Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Tuesday, Building in a Community

Today was my favorite day so far. After getting up and ready we went straight to the building site. My group was assigned to help start building the community center; we were tasked with moving 2,000 concrete blocks about 30 meters. Also we were to dig five holes each six feet deep.
When the truck of blocks arrived we made an assembly line from it to the new site. Once we got a rhythm  the blocks were almost floating from one side to the other. We were not all needed so I occasionally switched out to dig. Digging was truly my favorite part. For me I think it was because I loved to see the progress of my own actions. Honestly, it was therapeutic!
After unloading all the bricks and eating lunch I was assigned to help paint the house. I was proud of my teammates for getting the build done so quickly. Painting was fun and relaxing and we were able to give the family a storybook Bible! The little girl could not stop looking at the colorful pictures with a big smile.
Also we got to paint the house a hot pink! I think it is cool that Sus Hijos always paints their houses a bright color (which the family gets to pick). After returning to the community center build site I immediately started digging again. Dawson Black and I would switch out; he would pick axe the dirt loose and then I would scoop it out.
I love systems and organization so I was very happy. I think I have learned a lot about myself today. Altogether the day was very rewarding; I was able to push myself physically and grow spiritually by directly being a disciple of Christ. - Alex Baez


Tuesday we went to a community  to build houses and a community center. When  we arrived at the site and started building, there were two kids. A boy, who was 7 and the a girl, who was 3. They told me they were siblings, and I talked to them for a while. They started telling me how some of their family lived with them in this small house. I think for me , when they told me that, it reminded me of the family I have in Mexico. In my grandmas house, my two aunts , my uncle and cousins all live together. Everytime I go to Mexico and stay with them I get reminded of how much they truly mean to me, being surrounded by them brings me a sense of joy land comfort, and so I felt like it must be the same with those kids, and even more so because they get to grow up with them.
Of course family’s have their share of fights but even so they always will care and love each other. Something that my parents always say is “friends come and go, but family always stays”. In that moment when those kids told me that I felt happy. Because for me, family is so important and sometimes in tough situations that’s all we need, just someone to be there for us. And the relationship that those kids had with their mom was so sweet to me. They told me their mom , grandma, grandpa,and cousin live with them. I believe your family is so so important because that’s something that never goes away. Family is always there to help you.

The relationship those two siblings had with all their family was so admirable , they hugged each other and the older brother would help his sister with simple things like opening chips, and just the way they cared and talked to each other was so admirable to me. I’m going to remember those kids faces and if anything they gave me a reminder on how meaningful it is to be surrounded with your family.
Angelique Hernandez 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

New friends…

We started off the day by taking the special needs adults bowling.
After bowling we walked them to the States diner while holding their hands and ate together.
Finally, we helped rebuild and restore the San Martin Center for them. We helped restore it by adding new coats of paint and clearing out sticks, logs, and leaves. 
After the experience I had today I’ve noticed how much we have impacted their lives just by little things like hanging out with them and giving them a hug or a high five.
They’ve also impacted my life in different ways by showing me that even though they might be suffering mentally, physically, or economically that they can still find happiness in hard times.
- Alex McMillan

Mè amigo Carlos
So yesterday as we entered the Bowling Alley on Monday the 20th I never knew that one person who barely knew English could change my perspective on God and this world.
For the first few minutes I just knew Carlos as a special-ed El Salvadoran who was above average at bowling. But as he started to get tired he made his way over to the arcade which lasted a total of 5 minutes. 
We soon made our way over to the bar where Carlos saw a blue Powerade, and he knew he had to have it. So as Carlos was going around asking for a 1$ coin I was just a dog on his leash. Mrs Laura generously gave Carlos the 1$ coin he was looking for. So we headed back to the bar to get his long awaited blue Powerade that he soon downed in a total of 30 seconds.
So, Carlos now full of Powerade decided to hit the bowling alley again, but this time Weslyn joined us. As we bowled for about 15 more minutes I figured out that despite all of Carlos’s challenges he was a very intelligent man. So as we finished up our second round of bowling  Carlos wanted to take a break so we sat down, 
Carlos, Weslyn, and I. This is is where I found out Carlos was just like me and he had the same feelings. He started talking very fluent Spanish so I called my friend Steven over to translate for us. At first Steven told us he wasn’t making sense of what he was saying. A little while longer Steven figured out what he was trying to say.
Carlos told Weslyn and I that he felt bad because he sometimes says bad words or does bad things but he knows people are less fortunate than him and he needs to be grateful for what he has. To know that was coming from someone with special-needs living in a third world country was very heart warming. Knowing that Carlos himself had very little but he still knew that he was fortunate to have what he did have. This trip has shown us all how fortunate we all are.

