Friday, August 21, 2015

all things working together....

I was thinking about the story of the Samaritan woman at the well today. When Jesus encountered her, he did two things that were frowned upon. He spoke to a woman, when it was not appropriate to converse with a woman, and she was Samaritan. But Jesus had something that she needed more than the water. So he defied culture and spoke to offer her eternal, satisfying, living water. 

Last week we had a similar experience. A family of one of the nutrition center kids, had their home burn to the ground. This family could be likened to the Samaritan woman. The mother lives in an area, and is in relationship with people that most others here would not have gone out of their way to help. But she came to the church knowing that the pastors here would be open to her need.  While she waited for the pastors we were able to see to the immediate needs of her baby girl and young son. We gave them all peanut butter sandwiches, drinks and made a makeshift bathtub for the baby to get the ash and dirt wiped away. Alex ran to the store to buy a baby bottle, diapers and wipes.  Because of the great plan of God, we already had in stock baby formula, shampoo, clothing and food.  

She came for water, but she received so much more. Pastor Giovanni went to the house to access the situation and while he was there, he lovingly brought up to her, the need for something far more lasting than another home. As they stood examining the destruction, he shared with her about Jesus. And as she cried there, with literally nothing left in the world, she prayed and KNEW Jesus that day.  She will yet have needs in this world, but “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

That same day we were able to send them home our last beds that we had in store. Seven months ago, when churches raised money for beds, for unknown persons, who deserved the dignity of a bed, God knew. When women from a church in the U.S. requested specific needs 3 months earlier, and then purchased hundreds of dollars of baby formula, God knew. In December, when this woman came looking for a place for her son to go, to be fed and be safe during the day, God knew.  When a school in Ohio did a clothing drive, and clothes arrived a month ago, God knew.

For the last 18 months, Alex and I have had moment after moment where God has taught us that he does in fact have a plan in mind for us being here. To be very honest, there are very human moments when we wonder about our job or our presence here. There are connections that we have “coincidentally” made, or times when a project we have been working on, comes to fruition months later. To give you another example of God working His plan, I can tell you about two weeks ago when we had a dentist here. But I need to start at the beginning. When we first arrived here we made a connection with the USA Navy. That first squadron we worked with brought us two old dental chairs…. And we always take what we receive and hope that someday down the line we can use it.  Six months later a World Race team arrived. One of the men on the team, has a dad who is a dentist. So we skyped with him to find out if the chairs were usable.  This man, had been going on dental missions to Costa Rica for many years, and was just at that time praying about ways God could use him more. He said the chair would work for someone, some day. So we held on to it.  This World Race member, months later after traveling in 11 countries, was led to stay involved here in El Salvador. So he spoke with his dad about coming back with him.  A plan was set in place, and it was decided that just basic exams would happen, because getting all the necessary dental equipment to do procedures and cleanings into the country would be very complicated.  The very first morning, Dr. Morgan explained to Pastor Ivo that he would not be able to do any kind of extractions because he didn’t have a suction machine. Our nutrition center kids were badly in need of extractions! Pastor Ivo declares “I have a suction machine!!” and runs from the room to one of the storage closets and pulls out a box with a perfectly clean and functioning suction machine!! We are still really unclear, how or why Ivo came to be in possession of it… But God knew. Ivo had had it for years. It survived all of the various cleanings and purges that occur in any home or church. And Dr. Morgan was able to pull many, many decaying, painful teeth that week. Oh, and he just so happened to pack anesthesia injections, knowing full well that he likely wouldn’t use them… but brought them just in case. And boy did he use them! Five seemingly random events, over the course of years, brought us to a point where we were able to minister to the physical needs of close to a hundred people. 
He came the week before the family’s house burned down. And because the woman had been in to see the dentist, I was able to chat with her and get to know her. The following week, when her world crashed down around her, she came to us.  I was able to give her a hug, to comfort her and let her cry. She came to us, because she knew at this church, people cared.

