Friday, July 22, 2011

Last Full Day

 "Today our team spent the day at CISNA, a government-run orphanage for boys. They usually range in age from ten to seventeen. There are about forty boys at CISNA right now; sometimes there are a few less, but usually there are more, often numbering over one hundred. They are very active and enjoy playing sports, so some of us played soccer with them, and some played frisbee. They also enjoy simple things like face-painting and listening to music with the team. CISNA made more of an impact on me last year than any other orphanage we visited, because I was so burdened with the fact that these boys and others like them are the future of El Salvador. A couple of times this week we have fed homeless people downtown, and I never want to think about any of these boys being among the destitute people we have seen living on the streets or belonging to gangs. It is SO IMPORTANT to make an impact on this group, to help them become future leaders and successful people in their country. After some fun time this morning, I talked to the  boys about God's love for all of us, and that we are ALL neighbors that are supposed to love and support each other, no matter where we live. We talked about the way that God made each one of us different, with various talents and abilities, so that we can truly serve one another while glorifying Him. I asked them to look around at where we were sitting, reminding them that they would only be at CISNA for a time, and that one day they would be adults, ready to use their talents for good purposes. We prayed, asking God to allow us to see others as He sees them, with loving, kind, and forgiving hearts.
   We enjoyed preparing a delicious lunch to share with the boys, grilling chcken and fixing corn and french fries also. Three of them had just completed a cooking course, and they were very proud of their diplomas. One of them helped us fix lunch, and he is quite the young chef. I told him that he can use his culinary talent to serve others and to glorify God, just like we had talked about earlier this morning. After lunch was over, the Starfish team painted the front of two of the dorm buildings, and a few of the boys pitched in to help us, which was great to see.
   It was difficult to leave these young men this afternoon when the time came.. Many of our team members have made multiple trips to El Salvador, and have become well-acquainted with these boys as well as girls and boys at other orphanages. Many warm hugs were exchanged, along with promises that we would see each other again one day. Please add these young boys to your prayer list! A lot of them have experienced many terrible things that no one should ever have to go through, and working through these memories can often be a long and difficult process. Ask God to help them realize their need for relationship with Him and with others, and to give them the strength they need to become all that He created them to be!"--Mike Henderson
"Today was an emotional day for me. A combination of it being the last full day and going to Cisna made for a bad combination. We first started off with the usual, waking up and eating breakfast after a looooong day. We spent all day at the Cisna orphanage for boys 9-18 years old. When we first arrived I could tell that it was different, the boys thrived to have your attention. For me, this was the different part. At all of the other centers the kids wouldn't come up to you and introduce themselves; however, here they all did. I got to know so many kids and how they ended up there as well as their stories. There was one kid that stuck out to me, and I got to know him well as he continued to play with my camera. We played a variety of games such as Frisbee, basketball, and fùtbol. I had a lot of fun just hanging out with the kids at they all made their rounds to visit all of our team members. We also grilled chicken for all of the boys. This was an awesome experience because they don't get to eat that kind of food very often, I could tel they had a blast. The end part of the day was spent painting the outside of two of the dormitories. We had a good bonding moment during that as a team as we all had to avoid spilling paint, and painting each other!! It was an awesome experience to say the least. As the time here is coming to an end, I can really see that these kids need us to help support them. I am thankful for God allowing us to be stewards here in El Salvidor, and I thank him for choosing me to be here at this time. I am truly blessed!"-- Aaron Garrett

Today was our last full day in El Salvador! Tomorrow afternoon around 2:15, our plane will be taking off and we will be headed back to the United States! It has been a full week, and we are all going to miss being here in ES, but we are ready to be home and see our friends and families and to continue living out our mission in the "los estados unidos."

**A huge thanks from the team to those of you who have followed our blog and prayed for us this week! :)

Saddle Up!

