Saturday, March 24, 2018

Day 6: Incredible Friendships

So this past week you have been kept up to date on everything we’ve done, but not on the amazing group of young people doing it. To me, that is just as important so I’m going to describe each of them, as best I can. 

If you don’t care to read these, but want today’s recap, just scroll for a bit, it’s there. 

Naturally, I’ve grown closer to a few people than I have others, so some may not be as detailed. 

Abigail Downs

I don’t know that anyone has a bad thing to say about Abbi. She’s one of the sweetest, most agreeable people I know. She always went with the flow, worked hard, and laughed while doing it, and her laugh is especially sweet. It’s truly a pleasure to be able to know her. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Alyssa Yancey

Alyssa is probably one of the more patient-seeming people on this team. The entire time she was just along for the ride and I never heard her complain once. I realize that, at times, I’m not the easiest to put up with, it’s just my personality, so either she likes me as a person or she’s incredibly patient (I like to think it’s both) because she was nice the entire time, even when we we’re close-quarters (which was a pretty considerable amount of time considering the size of our team and bus). She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Bre’onna Logothetis

I’ve met Bre’onna for the first time in fourth grade when she moved to West Kentucky. I don’t remember much about how she was then, but now, I can attest to the fact that she is one of the most resilient and spiritually strong young women I know. She has a beautiful voice and an even more beautiful heart for worship which made her perfect to lead our worship night. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Brianna Higgins

Brianna is, for sure, a sweetheart and a master of her iPhone’s portrait mode. Only God and the NSA know how many pictures she took of everyone and everything, the fewest being of herself. Everyone on this trip could more than easily pick her out of a lineup based on accent alone, as thick as it is, and we all love it. She will always hold a special place in my heart.

Claire Thomas

Claire is, honestly, probably the sweetest girl I know. While Brianna may have the thickest accent, Claire’s is definitely the most endearing. Her voice is just as sweet as she is. She was loving with all of the kids we encountered and with each of us, making sure we all knew just how loved we are by her. While she may be able to horrify you with stories from working at a nursing home, she obviously loves her job which is a testament to how compassionate she is. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Eliza Kate Carter

EK is, easily, the most experienced out of any of the students as this is her ninth trip to El Salvador, showing just how passionate her heart for this place is. She may be loud, but she is, for sure, hilarious and can always make me laugh with what she says or just how she says it. Some may see her as controlling but I undoubtedly view her as a natural leader and she definitely proved that quality to be present in her. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Emily Strasser 

Emily showed that her love of photography was strong because when there wasn’t manual work to do, she was capturing each moment of this trip. This camera is her signature. With an astonishing amount of talent, she carefully documented as much of this trip as any one person could and obviously loved it the whole time. It is undeniable that everyone on this team appreciates her camera, her incredibly bright smile, and her bubbly personality. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Erin Gardner

Erin cracks me up in that she easily points out the peculiarities in things. For example, I have a joke that probably everyone has heard, at least once, that is ridiculously long and she was observant enough to notice that I never vary in how I say every sentence, something that I didn’t even notice myself. Erin was loving to every kid we saw and worked hard at everything we did. She has a great sense of humor and an amazing work ethic. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Gabi Quintanilla 

Gabi was one of the few people I’d met before this trip, outside of meetings regarding this trip. She and I had Spanish together and, while I remembered her, she admitted she didn’t realize until a couple days in that she’d had class with any of us, let alone me. Gabi is one of several that you never saw without a smile on her face, and hers is especially bright. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Jenna Hackel 

Jenna was a last-minute, but wonderful addition to this team. While she may be the quiet-type at first, we got her talking no issue by the end of this week. As Kayla put it, she’s, “quiet, reserved, and thinks things through carefully before acting.” This is a quality I think everyone should work on and I admire greatly as it is a virtue. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Kyle Garner

I wish I had met Kyle much sooner than I got to. It is crazy the number of ways that I’m similar to this kid. He and I, in a short time, got to know each other rather well and grow to be, what I would consider, close friends. He is, undeniably, one of the most upstanding young men I have met in my entire life. He is amazingly strong, spiritually, and is just an all-around, genuinely great person. I look up to him, in several ways, even though we aren’t far apart in age. I look forward to spending time with him in the future. He will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Landon Lindsey

