Friday, December 30, 2011

How about the pennies in your pocket?

When our team met for our final stateside meeting in mid December, I shared with them a little exercise that I thought I would ask you to participate in as well.  Each team member was given a penny and challenged to keep it in their pocket until we returned on January 7th.  As we looked at the pennies I gave to them, I reminded them that they represent all of the children, their peers, who gave pennies to help students they did not even know and we would now have the privilege of meeting on their behalf.  We must always represent our school well on this trip was the call to action. In El Salvador, a penny is worth more than it is here. Money has value, but how much more valuable are the people we will encounter in this country that only two of us have been to. We need to remember when we pull that penny out of our pockets that value is given by God the Creator to each of us. That value can be a concept that is reinforced to people by the way we respect and treat them. We will give value to those we encounter on this trip.

In addition to value and the call, I reminded the team that we were all about the phrase on the coin that is so familiar to us. It's that famous 4 words, 'In God We Trust."  We are trusting Him on this whole journey. We trusted him for the resources to pay for the trip, the faith to believe we are going to be used, the health and strength to go and be His hands and feet. We trust Him for everything we need as we go for His purposes. That was the most important thing to remember:  It's all for Him, every penny! How about the pennies in your pocket? Will you allow them to be a reminder of the team and what we are up to this week? and also of the God who gives you value and the world who needs Him?

El Salvador, here we come

It was a historic moment in chapel at Open Door Christian School when the team stood up in front of the K-4th graders recently and shared in the joy and excitement of their generous gift to our sister school students thousands of miles away. They gave $250 in pennies....wrap your head around that. That's 25,000 of those copper coins! "Pennies from Heaven," is what principal Susan Torode coined them to be. (No pun intended.)And what was purchased with those pennies will be more than lots of supplies including pencils and sharpeners for all 600 students in Luz de Sotomayor in La Libertad. It will be hope, change, love, a new relationship between students who had no idea the other existed.

We partner with all of the students at Open Door, as well as students at Firelands School district who helped pave the way for improvements to the buildings and lives of this very poor school and the students there. We hope to Skype next week on the school grounds in La Libertad to give ODCS a real picture of all that has been done in this school.  We hope more than anything else to give these chidren, some destined for the streets, a new start and motivation to stay in school. We have brought tools, but only God can create the hunger in these students to want to find Him, their answer. Streets or school classroom, our students still need Jesus!

Thank you for your prayers as we board a plane today to start an amazing journey. We hope to update you many times over the next 7 days. The Terrific Ten from Open Door and our translator Jose appreciate your prayers on our behalf. So, whatever the adventure holds, this statement is true:  El Salvador, here we come!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just a few flicks

Home bound

Wow!! It was truly amazing to see and taste the real world of El Salvador. It is nothing like I imagined, nothing like here in the U.S and really one of those places that everyone should visit. We hear our whole lives that we are so lucky to have all the luxuries that we have here in the U.S. but to actually witness it front and center makes it total different. It really makes you stop and think about all the blessings God gives us that we use so frequently, it just becomes so naturally. Coming back home, I gaze back on the faces from El Salvador...they're are all smiling and grateful for every little thing they have. The scraps for a roof, the dirt for a floor, these things we have just seem normal to us. I went there to serve our brothers and sisters of Christ, instead they served me. God spoke to me in so many ways, when I was a bit hesitant or uncomfortable, it was a perfect opportunity for me to put complete trust in God. The Holy Spirt sure was there in the church and with us always. With that being said, I can not wait to return again next year. This trip changed the way I view things, and taught me so so much. I thank each and every one of you who helped team up with us to make a difference. Your prayers and support were greatly appreciated!

Much love,

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Serving the community

Today we hosted a large fiesta in in the community we now know is called Coaba where we led people to Christ over the last week. The biggest win today was that two more moms accepted Jesus for the first time. Over a dozen people came to Christ. How do I know besides the fact we were there?  Yesterday while we were in San Salvador, God provided a way for us to buy 135 copies of the book of Juan (John) in Spanish  for the church to distribute to new believers. We actually cleaned out two Christian bookstores in the process. We gave out 20 of them today to the people we led to the Lord.  They were so happy to have a part of the Bible to read. One young woman and her mother were in a house where I shared my testimony. The mom cannot read, but the daughter said with a great big smile that she would read to her mom about Jesus.  Wow!  This is tremendous good news! 

The party was a huge success, with lots of games, making bracelets, handing out stickers, loving little babies, helping with the breaking of two pinatas. All who came received a package of cookies, something to drink and the two moms got their first book of John as well.  Our host team has such a heart for the is inspiring!

Every day we have been doing our team devotions with our El Salvadorian friends. It has been rich to hear them pray and read God´s Word in Spanish.  We were challenged this morning to keep praying for each other and remember we are part of one big family in God´s eyes.  What God has done here has given this church a spark for their city and the future work here. They are so very thankful. 

