Saturday, April 12, 2014

Room to Grow

One of our primary goals in La Libertad is to help feed and share Jesus with as many kids as we can. How does a child understand the love of a Father God if they do not understand the love of an earthly father? In many cases, for kids that are in our program, their lives are empty bellies and empty hearts. Not all cases, but most of our kids come from very painful homes.

We strive to be a place of safety, love, and to be their anchor.
Of course we want to bring as many kids into our program as we can. But as we grow and bring in more children, love more children, feed more children, that means we need more space.

There is a tremendous opportunity to rent the adjoining building to our church, that will allow for a more expanded ministry to our community. It allows us to embrace more children, and minister to their families as well.

This is a big goal! We need $330 a month in rent... that's a lot. But nothing is too big for our God. We are trusting and praying.  It is always so incredible to start with a dream, pray a lot and watch how it unfolds! We believe that Jesus is going to take our loaves and fishes, just as he did in the Bible, and multiply it, and then multiply our numbers.

The first video is from when we went out to sign up kids and the second is to show you our exciting new space!

Please join with us in praying for this building and for the little lives that will soon be joining us every day.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Just Because

Once upon a time, I only wrote to chronicle the funny things my kids did, and to share their everyday lives with my one single reader, Grandpa. So here's to my most faithful reader, My Grandpa Maris. Whom I love dearly.

I like to call this video, "I'm running in a circle with Brando." You'll see why.

Have a great week. :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Navy + La Libertad = Awesomeness

I seriously cannot speak highly enough, of our United States Navy. I get so tired of seeing news stories that portray one man in a bad light. So what I have for you is a news story celebrating them!

What I want you see is men, who serve our country, who risk their lives, sacrifice time with their families, who serve. And then on their day off, serve some more. Are you kidding me?  People, thank a soldier/marine/sailor today. Pray for a soldier/marine/sailor today. DO something for a soldier/marine/sailor today. Go to an airport and welcome them home with banners, applause and cake. Lots of cake and balloons. Always balloons.

We were honored to have 5 amazing men from the Navy come and give their day off to us. Their day off, they spent working for the people of La Libertad..... awe-someness. 

There was a dream to have a clothing bank.  There was an empty room. There was a TON of clothes from a clothing drive in Jacksonville, FL. 

But we needed a way to store and display it all. So they came and worked alongside men from our church, incidentally, on their day off too. It was as Alex described, about 5,380 degrees. I was reduced to a puddle of thankfulness {ie:sweat} as they helped build and mount shelves with men from our church, build hanging racks,  and sort 20 bags of clothing. 

I won't tell you which one, but one of those dudes had to endure some jeering from the others for being assigned to help me with the sorting of the clothes, rather than swinging a hammer..... I feel he deserves a special medal. 

The goal? To not just give away clothing. That's too easy. And it isn't necessarily best practice. When one simply gives away all the time, a dependency is created and encouraged. This is not what we want. 

At Iglesia Gran Comision, we believe in empowering people.  We want to lift people up, encourage, provide opportunity to thrive, not just survive. So our clothing bank/flea market/resale shop will charge minimal prices. I'm talking 10 and 25 cents (There is a local thrift shop, but our demographic closer to  the church cannot afford the prices there).  What ever money is made will 100% go directly back into programs that feed, encourage, and lift people up. 

Thank you so much for all you do!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

When Introspection Isn't Pretty

In case you thought I was over here being all holy and righteous....

One would think that living here among people who struggle to survive daily, would make it easier to let go of my United States-ian comforts.
I knew coming down here that I would have no idea where and what kind of house I would be living in. I thought I had come to grips with having cold and unreliable water before I got here, not being able to drive, etc., etc., etc. {yawn, blah blah blah, poor me}.

I thought I had it well under control, until the other night, anyway. When you become blatantly aware of your own princess-like demands out of life, its a bit hard to stomach. 

I went to go wash my hair and was putting off and dreading the moment of contact with the icy water. I'm not proud of it, but I had a long inner dialogue. It went something like this: 
*Alex is a big meanie for not buying and/or fashioning me some sort of hot water creating device
*thinking of paying a hotel to just let me have one hot shower
*lamenting the way I had forced Addison and Donovan into the cold shower minutes before. Not allowing for any tantrums or talking back, as they stepped their little bodies into the cascading ice.

Shame on me!! Midway through my mini- pity party, thankfully, I slapped my own self upside the head. Which is tricky. I spent a good 31 years in the land of entitlement and overflowing creature comforts. I should have known that it would take longer than a month to let go of the old self. I'm allowing myself only a smidgen of grace here, however.