I knew of Landon before this trip but I can’t say that I knew him to any degree. He and I hit it off pretty quick due to our mutual love of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and many other movies. Landon is headstrong, nerdy, and fun-loving as we all saw this week. And one of the leaders put it, “I can’t tell you the number of times I leaned over to Laura and said, ‘have you ever seen a smile so big?’” He will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Lexie Myers

If you ask any of the translators and project-leaders, Lexie was one of the most hardworking on the team, likely because she gets so into building-day. Lexie was the first girl on this trip, I would say, that I made friends with. That may be attributed almost entirely to the fact that we ended up crammed next to each other on the bus from the airport, but, nonetheless, she and I hit it off pretty well. This is her second trip so after I went to feed the homeless the first time, she knew I would need to talk about it, as it’s an emotional experience, and she made sure I knew she was there. I don’t think she realizes what it meant to me to know I had someone I could open up to this whole week. I don’t know that she’ll ever realize. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Maggie Raffety

I knew Maggie pretty well before this trip but, as she told us, this trip showed things that she didn’t even know about herself. Maggie was amazing with all of the kids and was never not laughing, playing, or being climbed on, if the opportunity was present. It was a blessing to get to see her interact with them. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Malaysia Bridgett

If you ask literally anyone on this team, they will all tell you that Malaysia is one of, if not the, single sassiest person they have met in their entire life. From what she says to her facial expressions, she is 100% sassy. Tonight, Kurt, director of Sus Hijos, interrupted our team leader, Laura; Malaysia did not hesitate to use his own line against him and asked “who’s talking? Why are you talking?” She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Olivia Swadley

Olivia was great this week. She has so many stories from so many places because she has been all over the globe in her short life (notably, a five-week trip to Nepal) and every story is incredibly entertaining. She’s funny, she’s strong, she’s hard working, and a pleasure to be around. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Sydney Stivers 

Sydney is awesome, she really is. She and I are similar in that we have an array of voices that we use for comedic effect and use a brand of sarcasm, centered around not showing that it’s a joke until someone seems offended. At one point, we even agreed that we’d just insult each other in good fun but would have no reason to be upset because if it’s negative, the we don’t really mean it. She worked hard, played hard, and showed how amazing her heart is through so much that she did this week. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Jennifer Frazier

Jennifer is, in a way, the reason this trip exists and we were all able to be so blessed this week. She was the team mom and I don’t know that anyone on this trip doesn’t love her. She kind and loving, but you better be sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing because, if not, she’ll let you know. The constant side-comments were much appreciated and she was such a blessing through all of this. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Laura Roberts

While Jennifer is the reason the WKCTC trip was originally organized, Laura is the lifeblood of every trip Starfish goes on anywhere in the world. I don’t know that anything would get done without that woman. She’s flexible, sweet, fun-loving, amazing, and so many other things, all in one package. I’ve known her for over a year now, volunteering at Starfish and I’m excited for our future encounters and adventures together. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Mrs. Chevene 

Though she may stand only about five feet in height, this woman is a giant. No one speaks as eloquently or motivationally as she does. She is so strong and she lets everyone know it. She is wise and funny, and I know first hand how well she can take a joke. Seeing us next to each other is funny because, not only is she the shortest of everyone here, but I’m the tallest. I look forward to checking in on this lovely lady, so that she can check in on me. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Kayla Kibbler

Kayla is a truly remarkable person. She and I have such an interesting and entertaining dynamic. After one conversation, it seems like she can tell you things about you, not only that she would have no way of knowing, but things you don’t recognize about yourself. She has an amazing and corny sense of humor, similar to mine. She can get along with everyone, and she does, and, on top of that, be one of everyone’s favorite people. She gives amazing advice and instructions and is loving the whole time. While I have only known her a short time, she means a great deal to me and I’d do anything for her. She will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Regrettably, I don’t have the time, nor the emotional energy go on about the translators, who mean the world to me, but I would like to mention, specifically Jason, who, in a few short days, has made a great impact on my life. 

I love each and every one of you, more than you will ever understand. You have left an incredible and beautiful mark on my life. I will never forget this week or any of you as this has been the single greatest week of my entire life. I love you guys. 

