Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Taylor Wasson and the Power of Short-Term Missions

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

Taylor, Aidan, Samantha & Rebekah

Taylor Wasson served with her mom and sister on a His Hands His Feet trip to El Salvador in 2011. She was 12 years old at that time and her life was deeply impacted by the trip.  Taylor has always dreamed of returning to serve children in El Salvador and this year the Lord spoke to her and called her back.  Despite the fact that many of her friends from her church were going to the Philippines this summer, Taylor decided to return to El Salvador at the Lord's prompting.  She also invited a few of her friends to serve with her and even organized informational meetings for her friends.  Taylor is a gifted leader and we're so grateful to have her on our team this summer.  She will be serving alongside her close friend, Shannon Smith, who attends Trabuco Hills High School, Mission Viejo, along with Taylor.  Many of Taylor's close friends who attend Crean Lutheran High School are serving on the team as well.  It's always incredible to watch our teams come together but I have especially been blessed by Taylor's tenacity and passion in inviting her friends to serve alongside her on this particular team.

This March I was privileged to lead a small team to serve in El Salvador.  During the trip I spent time reading through Sus Hjos mission house guest book.  The guest book allows team members to leave their thoughts about the week on paper before their departure.  I was deeply touched as I observed comments of past team members throughout the pages of the book.  I was inspired as I reflected on the many ways in which our team members' lives have been transformed since serving on our teams. It was so thrilling to find Taylor's comments in the guest book from her 2011 trip and I marveled at the fact that she's returning again, this time with a close group of friends.  The memories of the children that Taylor encountered in 2011 have a permanent place in her heart and her passion for orphans is obviously contagious.

Lexi (who served on our team last year), Cassie, Shannon and Taylor

Short-term missions trips can and should be life changing.  I often tell our team members that these trips should not be an item to check off their bucket lists.  Their trip experiences should change their future decisions in how they spend their money, careers, time and passions.  When North Americans are willing to leave the comfort zones of safety and familiarity and serve in third world countries, their eyes are opened in tremendous and often unexpected ways.  Team members are forced into deep reflection  as they encounter children who've been abused and abandoned, young women who've been victims of human trafficking and lives that have been devastated by poverty, addictions and gangs.  Psalm 34:18 says that "The Lord is near to the broken hearted." We definitely encounter His nearness as we serve in broken places and see lives transformed by the hope of the Gospel.   I have been overwhelmed as I've watched our team members's lives radically impacted by the trips.  Some of our team members have returned home and started the adoption process.  Others are now serving in long-term missions.  Many students have switched their college majors and career paths and others have started ministries in their local communities.  Some, like Taylor, have chosen to return again, bringing family and friends alongside them, and my sense of anticipation is mounting with the knowledge of the life changing impact we are about to encounter together.

Meet the 2015 Crean Lutheran High School Team

Blog post by Jenni Ramsey

Last summer I was honored to lead a team of students to El Salvador from Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine, CA.  We had a very special group of students and leaders and we're thrilled to be partnering with Crean for the second year in a row from July 25-August 1.  This team will be serving in government run orphanages.  They will also be throwing a quinceanera for young ladies and women who live in special needs homes.  David Anderlik, the women's basketball coach and a biology teacher for Crean, co-led the team last year and is co-leading again.  Coach Anderlik prayed that the number of students would double as he prepared to lead a team in 2015 and they did!   This year we have a total of twenty-two team members and nine are returning team members. The students have organized a number of fundraising events, including a baby-sitting night on Friday, May 29 at Crean Lutheran High School (from 6-10 pm) and a garage sale in Mission Viejo on Saturday, June 20.

The team is collecting gently used dresses, shoes and jewelry for the quinceanera.  They are also bringing gifts for the orphanages such as diapers, formula, hygiene products, toys and sports supplies.  Please let us know if you can support the team through donations or financial support.  We are extremely grateful for your prayers for the students and team leaders as they prepare to serve this summer.