 Hello blog followers!
Today we had an amazing time. Through everyone's hard work and fundraising we were able to take several teenage girls from CIPI horseback riding. We arrived not knowing what to expect, but we were delighted to hear laughs, see smiles, and enjoy the beautiful grounds we were blessed to be on. It was an especially significant day for me, considering that I have been riding since I was 6 years old and I was able to share the passion I have always loved so much and see that for one day, this passion was able to lighten these girls' heavy load. They were enjoying themselves and forgetting for a moment their unique and unfortunate circumstances. I was so happy and surprised to see their reactions when we surprised them with subways sandwiches, cookies, their choice of chips, and pepsis! They were absolutely thrilled with this meal, it was as if we were treating them to a 5 star cuisine. Thats when I thought how many times do we take for granted little things like running through a fast food restaurant like subway, most of the time its considered a bad meal, but to these kids it is like Christmas morning. We were also able to make fleece blankets with them, that would be only theirs, even after their time at the orphanage. This was a surprisingly incredible craft because most of the girls have no possessions that are all theirs alone. To me, seeing their smiling faces over something so small made me want to do so much more. Not only that, but it encouraged me that even the smallest deed can make these kids day, week, even month and that almost anyone can make a difference. Knowing that, I would encourage everyone to get involved..- Callie Smith 

Some of the CIPI girls making fleece blankets.

Christan Flowers got to see a special friend today     that she met on her first trip to El Salvador in 2009. Little Kelvin may have special needs, but he sure knows how to have fun and use his energy! Kelvin lives at a Catholic orphanage called Girola.

Today while the girls on the team went horseback riding with the CIPI girls, the guys stayed back at the orphanage and finished up their curtain project.

Tonight was our last night of feeding the homeless for the week! Thanks again to all of you who have financially supported this ministry. It seemed as if the food multiplied tonight! We seemed to have fed tons more people than we ever have before, but unfortunately, we ran out of food when we arrived at the mob of people downtown. Please continue to pray for this ministry and the people of El Salvador, and if you feel led, please help to financially support it! 

Tomorrow the team will be headed for a day at CISNA, the all boys home. They plan to spend the entire day there cleaning, painting, ministering to the kids, and having a cookout and grilling steaks! Please pray for the boys at CISNA...they have almost all had an extremely violent, rough past, and they need prayers for guidance and control. Lots of boys from CISNA run away from the orphanage to return to their former gangs...Please pray for the children and our team tomorrow!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Día de playa!

Wednesday, July 20
"After a marathon day yesterday, today we had the opportunity to take the San Martin group to the beach for some fun in the sun. The San Martin orhanage is specifically for special needs adults and children, and they are each very special and sweet in unique ways. We met them at a beach house at 9:30 this morning and they immediately all hit the pool first. The we moved to the black sand beach and everyone really enjoyed the water and waves. We also had a Michael Jackson dance party going on pretty much all day as well (Pablito has some moves). After a lunch of Pollo Campero we hit the beach some more, flew some kites, and busted open a Sponge Bob pinata. The group really enjoyed the day and they all behaved very well. Getting to spend the entire day with these guys was such a blessing to me. I got to see how sweet and nice they were to each other when they shared the kites, played together, and danced with each other. Although communicating with them was still somewhat of a challenge, a hug from one of them was worth a thousand words. Buenas noches, mi amigos........ P.S. David says "Wasssuuuup!" - Derrick Helm
Today we had the amazing opportunity to take some of the San Martin special needs children to the beach! They hardly ever get the chance to go anywhere outside the walls of the orphanage, so it was a special treat for them! They had a blast in the swimming in the ocean and the pool, playing games, busting a pinata, and most importantly, dancing to Michael Jackson! It was such a blessing to see the smiles on their faces!
Tomorrow, the girls on the team will be going horseback riding with the teenage girls from CIPI while the guys stay back and work on their curtain rod project. Would you please pray that the CIPI girls would be able to set aside their complicated life situations for the day and feel like we are their family? More than anything they need to feel the love of a family and God...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Busiest Day Ever!!