Alex Parker 

Recap of Day 6:

Today was a great day! We as a team had an amazing time at the beach with the teenage mothers and their babies from San Vincente de Paul. We are so thankful that we were able to take this group to the beach. It did not disappoint. We started the day out with about an hour or so bus ride to the beach from the mission house. (Thankfully we had an AUX cord for the bus) Once we arrived, I knew from the start it was going to be a great day. The beach house was amazing. A backyard was filled with palm trees and a pool. There was also a very nice gazebo with 3 hammocks for all of us to have a turn at relaxing. Also in the backyard was a stone path leading from the house to the beach. The beach was an amazing sight. To the right you could see the mountains on the horizon and to the left was sand and water as far as the eye could see. This beach house was amazing. The group from San Vincente de Paul showed up about 10 minutes after we did and the party immediately started. The pool and ocean were a huge hit. One of the translators, JosuĂ©, told me that El Salvador was known as one of the top 10 places in the world to go surfing. The waves were huge and I believe everyone had a blast. Next came lunch. Kurt and Steve showed up in style, chicken and coke in hand. We served a lunch of chicken, an apple, potato chips, a cookie and bread to these girls. After lunch, Mrs. Chevene led us in the pass left or pass right game while she read a story. Then followed by her famous machine game. I was able to pray over the girls after a brief lesson about how God will never leave your side from translator Lily. And right back to the fiesta we went. The pool was instantly full of fun and laughter. Then came the hard part of saying goodbye to the girls and their babies, when it was time for them to leave. It was a blessing to be able to spend a day at the beach house with these girls and their children. We were fortunate enough to give each mother a draw string bag filled with clothes, toys and goody bags for their kids, and some peanut butter crackers to eat. This was one of the greatest feelings to see their faces light up in a smile when we offered them a gift. These girls impacted me in a way I’m not sure how to explain, they were so happy to be receiving a simple gift. After they left we had around 2 hours on the beach to ourselves. We had a huge game of volleyball going on with the translators. And of course this was fun. The last hour or so we spent watching the sun slowly falling from the sky. The El Salvadorian sunset is one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in my life. With the mountains on the horizon, and the sun falling down right beside them, not much could top that amazing sight. After about 100 sunset photos we loaded up the bus and headed to the pupusaria. A pupusa is a very popular dish in El Salvador that is similar to a quesadilla. We had unlimited pupusas and a lot of fun. Malaysia took one the the greatest shots at Kurt I have ever heard. Kurt was constantly getting onto people for talking and not paying attention to him while he was talking so as Laura was talking to the group when Kurt chimes in with a smart comment and Malaysia immediately says, “Um, who’s talking?” The entire group erupted in laughter and Kurt’s face turned more red than a tomato as he was too embarrassed to say anything else. After our pupusaria visit we had a short ride on the bus back to the mission house. Then came, without a doubt, the hardest part of the trip... saying goodbye to all of the amazing translators who we grew so close to over the week and shared every moment with. One of the worst feelings in the world is having to say goodbye to the people who haven’t left your side. This is my fourth trip to El Salvador with starfish and Sus Hijos and it never gets easier to say goodbye. The hugs came and tears came with them. Some more emotional than others, everyone was upset to see them leave. All in all, we have had an unforgettable and amazing week. Nothing will ever be able to break the bonds we have formed or erase the memories we have made together. Everyone on this trip will forever hold a special place in my heart for the friendships I’ve made. Peace out El Sal

Kyle Garner

Friday, March 23, 2018

Day 5: A Roller Coaster of Emotions 

        Today was the day I had been waiting for. Quiet some time ago God laid on my heart that I was to become a nurse to care for his people. Today I had the privilege of visiting the children's cancer hospital. This was amazing for me to see the difference in the healthcare aspect, but it also allowed me to be in my element for a very short period of time. I was able to understand what they were doing to the children without having to try to break down language barriers. God put me in this field to serve his people and today I did not give medical care at the hospital, but I got to give each child a lunchbox and stuffed animal just to put a smile on their sad faces.  

         The day did not stop with the children's hospital. This week I have broke through so many walls, and have been able to pray out loud for the first time. After leaving the hospital we walked the street in front of the hospital and passed out goody bags. As we were passing out goody bags we would pray for what the family needed. This was a very heart warming experience to see each one of my peers along with the translators and myself praying for these people in need. 

To finish out the day we got to go to my favorite place. We had a luau for the people of San Martin. Special needs and children are my passion. I love being around them because the have such a positive outlook on the world even in their situation. As soon as I stepped off the bus I was greeted by 4 people who I of course got hugs from. As the afternoon continued the party gravitated toward the slip n' slide. None of the Gringos were agreeing to go down the slide and 3 people asked me to go, therefore I couldn't say no. EditI soaked my only outfit for the day for a couple races down the bowling slip n' slide although the Gringos ended up losing. This afternoon was filled with smiles, laughing, and water. My heart could not be more full today reflecting on the amount of happiness these people have and give each person. I can honestly say each of these people blessed me far beyond I ever thought possible. 

