Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Beautiful Love in Brazil

Brazil is one of my favorite countries. The places where I go in Brazil, they don’t seem to care at all about what shade your skin is or where you are from. Everyone is treated the same way.

The people that we have met have been SO hospitable! They want to feed you, and they are wonderful cooks!  No one eats ANYTHING without sharing it. John and I don’t drink coffee! Never, ever! We even drank coffee for the first time. They make it SO strong here, that they serve it in these little tiny cups. It’s often served with amazing flan. I am so happy to be sharing this experience with my husband! This is his first time in Brazil.

The organization that we work with here goes directly into the favelas many times every week and works in the poorest areas.  Their # 1 objective is sharing the gospel. #2 is meeting the next deepest needs of the children of these communities.  The ways that they help these children are both creative and endless!  
Today we helped as Nate (a Missionary from the states who lives here), picked out ingredients that the mothers in the favelas, could make with expired produce, that they can get easily for little or nothing.  
He then teaches them to use these items!
One of the things they can get are bananas that are over ripe. Nate asked me to wash some clusters of bananas. I thought it a little odd, but I have told John, “Nate always has method to his madness!”  I washed the bananas. Next he asked me to peel them. Then it got more strange! Nate asked one of the summer interns and I to take a fork and shred the banana peels.  This made the peel look similar to pasta, dark, slimy pasta. Meanwhile Nate was heating some butter, peppers and onions on the stove, and dancing between that and mixing some concoction in a bowl. What he did next blew our minds. He fried the banana peels in the skillet, adding his homemade BBQ sauce. Then he mixed cilantro with his homemade mayo. He took a bun, put the banana peel mixture in the bun, then topped it with the cilantro and mayo mixture! What came out was a beautiful sandwich that looked like what you would find in a super trendy restaurant. It was a pulled pork sandwich (looked and tasted like it) but made with banana peels that would have been thrown away!

Nate is an organic gardener, and he takes produce cultivated from his garden into this community every week, but that is one or two days a week. He came up with an incredible idea to find out what foods they can get, then teach them lots of ways to use them. 

This is just one example of small things that make a big difference in the lives of these children. This group that we are working with, they do countless things every day to make life better for children here, starting with their spiritual well-being. 
We are honored to be working with this amazing group of people!
If you are interested in coming on a trip like this, please give us a call!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Friday with Sweet Friends...

Today was a divide and conquer kind of day. Brother Martin left the mission house early with Eric, the Sus Hijos spiritual leader, and some translators to visit a men’s prison. 

The rest of the team started out on a different adventure.  We loaded up 2 vans and 1 bus with adults, kids, wheelchairs, walkers and other assorted equipment  The excitement on those precious faces as they got on the bus was a sight to see!  We paired ourselves up, 1 adult and 1 child. We enjoyed the museum through their eyes. It was a simple place but through their eyes it was a place of wonder. The girl I was with didn’t want much to do with me when we started. If you know me that became a challenge. At our last exhibit, the Planetarium, she laid next to me with her head on my shoulder stroking my hair and me hers. As much as our hearts are filled with love for them, Jesus loves them so much more.

The next stop was States Diner for a good ole hamburger and fries. They LOVED those.  I’ve never seen burgers disappear so quickly! One girl was having her 15th birthday. We sang and had cake. She was giddy with all the attention. All too soon it was time to load up and go our separate ways. Hugs all around and shouts of Adios!  
One day I will greet those precious souls when we get to Heaven. Where they will run without walkers or wheelchairs. They will see Jesus face as clearly as I do. Their lack of understanding will be gone. Their silence will forever be shouts of Hosanna!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Thursday... Beautiful Reflections

Much can be said about a person's first experience to  El Salvador and all those first time impressions. But the second season here brings surprisingly new and beautifully deep reflections. Maybe it's the peaceful fluidity of this particular trip or the smaller team size that has caused me to feel more deeply than even the first time. Maybe I'm not concentrating on the routine and schedule and able to look without anxiety at the moment I'm experiencing. By the way, El Salvador does not have a pressed in stone schedule; things change moment by moment. Our team calls it "ish" such as we are meeting at 9:00 and "ish" comes into play and we leave at 7:00 to a totally different destination.  If you let it, “ish" can be fun and full of God potential. Today our "ish" led us back to see the fruit of our  last year’s work where we painted the walls of the training hair salon at Cambia Tu Vida .  Cambia Tu Vida is an orphanage which stands for “change your life.” What I saw this second time were young girls that believed they could change their destiny. We of course didn't do exactly what we expected but God's unraveling of our expectations led us to set and marvel at what it means to see him intervene in a young person's life which you can be a part. After the orphanage, we went to Femenino juvenile detention center for young girls . At this prison you can see even small children because the girls keep their children in prison with them until the children reach five years of age. I led the Bible study again  today and as I looked into those beautiful dark eyes of these young girls I recognized some of the faces from last year. When I spoke to them it was as if  we were familiar acquaintances and I suddenly remember the Holy Spirit’s prompting for how to pray for them. After my study I approached one of the girls and said "I remember you" and the most amazing response came from her, "I remember you too". My heart felt the joy of the connection; we remembered each other. That's what God did for me today. I returned to a place to participate in God's work-the second time around. - Ginger

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Wednesday... A whole new world for one family!

