Saturday, January 7, 2012

Homeward bound today

The calm sound of the waves at the ocean is ringing in my ears as I sit to write this last blog. It has been a week full of so many experiences! Our historic trip to meet the sister school kids and their principal is now almost over. Our Terrific Ten have been very effective playing with the kids, sharing their testimonies, cooking food, serving, and cleaning up after themselves (for the most part.) I know that these students look forward to sharing all that God is doing in their lives, including details of this trip. Make sure you catch them in the school hallways, or email at: and I will forward your comments to the team.

Thank you for following our journey on this blog. We have felt your prayers.  We'll be back in Ohio on Saturday night, but I have a feeling part of us will be miles away in a land next to an ocean that sings a song of hope and peace.
God bless you! Te Dios Bendiga!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2012 in El Salvador

These past couple days have been super busy! Many of our team members have been sick from eating the wrong food, drinking the wrong water, and from dehydration (including me). Our translators and Miss Jones and Mrs. Mindling have taken turns staying behind with the sick part of our team. But, thanks to Pastor Ivo and his good choice in doctors the majority of us are feeling much better.
Yesterday, while many people stayed behind and rested, the rest of the team went out into the poorer part of the communities in La Libertad. From what I heard and the pictures that I saw it seamed like an exciting but yet humbling experience. The team threw a party for the children and handed out food to the families.
But, despite all the business of these last few days God let us relax. Pator Ivo brought us to a beautiful beach house that was right on the beach. It had a pool and an amazing view!  It was so relaxing and everyone got to do what they wanted to do. It was so awesome. Then, we went to a market to buy souveneirs. The little shops were lined up in a huge row and you could see everything. You could walk through the stores and see things from coffee mugs to huge hammocks everywhere. It was a cool experience. Then after that we all went to Pastor Ivo's house to eat dinner. After we ate we said our goodbyes. I felt very sad to leave these amazing people. The people in El Salvador are so friendly and willing to do anything to help you even though they don't have very much. I am sorry to leave.
So long (for know), El Salvador, I will miss you!
--Kelsey Strouse

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Los Ninos de El Salvador

Painting over the old murals with students from Sotomayor and our translator Eveline.
Today was a great day! Very hot, but we got a lot done. We went to Caova, a poor community and handed out food. They were all so grateful, and all the kids got really excited when we had a party for them in the soccer field. We had  beach balls of several different sizes for all the kids and we handed out cookies and juice to them and played pato pato ganso (duck duck goose). It was a little crazy because the kids did not really want to listen, but we still had fun.
    I have to say I'm really sad that we're not going to see the kids from the school again. They were so much fun to hang out with and I think they were sad when we sad goodbye too. On Wednesday, the kids painted murals on the walls and then they came back to the church and we got to skype the school. After we skyped the school, we had a chance to share the Gospel with them. One girl from my group, Angela, rededicated her life and another girl, Yolanda, accepted Christ. It was really amazing to see the kids accept Christ and to know that even if I don't see them again in this life, we'll meet again in heaven. After those kids from the school left, we got to have a party for the kids from the nutrition center. Those kids were crazy! (In a good way). All I had to do was tell them my name before they gave me a giant hug and didn't let go. It reminds me of God's love, it doesn't condemn us for our sins it's just there for us and God wants us to spend time with Him. They wanted to run, spin, kick balls, and just be with us. I have to say that would be one of my favorite experiences. That night at church, Ian had the opportunity to play the drums in their band! He had a great time with that. And once again I LOVED their church service. I recognized some of the songs and so I could sing along to them in spanish and know what I was saying.
   This morning we spent our time cooking the meals that we passed out and I learned how to make tortillas! That was a fun learning experience and making all the food really made me appreciate our cook, Blanca, because she cleans and prepares all of our  food. Thank you for all your prayers and support!

finished murals

the students painted these themselves

amistad mean friendship

Boy at the Nutrition Center;so happy to be held!



Hey guys,

Well, this week is almost done.  This week has gone fast, you really do grow to love these people.  Today was the last day of officially serving the community and the church.  Today we went to the poor community, but before that we hand made all the meals and then went to give them out, we really don't know how much we have back home.  It is definitely very humbling.  Today we saw and played with kids who lived in a shack made of tin roofing, sticks, and sometimes a door on the front.  A lot of the time they would cover the sides with a sheet.  When we handed out food to the kids, they immediately grabbed it.  Not accepted it, grabbed it from our hands.  It was definitly a sad and humbling experience. 