The Impact Monday morning we went bowling with the special needs adults. It was so refreshing to see people so happy and grateful. Even though there was a language and intellect barrier, I still feel I was able to connect with the people on a personal level. A genuine smile can say so much. We are lucky enough to get lunch with them after the bowling. The man we sat with was so happy to have a nice meal. He kept saying how amazing it was and you could read it in his facial expressions.
Later in the night I went to go feed the homeless. That was the most impactful night of my life. Over half the people we said didn’t have shoes. We handed out bags of food and bottles of sweet tea. We also handed out lollipops. Handing out the lollipops really touched my heart because it showed that we not only care that they are fed, but that they cannot have a source of happiness and satisfaction. There was one woman in particular who living under a trash bag. She was around 65 and and very sickly. I asked if I could pray for her, and she said yes. I kneeled in the street, held her hand, and prayed for her well-being. When I opened my eyes her face looked like it had hope which was something it lacked previously. I don’t think I will ever forget that woman’s face.
There was another man who had no shoes. Not even a piece of cardboard to lay on. Literally no posssessions but his torn shirt and jeans. When we gave him a reusable cup, his eyes lit up like nothing I’ve ever seen. He threw his hands up and started saying, “God bless you! God bless you!” After figuring out we were from the U.S., he told us he was from Canada and farmed rice. He spoke perfect English, and it was so devastating to see someone who once had an entire life, now have absolutely nothing.
On our way back to the truck, every single time without fail we would be followed and screamed at with complete and utter desperation. We also saw many little girls living on the street. It really impacted my friend, Christian in particular. She was able to speak to one of the girls. The little girl was five and had only a filthy pink shirt and shorts that were falling apart. Christian gave the girl her jacket. I think it’s beautiful that I’ve gotten to see so many of my friends, true character.
The ride home with very quiet. You could sense the gratitude among the group. I’ve never in my life seen poverty like this, but I am incredibly grateful that I am in the position to help as much as I can. Overall I must say I’m grateful beyond words for my position in life, for Laura, for this trip, and for the entire group. This trip has made me realize just how real proverty can be. Although that sounds close minded, it’s not easy to grasp a concept until you can see it. This trip has shown me just how big the world really is. 
This has motivated me to become more involved in my own community at home and I will seek service opportunities at home. Thank you to any parents reading this for sending your kids on this trip. I’m so grateful for our group and the size of it. I want to say I’m so grateful for this opportunity, and I will never take some thing like a bed for granted ever again. -Ava Russell

Monday, March 20, 2023

Sunday Funday!

Sunday the team had a lot of fun in a local village. Here’s first hand experiences from a couple of our team members …
Being in el salvador has opened my perspective on how these people actually live a day to day life. Today, we were able to host a festival where kids from neighboring villages came to have their face painted, play sports, listen to music, sit in on a storytelling, and enjoy food. Personally, I loved this part of the day as kids always have a soft spot in my heart. I was able to bond with kids over the few words of spanish I know, and even play soccer with a group of boys! Seeing the smiles on their faces warms my heart, as I know if I were in that situation I would be so excited to participate in such activities.