Just last week I spent time making, delivering and sharing food with people who have NO running water, no showers. People who have dirt floors, and wash their hair in a bucket (when they have water and shampoo), and are thankful for their bucket, and their water. People who share a one room house and have no beds, no fans and no air conditioning. And are thankful for their house. I was also at an orphanage, where there aren't Daddies and Mommies, to make sure the sweet children are showering, checking them for lice and then lovingly there, to brush and braid after.

I have water everyday. Thank you God for my water. 
I have a shower, and a tiled floor. Thank you God. 
I have money to buy enough shampoo AND conditioner for 4 girls' heads of hair. Thank you God.
I have a bed to sleep on, that is bug free!  Praise you GOD!!

I temporarily forgot that I moved to the tropics yes, but not to be pampered at a resort. 
I temporarily forgot that I desperately want just Jesus. More Jesus.
I temporarily forgot that I want to be the kind of person who gives it ALL up for Him.
He said "take up your cross and follow me." He did not say, "Pack your suitcase, we'll stop along the way for a fancy meal and get you tucked in early at a 5 Star Hilton. Occasionally I will ask you to tell someone about me, but you can get back into the air conditioning quickly."

(Edited)I am so ashamed that I even gave a moment of thought that I was in any way sacrificing. Sacrifice is giving up your very life, being tortured and killed for spreading the news of Jesus Christ.  Which is literally happening around the world. I am NOT sacrificing. I am comfortable beyond reason in my circumstances.

Graciously, He reminded me. Chasing a life of abundance and excess and watered down faith was so unfulfilling.  Faith just enough to get me to Heaven..... that was no life for me at all. 

Please remind me Lord that when you come for me, I want to have lived my life proclaiming your glory. I don't want to pick and choose what I do and don't like from the Bible. Its your word and its all truth. 
Faith that conforms to my way of life, is limited. Who would want a limited God?? I want YOU God.
Faith that is all about tolerance is not truth. 
Faith that takes the good, but ignores the justice, is half a faith. 

I want the God of the Bible. The one God. I want the God of Love. I want the God of Righteousness. I want the God of sacrifice. I want the God of Justice. Oh how I want and depend on the God of Forgiveness and Grace. I want the God who says the He LOVES and longs for every person on this blessed earth to receive Him as a father. Every person. Ev-uh-ree person.
I don't want a God that would pick and choose by wealth, station, power, race, lifestyle. I want the God that says He wants everyone. But lets not forget that while he wants every person, he says every person is a sinner. Every one of us. Wants us. Forgives Us. But we ALL have crap that needs cleansing. All of us.
I want the God who will forgive me just as quickly as He will forgive every other person, for every single thing. He is a God who is intolerant of sin. But he is also a God who will lovingly wait and welcome every sinner into his arms. 

That's the God I want. That's a God I can easily give up hot water for, and anything else he asks of me. That's a God who I would lay down my life for. The God who laid down his life for me. I am thankful for my water. And the God who created it.

I am here, out of the immeasurable, overflow of gratitude that I have. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ponderings From a Newbie Missionary

There are a vast array of things that we are learning and feeling.  Much of it is still scrambled in my brain and I'm waiting for it to smooth out like the surface of a beautiful lake with no wind.

But there are some very important things I want you to know. 

1. We, {our family} as I've mentioned before we do not deserve to be on anyone's pedestal. We simply said yes. I do however want to put up on a pedestal the people who continually come around my little family to support us financially. We lept off a financial cliff when we decided to leave jobs and come here, trusting that God would catch us. And you my friends are the parachute that God provided.

This is seriously humbling. I tear up. Every. Single. Time. Every time that little email comes through that tells me someone gave. Someone gave up and sacrificed their hard earned money, so that my family can have a roof and food on our table. This is a huge impact on our lives and I want you to know that it is a huge part of being servants, like Christ. We are immeasurably thankful.  I want you to know how much your sacrifice means to us. I want you to really, really feel it, and believe it.  We can't be here on our own without you. Every time I wrap my arms around a child, or hug a hurting elderly woman and pray with her, your arms are wrapped around her too.  That in the next few months when we welcome 25 more starving children into the nutrition program, our smiles and shouts of welcome are your's too. God is using YOU every bit as much as He is using us.

2. The second thing I want you to know it that while the people we meet here are living in abject poverty, they are STRONG. They have dignity. May we never, ever, make anyone feel like we are poverty tourists. To be able to get up every day and fight for the survival of your family. To do what ever it takes, to ensure you have something to feed your child... that is strength. Day in and day out fighting for survival is something to be applauded, never pitied.