As Alex and I were thinking and pondering over every minute detail that all played into each other, we continued to trace back how many different people had been involved, completely oblivious, to what would all unfold. The mysterious suction machine, the chairs, the Navy, the World Race team, dentist with mission experience, the bed project, churches donating beds, baby formula, clothing donations, Giovanni being laid off last year and coming to work as a pastor… the list just got longer and longer.  Until finally, our thoughts landed on you all. 

When Alex and I dismantled our life and moved our here, we did so with the blessing and prayers of many people.  You may not have known what your prayer support and financial support would lead to, but God knew.  Over the last 18 months, God had used our ability to speak English and make connections, carpentry projects etc. to fulfill his plans. And we could not be here to fulfill those plans without our financial supporters.  I can tell you pretty certainly that there are very few missionaries in the world who enjoy raising support money. It’s a difficult thing to humble ourselves and to ask others to make sacrifices, so that we can be in other parts of the world doing Matthew 28.  But what we have to come to realize is that God is using you too. When you give to a missionary, are in other parts of the world too. You are fulfilling Matthew 28. And all of those “coincidences,” the puzzle pieces that come together so that one family may know Jesus Christ, you are an integral part of that too.  

El Salvador is one of the most dangerous places in the world. But that is not the entire story. What you read in the news is not the daily acts of bravery, of love, kindness, Godly men and women fighting for their country.  We would like to continue on, until the Holy Spirit leads us back home, but we need your help to do so.  You will be a part of something that you may not fully see until some distant day in the future. But if you read Mathew 25:31-40, you may yet get a glimpse. If you would like to prayerfully consider helping us to live and work here, we would love to give you information on how to do that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Missionary Kid Life

When we moved to El Salvador, we really had no idea what it would entail for our kids. The impact it would have on them, the sacrifices they would make, or what kind of life they would have here.

There have been many times when I have wondered if we are seriously screwing up our kids. Many days have been a little unfair. Many days they are left out because they don't speak Spanish fluently. Many times they get dragged along, to go to various places. Many experiences they are losing out on in the United States. 

However, many days they have had adventures that they will remember for the rest of their lives. For all of the hard days, there have been people who have loved them, adored them, and gone out of their way to spend time with them. My little caucasian children are so well loved by the people here, and by the visitors. The most incredible thing to watch is the way the people who live here and the visitors always love them in such a genuine, heartfelt manner. No one will ever be able to convince me that the teens and young adults of this world are all selfish, difficult and self involved. Because I have witnessed so many amazing young adults who CHOOSE to serve, choose to love and choose to have fun with my kids, without being asked. 
  



I have one kid who never wants to move away. 

I have one kid who feels like they are in a lose-lose situation now, because in the U.S. are people we love and want to be near. And likewise in El Salvador there are people we love and want to be near (I did explain this is win-win).  



I have one kid who thankfully still wants to be wherever Mommy is!...... okay, I think everyone knows that one is Donovan!


I have one kid who longs for their life in the US, but still says, "How are you and Daddy ever supposed to stop doing this job? You can't!"

When I think of all of things, people, experiences that they have given up to go on this ride with us, what always pops into my head is, what they have gained. 










There have been missions teams who make it a priority to make sure they have a wish list from my kids, so that they can pack an extra suitcase for them! And holy smokes have they been spoiled with favorite snacks from home.  I could have included 50 more pictures, of people we adore right back. 

So I just want to send out a gigantic thank you!!  Its hard to be an MK. Really hard. So thank you, to all of the people who have loved on, cared about, laughed with, wrestled, tickled, sang with, made them a priority, sent a care package and hugged them. You have helped to make a very different life, more Okay-ish and even wonderful!



Friday, June 26, 2015

Esperanza Sewing Project Update and the Best Tuesday Ever

If you walked into the sewing room at Iglesia Gran Commission last week, you might have seen fabric strewn about.