Yesterday was a busy day, we went to the school and played with kids, and finished any touching up we had to do with the library we painted.  Then came back and played with little kids from the nutrition center at the church.  After that we went to church, and Emma, Anna and I shared our testimony.  I actually got to play the bongos for a few songs and the drums for a couple during worship at church!  It was fun playing with the band! It was a long but awesome day!

Once again, everyone here that has hosted us, and  that we've come in contact with has been awesome!  It has been a great experience and I can't wait for tomorrow.  Tomorrow we are going to see a volcano, and going souvenier shopping, and possibly go to the ocean.  So tomorrow will just be a chill day to have fun and see the city.  Then it is back to the buckeye state on Saturday.  The weather has been perfect this week, no rain or clouds in sight! Its been very hot but it has been well worth it!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cosas increibles estan pasando aca!!

Skyping from the church with school friends
Miss Jones with Maria, who made the bracelet.

Wow (or Puya as my new friend Giovanni would say)! It's hard to put into words sometimes the things that you get to experience when you are working as the hands and feet of Christ. I have to admit that I feel so blessed because I get to see this trip through a unique lense: I actually understand everything that is happening :) There are so many different ways that I could approach this blog, but this one idea keeps coming to my mind, so I'm just going to share that. I have been studying spanish for over 15 years, and do you know what I realized on our first day in El Salvador? This is why. These people, this city, this church and this school have found a place in my heart that I didn't even know existed. Over the past 5 days, I have had some of the most fascinating conversations with these people. We have bonded over silliness and also over the most serious of situations. I have met people in the church who have personally shared their testimonies with me- and although the kids have heard some if it through a translator, you cannot translate certain things, and it is in those moments that I realize how important my knowledge of spanish truly is. After the first full day that we spent in La Libertad, Andrea and I were reviewing the day, and she confirmed what I already knew myself- I have absolutely, completely fallen in love with these people. Life is so different here. It is simple, and yet beautiful and not lacking in anything. It makes you realize how much we have, and even more so, how much of that we don't actually need. When I was preparing for this trip, I couldn't understand why I wasn't nervous. I didn't feel anxious or worried or anything. When we landed in San Salvador, I had the strangest feeling that I belonged here. I cannot explain it, and I'm not sure I will ever understand the incredible peace that God has given me. This is not a one time trip, it is now a personal passion. When we got to sit down with the school children today after playing with them, working with them and getting to know them for 2 full days, I was taken aback by the response we were given. I was translating for Anna as she gave her testimony, and one young lady Maria wanted to ask a question, but couldn't get up the nerve. When we finished sharing the wonderful news of the gospel, Anna and I pulled her aside. We heard a story of absolute heart wrenching sadness. A child unwanted, literally thrown in the trash by her own mother, unaware of who her father even is. Can you feel it? Can you empathize with a child like this? The stories are similar and yet different. Monica's parents left her and her sister when she was 3 and her sister was 1. They moved to the U.S. to be able to work and make a better life for everyone. She lives with her grandmother, and while she has two younger siblings that live in the U.S. with her parents, she is HAPPY!!! She feels blessed because her parents are able to provide for her! Would you? Would you look at a situation like this, and feel like God was on your side? These children have more things in there lives that bring me to tears than I could ever imagine, but they see God in everything. Even if they don't necessarily believe completely, they recognize God and his power and his faithfulness. When Maria, the child that was thrown in the trash by her mother, finished with her story, do you know what she said to Anna? She did not ask for pity, she did not expect our sympathy, she turned to Anna and encouraged her to never turn her back on God no matter what! Are you feeling what I'm feeling yet? I don't know if that's possible, but I hope that I have conveyed a little bit of it in this blog. God has been teaching me so much personally- challenging me and forcing me out of my comfort zone. I know spanish, but I never thought I'd give a speech to a group of El Salvadorian highschoolers all on my own. I didn't think I could translate, but God has given me strength and persistence and clarity of mind that I never expected. He is faithful. He is wonderful. And above all, he is working and doing amazing things down here- not only for the El Salvadorian people, but for all of us. I can't wait to share even more amazing stories when we return, although I know it will be hard to leave :( Que Dios os bendiga!
-Leanne Jones