Later in the day we grabbed bags of food, rice, beans, and water and donated them to local villages. We were also able to provide religious scripture so if wanted, those people would have an outlet for themselves. At each house, we prayed over their well being and wished them a safe and healthy life, as all in the community deserve. On the walk I was able to spot a lot of animals, especially cows. These cows were bone skinny, and it looked like they hadn’t eaten in days. It was especially sad to see how poverty had effected not only the families but the environment, I’m just grateful that our group was able to give back to at least a few families.
We ended the day off with games and activities at a local sports plex with the transition home kids. I loved being able to play soccer not only with just my friends, but new ones that I had made here with the transition house kids. Soccer got pretty intense, and there were a few bruises, but it was an amazing way to bond and detach from the world.
I had an amazing day yesterday. We helped out at a huge festival for the locals. I was stationed at the balloon animals table. I made so many balloon flowers you would think I was a florist. It was worth every second seeing how happy those kids were to get a balloon.
We then gave food bags to the local residents in need. It was amazing how much they opened up to us and allowed us to pray for them. Then we got to hang out and have fun at a rec center. I was playing soccer and having a blast.
 Then I went to feed the homeless. It was just as amazing getting to help those poor people as I remember. I love coming to El Salvador to help!

Sunday, March 19, 2023

We made it & we’ve been busy!
The team arrived Saturday & got settled in with Sus Hijos before heading to The States Diner for lunch.
Last night the team worked together to pack sandwiches, chips, drinks & T-shirts for the homeless. Then, a portion of the group headed out into San Salvador to feed those in need. Here are a couple of accounts from two of out team members.
Feeding the homeless always starts out with joy ridden expressions and laughter from speaking bad Spanish. But as soon as you start to realize the impact of poverty on people in the city, you are moved to take it more serious. 

In the last three years, I had forgotten the significance of such a memorable experience. Ridding in the back of an old pickup truck with 15 other people, I was struck with the thought of how different our lives are from the people we are helping. From the shoes on our feet to the clothes on our back, I think we take for-granted what we have been given. As we handed out food, I noticed how I viewed the people on the street. It was almost as if I viewed them as less than who they really are and that made me so sad. They are still people with thoughts, families, dreams, and prayers. I felt such a strong compassion to do my best and help in any way I could.

 I think the hardest part of this experience is when you get to the point of the night where you run out of food. No matter how much food we pack, we end up running out. I watched as people pushed and shoved to get in line for a simple sucker or drink of tea because we no longer had enough food bags. These people were so determined to have a cold bologna sandwich and a bag of chips. How often do we take for-granted the food we are given? Or the life we live separate from stricken poverty and despair? Even in their circumstances, these people were always smiling. Their joy and hope is unimaginable. 

I prayed the whole way back to the mission house for the safety of their souls. For even if their bodies are spoiled and sick, their souls may still be saved in Christ. It is by his will that I got to come down to El Salvador again for the first time in three years to do this. And I cannot wait to see what else happens on this trip. 

Tonight, a group of us went to downtown El Salvador to feed the homeless. For me personally, this was very impactful. People in a rough patch in their lives lined the streets—people who didn't have anything. No access to government programs like those in the United States, such as food stamps, to provide the basic needs someone have. 

I held the hand of one woman in particular and we made eye contact. You could tell just how much she was impacted by one need that everyone should have access to: food. Both of our eyes started to fill with tears as I told her just how much I loved her, and even though I didn't say it in Spanish, it's like she knew exactly what I meant. 

These simple tasks meant everything to those people. We take a lot of things for granted, such as wasting food, which I know a lot of us do in America. I also think that we should look at things from a different perspective. What if this was you? 

In the States we drive by multiple homeless people a day on our way to school, work, etc. and we never stop to even say hi or tell them how much they are loved, even in a rough season of their life. These simple tasks could be the encouragement and hope someone needs to keep going and keep fighting. 

Just a simple "Hi! I want to encourage you.” If you are reading this, please consider stopping next time and offering  encouragement & hope to a stranger in need. You never know just how much someone has had to endure in their lifetime. This not only impacted the homeless community tonight but also all of our team. We have now seen this world through a different perspective. ~ Kayleigh Powell