You would have noted the threads on the ground interspersed with discarded scraps of fabric.

You definitely would have seen chairs askew, scissors misplaced and bolts of fabric on the cutting table, not nicely folded.

But let me tell you a little bit about what I saw (before I cleaned it up).

I see opportunity. I see the chairs where Gaby, Kimberly and Leslie worked so hard to make extra scarves and some special orders two days last week. I see where Sylvia was sitting, smiling and sewing with precision.


I see all of the donated machines, and the donated fabric, buttons, thread and so much more.... that makes me smile so huge.

Once in a while, I get to be a part of something so completely amazing.
Last January, I told you about an idea... to find our girls in La Libertad a way to go to the University someday. 
In less than 48 hours you fully funded our Sewing School. 
In March, 6 girls earned 1 month of tuition each by sewing infinity scarves and selling them to a church women's ministry in Toledo, Ohio. 
In June, they sold more scarves to visiting short term missions teams. I haven't done the math yet, but it was about 20 more scarves. 
In September they have an opportunity to fill an order for another church in the U.S. 
Last week I shared with them what had been put into the account for them, and their jaws dropped. And oh the smiles and looks of increduality!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Because of your generosity, a local woman and member of our church is earning a little bit of money to teach our girls important sewing skills. 

But Tuesday was one of the very best days ever in ministry. All along, the idea has not just been for the girls of our Development Center to be able to go to college, but also to minister to the women in our community as well. 

Tuesday I invited a woman I know, to come in and learn to sew bed sheets for the bed donation ministry. In a nutshell, people from anywhere, can donate the funds for a bed. In that bed donation is the money for the materials to build a cedar bed, a mattress, pillow, sheets, small stipend to a local we trained to make the beds, and a small stipend to someone we train to sew the sheets. 

Yes, we could go to a store in San Salvador and buy sheets and pillow cases. We could also buy a bed. But we want to help more people than just the bed recipient. We want to hire three people in the process :) 

So Tuesday arrives, I have a game plan. I made a list of words I would need to know to teach her sewing skills. (p.s. Senora Clifford of year 4 Spanish... my education in did NOT include sewing terms, you might want to consider adding it to the curriculum). 

I am all prepared to teach her basics and maybe get to the fabric later on in the afternoon. She comes in, and after I briefly introduce her to our machine, I take her over to the cutting table to show how I cut, and pin the fabric.  

She asks me if the pinning process is really necessary. I say yes. 
She asks for a scrap of fabric to try out the machine. I say yes. 
She expertly folds and doubles the fabric to create a beautiful hem..... as she guides it through the machine.

I think "so when you say you've sewn a little in the past, what you really meant was I'm an expert seamstress and I'm about to knock your socks off."

So I worked on some fabric cutting, and she commenced sewing.... for 5 hours. I forced her to take a break for lunch. By the end of the time she had sewn 9 sheets and 7 pillow cases. 

In one day at her regular job, she makes $7/day. For 12 hours of work.  In 5 hours of sewing, and because we pay per item, she earned $45. And she was proud. I oooohhhhed and awwwwedddd and gushed over her meticulous work and then I took her to Pastor Giovanni to tell him, and gushed to him about her. 

I cannot even begin to tell you all of the feelings about seeing her face and her pride in her work that day.   

When you sponsor a child here, or you sponsor a bed, you are not just feeding a child. You are not just  putting a person into a bed off a floor. Those 2 things alone are HUGE!!! But you are also creating opportunity for God to do abundantly more with your sacrificial gift.   Having a child in our program means them learning skills to help them earn a college education.  Having a bed donation means hiring 3 local people who desperately need a good, fair job. That is what your gift does. That is what God accepts and stretches and grows, and molds  into His ultimate plan. 

And as Alex would say "How the hickity heck do we beat that?!"