-Alyssa Yancey

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Day 4: Building a Blessing in Disguise

Today I am thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to minister, thankful for the incredible people we have been honored to serve. It is incredibly challenging to fully comprehend the difficult situations people experience on a daily basis. Being able to witness the suffering and devastation these resilient people face has been an extremely eye opening experience. Today we had the honor of dedicating two houses to two different and extremely deserving families. These families were both essentially homeless with few possessions to their name. To be able to give them a home, give them comfort and safety, was a blessing beyond comprehension. Families that once lived in shacks with dirt floors and no beds to speak of, who are constantly under the strain of existence, now have homes with beds, tables and chairs, and solid sturdy walls. Over the course of building when I was wiping the sweat off my brow, aching from the work, I didn't quite yet understand that we were not building houses, we were building homes. A sanctuary for these families to be able to grow in their faith and spirit.Witnessing the dedication of the houses to the families, handing them the keys and seeing them as they stood in their new dwellings was an experience I wish to savor for the rest of my life. It was an incredible reminder of humans and their propensity for persistence and the grace of God who is the ultimate giver of strength and love. I feel so incredibly humbled and extremely thankful and blessed that I had the beautiful opportunity to be there helping these families in their struggle. They gave me far more than I could ever give them, for these families gave me the opportunity to serve not only them but also the Lord and his will and an incredible opportunity to be the difference. I didn't quite understand how truly rewarding and what an incredible blessing it would be to build and give these families a home, my soul feels so incredibly uplifted, and I am so extremely thankful. During the preparation for this trip, I heard our group leaders say on multiple occasions that the people that we would encounter and help over the course of this trip would bless us far more than we could ever bless them. They were right. -Erin

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Day 3: Building new homes and new friendships!

The language barrier won't stop us!

Today is our third day and it is also house building day! We went to a community about an hour and a half away to what us Gringos would consider mountains, but the Salvadorans call hills. We started off by spraying the walls and floors of the house we were about to assemble with termite spray. After helping with the termite spay my contribution to the house was over and I went to play with the kids in the area. We got the soccer ball out and started playing a game called "Mika." To my understanding it was basically playing tag, but instead of touching another person and saying "you're it" you would throw the ball at someone else and say "Mika!" We were all having a blast! It was amazing to see the kids so happy and content even though they had so little. Playing with the kids today has been my favorite part of the mission trip so far. After a game of Mika, we started tickling each other and all the girls were smiling from ear to ear. A couple of them would even fake giving me a hug so that they could tickle me! At one point I was the only one playing with the kids and they were trying to teach me Spanish words, although I wasn't pronouncing the words correctly and they started laughing at me. I didn't mind though because all I wanted today was to see those kids smiling and enjoying their day. Even though we didn't speak the same language we were still able to play with each other, goof around, and become friends. We also painted #marshallstrong on the house in support of Marshall County High School where some of our team members have graduated from and two who are still students there. It was an amazing day full of laughter and love for one another. I am truly blessed that God placed me on this trip to serve.

With love, Maggie

Monday, March 19, 2018

Day 2: Too Sweet for Words

Today, on our second day in El Salvador, we went to place called San Martin. This center is for special needs adults. San Martin always causes your emotions to go a little crazy , alternating between joy and sadness. The joy comes from the endless amounts of hugs and kisses from the sweet residents who very quickly become your new best friends. Dance parties are always a hit here, and any of these people could out-dance us gringos any day;) As always, God has a way of revealing different parts of himself to us in every situation. Having been to El Salvador two times before, it is easy to have the "I've seen it all" mindset. However, as I entered into the homes of the least able residents, my thoughts on this were changed. Seeing these people living in these conditions is always a hard pill to swallow. Many thoughts rush in and tears come from nowhere. This time, my mind kept going back to one thought. Where have these people been for the last 2 1/2 years? In the time it has been since I have visited this country, where have they been? The answer is simple; they haven't moved. While I have been contently living my life is the U.S., these sweet souls have been at San Martin. The same faces I saw in December of 2015 were there in those houses looking back at me. Knowing what to do with these thoughts is hard, but the answer is simple. The answer is to love. Although this sounds so overstated, it is a truth that Christ calls us to embrace. The remainder of our time here will be spent doing just that, and I can't wait to see what else He does through this team. - Sydney Stivers

Chaco tans and messy buns would accurately describe the looks of many of our teammates. To say it's a little warmer here than in Kentucky is an understatement. Sweat is constantly pouring off our faces and bodies, and we are constantly seeking shade, but none of that matters. What really matters is the way we bless others on this trip, and get blessings in return. Last night we fed the homeless. It was eye opening to see that people that can barely move or walk can run to the sound of the simple word "comida".