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bracelet making 101

Today I got to help a whole bunch of kids make bracelets out of embroidery thread. It was overwhelming at first, but it got better when they started to learn. Each was taught with the help of an interpreter. they were so proud when they finished....both boys and girls. There must have been 30 of them!  It's sunny and 90 here. I heard it's snowing in Ohio. You could be  here next year enjoying this weather and all of these fun, happy kids!  Most of the kids we were with are my age so it was fun to play games with them like relays, basketball games, soccer games. They just love to have fun with us. We enjoy them too.   Swimming was fun yesterday, but I got a lot of salt in my mouth.  The waves were very big. The whole team was out in the water, and we had a life guard on a surf board with us to monitor the cross currents for us. His name was Alex and he was a surfer as well.  It was tiring to be in the waves, but very refreshing after a long hot day.  More fun at the school now as we go back to paint! 

--Christa Mindling

La magiade futbol

Day 4: Hello! Or maybe I should say Hola! I finally get my turn to blog today! It's Tuesday already and the time has flown by. Today has been absolutely incredible; and it's not even close to being over! This morning we went over to the school to paint the walls for the murals and then get to know and play with the kids. I'm so happy I play soccer because that is all they want to do, and boy are they good at it! It's so fun to keep up with them and joke around. They are so fun to play with because they don"t care if they are losing or winning all they want to do is have a blast with their amigos. Whether it's basketball or "football" (their soccer). Even though we don't speak the same language we can still have fun together and create friendships just through playing soccer with them. I made tons of new friends. After we finish lunch we are going back to the school for yet another round of painting, this time the library. I can't wait to tell you all more. Adios!
--Julia Miraldi

Pictures of Sister School, Luz de Sotomayor

Just a few pictures to let you see what we get to do and see at our sister school in La Libertad! Pennies making a big difference!! Thank you!! We cannot do this without you....Together Everyone Achieves More!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Step by Step

Hello America!! Or should I say Hola Estados Unidos! I wish I could have blogged earlier but the first thing I learned was to be flexible and I've had to live by that 24~7 since I've left home. I guess I'm not in kansas anymore. ;) Since I haven't gotten to blog yet I'm going to explain EVERYTHING since I buckled my seat belt for the first time on this adventure. In the vans all of us had a great time laughing and talking. We got to the hotel that  night, had pizza, talked some more, way more, and went to bed.
        The next morning we woke up before the crack of dawn, packed up and headed to the airport. We got on our flight perfectly fine and flew to Houston, Texas. There we grabbed our lunch quickly. I had a panini croissant with ham, cheese, and other ingredients. It was delicious!! Then we headed to our gate by way of subway train and got on our flight headed to san salvador, el salvador. However, we did not leave at the time we were supposed to; we were delayed a whopping two hours. But again, flexibility is the key word with our lifestyles this week. A few people got kicked off the plane but we finally rose to the sky and got to san salvador!! I had the weirdest feeling!!! I honestly felt sooo unprepared before this trip and it didn't feel real until i stepped into the excruciating hot sun!! I love the heat!! We drove to our hotel in a van that fits 15 people but definitly doesn't look like it!! We quickly drop our stuff and change for church. We then went to the church and had service. I forgot how much i LOVE worshiping our God in spanish! Afterwards, we had a wonderful dinner and again talked and went to bed. The next morning we woke up and I led devotions! I don't know how well I did but I really feel God was speaking through me and that was my goal. Afterwards, we went to the church and had breakfast; again delicious. Afterwards, Pastor Ivo (the pastor of the church that we're working with and that is hosting us), gave us precautiouus instructions for daily living in el salvador. Afterwards, he gave us booklets to pass out to the community about Jesus. It was a really cool experience. Just say "toca por favor". We did that then went back to the church and again a tasty meal for lunch. After lunch, this athletic director came to the church and had us exercise in a really, interesting, different, fun way. Afterwards, we have dinner at the church went back to the hotel and went to bed.
            Today, we woke up, had devotions with Sarah which was wonderfully inspiring, and went to the church and had breakfast. We then went to our sister school and split into 3 groups. My team consisted of Ian, Christa, our translator Eddy, 15 students from the school, and I. We played alot of games like: kick ball, soccer, simon says, knock out, soccer, and more soccer. They adore soccer! We then went back to the church, had lunch, came back to the school and did some dirty work. There was a massive pile of sand near a tree in the courtyard so we shoveled it all, put it in wheel barrows, and put it in a sand bed type thing. We also painted lots of walls white because the students are going to have a mural contest on the wall (la pared) tomorrow. After this, we went back to the hotel and we got to go swimming in the ocean! It was sooo fantastic! However, alot of people were scared because the waves were gigantic! After this, we went back to the hotel, showered, went to the church, had dinner, made bracelets, came back to the hotel, and had a team meeting. This is pretty much EVERTHING that has happened so far. Well, i am literally exhausted soo...BUENOS NOCHES!! (good night :))     --Anna Marie Schetter)
p.s. hope to talk to you again soon!!