Oh, and that incredible woman who will return Saturday to do more fulfilling, well paid work? Her sweet daughters received beds last week! So there is that too :) 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Its Complicated

Hello to you from El Salvador! I didn't realize when we moved, that I would write less.... I guess what I didn't factor in was going from being a stay at home mom/wife, to being a part time employee and full time teacher (homeschool), in addition to still being a wife and mom.

I've had a lot of people ask me recently how we are doing. How are the kids doing? How is it living in another country for almost 18 months now? Are you coming back? Are you staying? Do you miss the United States? 

I don't know that I can ever fully answer these questions. It is nearly impossible to help you understand all the feelings involved in all those questions. 

If I say I miss the United States, that implies that we don't also love it here. 

If I say that it is difficult to live here, that implies that it is easy in the United States. 

If I say the kids are very happy, that doesn't explain just how very complicated it is for their little hearts. 

We were recently having a family meeting to discuss how everyone is doing. And my little Addison put into words what no one else could. It was incredible to me that she could analyze her feelings so succinctly. 

"No matter where we live now, I'm going to be sad. If I live in the U.S. I'm going to be sad for missing our friends here. If we live here, I'm going to miss my friends and family in the U.S." 

We are of course going to try and help her see that it is a win/win, not a lose/lose. For to be loved in multiple countries is a great thing, and not a sad thing. But how do we do that, when we often feel the same way as her???

Here is truth. This isn't an exotic vacation. Its the tropics, and its beautiful, but its hard. Glennon of Momastery uses the word "brutiful." That's what this is. Beautiful and brutal. 

We live every day with the hearts, histories, tragedies and triumphs of people in our hearts and minds. Some things are hard to let go of. So we try to let God be the God of those hard things. Because who can live with all of that in our heads all the time? And at the same time, we desire to have them let us into their hearts and minds, to be able to bear part of their burden for them. To know that someone cares. 

Some days it is as simple as wishing I could just go into Target and find what I need at a reasonable price. Or waking up and thinking, wouldn't some nice, cool, Ohio, Autumn weather be nice right now???? Or wouldn't it be nice not to sweat today?? Or, how amazing would it be to hug my nieces and nephews and have coffee with my grandma today?  I cannot even speak of being in the same room with my siblings and my parents without tears. Or holy Moses what is with these enormous beetles all over our door???!!!! Tarantulas.... there are no words. Don't even get me started on bike rides and libraries with millions of books!! And pretty puhleeeeezzzeee stop posting pictures of your Disney World trip on Facebook! (just kidding we are happy for you and not the least bit jealous... a little). Oh Bath and Body Works how I miss you and your coupons, (I never had a shoe or purse vice, I had B&BW).  And then there is imagining watching Donovan in Little League, or Addison in dance recitals.

As you see, its complicated. Feeling many things, at the same time.  Ha! That all just spilled out suddenly :)   The thing is we live here. This is life right now. So to answer your questions:

The answer, as much as we can figure, is to find the joy. If this is a short season, or a long season of living here then we find the joy. The joy in today. 

*I can think of our friends.  I visited one of my closest friends last night. Just for a bit. She is a gift to me, and her husband is a gift to Alex. Two people that in 13 years of our marriage, we feel closer to, than almost any other people. I love her baby, and she loves my kids, without reservation. I said three times that we had to go home to bed, and she told me 3 times not to say that again and stay.  So to have that in our lives..... 

*The puppy that has been a healing balm for my little girl who struggled with this more than the rest. 

*The daily sunshine. 

*The little boy I gave birth to who is the most hysterical person I've ever met. His facial expressions, booty dances, taunting sisters with nakedness, laughter, schemes, hummed theme songs, teasing his dad, the way he says so many words fantastically wrong... the list goes on and on. Joy.


*Last night it was in the car, "Mom, I have a lot of 'uhspicion' that Layla is going to try and scare me while I'm sleeping tonight."

*When I miss church due to a migraine and I receive 10 texts from people wondering where I was. 