These photos were taken at our team meeting a few weeks ago.  Some of the team members are missing and we hope to have an updated photo soon.  It was so inspiring to hear how God led each team member to join the team during our meeting and I loved seeing the students praying together for the people that we'll be serving in El Salvador.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Meet the 2015 YWOV Team

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

Young Women of Vision (YWOV) has chosen to partner with His Hands His Feet for the second year in a row and we're so thrilled to serve alongside them this year.  This beautiful group of mothers and (high school aged) daughters will be hosting a quinceanera for teenage girls living in government orphanages during their week of service.  A quinceanera is a traditional fifteenth birthday celebration for Latin American girls.  It has been so amazing to watch this team of women come together.  The team is working hard to fundraise, collect donations and prepare for their missions trip.  They are currently in need of gently used dresses, dress shoes and jewelry for the quinceanera. To read more about YWOV, click on YWOV 2014.  To see photos and read about our 2014 quinceanera, click here.

This photo was taken at our last team meeting.  We're missing some team members and hope to have an updated team photo soon.  We have 24 team members total!   Please pray for our team as we prepare to serve in El Salvador from July 4-11. Thank you for your love, prayer and support!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Meet Our New Accountant

Post written by Jenni Ramsey

It's official! We are elated to welcome Stephanie Keenan as the newest staff member at His Hands His Feet.  Stephanie has served on six short-term trips in El Salvador and her passion for the ministry is contagious.  Stephanie's son, Stephen, is currently serving in El Salvador for one year and living in the boys' transition home.  The Keenans have become part of our family and both Stephen and Stephanie's mom, Roberta, have served with His Hands His Feet in Guatemala as well.

Stephanie and I served on our church staff together for many years before she transitioned into the role of payroll supervisor at Olive Crest six years ago.  She has already brought an increased level of professionalism (and a little bit of craziness!) to our organization and we're so grateful to have her on the team.  Stephanie will be handling all of our budgets, donations and year-end donor letters.

Stephanie's powerful testimony brings hope and inspiration to the children that we're privileged to serve in El Salvador.  It has been an immense joy to serve alongside her for so many years.  The Lord birthed the vision for the quinceanera ministry in Stephanie's heart in 2011 and she has served faithfully and sacrificially for many years.   Steph and I are thrilled to be serving together for two straight weeks in El Salvador this June and July.  I look forward to serving alongside my sister in Christ, "Estefania," in Central America for many years to come.  Welcome to the team, Stephanie! With fifty-eight team members serving on our teams this summer, I'm tremendously relieved to finally have a CFO!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Jenni's Trip to Texas

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

I have flown through the Dallas airport (the hub for American Airlines) for many years as I've served in Latin America, but this month I exited the airport terminal for the first time. We've recently developed some wonderful relationships with churches and ministries in North Dallas that are considering partnering with our work in El Salvador.   My brother and his family moved to Dallas in 2013 and I had an incredible week staying with their family and doing ministry as well.

Here are a few trip highlights:

It was such a pleasure to meet Ginnie and Sarah Johnson, authors, speakers, artists and founders of King's Daughters.  Ginne and Sarah were referred to me through Young Women of Vision, Orange County, and they are interested in partnering with our quinceanera outreaches in the future.  Ginnie has generously donated her book, "Trading Up For a King's Daughter" to many of our missionary partners serving in El Salvador.  We spent four hours sharing, laughing and marveling at the amazing things the Lord was doing in our midst.  We had two unexpected guests from El Salvador who joined our meeting and are anxiously watching as future ministry partnerships unfold from our time together.

Mike traveled to Dallas this past fall on a business trip and connected with Mercy Church, Frisco, during his trip.  He developed a significant connection with Mercy Church lead pastor, Jason Brewer, and Mercy Church hopes to send a team to El Salvador in the future.  I really enjoyed my time with Jason, Lindsey and their church family and was honored to speak at Mercy Church about missions and the orphan crisis in El Salvador.