El Salvador Day Number 3

Today was an amazing experience working with the kids! We started by splitting up in three groups with a translator and 3 of us in each, then tried to explain what to do with the translator.  The kids seemed to like more active game better; like volleyball, kickball, and especially soccer.  When we were done with the first game, they asked if we wanted to play soccer and they are REALLY good!  They even challenged us, the El Salvadorian girls against the American girls and we actually tied 1 to 1.  Then we painting one of the gym's wall white so that tomorrow the kids can draw new murals on them.  Another different thing is the animals, I have seen sooooo many new things, like a wondering pig, about 15 goats walking across the street, and this morning i got up and there on the floor was a rhino beetle, I freaked out. We also saw little lizards, red ants, stray dogs, little crabs.  Adios :)


Sunday, January 1, 2012

El Salvador: Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wow! These last couple days have been super busy, but fun!
Yesterday, Decamber 31, 2011, really early in the morning, we left for El Salvador. We flew to Houston and had a layover. Then, when we got onto the plane we didn't take off for another 1 and a half to 2 hours. It was super busy at the Houston airport because of the Holidays.But, then around 5 o'clock p.m we finally got to El Salvador. It was so beautiful! (especially from the plane!)
As soon as we got to La Libertad in El Salvador we went straight to church. The music was kind of confusing to sing along with, but there were some songs that were put into English. It was awesome to see that people a thousand miles away are worshiping the same God (with the same songs) as we are.
Today was just as fun as yesterday. In the morning we ate a yummy breakfast of eggs, rolls, watermelon, bannanas, and fried plantanes (wich I tried! and they tasted just like bannanas). Then, we had a meeting with pastor Ivo and also a tour of La Libertad. As I said before, It was beautiful! We saw the beach, the port, the venders, the different foods, and the different people of El Salvador. The people are so nice! Most of them smile at you and try their hardest to understand what you're trying to say. Later, we came back to La Iglesia de Comision (the church we that pastor Ivo works at) and got to spendd time with the young teens in the youth group. It was fun because we played games together and we were sort of able to communicate. It was probably the best part of the day!
And that sums up the two days I've had so far in El Salvador. I can't wait to come home and share the memories with you!   Adios! (for now)
Kelsey Strouse

Shorts and T-shirts

Hey Everyone!  This is the end of day 2 in El Salvador, and things are going great!  In El Salvador the church celebrates New Years by celebrating Christ and thanking him for all he has done for us, it was quite an experience!  Then at 12:00 a.m. everyone comes out on the streets and starts throwing fireworks all over the place.  Needless to say there were loud bangs all throughout the night and this morning too. Today was about 90 degrees and sunny so we (the El Salvador team and members our sister church) went to the beach to hand out packets of the gospel to people.  Everyone was accepting of it too, not like in the U.S. where they ask first then accept or reject it, almost everyone took it.  Hopefully people will find Christ because of it.  It will be a busy week but well worth it.  Everyone is so relaxed, easy going, and kind.  It will be a great week and I can't wait to see what God will do.