"Today was a great day! I got to go to a place I had never been to, a nursing home, and I got to talk to people up to the age of 90 and probably older than that. They were very funny and had lots of stories to share with us! After that we went to a Catholic orphanage and got a tour of that. There was a little girl there that had Leukemia and we got to pray for her, which was awesome! From there, we went to San Martine! I had a great time and had lots of laughs with all of them. They constantly had a smile on their face and that made me happy. I hope they never forget the moments we spend with them. The last place we went was the Aids orphanage. When we first got there, there was a little girl sitting alone and not talking to anyone. I kept asking what her name was, but she wouldn't talk. I ended up pullin her off the couch and taking her outside and she ended up telling me her name. Maria, and was just stuck to me like glue. She was constantly asking me swing her and pick her up. She was the highlight of my day! But like I said, it was a great day!"-Christan Flowers

Tonight the team hit the streets of El Salvador to feed over 150 homeless people. After a long preparation of the meals, the team finally headed out in the back of Kurt's pick-up truck to deliver the food. They had a blast! Again, a big thanks to those of you who have financially supported the homeless feeding programs.

Tomorrow the team will be taking the children from the Special Needs orphanage, San Martin, to the beach! What a blessing that will be! Would you please pray for patience and energy for the team? After an extremely busy day and a late night of feeding the homeless, they are bound to be exhausted!
"July 19 is usually a slow summer day for me. Maybe I will grill or take a swim or watch my girls ride a horse. I have always felt that summer was a time to slow down and to enjoy the easy things in life. I learned a new lesson today. The most rewarding experiences of your life will be difficult, heart-wrenching, exciting, exhausting and will not be centered around you, but around others. 
   Our day began at 5:00 this morning when we began getting ready for our roller coaster day. We prepared scrambled eggs and refried beans for breakfast for the families of AIDS patients who are in the hospital. I found the combination unique but it is commonplace in El Salvador.
    Our group of 11 plus our translators and other missionaries loaded the van and headed to the mountain to see a beautiful senior citizens home. A doctor left his property and an endowment to construct a model community for the elderly and someday soon an orphanage that promotes interaction with the two groups. Financial ability is not an issue here. There are so many beautiful smiling faces at Ciudadela. I love that concept. Orphans with no grandparents or families learning from the elderly while helping them to meet their physical and emotional needs. I was privileged to meet a 91 year old man who was rich with stories. He was such a blessing to me. I held his hand and we spoke to each other as the we were life long friends. We did crafts with the residents and left their favorite, "mister donuts."
   In the middle of El Salvador is a lovely orphanage run by the catholic church. It was incredibly organized and immaculately kept. The Nuns patiently explained their challenges and needs. I hope someday that we can help them to meet some of their needs. I met a young lady there who was only four. She was beautiful with large almond eyes and gorgeous curly black hair. I watched her for a while and noticed a sadness in her that the other children didn't display. Finally, the head of the orphanage approached me and explained that beautiful Katherine has leukemia and is still very ill from a treatment. I wanted to wrap my arms around her and run. I wanted to be her "mama." I thought about the injustice that she had to fight the disease without a loving family to surround her. Then I remembered that our heavenly father loves her more than I could ever love her. We all held hands in the hallway and prayed for that precious child.
   In the afternoon we headed to St. Martin, a home for people with special needs. They are beautiful in a different way than I would usually consider people beautiful. The simplicity of their wants and needs make them delightful to know. Pablito lives there. He is a precious man with downs syndrome. Laura had fallen in love with him and helped him find a diagnosis and treatment for his illness. Today he walks around in her sunglasses and thinks he is a movie star. Kike is a boy who was used as a drug mule. When I saw him in February he was confined to the bed as he moaned in excruciating pain. Today thanks to therapy and prayer he is sitting up, eating soft food, and even taking one or two steps alone with his walker. Ahhh, progress. Derek was so cute dancing with the young people. Eliza helped with crafts and most of the residents made necklaces with crosses and beads. But the highlight of our visit had to be David saying "Roll Tide Roll" under the direction of some very devout Alabama fans.
   Next door we visited the Aids orphanage where Cassidy entertained the young children with a puppet show. Our precious interpreter, Jenny, read to them. Callie taught them how to do cartwheels and backbends. They loved playing in their backyard with the guys. Tug of war was there favorite. As they all finally fell over entangled with our team members, we erupted in laughter and it was a perfect end to our visit.
   After dinner, we prepared over 140 meals for the homeless. OK Here comes the part about being excited and scared and overwhelmed. Imagine people with nothing, no really nothing. Weathered faces, ragged clothes, toothless smiles exhausted from the attempt to stay alive. When they hear the roar of the diesel truck they know that Kurt is bringing another team with food. One elderly lady graciously accepted her gift then lifted her hands to the Lord to give thanks. A true vision of what Thessalonians 5:18 means. One young boy of about ten ran to the side of our truck begging for food. His feet were bare and his clothes were so so big. Our hearts broke but his spirits were lifted when Laura threw the tennis shoes off her feet to him. Laura returned home barefoot but we all learned a lot about giving.
   Tonight I am writing this with a list of about hundred things racing through my mind. There is so much to do here. I hope if you are reading this you will join us by doing whatever God leads you to do. It will change your life and grow your heart!.."- Jackie Smith

