Friday, January 10, 2014

Time for "Mica"

As we passed out the smile bags (Luke told you about this in his blog, but in case you didn't read that,they are bags filled with soap, toothpaste, a comb, and other health supplies) to the families in Caoba we mentioned to them that the team and the translators would be out on the soccer field later that day to play games. The kids were very excited for the games and some left right after we had mentioned it to them. Once we finished passing out the smile bags we headed towards the field where we found about 50 kids from the community already playing with each other and waiting for us to join in. You would think that people who speak different languages would have a hard time finding games to play with each other but here everyone knows how to play "mica," (pronouced mee-kah) better known to us as "tag." It first started with just 4 or 5 kids playing with us and then it turn into about 20 kids running around tagging each other and laughing and having a great time.

Others played some catch with a football while the  rest played soccer out on the fields. While everyone played catch and tag and soccer I had about 10 girls tickling me, though at times it was painful it was definitely well worth to see the huge smiles that stayed on their faces. As we went to leave to go back to the church we said adios and all the kids in Caoba came running to say goodbye and thank us for playing with them. It was great spending time with all the kids there in Caoba and I know we made a great impact on all the children there.
-Bailey Hamilton

The Beauty Of God

On Tuesday, January 7th, my team took a trip to a volcano.  The day started with us waking up earlier than usual, and if you don't know me, than you don't know that I am not a morning person at all.  Even though I'm not a morning person, waking up early here doesn't bother me.  After breakfast the team left to go to the volcano.  One of our team mates wasn't feeling well, but with the help of God, he was well enough to experience the volcano trip with the rest of us.  Living in Ohio, sometimes I forget about the beauty of nature.  But on this trip I was well reminded, the scenery and everything was just so beautiful.  It reminded me of the beauty of God.  We were able to walk through unbelievably old forests where the trees were at least 100-300 years old. There were places where two trees had grown together which made for some interesting conversations and photo ops. Our heads were literally in the clouds which blew by us like a mist. It was an experience I will never forget--to look out over a new place that God created for us to enjoy. By the way, the drive up to the volcano was steep and with lots of turns. It reminded some of my teammates of Cedar Point, especially when we came back down the mountain.The best part was to be with my team, and recognize that God was there with us. - Zach Anderson

Learning From Different Cultures

On Monday January 6th our team went to a very poor community called Caoba to pass out bags filled with health items like soap, toothbrushes, and deodorant. We called these bags "Smile Bags" and we had them made specifically for girls, boys, women, or men. Our group split into two to cover more ground, with one group beginning at the top of the property and moving down and the other beginning at the bottom of the property and moving up. I learned two main things from this experience: I've never truly understood how blessed I am and how different cultures are. My parents have always instilled in me to be grateful, always finish my plate, etc., but no matter how many times you're told, "They are starving kids who would love those vegetables," it can't truly be understood until you have seen it for yourself. These people were truly in need of theses bags; these bags will be a great help to all of them. Yet they were things that I use everyday without a second thought. It is impossible for me to express all of this through words on a blog, so I ask that whoever reads this goes out and sees true poverty for themselves. Whether in another country, or simply in a urban environment somewhere I understand now how important it is to learn how those of a completely different standing in life live. Along with this, I have learned how completely important it is to experience different cultures. When we handed out these bags, the people there were so extremely grateful and excited. I don't believe any culture is inherently better than any other, but each one that I have experienced has certain areas that others can learn from. In this case I realized that our culture could learn from theirs by becoming as grateful as they. So I implore you, whoever is reading this blog, experience true poverty for yourself and experience other cultures. Your worldview will be broadened and you will be able to empathize with so many more of the people God has created.   -Luke Christofferson

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Feeding Caoba

This week we were blessed with the opportunity to visit Caoba. Caoba is a community that was built so that the community could be relocated. The people used to live by one of the rivers here in El Salvador, which frequently floods and washed away their houses. After a while the government intervened and moved them to a different location so that they wouldn't have to worry about the flooding anymore. Though the government built the community, it was up to the people to do everything else. The government does not support the community financially so they struggle to have their basic needs met, including food. We spent the morning cutting,cooking, and packaging the food that we passed out. As we drove up the road and into the community, I saw the people's faces automatically light up. They knew why we were there the moment that we pulled up and their excitement made me want to help them even more. We divided up into small groups including the team and our translators. As we walked down the streets we were meet by people who are in poverty, but were also full of joy. The people would invite us into their homes and thank us for giving them a meal. By sharing food with the community we were able to help people who are suffering, but we were also blessed by helping others who are in need. -Taylor Pritchett

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A new experience for me, for us...