We have so much to share and will be back in the US before we know it, so forgive us if we seem a little distant when we land in OH. Our hearts have been changed and God has done a good work here in and through us.  Please keep July 3 on your calendars as an opportunity for you to hear about our newest project as we will share about our trip in the evening at church.  The next project has been coined ¨Serve La Libertad.¨ Sound familiar? 

Dios te bendiga!  God bless you and thank you for following us on this amazing journey of prayer and faith.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Trip to San Salvador

Today the team will be traveling to different places and will have more of a fun and more relaxed day. Our day started with breakfast and devotions led by Caylie. Followed by a trip to see a real volcano and this will allow time for a lot of pictures. After we eat lunch we will head out again to see the capital, San Salvador. This is where we will do the majority of our souvenier shopping. Today is meant to help us relax and take it easy, or as many of us have been saying tranquilla. Many of us could not ask for a better experience then the one we have encountered this past week. Although many, if not all of us, do not want to leave this place we can all say that our spiritual lives and our view of our own lives has been drastically changed. We could not ask for better relationships throughout the church staff, team members, and translators. We are so blessed to say that we came and many of us are already saying we want to come back next year.

For Now,
God Bless,
The Magnificent Seven

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday in El Salvador

The team is remarking this morning that they can´t believe it is Thursday already!  Nick and Tyler just want to stay.  Yesterday was very full, full of work and full of spiritual moments.  In the morning we cleaned, peeled and chopped vegetables to go into a chicken stew.  We all had a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from what I hear are the most experienced El Salvadoran women, at making tortillas.  It was very funny for us Gringos to try and master the technique.  I think they made 3 tortillas for every 1 that we made.  After we got the food all packed up into boxes, the policia escorted us to a piece of land where the government put up temporary housing for all the people who´s homes washed into the river last November.

There was alot of cultural and emotional shock for us all, but especially our first timers.  After going house to house to hand out the lunches, we then went back to ask if we could share the gospel with them.  Our team was amazing and we were able to help twelve people receive salvation!

Then last night was a church service, where Greg played the saxaphone to the praise music and a solo of Amazing Grace.

This is the plan for today as well.  There are more homes that did not receive food, so we are again busy cooking.

Food Network in El Salvador....feeding the hungry

Our electricity went out last night in a violent thunderstorm that greeted us with no showers, no toilets, no electricity.  It proved to be a very interesting morning for us gringos. We were able to take care of the basics at the church where the electricity was running...and we were very thankful. 

This morning mirrored yesterday morning´s activities. Our goal? Create 125 meals to deliver at 1245 in a poor neighborhood about 15 minutes from here.  We have become the Rachel Ray and Emeril´s of La Libertad, cutting vegetables, making salad, making (yes, making) torillas. Our whole team got in on the process from start to finish! The result? We delievered those meals yesterday to folks who had little food and no hope. We went back to the homes to then share Christ. To our delight, 10 people came to Christ and 2 people recommited their lives to Him.  It was a great experience as we split into teams with a translator in each team.  Today we will go back and do the same with those who we were unable to see yesterday.
Pray for openness to the good news. Many think that because they don´t go to church, they are unable to go to heaven. Some laugh at the thought that there is even a God or hell. It´s heartbreaking.

Pray for Marilee Marks as she is feeling a little under the weather today. She will return to the hotel to be our prayer force while we walk house to house.  We know Gód´s plans are good and she will get the rest she needs.

Our hosts are so caring and fired up that we are here. Many times I have heard that having the team here is like putting a fire under this church and their ministries.  Wow. That´s humbling and exciting. May that fire burn bright today as we team together to reach this community!  Adios!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

School - El Salvador style

The whole team piled into the 15 passenger van (picture standard size van with 15 seats, really!) and went about 5 minutes away to a Standard school. The children attend from kindergarten through 9th grade at this location.  We were met with broad smiles and a vigorous game of soccer inside the courtyard (think concrete slab in the middle of all of the classroom buildings with a tin roof overhead and 100 students all playing various games of soccer at once.)

This school houses 600 students. They are one of three in LaLibertad. The last grade they need to complete is 9th grade. The classrooms are open, 42 students were crowded into the classroom where three of us shared. The students had decorated the classroom walls with posters in English and Spanish, much like in Ohio. The students, all clad in navy blue bottoms and skirts with bleach white short sleeve shirts fanned themselves--it was probably 95 degrees in the classroom. They listened attentively, albeit with some wiggling and distractions. We spoke of many things that are themes in the US:  having short and long term goals, having a dream for your future, being part of a community, staying in school. The completion rate is very low because these students don´t have much hope in a tomorrow that is different that what they experience in their meager homes. 

Unlike in US classrooms, we were able to bring a message of hope through a relationship with Jesus. They all know that Jesus is a person in a history book, or in the Catholic church, someone they have heard of.  Tyler shared how with this Jesus person has been through many trials and situations that were very difficult and that He is real. He is a best friend and like Jeremiah says, He is here to give a hope and a future.