3. Thirdly, the people here who have been doing the work for years are my heroes. There is one woman in particular who has loved children who aren't hers for years. She listens to their stories of abuse, fills their bellies with food and goes to their rescue when they are sick and cannot get to a doctor. She is a rock for them in their storms.  She does this every day because she knows The Rock. She is so filled with God's love for her, that it spills out and over to children who are desperate for her, but more so, desperate for the God she tells them of.

4. Please believe me that God is real. Don't take my word for it, but seek Him out, ask him to make himself visible to you. Because I can tell you that He keeps coming through for us again and again and again. We don't deserve it, but He is waiting and waiting for us to choose him. To run through that open door into His arms. This kind of love is something you want!  Peace, that he will provide. Comfort for the hard days. Love for the painful days. Romans 3:21-24, Romans 5:1-11, Romans 6:18

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Virtual Baby Shower for Luz

*****Update: There was an overwhelming response to the Baby Shower for Luz, Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!****  I'm closing the paypal button now.  I appreciate you all so much.  Please continue to keep Luz and the women and teen girls of El Salvador in your prayers.****

I distinctly remember being 9 months pregnant, four times. I had a husband who worked, and I could stay at home and sit.  Sure I had 3 other kids to take care of, but they were generally non-violent, and non-destructive enough to let me rest on the couch.  When Alex came home from work we would either work on dinner and cleaning up the house together, or he would just do it for me. I could put my swollen feet up,  or stop to lean over the counter while the pressure of the baby or Braxton Hicks contractions subsided.

Long before I hit the 9 month mark, I had friends and family rally around me to bless the coming baby with all the clothes and supplies we would need. This new life would be a celebration!  I was blessed enough to not have to go to work every day.  I could spend my days with my kids, prepare for the baby and just dream about that moment.  That moment when he/she would be handed soft and pink into my waiting arms.

If you are a mom, you know that moment. That frozen in time minute, when your eyes first meet the precious eyes that you have only been dreaming about. For a second time stands still and you can finally feel, hear and see their heartbeat with your owns eyes.  The indescribable, unreal softness of their delicate skin.  Because everything in the world is right, all they need is Mama.  They little breaths they make, the peace that comes over their tiny bodies as they are tucked in to your neck.

This is how the story and the miracle of birth goes for many of us. But for some, it means hardship, pain, excruciating exhaustion.  Loneliness. Worry. Fear. I met a woman facing this a few days ago.

I don't have permission to tell you the details of Luz's story. But trust me when I tell you that I have never known such strength.  I met her and upon finding out that she had an hour walk in the dark to get home, I offered her a ride in our car.

I was told "no." The area of town she lives in is not safe for American's to go....
But that left me wondering, how then, is it safe for her to walk there???? Does my life hold more value than hers? No. Does she have kids relying on her to make it home from work, just as I do? Yes. In fact, she has 7 kids waiting on mommy to come walking through the door at 8 p.m. There's no dad there to help, all they have is her. And the wage that she HAS to bring home. She's all the love they are going to get.

So I insisted on driving her at least half way. I would stop, when they felt it was no longer safe for us to continue, and not a second before. She was 9 months pregnant for crying out loud!

Luz means "light" in Spanish. As we drove, I prayed her name, the significance of the meaning, all I could think of. Jesus is THE light.

We continued on into darkness. Luz. We drove at what is important for me to not understate, nearly, straight, uphill.  She does this walk every morning and night. UP the mountain.

I prayed Jesus' name.

We drove past men ogling young girls that I wanted to stop the car and punch.


Our van struggled and groaned as it climbed the mountain road. Pitch black.

Jesus. Luz del mundo. Jesus light of the world.

We stopped when our van could not go one more foot.  We let her out into the dark. We were told that was only halfway.  Halfway.

How does a woman have such strength?!  I was humbled and shamed.  How many days did my children create a tornado of toys, clothes, snack wrappers and sippy cups all around my house while I was too tired and too uncomfortable to get up and clean up after them???

How many days did I tell Alex that dinner wasn't ready because I was pregnant, growing a life inside of me. "Honor me! Honor my sacrifice!"  "Pick up my slack! I'm making a human being here!"

I watched her walk away into the black of night. Feeling helpless.

Thankfully she was not alone. I prayed and cried over her long into the night. She may not know it, but she was not alone.

Luz. Light. Jesus.

Help me show Luz, that she will never be alone. She works and works, there is no time for friends. There is no time for baby showers.  But we can be there for her.

