Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wednesday, Workday!

Wednesday the team started things off at the hardware store! They were purchasing supplies before heading over to the boys transition home...
After arriving, the group spent the morning painting and making improvements on the new home.
After lunch they were off to the happiest place on earth; San Martin! There, they spent the afternoon painting faces, coloring, doing crafts, and of course dancing with our very precious adult friends!

Here is an overview of the day from Hayley Latta...

"I’m Gonna Put on My-My-My Boogie Shoes to Boogie with You!"

"I will be the first to admit- for the past few days, I haven’t felt the most useful. Even though my dad is a carpenter and I am accustomed to references to the ‘job site’, put a hammer in my hand and I am as lost as an Easter egg in July. Therefore, I felt a little more needed today we traveled and worked in differing orphanages and residences.
We left the mission house at 8:00 this morning and headed toward EPA, which is a hardware store located in San Salvador. Each group we split into was given a short list of items to locate and take to the register. Although I speak a little bit of Spanish, surprisingly, I do not have a large home improvement vocabulary ;). However, EPA is just like a Lowe’s, so we were able to find our items in a relatively short amount of time.
The supplies we purchased at EPA were taken to the boys’ transition house in the city. The house is sponsored by Sus Hijos, or His Children, which is the organization that Kurt Akerman runs here in El Salvador.
The home is for male orphans who have turned 18, and thus have had to leave the orphanage. The goal of the house is to give the boys a safe place to stay off the streets while providing them with opportunities to obtain employment, work on their education, and learn basic skills required for smart living (for example, they are taught how to cook, manage money, and are given guidance for their spiritual life).  Each boy accepted into this program can only stay for two years, so there is an incentive provided to them to learn all they can while living there.
At the transition house, we painted the walls of their main room, kitchen, stairwell, and patio. The creamy brown ‘Naturally Calm’ paint color went a long way in making it feel more like a male residence.
We were there for three and a half hours, and although my arm is sore from rolling the paint roller up and down for practically the whole time, they were all so appreciative of what we did. I think the biggest accomplishment at the transition house was not that we painted (and painted and painted), but that we showed those boys that people really do care about them, that they do matter in life. And that makes me happier than the Tylenol I might take for my arm ;).
Our next stop was lunch at McDonald’s (I know, they’re everywhere!) Besides the fact that the menu was basically the same (aside from the guacamole McWrap) was that it was so nice inside. Everything was so clean it almost shimmered and instead of a McCafe corner like in the States, they had a separate little McCafe that almost looked like a bakery because of the display case filled with delectable desserts.
One thing I’ve noticed about the fast food restaurants we have dined in here is that the workers take extreme pride in their job. Fast food restaurants in El Salvador are considered more upscale to them, and only those that are fairly well-off frequent these establishments. The restaurants are so clean and well taken care of, and there is no lacking in security, thanks to the intense-looking guard that paroles the parking lot carrying a machine gun.
We then drove about thirty minutes more to San Martin to visit ISNA, which is the special needs adult center ran by the El Salvadorian Government. Each of the 60 residents has a physical and/or mental handicap. We were given a tour, and then met with the residents outside to have a dance party, which is one of their absolute favorite things to do. We set up speakers and a music system, and danced for about two hours.
We each paired with one of the residents danced to the Macarena, Cuban Shuffle, and many others. The residents were so enthusiastic and joyful- who knew some portable speakers and a grassy dance floor could provide them with so much joy! I realized anew that it doesn’t matter if the activities planned aren’t elaborate and complicated, just that that they are carried out in a joyful and cheerful manner. And with this group, it wasn’t hard to be cheerful and joyful. Their smiles and laughter spoke volumes.
Our last stop for the day was the AIDS orphanage next door to ISNA. We set up craft stations where the kids could decorate journals, masks, and pennants. We read the children the Resurrection Egg story, and had an Easter egg hunt. For some, this was their first time to ever experience such an American tradition.
 About all the children I came in contact with were in the 3-9 age range, and each, to my understanding, have AIDS. They were so in need of attention and love from someone other than orphanage personnel. One of the girls I worked with kept wanting two journals to decorate. When I told her that she could only have one, she gestured to a girl in a wheelchair who was severely crippled. The girl proceeded to make one for the child in the wheelchair. I saw her taking care of that girl for the rest of the afternoon and finally asked her if the girl was her sister. She said yes, and continued her care for her sister.
This child’s devotion to her sister who was older in age, yet younger in so many other ways, touched my heart. I realized that these children have an extreme capacity to love, far more than we give them credit for. These children are not only orphans, in fact, that is only their title at this present stage in their life. These orphans are human, and yearn for the same things that we as happy and healthy children once yearned for ourselves. These children feel things, experience emotions, have heartache and pain, joy and happiness. And I feel so honored to be able to share in their happiness and give them a reason to smile and experience joy.
Our day was extremely busy- but then again, when are our days not? Before I post this and head off to bed in preparation for an early wake-up time, I would like to extend the happiest of birthday wishes to Melissa and Andrea, who are celebrating their birthdays this week. I consider it an honor and a privilege to have met you, and please know that you both have been a tremendous blessing in my life. Even though I just met you all last week, I know that you all are precious blessings from God. Happy Birthday!
And by the way- the cake we had tonight in celebration of your birthdays was fabulous! ;)"