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Familiar Faces...

"We started today back at the CIPI orphanage where we were yesterday. Some of the team worked with the children again doing puppet shows and playing. Some of the guys worked on making and installing some curtain rods in the teenage girls' rooms. Their current "curtains" consisted of some wire hung from the walls with blankets drapped over them. Laura and Jackie picked out some fabric for some new curtains when the rods are complete. We will be back at CIPI Thursday when we hope to complete the curtain rods and be ready for curtains. There are not glass panes in the windows, so these curtains will provide protection from the rain, sun, and mosquitoes and hopefully make the room feel a little more like a home to the girls. There was a teenage girl that was just dropped off by the police at the orphanage last night that was very upset this afternoon. Girls from our team did the best they could to comfort her in her situation. Please pray she can be reunited with her family asap. This evening we took the kids from the La Casa orphanage to Wendy's for dinner and to play. We all had a good time. Tomorrow looks like it is going to be a busy day, starting early fixing breakfast for hospital patients, then visiting the San Martin orphanage, then ending the day feeding the homeless on the street. Getting ready to turn in for the night and get our much needed rest." -Derrick Helm

Tomorrow the team will begin by preparing breakfast for patients and families at a near by hospital. From there they plan to visit the special needs orphanage at San Martin. Tomorrow evening they will return to the mission house and prepare dozens of meals to take to homeless families living on the inner city streets of San Salvador. Please continue to pray throughout the day for everyone who's path they will cross. Pray for their hearts to be open to learn more of the endless love that our God has for them! Please pray that JOY may be brought to the special needs residents of San Martin even if it is just for a few hours, that they may know no pain, but know the JOY and PEACE of the Lord!

"I have been to the orphanage that we visited today, many times over the past 5 years. I have been there on numerous occassions this year! I thought I knew what to expect, especially since we had just been there yesterday. When we arrived, there was a girl that was sad and crying. Cassidy was loving on her, and trying to comfort her. The girl was DEVISTATED! I had seen many younger children on their first day in an orphanage, and I can tell you, that once you see that, you don't forget it! This girl was older than the others I have seen in her situation, she was about 15. She told us that her mother sent her to look for a relative, and that on her way home, she got lost. She came upon a police station, and went in to ask for directions. The police took her straight to the ophanage, and left her there, without trying to find her parents. She was most upset that she had no way of letting her mother know that she was okay, and she could not even imagine what her mother must be thinking. She said that she missed her little sister's hugs. The longer we were there, the heavier she weighed on my heart! I finally decided to love her like her mother would. I loved on her just like I would one of my own children if they were broken like this young girl. I held her tight, swaying back and forth, rubbing her hair. I told her that it would be alright, and I prayed for her. I prayed that God would allow her to feel not only her mother's love through me but HIS love as well.
People often ask me, "well is it not better to send the money that you would spend on a trip like this, than to go yourself?" I can tell you, that no check could have shown this girl the love of God, the way that our team did today! Please pray that this precious girl will be reunited with her own mother very soon!"~Laura Roberts
The Henderson family had a great time at dinner tonight with their friend! They first met several years ago on the first Starfish trip to El Salvador and have kept a very special friendship ever since!

