Thursday, October 28, 2010


If you are looking for a place to donate extra Halloween candy, please let me know! I will be taking shoes and candy to the orphanage in Haiti in January.

This is my favorite photos from Guatemala. This little girl was standing in a doorway in one of the poor village communities. She was absolutely adorable and loved posing for my photos.

"Give generously to the poor and do so without a grudging heart, then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." - Deuteronomy 15:10-11

Orphan Sunday is November 7th!!!

Last year our church hosted an ORPHAN SUNDAY service. We invited a family with three adopted children to share their powerful testimony about the miracle of adoption. We looked at God's heart for adoption in the scriptures. We also invited everyone who had been touched by adoption to come forward at the end of the service and each person read a scripture on adoption. It was a powerful morning that touched many hearts. Join churches across the country in celebrating Orphan Sunday on November 7th. For more details and photos, go to:

For more information on hosting an ORPHAN SUNDAY service, go to the previous post entitled "Orphan Sunday in Nov 7, 2010."

The Beautiful Children of Guatemala

Lisa Camarena (one of the missionaries that we served with) just sent me this video. It captures the beautiful and haunting faces of the Guatemalan children in Rio Bravo. Please take some time to watch it.

Processing Our Trip...

We are home now and processing all that God did on our life changing trip. Please pray for Meryah, who is having stomach problems. Pray for each of us as we process all that we saw and experienced. Today I am feeling more like an "alien in a foreign land" as I drive through the wealthy neighborhoods of Orange County. It's so hard to reconcile the poverty that I saw with the abundance of materialism here in my own backyard.

I was planning to write some thoughts and reflections on the poor yesterday, but then I read my friend Karen Yates' post. She captured my heart perfectly, so I'm copying her blog post here (thanks Karen!).

Refuse to Forget the Poor

There are 5,000 things to remember.

Many many important things vying for our attention.

Birthdays. Anniversaries. Soccer games. Playdates. Cupcake decorating. People to pray for. Phone calls to make. Emails to answer. Things to research.

I can't even touch on them all.

So when the world right outside my front door commands me to remember so many important things, many worthy and many worthless, HOW do you remember things like:

•147 million orphans
•The Persecuted Church (
•15 million HIV/AIDS orphans worldwide (The Hole In Our Gospel)
•30,700 missionaries in the unevangelized areas of the world today. (Christianity Today)
•1 in 6 without safe drinking water. 3 children die every minute from bad water. (The Hole in Our Gospel)
•800,000,000 people in underdeveloped countries hungry EVERY DAY. (three times the population of the US--EVERY DAY) (The Hole in Our Gospel)
•350 million people without a Bible in their native language (Wycliff)
•4.5 billion people in the world do not know Jesus. (Radical)
•26,500 children died yesterday of preventable causes related to their poverty. (Radical)

In Radical, David Platt asks: "How many of us are embracing the comforts of suburban America while we turn a deaf ear to inner cities in need of the gospel? How many of us are so settled in the United States that we have never once given serious thought to the possibility that God may call us to live in another country? How often are we willing to give a check to someone else as long as we don't have to go to the tough places in the world ourselves? How many of us parents are praying that God will raise up our children to leave our homes and go overseas, even if that means they many never come back? And how many of us are devoting our lives to taking the gospel to people in hostile regions around the world where Christians are not welcomed? Certainly few of us would be so bold as to say we "would just as soon God annihilate all those people and send them to hell," but if we do not take the gospel to them, isn't that where they will go? (Radical, 64)

In The Hole in Our Gospel: "We live in a world that is non-American, non-white, and non-Christian. 6.7 billion people on earth, and Americans make up 4.5% of the world's population. 2.6 billion people live on less than $2 a day. 1 billion on less than $1 a day. And Americans, on average, live on $105 a day, and we make up 4.5 % of the world's people." (121)

This really struck home: "It is not our fault that people are poor, but it IS our responsibility to do something about it. God says we are guilty if we allow people to remain deprived when we have the means to help them. It is our moral duty to help our neighbors in need. We cannot look at their situation and simply say, "not my problem." Neither can we sit in our comfortable bubbles and claim no responsibility for the disadvantaged in our world. God did not leave us that option." (The Hole In Our Gospel, 123)

I'm trying to remember, and I'm trying to remind. If I lived in Uganda with Katie and every day walked past dying children, I would remember. If I lived in Ethiopia and saw streets lined with begging children, I would remember. If I lived in Gaza ... If I lived in Indonesia ... If I lived in Ghana ... If I lived in Sudan ... If I lived in Haiti ... If I lived in North Korea ... If I lived in the middle of poverty I would remember. If I was poor, if it was MY child without clean water ... if it was MY child dying of TB ... if it was MY mother starving to death ... if it was MY husband who was absent for months at a time looking for work ... if it was ME, walking 5 miles in the morning and 5 miles in the night carrying 2 gallons of water on my head ... I WOULD REMEMBER.

But I'm sitting at my laptop, typing, and I'm warm, and my children are sleeping. Downstairs is a fridge full of food. I have 5 sinks in my house, and three showers. I have a closet of clothes and some cute boots. And I have 7 Bibles (about). And I have faith in Jesus--I KNOW Him, and I live for Him.

I don't want to forget what I have. And I refuse to forget what they don't have.

-Karen Yates

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reuniting with our "Compassion Intl" kids...

Today was a very special day. On Emily and Josie's first trip to Guatemala eight years ago, they had the opportunity to meet their children that they sponsor through Compassion International. Emily has seen her child, Limni, several times since their first meeting. This was Josie's first time to see her child, Fredy, since their initial visit eight years ago. It was also Josie's first time to meet Eduar, another child she has been sponsoring for almost 6 years.