After almost 23 hours of being awake and the most refreshing 5-6 hours of sleep I've ever had, we started our first full day. We began by loading all of the supplies for tomorrow's day of building houses. This included many bricks, floors, walls, and tin roofs along with tools and concrete. Then, we went to a center for special needs Adult's to have a dance party and love on them. It was so full of hugs and the love of Jesus. We then got to go meet some teenage mothers and their babies. If you know me, babies are my favorite thing in the whole world. I got to hold the smallest baby I have ever seen. She was only 12 days old, and so so precious.Today has been a great day with many smiles and so many new friends, and it is just the beginning. Please continue to pray for our team and sus hijos for this trip and weeks to come.  With Grace, Olivia Swadley

Day 1, ElSalvador

Today marks day one on our El Salvador adventure. So far we have gotten to meet multiple great people that live here in San Salvador. We were blessed to visit Cisna, where we played soccer, volleyball, and basketball with the boys that stayed there. We also got to hand out goody bags to all of the kids after listening to Kyle Garner's testimony. We've eaten well, burgers from Wendy's and delicious pizza from Pizza Hut. I'm looking forward to all of the activities going on this week but I'm also making sure to savor every moment. Any prayers for the members of the Starfish team, translators, and residents of El Salvador would help our mission tremendously. -Jenna I have prayed for God to break my heart for what breaks His, and for Him to truly open my eyes and heart to not just what I have seen, but to what I have yet to see. The moment I got off the plane and into El Salvador, I knew that prayer had been answered. Being able to go to The Boy's home, was truly out of my comfort zone, yes I play sports, but to see all that was, "normal" to them, but not quite normal to me was heart breaking and uncomfortable at first. To see these boys all of whom have different stories that make them who they are and seeing the hurt as well as seeing them lack the very things we Americans cannot live without was truly hard to fathom. I've been staying steadfast to a popularly known verse I feel God has really pressed on my heart which is, Psalms 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God." Maybe so I can see things aren't as bad as I imagine they are. He had me come here to see all that He has prepared for us to see. Something else that happened later this evening was that we had been given the opportunity of feeding the homeless. Again, heart breaking. To know that they have suffered the way that have, and to know that most of them probably don't have an intimate relationship with the one who is dying to be the lover of their soul is crushing. Then I realize, I am truly blessed. So I humbly and willingly gave the food out that we had prepared and silently prayed that He would use me, a servant, and that even though I cannot change what happens here or anywhere else in the world, I know that our never ending loving Father in heaven can and will if we so let Him. There is so much more I have learned and this is only the first day, but I can tell you this week is a stepping stone God has placed in front of me, and I know it will be part of the rest of my life and hopefully contribute to what ever He has in store. God, I pray you restore our brokenness and that it will bring you glory. Open our eyes to see.                                                                          With Love,                                                                                                        Breonna Logothetis

Monday, March 12, 2018

Dream Home Sunday 

Today was the craziest, hardest and hottest day so far on this amazing experience yet. It was by far the best. We were blessed enough to build a house for a family in need and donate to the surrounding community.I bonded with the son of the family receiving the house so much; his smile, the way he looked at his new home was itself enough to make this entire trip worth it. In honor of my late boyfriend, and so beloved fellow student of our team, Cullen Gream, I was able to paint "CG8" on the front of the house, along with "MarshallStrong" and the symbol of the ministry Sus Hijos, who we are working with here. This was my favorite part of the trip because it stands so much for why I had such a passion for this trip.  It has changed my life similar to how he did. I know he would have been here with us today working harder than anyone, yet still smiling so hard and loving every second of what he was doing. I was also blessed to have the opportunity to hand over the keys to the family. No words can describe the feeling of being able to hand over something so great and something you and your team worked so hard on. After the ceremony, our team came together to chant our famous "Tilghman Party" chant. This was also a highlight of the trip for me because I know how hard we all worked together today and how happy we were to be able to bless this family and this moment truly showed this.

Ashley Rich