Laura and her special friend also had a great time together tonight as well! What a blessing to see happy, smiling, familiar faces!

  Please pray for the homeless that the team will meet on Tuesday night. Pray that they might ask why someone cares enough to feed them. Why? When no one has seemed to consistantly care in their lives before, is someone paying attention now? Pray that the opportunity to explain of God's love and understanding will arise!
To those of you who have financially supported the homeless feeding programs we want to remind you of Proverbs 22:9 -
"He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor..."
As the team packs sacks with meals tomorrow, we will never know the eternal impact that those paper sacks may make! 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our love can never match His...

 The team arrived safely in El Salvador last night and started today by helping with church services and Sunday school. They spent the rest of the day at the CIPI intake center and orphanage, spending time with infants, toddlers, young boys and girls and teenage girls, some who are mothers themselves. While some faces were familiar and others were new, the first day is always unsettling, much like the rest...

Today was an awesome day!! Words can’t explain what all I’ve seen and heard today. This is the first time going on a trip to El Salvador and I didn’t quite know that to expect when coming here. All I have to say is I’m in awe. This morning started off with church, which by the way was awesome to experience. We got to spend some time with the kids in their children’s program. We told a story about the Ten Commandments and it was truly amazing to see how much those kids knew, even at 4-5 years old. The older kids, approximately ages 10-14, knew everything that we were going to speak on. It is really humbling to see them thriving for knowledge about the word and God Himself. After Church we got to eat at a local restaurant called Pollo Comparo. It was really good and could be compared to Chick-fil-A or KFC in the states. Once getting back to the mission house and changing we got to go spend time at an orphanage called Cipi. We saw and got to spend time with many kids ranging from newborns, teenage mothers, special needs, and other young boys. It is amazing to see how happy all of these kids are just to see us and to know that we are there to be with them and to spend time with them. As we see these children it is very humbling. We have so much and are unhappy, yet they have so little and are very happy. It is amazing how God works in the lives of different people and how one person can just be filled with joy with so little. We are looking forward to the things that we are going to be seeing and experiencing in the days to come!
-Aaron Garrett

 The following is a short story written by Ryan McKinney.
This is his second trip to El Salvador with Starfish...
I'm a fighter...
My name is Carlitos. I was born with hydrocephalus which caused cerebrospinal fluid to build up in the cavities of my brain... At just a few weeks old, a medical shunt was surgically inserted to relieve the pressure and fluid from my brain. Nobody expected me to survive so after the surgery I was placed in a crib by myself and left to die.
But I'm a fighter...
As I laid on what was to be my deathbed, the Starfish orphan ministry came to my aid. They picked me up one by one and gave me the love that I had so longed for. I was sad when it came time for them to leave, but I understood why they couldn't stay...
One year later I'm still here, but in a new crib. Starfish came once again to see me today and once again I was able to experience that love and compassion that I have so longed for. The same love and compassion that keeps me fighting and hoping that they will come back one day and give me more.
Because of Starfish, I am a fighter... 

Thank you for continuing to pray for the team throughout the rest of this week! Please pray for STRENGTH, both physical and emotional. Pray for God's precious CHILDREN! Pray that their HEARTS may be filled with JOY and that LASTING changes and IMPROVEMENTS may be made in their ENVIRONMENTS and DAILY LIVES! Pray that HEARTS will come to know CHRIST!