*Pupusas

*Avocados 6 for a dollar. Helloooo guacamole every day. And on a sandwich, and with rice, and with eggs... just yum. 

*Fresh Papaya. 

*Worshiping in Spanish, which always makes me think  of Heaven where we will all worship in different languages.

*The adorable little boy Christopher, who just giggled uncontrollably in my arms as I picked him up and swung him around. 

*Friends on missions team coming to serve and visit. And insist on me giving them a wish list for my family.

*The girl in our sewing program who used to be angry all the time, but now she is smiling all the time. She is incredibly proud of her sewing accomplishments, and I am even more proud of her. 

*All of the beds going out to families who may be sleeping on the ground. 

*Tiny little people who right this very minute are eating a plate full of healthy, delicious food!


*Hugs from  tiny people who yell "Mari!!!!" when I come into the nutrition center.

So I don't have the answers. Not short ones anyway. I don't know when we are coming back. I don't even know how I feel from 1 minute to the next. But I do know about joy. 


Saturday, February 28, 2015

To Offer Hope

I've been a little quiet on here as of late, but for good reason! A friend asked me yesterday if being a missionary was everything I had hoped it would be. Many things are. Many things are not. And I'm still working through all of the rest! How is that for vague? You just can't imagine unless you've lived it.

What I do know is the God of the Bible who promises hope and a future, will fulfill his promises. It doesn't always look like what we thought it would, our future, but there is hope. 

And with that in mind, I want to share with you something so, completely, out of this world exciting. Someone once said "Fight the evil in the world, by putting more good back in."  We want to help put more hope in. 

Let me tell you a little bit about La Libertad, El Salvador. We serve a community of beautiful, hard working people who are trapped in a cycle of destitution. People who are generation after generation being held down economically by the gangs who control everything. 

To make money, many of the people do what their parents did, what their grandparents did, and so on. Which usually means, fishing, making tortillas, cleaning fish, selling coconuts, and walking the streets selling bags of sliced mango and papaya. This is all they know to do. It is a very, very hard life. To know that no matter how many hours you work, you will never stop the hunger in your children.

So the children and the families do not place a high value on education. Many do not complete high school, and instead drop out to help work for their families. 

But we have this group of children. We LOVE them. We are trying in every way we know how to keep them out of the gang's reach. The main ways we can do that are through their relationship with God. And by being God's hands, in providing that hope and a future, through their education.  I'm talking about a demographic in La Libertad who will never, ever have the opportunity to go to the University. Never, ever have an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty. But what if there was a way?

It started with a little dream. And then a bunch of people dreamed it together. And then the Holy Spirit kept whispering "YES!" And then the hearts and generosity of people started moving. Then the light of hope started shining in "my" girls' eyes. 

We thought, if we can sew some simple, but beautiful items, like so many organizations that have come before us, we can sell them, put the money in a trust, and our girls can go to the university...... they can go! Drawing on inspiration from Noonday Collection, Ordinary Hero, Project Tesfa, Amani and Amazima, we have begun a Girls Center at Iglesia Gran Comision!!!!!!! 

Here is the plan and the goals:
*Our girls from the nutrition and development program, take a sewing class each week.
*Gradually as they learn and become more skilled, they will sew items, available for sale in El Salvador and through direct sales in the United States. 
*While we are all very sweaty here, it is not in any danger of being a sweatshop. For our girls will receive ALL profits into a trust fund for their education. (profits as defined after material and energy costs). And it is completely voluntary!
*For their efforts, they will be offered a small payment from each item, to have or contribute to their families. In this way, we hope to help the families, as well as teach about saving. Think, keep 10% save 90%.  
*Our girls range in age right now from 10-15 in this particular class, so they have a solid 5-10 years to save for their educations. 
*Working in conjunction with the Bed-Carpentry project, they can earn money by sewing the sheets for the donated beds.
*Our long-term goal is to also invite the mothers of the children in our nutrition program. To help empower them, offer them hope, and minister to them in addition to their children. 
*Ultimately, to impact as much as the women and girls as we can. Studies have shown that when a girl or a woman is educated, she will change her whole community. 

