brazil. Pete set aside 2 times of sharing and reflecting on our experiences this week and Friday evening was a wonderful way to culminate the week 

We were able to share reactions from the  people of the favelas and how we felt going to their world . We climbed a very steep hill to deliver food and the message that God loves them to a few specific families that the local leaders have a relationship.  The climb was physically demanding and dangerous after the rains that day.  Imagine the climb with a newborn or with a painful knee or hip several times a day. Reminds us that our comfortable homes are luxuries and not lice ridden with potentially fatal wiring! Yet we were welcomed with joyful hearts and smiles. Seats and coffee offered while many asked us to sing in English!  We gave food, some dolls and clothes for the kids, along with lice shampoo and flip flops. But they gave more in return, perspective!  They endure, hope, pray and sing praises to God of grace and love.  I pray they were able to see a reflection of Jesus in our words and actions!

We were able to enjoy a few local experiences - eating Pastels for dinner, lunch at Brazilian steak house and even grocery shopping!  The local team described , and help order, our  stuffed pocket then deep fried Pastel.  Pretty much anything you wanted could go in it.  Seating for 34 was needed to feed our hungry bunch on Thursday at the steak house. We had some local kids with us as well!   We were stuffed. The Brazillians were so thankful that we cooked an American meal for them!  We had  hamburgers, hotdogs, slaw, potato salad, green beans and banana splits!  It was a treat to share part of our culture as well. 

The volunteers that work here every day gave powerful testimonies also. Reflecting and processing  our experiences from one short week  and asking God to show us how to use them seems selfish after hearing the struggles and obstacles these young servants have faced. Their seemingly broken lives that have been repaired by God's unfailing love was moving for us all. The volunteers here all came from the communities we visited. They have either survived or are still enduring hardships of the favelas.    "He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless " Isaiah 40:29. Please pray that they continue to receive power and strength from the Holy Spirit 

Jerry and Rick have worked so patiently and hard to not only make. Bunk beds but teach the locals how to make them  so this ministry can continue. These beds will allow more children to rest easy and safety at the property. The volunteers have invested in some special children and this will bless so many. 

We were often reminded that this was God's work but the people here are his hands and feet. It was an honor to be a part of that this week. As we reflect on our experiences and emotions of the week, I pray that we continue to reflect God's love, mercy, and grace.  We will return home to our " normal ' life but will carry a piece of this place with us forever 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Go Therefore.....

“Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

When we first arrived here, the first thing I noticed was the smell. Smoke, and the distinct aroma of raw sewer hung heavy in the air. Those smells seemed to go away as we drove through the city but in reality they are still there, we have just become accustomed to them and don’t notice them as much. In the days since we arrived here we have been exposed to many different environmental realities. The sight of favelas (shantytowns) both in the inner city and on the mountainsides. The streams and rivers flowing with dark grey water (raw sewage) that seem to be everywhere. The smell of good food from kitchens big and small mixed with body odor from people not being able to bathe for weeks or months at a time. And, the smell of strong coffee. Brazilians like coffee and they like it strong! Luckily our team likes it that way too. 
We have also been exposed to a lot of beauty. The majestic mountain ranges that envelope the area. Riding in a vehicle in this part of the world is somewhat akin to being on a roller coaster, up down and all-around with lots of stops and starts. We have seen smiles on people’s faces who are living in the most desperate situations.  We have seen the beauty of the stars at night when it is not rainy or overcast. We have stood in awe at the majestic beauty of a vividly painted sky (seemingly limitless variations of red, orange, dark blue, white, and grey) as the sun was setting over the filth and mutes tones of the shantytowns where thousands of people live in abject poverty every single day of their lives. Lots of contrasts, things that shouldn’t go to together but somehow seem to blend perfectly.

We have also seen Jesus here, in the face of a child who is playing and running on the dirt streets. We have seen Him shining through a family that made us Brazilian expresso in their modest home in the shantytown. We have seen Jesus’ presence in the tears of joy flowing down the face of someone who has just met Him. We have seen His joy and determination of the missionaries we are staying with that are constantly serving others. We have also noticed Him in ourselves as He gives us power to share the gospel.   

Jesus is all around us and is always with us. He gave us that promise in verse 20 of the above text. He is available in every place and in every situation. He meets us when we go beyond our comfort zones and shows us sides of Himself in unexpected ways. The story is not over, for any of us. There are still many beautiful people to meet and numerous adventures to experience. We look forward to the rest of the journey. 
Lots of beds for children are getting made with love!