Extremes: Chilly and warm

Wow! The extreme temperature change has taken us by surprise. For awhile we were a little weary and "wilted" today as we walked around La Libertad on this first day of the  new year. Ever had an El Salvadorian popsicle? We did! Delicious! We are 70 degrees hotter than what we left behind in Ohio just yesterday morning. Speaking of temperature, we have decided that there is only one temperature in the showers where we are staying:  chilly. Last night we found out how chilly...eeks!  Today, however, after a day of sweating just by just standing still, those chilly showers sure will feel nice. We may even start calling "dibs" for them! Though the showers are chilly, the hearts of our students are very warm, as reflected in their happy faces. They are enamoured and engaged with the new El Salvadorian friends they have made, speaking more Spanish than I care to attempt. We did team building exercises today with a special personal trainer and our El Salvadorian friends who quickly showed us that activites like mental games on paper, dual jumprope contests (you should have seen Miss Jones!), and speed ball/soccer don't have language barriers to hinder how much fun you can have. It is a blessing to be God's child in any climate, sharing with those whose only language we now sense is for God and love for us too.  In our world, that's pretty extreme!!  Happy New Year, everyone...wish you were here!

--Mama Mindling

Greetings from La Libertad

Day 2 is drawing to a close! Right now were sorting items that we brought for the kids at the school which we'll visit for the first time tomorrow. Yesterday we  arrived a couple hours late, went to our hotel, and then straight to the church. The church service was awesome, it was cool to be able to God in a different language and know that whether we talk to God in spanish or english, He'll understand. Afterwards we ate dinner and spent time getting to know each other, which let me practice my limited spanish. The people that knew a little english introduced themselves in english and those of our team that know enough spanish introduced themselves in Spanish. It was nice to know that just like we're making an effort to speak spanish, they're making the same effort even if they don't know that much english. Since last night was New Year's Eve, everything was closed when we got here and opended at midnight. Firecrackers were going off everywhere and it was really loud, and the streets were full of people. Today we got to tour the city a little bit and then we spent a couple hours playing games with some of the youth from the church. Tomorrow we'll get to go to the school and meet the kids, and I'm excited to give them everything we brought. The food is great and I love eating all the homemade dishes. It's alot different from how we buy almost everything we eat at the store. The culture is different and it's cool that  they care more about relationships than being on time. We handed out booklets near the beach today and most everyone we offered them too took them, and some asked for one. I just kept thinking about how if we were in America the majority of the people we offered them to would have turned them down or ignored us because they had something  to do or somewhere to be and they didn't have time. It's really different, but I do love being here. Plus, who would mind being in 90 degree whether on January 1? Thanks for all your prayers and support!

El Salvador Day 2!

Wow! El Salvador is amazing! Although it is very hot, you can easily forget about the tempurature by looking at the beautiful scenery. Everyone is doing very well; we are all healthy and enjoying ourselves immensely! (you can breathe now Mom and Dad, I'm fine.) Yesterday, after we arrived, we met Pastor Ivo, changed and went straight to Church. The service consisted of some beautiful music en espanol, I definitely wish my Spanish was better so I could have understood more of it. The El Salvadorians celebrate the New Year by getting a day off work and setting off a lot of fireworks! We also got to hear about an interesting tradition about eating 12 grapes at midnight, one for each coming month in the next year.
Today, we were given a briefing on the culture and customs of the area and we discussed our plans for the week. We also went on a walking tour of the city, courtesy of Jose. We walked through the ocean side community, we saw the pier, the docks and all the shops and houses. I got to practice some Spanish as I bought some surprises for my sisters back home. (hope you like them girls!) We finished the night with some activities at the Church.
Tomorrow we will get to go to the school and meet the kids, they have off today for the holiday. I'm very excited to see the school and interact with the kids. I'm not sure what to expect, I keep hearing expect to be stretched.  I think this will be an eye-opening and life changing experience.
The food is amazing, by the way. And the people are fantastic! Definitely enjoying the 'warm climate' culture, everyone is so friendly! As soon as you meet someone they start to talk to you, see if you need anything at all and they want to create as warm of an environment as they can. Relationships are far more important than time, you may be late but you had an interesting conversation along the way. I've seen a lot of poverty already, but everyone is so grateful and generous with what they do have, it's amazing.
That's about it for today. !Feliz ano nuevo! Happy New Year!