On Monday the team will be returning to Cipi to help meet some of the needs they saw during their visit today. They will pick up supplies in the morning and head over to the orphanage to get to work. Then, tomorrow evening they will take around 40 children from another orphanage out for a fun dinner in San Salvador!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Week is Coming to an End...

Friday's post will be delayed. Please check back with us Saturday evening to see how things went for the team on both Friday and Saturday. There will be lots of pictures and testimonies as we wrap up this group's time in El Salvador.

We thank you for your consistent prayer throughout their journey and their safe travels home. We thank you for faithfully following along on the blog and tirelessly praying for the team! Your love and encouragement has them going and they love knowing that you are involved by watching what they are doing each day!

As their hearts are saddened to leave the precious people and sweet children they have fallen in love with, I know they are also eager to get back home to you as well!

Please be praying for their emotions over the next few weeks as they return home. For most everyone who goes on a trip like this, it is normal to not quite feel like yourself for a few weeks. It takes an adjustment period to process some of the things they have experienced and seen, before you return back to "normalcy."

Starfish Orphan Ministry thanks you for allowing your family members to be a part of this incredible experience. Thank you for supporting them in a life changing experience they will never forget. If you helped in any small way, you also helped in a very big way. By helping someone go on this trip, they loved on a child who would have otherwise been without love this week.  So we thank YOU for loving on these children, too!

Check back Saturday Evening for More Pictures!

Friday, July 8, 2011

A day with a squatter's camp community...Meals and VBS for over 800

"Today we were greeted by smiling faces at the entrance of the Squatter's Camp. The Squatter's Camp is a community where people live in houses made from sticks, plastic, and old pieces of tin. They had set up a tent and plastic chairs for our program. They were so excited to see us. We gave the people donations including toys, treats, hygiene products, pillowcase dresses, and flip flops. We also fed the people. We prepared enough food for 750. We worked in shifts passing out donations, preparing food, painting faces, telling Bible stories, and making balloons. They loved it! I was asked so many times if we were coming back or when were we coming back. I was hugged and kissed goodbye by so many children and adults. I know they must have felt loved....but so did we!" - Shannon Wilson
"Today at the Squatter's Camp I was awestruck by the people's generosity. They have only what they need to survive, and yet they are not selfish. They helped unload the truck and even brought us chairs to put our food on while we ate. There was one gentleman who asked me to play the guitar. As I was tuning it, a string broke. He started trying to fix it right away, but we needed pliers. He went away for a few minutes and came back with some. Even though I couldn't communicate with him very well, he knew what I needed, and he made sure those needs were met. I came on this expecting to fulfill someone's needs, and we accomplished that. What I did not expect was for someone to do that for me. These experiences taught me that even if you have nothing to give, there is always a way to give more of yourself." - Nolan Brelsford

"The hope of suffering. As I look back on the week, I question how so much suffering can be allowed by a God that tells us that every perfect gift comes from above. If God is so good, why must innocents suffer unjustly? In my limited understanding, it makes no sense. Then I realize that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. However this over quoted verse is little consolation after witnessing such terrible atrocities. He makes things work together for good for those who love him, but what of the orphan, the widow, or the homeless? From the outside, we remain unable to see the bigger picture, but glimpses of it may be seen if we look hard enough. In the great commission we are commanded to be his hands and feet, touching an ever worsening world with the gospel. He has given us the opportunity to be an extension of Christ: feeding the hungry, touching the sick, and loving the unloved. God allows these evils to exist not because he is not just, but because he understands things we do not. In a world devoid of pain, how would we be able to truly know and accept love? We could not and would not. If everything was perfect, we would remain unaware of our need for a savior. But the world is fallen; our only hope is love. It is this love that heals all hurts. This love transcends pain. It gives hope for the raped, abused, and abandoned. This love is the reason we are here. If we can affect one child with the love we have come to know, our trip was more than worth it. Watching the children bask in our affections assures me that this trip is not in vain. At first, the task appears too daunting, the need appears too great. We must understand that we cannot change every life, but we can change one." - Nathan Allison