We are continually talking and praying with King's Daughters and Mercy Church about future ministry partnerships in Central America and sense that His Hands His Feet has great potential to grow in the Dallas.   I deeply enjoyed everyone I met during my week in Texas and appreciated the Southern hospitality, conservative values and slower pace of life.  I am definitely looking forward to returning to Dallas again soon to see my incredible family (the picture below shows my brother, niece and nephew) as well as our new friends and family members in Christ.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Feeding The Homeless

Blog post written by Roberta Keenan
Village Church of Irvine, CA
First trip to El Salvador

After a full day and a tasty dinner for 20 prepared by our hosts at the Mission House John and Judy, our team started the process of preparing meals for the homeless.  After doing this for many years, the organizers have this process down pat.  An assembly line was created and 150 sack meals were prepared in about 1/2 hour.  Many hands make light work.  These bags were loaded into the back of Kurt's truck along with as many people as possible, and we set out to bless those much less fortunate than us.  

We were only on the road for a couple of minutes when we made our first stop.  Kurt honked his horn to alert us that he spotted a homeless person, and the guys on the back of the truck jump out to hand out the sacks.  My grandson Stephen was one of the guys in the back.  It was such a joy to watch him approach people with bags of food.  He wasn't shy at all.  He was not only blessing them with food, but gave many of them big bear hugs.  They weren't the most pleasant looking or smelling people, but it didn't matter.  He still approached them and placed his arms around them with a shout of "Dios the bendiga."  We were all there to be Jesus' hand and feet to bless these hurting, struggling people and it felt incredible.  

We continued this process for the next 30 minutes until all of our sacks were delivered.  One stop was at an abandoned train station.  Everyone in the back of the truck was able to get out and deliver the meals personally to people who were sleeping on cardboard boxes.  This was an eye opening experience, especially for first timers like me.  The people were so grateful and expressed their love and appreciation over and over again.  I'm so glad that I finally had the privilege of being part of such an amazing ministry after hearing about it for so many years.  

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for  me." - Matthew 25:35,40

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Katie Knepper's Quinceanera

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

"Arise, cry out in the night, pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.  Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children." - Lamentations 2:19

I am still marveling at the fact that the Lord brought me to El Salvador this week to celebrate Katie Knepper's quinceanera (15th birthday celebration).  In the summer of 2009 I met the Knepper family while serving at a Calvary Chapel sponsored orphanage in San Martin, El Salvador.  I had no idea that a lifelong friendship would blossom between our families.  The Kneppers were sent out as missionaries by Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa and they return to So Cal every year for a furlough.  We have been honored to partner alongside their family for many years in El Salvador and have also enjoyed precious memories during their furloughs in California.  In the summer of 2013, Kathy was able to attend our daughter Hailey's adoption finalization and I was so thrilled to be part of Katie's quinceanera this week.  

Kathy and I have shared many heartfelt emails, conversations and prayers over the years, crying out to the Lord for our children.  Katie suffered a serious injury in 2011 and served with my El Salvador team that summer with a smile on her face in her wheelchair.  The Lord has been faithful in many areas of her life and she has become like a daughter to me.  

As the dream to attend Katie's quinceanera began to develop last year, three dear friends decided to join me for the special event.  Valerie, Stephanie and Roberta were also honored to celebrate Katie's quinceanera and it was such a joy for the four of us to be there with the Sus Hijos ministry team.

Two moments from the quinceanera ceremony touched my heart.  The candle ceremony was extremely emotional.  Katie lit fifteen candles, representing fifteen significant people in her life. It was a beautiful expression of love and gratitude for the people who had impacted her deeply.  I was moved to tears when Katie called me forward to express her love and appreciation for my leadership in her life.  It was truly a moment that I will never forget.

I was called forward later in the ceremony to speak on purity and to sign Katie's pledge to remain pure for her marriage.  The Lord had given me a beautiful picture of Katie to share at the ceremony.  While praying for Katie, I saw a little cocoon that had fallen and broken on the ground. Although it had once been shattered, the butterfly emerged gloriously and it was breathtaking.  This image represented Katie's transformation into a beautiful, young woman.  I nearly burst into tears at the beginning of the evening when I walked into the event and saw decorate butterflies placed throughout the room.  As I shared this picture with Katie in the ceremony and admonished her in God's Word, she began to weep.  It was a powerful and emotional moment with an overwhelming sense of the Holy Spirit.  I am so proud of Katie and the challenges that she has overcome.  There is nowhere in the world that I would have rather been than celebrating her quinceanera this weekend. Congratulations Katie.  I love you!        

"Don't let anyone look down on you because of your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity." - I Timothy 4:12