Saturday, March 21, 2015

Friday, San Martin goes to the beach!

Today, the Starfish team took the San Martin adult special needs to the beach for the day. A perfect day to end the amazing week we have all encountered is an understatement. Upon arrival, the team quickly unpacked the bus and got busy to welcome all of our guests for the day. Everyone of them was more than excited to greet our team with hugs and “hola”s. Then everyone headed straight for the beach to take in the amazing scenery. You may have seen the ocean before, but experiencing it with these guys was an experience unlike any other. Let me paint a scene for you. Imagine 19 adults on our team and over 20 special needs adults all hand in hand walking, laughing, running, jumping, some literally just laying in and sitting in the sand letting the water wash over them and just joyfully enjoying the perfect moment God had blessed us with. Talk about seeing the ocean the first time through someone else’s eyes. Happiness in the purest form! From there the day consisted of swimming, water balloon fights, crafts, a great lunch with cake after to celebrate Laura’s birthday and dancing. And wow! Dance  they could!!! These guys could dance for hours. It didn’t matter the song or the beat they were just overjoyed to be dancing and dancing and dancing!


I am personally blessed that this was my second trip to El Salvador. The first time was a life changing experience and after I left, I felt that I had left a part of me behind. So this year I was overly excited to have the opportunity to come again. However, I am equally as changed this year as last. I volunteered this week to type the blog the last night because I felt like thats where God was placing my heart. All week I prayed about what to say or for something to inspire me. And though there was many many things that impacted me this week a great deal, this morning I still woke up knowing that there was something lacking. God told me to have patience that it was yet to come. He knows that patience isnt my forte so maybe waiting to last minute was just the thing I needed. So today about halfway through the day I was out walking on the beach and one of the special needs adult men came to me carrying something. He motioned for me to hold out my hand, which I did and then he placed a seashell in my hand. Upon first glance I noticed that the shell had a decent size hole in it. It was broken. However, he was grinning happy as could be from ear to ear. He looked from me to the shell and back to me and said “bonita” which means beautiful in Spanish. My first thought was his perception of the shell was off, it wasn’t beautiful it was broken. 

And then it happened. God spoke to me and said “Is it his perception that is off or is it yours?” Wow, talk about shaking me to my core. My El Salvadorian friend was right, the shell was beautiful even with the hole because it was created by the Creator himself. It was my perception that was off. My friend wondered off into the sand to find another shell but God continued working on me. When I was looking at the shell I had been looking just at the brokenness not at the shell as a whole. God put a great word into my head, too many people like myself look at just their brokenness and not at themselves as a whole. We look at the holes and all the imperfections. God looks at us as a whole. Despite our many imperfections he loves all of us and sees the beauty in what he created. Do we deserve it? No, but he loves us anyways. Take the ocean for example, most when gazing upon it admit that it is beautiful. However, it too has its many imperfections, broken shells, seaweed, dead fish and much more but in whole it is beautiful. That's what God does with us he looks at all of us and he sees beauty and he loves us. He doesn’t see an imperfection where there is a hole, He sees a place that only He can fill! I encourage you all today to think about your perspective and try to look at the world more through eyes like my El Salvadorian friend. Lord knows He used that guy to change my perspective. Next time I see a special needs person I won’t pity them, I’ll admire them for the way they see the world: through the eyes of Heaven. 

-Melissa VanCleve

Matthew 20:16 "So the last will be first, and the first last."

Please be in prayer for the safety of the team as they travel home on Saturday! As always, we also pray that they return home eternally impacted; ready to positively change the lives of the less fortunate, whether it be locally at home, in El Salvador, or anywhere else in the world. Thank you for being a part of this journey!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thursday, Home Dedication

First things first this morning! The finishing touches had to go on the house so we could get dedicated and turned back over to its rightful owners!
Luckily there were plenty of little helpers round!
Finally it was all decorated and ready for the family!
The team prayed over the home and dedicated it to Christ. Encouraging the family and their children.
"Therefore whosoever hearth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:" -Matthew 7:24

Today, we finished the house for Rodrigo and his wife Flor, their kids Marvin and Jacqueline, and their abuela Josefina. We made a strong foundation, built the house, painted the walls, and we were even able to provide the family with beds, mattresses, chairs, a table, and some house hold items to furnish the house. We were also able to provide food for the local families along with hygiene packs, clothes, shoes, and prayer.

The same way that the parable of the wise man speaks of building upon a strong foundation, we should build our foundation on Christ, the rock of our salvation. The Lord has blessed our team and kept us safe through our journey thus far. And we pray that He continues to lead, guide, and direct us through the remainder of our mission trip. - Laura Roberts
Later the group said goodbye to the family and went out to minister and serve in the rest of the community. The passed out ice cream to the village children. Other team members took rice & beans to local families, asking how they could pray with them.
Here is a note from Aaron: 
We had a full day today. 
My group went to play with toddlers in a daycare center first. All the tiny tots were so cute and completely couldn't understand why I kept asking them to repeat themselves. Eventually I understood them, and they welcomed us. They ran over to sit in our laps immediately and my little boy didn't even look up at me but just played back against me. He had total trust. 
We handed out candy and painted shirts at the school before we went and dedicated the house. The family was so touched and joyful to have their own house. They said that it was an example of God's grace to us, in giving us his son, something we can't deserve. We all were touched and even their blind grandmother, or abuela, as we called her, expressed such love for us. She sang a song of praise and welcome and thanksthat she made up, and I got to lead her back to her house, giving directions in my very broken Spanish. She and the family taught us all a lot about thankfulness. 
As Kurt said, we thanked God that we successfully built a house for this family.

While their time in the village has come to a close, the week is not yet over! Tomorrow they will be taking approximately 40 special needs adults out of their orphanage center an on a big field trip! That's right, they're taking San Martin to the Beach! So, be sure to check in Friday night for some joyful photos from an excited group of beach goers!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wednesday: House Building, Life Changing

Today the team packed up early and headed to a remote El Salvadorian village. They were building a home for a family in extreme need. Please check out the photos below of the family and the house progress!
As you can see, it was a full, exhausting and rewarding day! Tomorrow the team will head back to put on the finishing touches and dedicate the home. They'll also be doing more service work within the community.
Below you'll find a note of reflection from Brooklyn on the groups Tuesday activities:

[Tuesday] we went to a boys center or orphanage. After a quick tour we spent a couple of hours playing soccer with the boys, a little basketball, made some t-shirt's and bracelets. As we wrapped up, I had the honor of sharing my testimony with the boys. It was amazing to see the love of the Father for these young men. I offered to pray for any of them who wanted to experience a deeper relationship with Jesus. I wasn't counting but I was told that 9 came down and there were only 2 that didn't. The team gathered around the boys and spent time looking into their eyes and praying for each one individually. We declared the love of the Father for them, the purpose and calling and goodness that God has for each of them and words of encouragement. It was a beautiful thing to see these boys moved to the point of tears welling up in their eyes. God is all over them and absolutely adores them. Of course there is much brokenness, but that's not what I saw. I saw so much strength in each of them. I saw determination. I saw leadership, compassion, protectiveness, creativity, joy, peace and so much more. I learned from them and took away so much hope, so much joy, so much love, so much life. I believe that's what happens when you look at others through the eyes of the Father, past the seen and into the unseen like Paul talks about in Corinthians. The seen, this natural realm, is temporary. Yet the unseen lasts for eternity, it is superior to the seen. As you think of these young men, pray for them but do not pity them. Rather, ask Father God to let you see them through His eyes. Pray they would all encounter the Father in a new way and pray they would grow deeper in their love for God as He continues to lavish His love upon them.