 Thursday the team is taking a large group of special needs children from an orphanage to the beach! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It's not just a house, It's their home!

Today's post is from Robin...
Today's been an amazing day! It began with the mission team finishing the house we worked on yesterday. We built a ramp and moved in new furniture. After Kurt dedicated the house, Vilma sang a song for us, and for the first time I saw, her grandson, Eduardo, smile as she was singing of trusting the Lord. It was a beautiful moment to see Vilma walk into her new home. She invited us all in, and then she encouraged us to always trust in the Lord, because He will provide for us in times of trouble. She told us to always show His love to one another.
 I would see living in a house the size of a shed with no electricity or running water as trouble that God needed to deliver from, but to Vilma and Eduardo, that was the blessing. How eye-opening it was to see how much I take for granted and how blind I am to God’s abundant blessings on me!
The last part of the day included a long drive up a bumpy mountain road to deliver beans and rice to families in a village. We gave a bag of food to each family and prayed for them. The children received pillowcase dresses, t-shirts and toys, and they were so happy! After delivering all the food, we returned to play a large game of Spanish ‘duck, duck, goose.’
My limited Spanish vocabulary allowed me to have a very (very!) basic conversation with several young girls. However, I know that they were laughing at me too when I said I speak English and very little Spanish. Yet that did not stop them from following our group around, holding my hand, and talking with me. Even though their lives were not what I would see as happy or ideal, they still giggled as I asked to take pictures of them with their new dresses. One girl begged me for another toy, complete with folded hands and batted eyelashes. I suppose some things are always the same, no matter how different you are!
This entire trip and today especially have shown me so many things. It is easy to listen to people talk about mission trips and not be changed. However, to see poverty in front of my eyes puts a second thought in my head whenever I think ‘I need this,’ of ‘I am starving,’ ‘I am dying of pain, hunger, etc. ‘What am I lacking? What do I need? Nothing. Have I ever been really starving? No. Have I ever been in terrible pain without being able to access medical care? No.
A simple new house can be life-changing and a small toy can make a child’s day. If I make this a truth in my life, I should be so full of joy and peace and contentment! I know it is also easy to feel changed when you are immersed, but things gradually go back to normal as I return to my big home, my closets full of clothes, and stores full of things to buy. I pray that for me and the rest of the mission team that will not happen to us. I hope we will always remember Vilma’s joy over a house no bigger than a shed or a child’s smile for the equivalent of a Happy Meal toy and apply that truth to our lives.
Thank you so much for everyone that has supported us on this trip!

Feels like home...