I can't even begin to tell you the stories I know of abuse, and trauma and poverty.Desperation leaves the people susceptible to the gangs. So what if we can take the desperation out of the equation?!

A month ago, we quietly discussed the dream with some friends. Within 2 weeks we had 5 sewing machines donated from home churches and from friends stationed here in the U.S. Navy. 

Three weeks ago, we began the sewing lessons. It is no coincidence, that already on our nutrition center staff, is a woman who studied fashion at the university. Beatriz is incredibly skilled, very loving, and has the patience of a saint as she teaches. She is generous with her time and ready to volunteer extra weekend hours to the girls and moms. God knew. 


There is nothing I can say to make you care about these very real faces. If only each and everyone of you could have seen their eyes, when I explained what was going to be possible. That when I read to them from the Bible, and showed them that when Jesus said that with him all things are possible, they could actually believe it.  That was a moment in time that I will never, as long as I live, forget. 






Here is where you come in! Here is where the fighting evil with good happens. We need some start up funds. Our church works on a very limited bit of money. They do not have the money necessary to provide us with the initial costs of fabric, thread, and various sewing materials, shipping, etc. We have an opportunity to sell some of our Esperanza (hope) products in April at a women's conference, but we need to buy fabric to make this possible!! If you would like to be an initial donor to help get these girls off the ground, please follow this Go Fund Me link: http://www.gofundme.com/esperanzagirls



Monday, January 26, 2015

Just a Snap Shot and an Oldie But (humiliating) Goldie

I haven't written anything of significance in quite a while, and that might be reason for my current funk. Or it could be homeschooling four children, all of varying grades, or the fact that I willingly underwent surgery on my deviated septum in a foreign country. Or it could most definitely be linked to feeling all of the things, about the people, poverty, and country where I currently reside. I'm vowing to get back on the writing, little things, big things, funny things.

For instance, presently I feel like my 6 year old son should have a tape recorder (do those exist anymore???) in his pocket all day. Because he is the King of Random and hilarity. Like this gem, not 5 minutes ago. " Remember when Evelin was teaching us Spanish (a year ago), and said the word "Pepino?! That was sooooooo funny."

Retold as if it was the funniest moment in our family's history. He didn't appreciate the cricket chirps that followed. And whenever this happens, he does his very own
"Bu dum chhhhhhh.... Bwahahahahahahahah!" About 15 times a day.

Like he's Brian Regan deserving of a drum trill. Later I will tell you his thoughts on blacksmiths.

That's not the point of all this. I don't feel like writing because Sunday will be one year here, so to say that I have a lot of feelings and thoughts is an understatement.  While I figure out the state of my brain, I thought you might enjoy a repost of an old blog, to dip my toes back into writing.

It is in no way a literary masterpiece, for it was written while I was still ashamed to be amongst other talking, calm, collected, adults.  So read it for what it's worth. :-)

So click on over to the most embarrassing moment, when I went to Ree Drummond's book signing. When she was famous, but pre-television famous.

And for all my new friends in Columbus, please forgive the post-trauma disdain for Columbus. I didn't know there were such awesome people there. :-)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Then There Was Addison

I think that God knew the world would need an Addison Jane. 



I think He knew that such a spirit of love, joy, compassion, with such pureness of heart would be necessary in this crazy existence.


For to know her is to hold a gift so dear. 


To have her smile upon you is a treasure for always.


To experience her love is coveted by all. 

And she is mine.





And the truth is, we need her.


Because the world can be an ugly, dark place.


And she makes it all brighter. Every day.


This world better watch out, because one day this girl is going to take her precious love, and change every thing.


And we will all say, that we knew it was coming. We saw it in her eyes.





Because God knew the world would need Addison. Like He knew I needed her. 

Happy 8th Birthday my sweet angel.