We left each of them with a pencil, which may seem like a very small token, but this is one of the things that they lacked as they were asked to write one of their goals out on paper. Something so simple and inexpensive in our country costs them a couple hours´wages. 

When we met with the school principal and asked her how we could possibly help in a more tangible way, she showed us the physical conditions of some of their buildings. They had rain damage in their library which destroyed books and other items. They supply a simple meal to their students only by the help of parents who get the supplies from the school, go home and cook for 600 students and return with the food. They are assigned by section...but what a challenge to make and deliver meals every day. They have a concrete structure built outside that is unfinished with a dirt and floor but with a small amount of money could meet this need. Would God help us do this? We will see what he says.

It is amazing to me the team that God put together and the perfect fit it has been for this trip.  Greg, a school administrator traveled between three classrooms to share with the students. Many were glued to him as he spoke. Was it the male influence with a strong presence, or the love and hope that flowed from him? We may never know, but what we do know is that God used the seven of us (and our faithful, amazing translators and drivers)  to give over a hundred and ten students a message of hope.

Please pray for this school as it is a place where the church here has an ïnroad. By serving them through computer classes and English classes (like the ones we taught this week) Pastor Ivo and his staff will continue to have a future serving the young people of this community. This school really wants to partner with the church which is absolutely critical. This is the future of this country; we want to help bring Jesus to them at this young age so that they can make an impact in their community for God.

To Him be all glory for today´s great experience!
The Magnificent 7

Monday, June 20, 2011

Snapshots of El Salvador

There are many scenes that are noteworthy for today´s blog from the 36 hours we have been here. We have experienced so much already. I will share just a few that caught my attention...  1.  A young man jumped off the La Libertad pier to physically catch a fish that was on his line but was too heavy to pull in. His pay off was $6, more than a day´s wage. The crowd on the pier seemed as enthralled as if they were watching the Gold cup soccer game.  2.  A young boy who comes to the church for English and computer lessons writes down in English what his mind knows so well in Spanish as Greg from our team leaned over with a delighted grin knowing he understood how to use the word ¨twentieth to describe the date of his birthday for the first time in his life.  I am not sure who had more satisfaction.  3.  Kati´s face pressed to the window in the airplane as she looked out over an airplane she has never flown in before, gazing at the ocean, which she has also never seen.  4.  Kevin, who received an unexpected gift to help him send pictures to his Facebook friend from Open Door, a former teammate from last year. He was overwhelmed with joy. Though he at 16 now works many hours at the bakery, he shared he still has a relationship with God. Kevin knows God is what life is all about.  5.  Caylie and Nick are sharing and leading a Bible study for 13 to 15 year olds. The look on her face when she found out she had to come up with the whole lesson was priceless, but she and Nick did just that!  6. A couple teammates praying for an El Salvadorian friend, Eddie, who had lost his spiritual focus...and the twinkle that returned to his eye as he regained what he thought was lost.  God is so faithful in all of these pictures of life!  We look forward to sharing a few more snapshots soon...Until then, Dios te bendigo.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day one
We arrived to the beach house yesterday at about 215 in the morning, we all quickly settled and made our way into bed. We fell fast asleep to the sound of the ocean waves hitting the rocks outside our balcony window. We were told that we had to be up by 10am for a long awaited first meal. The meal was prepared and set out downstairs by the lovely ladies who accompany us. Marilee led us in devotions and a encouraging mesage and prayer. This gave us the confidence to go out and start our day, which began with instructions and precautionary mentions for the week by Pastor Ivo. After learning about the culture, people, and methods to spreading the Gospel. This was followed by another well prepared meal. After eating the ladies split off into a small group discussion while the men helped with various things throughout the worship team. The ladies discussed vmany topics with the women from El Salvador and the men helped setup the sound equiptment and also helped the worship team rehearse for the Sunday night church service. After changing into church clothes the team visited the local church the men just helped setup, then the ladies and the rest of the congregation were suprised when during worship our own Greg Ring was invited up on stage and accomapnied the musicians with his flute. The sermon was given by Pastor Ivo, who we found out, you do not need to fully undertand to knopw he is passionate with what he is talking about. While taking down the chairs from church some people talked and congregated while others entertained children by playing tickle tag with them. And now after everything is taken down we find ourselves blogging right before we prepare to eat dinner. It was a productive and fun filled day and we know that after we get some rest that tomorrow will be just as fun if not more.

For now,
God bless and goodnight,
The Magnificent Seven

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Excitement

Tomorrow June 18th will be the first of many things for me. First time traveling out of the country, first time on an air plane and first time having the opportunity to serve on a short term missions trip such as this. The excitement is building up!!!! I don't think I will be getting much sleep tonight.


El Salvador 2011

Here we go! This is the team traveling to El Salvador June 18-26, 2011. We are so excited to have this opportunity and very thankful for everyone who supported us and will continue to support and keep us in their prayers. :) Keep visiting this blog to see our adventures and watch us impact the city of La Libertad, El Salvador, one day at a time.