Today we had the opportunity to furnish and dedicate the house to the wonderful family we built it for. We were able to fit 3 separate bunk beds in the house along with a shelf and two rocking chairs! 
The family was incredibly gracious, and it was a life changing experience to be able to be the hands and feet of God to provide this new home and feeling of safety and security for this sweet family. 
The smiles on their faces (and even some tears) after they unlocked and opened the door to their new home was unforgettable. After helping this one family, God gave us the opportunity to help the community surrounding the family as well. 
We filled the bellies of 36 families in the community today and were able to donate clothes and treat bags to all. I’m sure that we all felt God’s presence as we prayed over each family. One of the things that stood out the most today was that even though most families had nothing, their first prayer requests were for us; their thankfulness for our team and for what we were able to bring them. 
It was important for me to remember that all the thanks really goes to God. Our team hopes and prays to keep our hearts open as the week goes on so that we can continue to spread the love of God to everyone we meet. 
Later in the evening, we were also able to go out on the streets and feed the homeless. I thank God for giving us the resources to be able to do this and to give strength to everyone that needed it tonight. We excited for what the end of the week holds for us!
-Gabby Hammond 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Monday, Blessings all around!

Sometimes God speaks to us as clearly as if He came down from the sky, looked you straight in the eye and started talking. Other times it seems like He’s speaking in riddles, or not speaking at all. Since I made the decision to come on this first mission to El Salvador, the Enemy has been whispering doubts in my ear: “Has God indeed said...” you should go on this mission? (Genesis 3:3) I figured at least once I got here I would feel certain. But after 3 nights away from home, I still woke up this morning praying that I was supposed to come. Tonight I received assurance. 

Our day was spent playing, laughing, and loving the orphans and special-needs adults, at the centers we went to. Who knew a little music and some rubber band bracelets could bring so much joy? We also got to speak with one of the workers there who shared how God has been working in her life. She told us how she had worked for years at another job but was never able to get a house. When she changed jobs to work here, though, after only a couple of months, the Lord intervened and she found a house! It is so good to hear the stories of God working in the lives of those who obey Him, even on the other side of the continent!
After a full day, we came back to the mission house to prepare the food we would take to feed to the homeless. Most of the veterans of this mission describe this as the most emotionally difficult part. But for me, it gave me so much joy.

Of course, I can see how the heart-wrenching state of poverty that so many people live in can be overwhelming. But instead of focusing on the sad things, God brought my attention to the smiles, the laughter, and the sound of “¡Dios te bendiga!” (God bless you!) being proclaimed on the streets. 
As we drove, in my mind I argued against the devil’s lies and asked myself: what biblical reason can you find that tells you this is *not* something God has called you to do? All that could come to mind was 
“Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my Brethren, you did it unto me,” and “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Matthew 25:40 and Mark 16:15) Of course this is what God has called me to do! He calls me to this every day! 
I am blessed that this week I get to obey Him here in El Salvador, but the call is always there. God is not speaking in riddles. 
He has put it in black and white for me so that I may have no doubt.

                                                                 -Ashley Hartung

Sunday, in El Salvador!

What a wonderful first day in El Salvador. We enjoyed a time of worship with Pastor Haziel at Mt. Calvario Baptisto Church. I always enjoy the upbeat music and often sing songs that are familiar such as “How Great is Our God” and “How Great Thou Art”. Ginger and I stayed to hear the encouraging message of the value of the believer to God. The rest of the team worked with several children during the message time. Lydia shared about Jonah and the big fish and the kids made a craft that helped them understand it.

Later we took nine young men from an orphanage to see the new movie “Alladin.” 
They were very surprised and enjoyed the treat! Normally these teenage boys would have spent yet another day in their orphanage, likely playing soccer barefoot with a makeshift soccer ball so getting to go out on an excursion is a treat. Thank you so much to those of you who helped to make this possible!
(For the safety and protection of the boys, we are not allowed to post their photos, but here is part of our team in front of the theatre we took them to.)

We finished the day with some instructions for the week and to bed. 

Dios te bendiga!, Martin Severns