We can show her that she is never alone. If you are willing. Click this paypal button.  Leave me a comment telling me what you would buy for her precious baby boy. I will go to the store and do the shopping for you. I will send a picture of the item to you. And together, we will show the light of Jesus. We will show her that while the "darkness is all around her, the Light will overcome it." (-paraphrase from book of John)

(pinterest image)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Long Awaited Conclusion to Car Adventure

Imagine with me if you will Mario Kart.  Or, if you haven’t played Mario Kart, picture any arcade driving game.
(google image)

This is driving in the Santa Tecla/San Salvador area…. With New York City traffic.  Where in, most of the traffic is gigantic school/public bus transportation, barreling at you from all directions.

There are round-a-abouts, merging traffic, on ramps, off ramps and nary a stop light (we saw one or 2).
Mario Cart.
(google image)

If you are following, then imagine yourself doing this all day……

Evelin and I had but one option, to laugh about many things. At one point we threatened Alex’s life if we did not come home with a car that day. In addition, if we didn’t get to the fun stuff of looking at houses, then he would also be in serious danger. Because we women, had only come along for the ride at the promise of browsing homes.

As if Alex had any control over the situation.

Now, since most of you have never been here, I just need to clarify that the used car lots we were looking at were not laid out like a car lot you are accustomed to seeing.  There is a lack of parking or open space at all, so the cars at the lots and the mechanics we visited were parked a bit like this:
(google image)

If you want to see something, or park, then there are approximately 6 other cars that have to be maneuvered first.

Please don’t misunderstand my intent with writing this. El Salvador is different, and I simply want you to be able to visualize. Different is not good, bad, wrong or right. It’s just different.
And we had quite the hilarious (different) experience… because after our 4 or 5th hour of doing this chase around the city… Evaristo (our friend and driver) took matters into his own hands.

When we reached another round about, going over the same ground…. We were stopped in traffic and I watch as he rolls the passenger window down and starts to frantically wave at a driver of a 9 passenger van next to us.

I smile and wave thinking Evaristo knows this particular man, because he is also quickly speaking to me in Spanish (and I have no clue what he is saying).

What is actually going down, and that I catch bits and pieces of, is that Evaristo is now trying to buy the guy’s van from him IF it has air conditioning in the front and back. IF.

While we are stopped in traffic.

“Do You want to sell us your van?”
“How are the tires? The engine? Does the air conditioning work??”

The man in the car chuckles, says the air doesn’t work, and we move along on our way. So Evaristo turns to me and remarks, “the air didn’t work, no sale.”….

Meanwhile I am dumbfounded, laughing hysterically, and have to explain to the rest of the passengers who missed this whole exchange.

I begin fervently praying that God would please, please drop a van into our laps, in our budget.
google image

That became the point in the day where Evaristo was determined to get us a car. I’m fairly certain he couldn’t take one more day of car shopping with us!
If not that, then what happened next proved it.

We swung into a shopping center to wait for Ivo to go get his daughter from school. I remembered that we needed some more water, so my family, Evelin and I went into the grocery store to buy some.  As I stepped out of the van Evaristo chuckled in my general direction, string of heavily accented Spanish (that even the people down here have a hard time understanding), and finally I make out as he is laughing;

“I will find you a van.”  Hahahahah, I smile, I laugh, of course he is joking around. We are in a parking lot.

Midway through checkout, Alex gets a call… from Evaristo. We go out to the parking lot to find that he has stopped a family while getting out of their mini-van and asked them if they would please sell it to us…….

A van with no “for sale” sign on it. Strangers.  Strangers who in fact had just purchased this van a month ago. But the wife says, “Sure.” But not for a penny less than the price we will ask of you. Don’t even think about asking for a lower price.
The price happens to be less than our budget.

So we agree to meet them in the morning at a mechanic. Meanwhile, we have a lead on another van, that a friend of a friend of a brother’s cousin might know about.

 But I have had it. I quit. And I just want to go see what may potentially be our new home. I agree to just send Alex with Ivo and Evaristo the next day, and Que sera sera sera.

We continued on our way to look at a furnished house. In our price range.
With…. Wait for it……… a washer AND dryer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Unheard of. I do not have to wash my family of 6’s clothes by hand!

I would. Lord knows I will roll with the punches adjust, and wash by hand. I will. Scout’s honor.
After all, I live with 2 lizards (I think, there could be more) and poisonous spiders. 

But if I don’t HAVE to wash by hand, in our budget? 
Well then, I am allowed to rejoice about that right?!

Epilogue: the parking lot people called the next morning and had changed their minds. But it’s okay because the lead on the other van panned out, and Alex preserved his life by bringing it home with him the following day. We have now been on 2 successful driving trips, un-escorted around La Libertad. We may brave going into Santa Tecla grocery shopping today.  If we are feeling exorbitantly brave.