Our Sunday morning was much different than what my team and I had planned or what we were expecting. We found ourselves in the midst of heartbreak and grief through the church, and we watched the people we have grown to know and, hurt, which hurt us. A man named Arsenio was an essential member and worker of the church, but was also a great man of God. Our team did attend the funeral services, including the funeral and the burial of our brother in Christ, as a support to our friends and as a support of the church, and for some people, as a friend of Arsenio. The services were much different than what we know from the United States. As tradition, family and close friends are expected to stay with the immediate family of the loss one all night until the next day, when the burial services take place. The burial service as a whole is a complete different experience than anyone from our team has ever experienced. Not only does the family and friends gather to the burial sight but they actually put the casket into the ground and pour the cement over top. You can imagine how hard that would be. The entire experience was a lesson to all of us and I think we all appreciated to see the difference in culture, and also being there as a support to the family and church. I encourage you to continue to keep Arsenio's friends and family in your prayers as they heal and mourn over the loss of him. -Quin Jackson

Supporting others in another country

Today was Sunday, day 4 in El Salvador. Today we learned how to be flexible, and trust in God. We went to a funeral today and supported people of the church in their loss. The funeral process was very different from the kind we know in America. And to be completely honest i like the process better overall here. The people are so loving and so quick to do whatever they feel necessary to support the family. Its amazing, truly amazing. I'm glad we had the opportunity to experience this, but i wish it was under better circumstances. -Christa Mindling

Monday, January 6, 2014

Steps of Blessing

On Saturday of our mission trip to La Libertad, El Salvador, we had the opportunity to help out a family in need from the church where we serve called Iglesia Gran Commision. We helped build concrete steps in order to allow the family to get in and our of their house. Another thing that we did was to evangelize the people in that community. There were two groups, the team that would help with the evangelism and the team that would help build the steps. The space was so small that the construction group could only consist of a translator and two other people. Luke Kristofferson and I were the two to help with the steps, while Miss Jones helped us as our translator. The rest of the team was divided into even smaller groups to go and evangelize. Luke, Miss Jones, and I were able to talk to the family we were helping. We found out that they made souvenirs to help pay for their teenage daughters' school supplies and books. When we started to help with the steps, Irvine, one of the sons in the family showed Luke and I how to make concrete. When he started to make it he put the ingredients in a pile in the road, where we mixed it up. Luke, Irvin and I had to take shovels and mix it manually until it became concrete. It was hard, strenuous labor and it was tiring. When we were mixing and I was thinking about the hard labor, I realized something: I have it so good in the US. Many people in La Libertad do not have the same amenities as I do in the US. The people of the community we went to put in the concrete street that leads to all of the houses in the neighborhood themselves. The Government gave them the ingredients and the people did the work. And it made me realize how much I take for granted each day. I feel like God was showing me that all the petty little chores I do at home do not even compare to what these people have to do. I feel like God was trying (and is continuing) to show me to be not only thankful for what I have and how well I have been blessed but to be willing to work also, especially if it is to praise God and help those around me. If you look in Genesis 1, the first chapter of the Bible, God gave Adam a task, a job to do. God made humans to work. Looking back on that day I am thankful that God showed me a lesson. It was a blessing to help some of my brothers and sisters in Christ with something they needed help with, and it is one of the best feelings in the world to know that even though work may not be the funnest thing ever but when used to help others it blesses those around me and brings glory to our Savior, Jesus Christ. (By the way, I'm on the far right in this picture.) -Noah Zaleski