Today the team started early, loaded up their supplies and began a journey to build a home for a young boy and his grandmother. While he is actually 15years old, his severe disabilities give him the appearance of about a 7year old. Struggling to care for him, his grandmother was at risk of loosing her grandson to a government orphanage if there meager living conditions were not improved. 
"After chopping down trees, digging many holes, pouring cement, and putting up the house, we were all exhausted and extremely dirty, but every second was worth it knowing we kept a family together and gave all the glory to God. Our team is so blessed in that we are given the opportunity to use the talent and strength our God has given us to touch those who need it. Now, she doesn't have to lose the only thing she has, and he doesn't have to lose the one who cares for him the most, I couldn't be any happier. Let's hope and pray we can help many MANY more people this week! God is good. ~ Baylee Blackburn
The group completed the home for the grandmother and her grandson! They will return on Tuesday for some finishing touches and to dedicate the home! Check in tomorrow for more photos!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Take me out to the ball game!

The team stayed busy again today!Church in the morning, followed by an afternoon of baseball at the national baseball stadium with the teenage boys from CISNA. Then, it was back home and packing meals to go out and feed the homeless again tonight! Your notes today come from Andrea Daniels...
The first part of our day was a glorious reminder of God's love and his unfailing reassurances of his hand upon those who worship and serve him. We were blessed to hear Pastor Meana at Monte Calvario testify on his experience with Gods ability to restore. One would easily find there was a definite language barrier, but it did not keep us away from worshipping God during the "praise and worship" service. Mrs. Perry gave a wonderful " Spanish speaking" introduction for our team and our purpose in their Country. With Mrs. Blaine's gift of music she gave a beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace", touching many with her beautiful voice. Team Starfish was later dismissed with the children. We were blessed to help with Sunday school. Melissa Vancleve, gave the message of Gods love and how having faith in Him can move mountains in ones life. Many of the Star Fish team members set up for painting shirts and hiding eggs for the Easter egg hunt. 

The second part of our day was joyous, as well as a humbling experience. 

After church we  ate lunch with a group of 77 at Pollo Compero and engaged in conversation with the boys from CISNA . 

After lunch we proceeded to the National baseball stadium where we played an exhausting game of baseball.

Our hearts were blessed by each one of these boys from young to old. 

Although some of the boys did not engage in the baseball game they did enjoy crafts with some of the team members. 

The closing of our day was reached with providing food for the homeless. This experience is not one that I can describe as it is to hard to put into words the emotions that one feels seeing these individuals. The great-fulness that is shown by these individuals is touching and heartbreaking. I will share a story with you: One of the men had taken his bag, knowing he was only aloud one, gave it to another with out a hint of regret. Thankfully one team member had seen his act of generosity so we could supply him with another bag. 

While today may have been exhausting, I think I can speak for everyone when I say, it was an emotional and rewarding day.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

WKCTC in El Salvador

The team had a fun filled first day! 
They started things off by taking kids from CIPI to the bowling alley!
Next it was back into the sun for an afternoon of softball with the teen girls.
They also painted t-shirts, put on puppet shows and did lots of tattoos & manicures!

Here is a note from student, Shelby Ann Johnson...
The alarm clock came too early after a long traveling day, but the idea of seeing the sweet faces at Cipi again put an extra swing in my step. When we arrived to the center, anticipation filled the bus. Today we were taking the teen girls from Cipi to the bowling alley in the morning and playing softball with them in the afternoon. As we stepped off the bus, smiling faces and running feet were the first things to see. Bowling with these beautiful girls was absolutely incredible. Not only were they fantastic, but also they found such joy in such a simple things that we, as Americans, take for granted. The next two hours consisted of giggles, hugs, and gutter balls. After bowling, we went back to the center to play softball. The teenage girls had been practicing with some of the missionaries that are working with Sus Hijos, here in El Salvador. The Cipi girls were relentless in their efforts to beat the “Gringos”! The game was never-ending in that hot sun, swapping gloves between each inning. Rewarded with ice cream, the teenage girls were thrilled toward the end of a good day.  These girls never stopped smiling, hugging, talking, and laughing. The amount of love they had for complete strangers was infinite. We couldn’t help but fall in love with them and their sweet personalities. But, I think what was most loved was their spirit; their spirit to stay positive and loving, and to never take anything for granted. These girls were so beautiful inside and out and their attitudes on life are beyond touching. With an amazing first day completed, spaghetti in our bellies, and a loaded truck to feed the homeless, today was a blessed day.