Getting our Feet Wet

The first day here was indescribable and has the first day it was a learning day. Waking up to the beautiful sound of the crashing was a first for me and I saw how big it was and it I remembered the verse that said that I have thrown your sins at the bottom of the oceans never to be remembered again. Then throughout the day God began to open my heart to another verse saying that if your heart is not that of a child then you shall not enter into the kingdom of God. We began a long day early something that I'm not used too which began early. As we drove around I could see the reality of what El Salvador was. I saw the people working hard in the streets early in the morning making a living off of that. The orphanage experience opened my heart to what is it to give to the children which is a Christ based ministry. Sharing food and gifts with them was amazing but the best thing was the gift they gave me, love. And not that high five we cool kinda love, but that love as in I care for you and I want to be with you. The children were amazing but the teenagers were the ones I connected with the most. But there is already enough being said. God is doing and will continue to do GREATER things. -Esther Perez

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Planting seeds in the air

When preparing for my first return trip to El Salvador, I made sure that I had all of my stuff, my passport, clothes, insurance card, toiletries, etc. I prepared mentally for what I knew I was going to experience, and I also prepared spiritually for what God was going to do while we were in El Salvador. However, the thought did not even cross my mind that God could be using me when we were not actually in the country. We all know the verse Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." God has a plan for everything, even when we do not know what that plan is. When we were boarding the plane from Newark to Houston, they were overbooked by 30 people. Needless to say, I was not sitting by anyone else on the team. Bailey came over and informed me that there was an empty seat by Christa, and I could change seats if I wanted to. For some odd reason I decided to stay in my seat, next to a man with the last name Rodriguez who was in the Air Force. He has been serving for a few years, and he has a child and a wife. It dawned on me during this four hour flight that God places us in the situations we are for a reason, and we are not on mission just when we are in our destination country; we are on mission while we are traveling as well. This hit me about the last 45 minutes or so of the flight. I then proceeded to take out my Bible and pray. I then started to make conversation with the man and told him about why we were going to La Libertad. I got to plant a seed in this man's life, and we were still in the United States. I don't know what impact I had on Mr. Rodriguez, but I know that it was God's plan. Had I changed seats, I would have missed out on an amazing opportunity. God has a plan for us all the time, not just when we expect it. -Gabe Sigmon

A Crazy Day of Travel

By: Taylor Anderson Its 3:20 in the morning when my alarm wakes me up. There is still no sign of the sun anywhere outside. Its snowing like crazy. I wake up and get ready to leave the house. I cannot wait to be back down in El Salvador, I barely sleep that night because I was so excited. I knew that during the trip God would really demonstrate his love to us and give all his blessings, but I was not prepared to see it so early in the trip. When we got to the airport there was a problem with our tickets, one of our flights had been cancelled the night before because of the weather so the Director of Missions at Church, Don, had to redirect our flight plan. So instead of arriving in El Salvador at noon we would not be getting there till about 9:30 at night. So by the time we got everything figured out and got through the security at the airport our plane was having final boarding calls. So we ran through the airport and got there just before they closed the doors. Then when we got to Newark we had a 3 hour layover. Our plane from Newark to Houston was supposed to arrive at the same time that our plane from Houston to San Salvador was leaving. So we were again going to have to run to catch that plane. Then while we were sitting on the plane we were delayed because they needed to thaw the plane so basically we were going to miss our flight to San Salvador. But for reasons unknown to me the flight to San Salvador was delayed 45 minuets giving us just enough time to get there and board at normal boarding time. God works in mysterious ways. I knew he was going to reveal this to me while I was on this trip but I wasn't looking for it while we were traveling. He really must have wanted us down in El Salvador for a reason. I guess that is just one of the many amazing things about God, he always blesses you when you are not expecting it. I know he has a lot in store for all of us on this trip and I can not wait to see how he changes the lives of every person on my team and to see the impact that we will have on the people down here is going to be truly amazing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Snow or Sun...we'll take the SUN in El Salvador!

Another snowy day in Ohio; and there are 16 of us looking forward to bright sunshine in El Salvador as we make out way to the town of La Libertad to minister to a number of folks: orphans at an orphanage, the kids at the Nutrition Center sponsored by Church of the Open Door, working with the computer lab students, and feeding the hungry in a local community reestablished about 10 miles outside of town. This, however, is just a glimpse of what God has up His proverbial sleeve for all of us. We pray for His eyes to see who we are to give the love of Jesus away to, and his heart so we can ministry out of the overflow of His love in our lives. This is going to be an amazing adventure! I hope you will follow us as we blog from El Salvador. Dios te bendiga! (God bless you!) Mama Gringa (Andrea Mindling)