We met them at the mall and played video games. For both of Josie's children, it was their first time at an arcade and only second time to Guatemala City. Fredy came with his father. They live an hour and a half away. Eduar also came with his father. They live 4 hours from Guatemala City. Limni came with her mother, and live 7 hours away.

It was a great time for reuniting and getting to know each other. We played games against each other and drove bumper cars. We got to sit down and chat with each of the children with their parents. It was a truly humbling experience to hear how grateful each one was for the opportunity to be sponsored and to hear how the Compassion project has helped them. Compassion's student center is a place where all the sponsored children attend for learning. The learning center provides clothing and gifts for the children, as well as birthday celebrations and Christmas parties. Most importantly, it is a place where the children grow in their spiritual walks.

We sat and ate lunch with our sponsored children and families. After eating, we had the opportunity to exchange gifts and prayers. It was a truly amazing experience to see the joy on the children's faces as they opened up their gifts. Even more humbling was the prayer time following the gifts. It was a very touching and emotional time. Sponsoring a child not only changes their lives, but also the lives of the sponsors. There are so many children out there that need to be sponsored. Please consider sponsing a child.

-Emily and Josie for the team

Reflections on Casa Bernabe

Nestled in the hills thirty miles east of Guatemala City lays an oasis of hope, "La Casa Bernabe" (The Barnabas House). This facility is not just an orphanage. It is truly home for 150 children who have been abandoned or removed from their homes because of neglect or abuse. While these childrens' stories are tragic, their smiles, laughter and spirits are contagious. The presence of God is real in this place. These children are loved by the staff who care for them deeply, and they know their Heavenly Father. Songs of worship fill the air and children run, play and use their imaginations in amazing ways throughout the large property.

Guatemala is a land of contrasts. As you look across the tree covered valley of Casa Bernabe you can see large, gated, opulent homes of the first class "Guatemaltecos." The middle class does not exist in Guatemala. You are either rich or poor, and your status is determined at birth. And in between the rich and the poor one finds a great divide.

Yet there are glimmers of hope as you pass through the halls and courtyards of Casa Berbabe. Children are playing instruments and some even compete in national competitions. Two days ago some of the boys competed in a national soccer tournament for an opportunity to travel to the states. The living arrangements at Casa Bernabe are like real homes. The boys and girls are separated into "casas" by age. Each casa has its' own kitchen, family room, bedrooms and house parents. There is a deep sense of community in each home and the love, hope and healing of Christ can be felt within its' walls.

Our team spent time reflecting on all that we've experienced today. We are so grateful for this experience and we will never forget these beautiful children. We are already talking about the next trip to Guatemala, possibly in 2011? Stay tuned for more...

Jenni for Emily, Josie and Meryah

Distributing donated shoes, clothing and toys...

Josie and Juliette

Precious little Antonia

Meryah and Juan

Alejandro napping on Emily's lap

Jenni and Katerin

The children love going on walks through the property


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Loving on the Teenage Girls... shopping, pizza, ice cream and a movie!

The morning started out with an amazing worship service at Casa Bernabe. Pedro, the president of Casa Bernabe delivered a powerful message about Saul and Samuel and how God has a unique and purposeful life for each of us. Doni, Pedro's wife, translated for us. She gave us the history of Casa Bernabe during lunch.

After lunch, we headed out to go shopping at the mall. We took Abigail and Sefora, both of whom Emily has come to know and love over the past eight years. Emily first met Abigail and Sefora on her first trip to Casa Bernabe eight years ago and has maintained a unique bond with each of them. Living at the orphanage, these girls rarely get the opportunity to leave, let alone shop for themselves. Sefora, at the age of 18, had never even been to the mall before. You cannot even begin to imagine the excitement and joy the girls experienced this afternoon. It was such a blessing to be a part of such an amazing opportunity. The girls had such a great time!

When we returned from shopping, we had a pizza party with the older girls. Special thanks to the adoptive family that donated money for us to bless these girls. This adoptive family, instead of giving gifts for their daughter's birthday, donate money to celebrate her adoption and give money back to her country of origin. The girls enjoyed pizza and ice cream while watching the movie "Toy Story 3". It was a great end to a great day!

-Emily and Josie for the team

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Welcome to Casa Bernabe!

We arrived at Casa Bernabe after our early afternoon trip to Antigua. Casa Bernabe's campus is surrounded by forest and a near waterfall can be heard from the lower campus. After arriving, we spent time playing with the babies. We then headed back up a long and steep path made up of stairs to get our belongings put away and get settled in. After we had all of our luggage and bags put away, we headed back down to play with the babies. We all went on a walk with the babies around the campus. This was both enjoyable and a great physical workout, as we were carrying babies that are not able to walk on their own. After playing with the babies on the playground for a while, we went to their house and helped feed them. After all of that, we were able to go eat dinner and have some down time. The children and staff at Casa Bernabe are all so kind and welcoming. It is quite humbling to see how happy and content they all are, despite the fact that they are living in an orphanage. We are all very much looking forward to church service at Casa Bernabe in the morning. We appreciate all of your prayers and support. God bless!

-Meryah :)

Adios Art y Lisa...

As I (Jenni) was packing my bag this a.m. and preparing to leave for the Casa Bernabe orphanage, I heard a knock on my door. Lisa told me that their dear friends, Leo and Sandra, had walked all the way through the village to meet me. I have prayed for Leo and Sandra for many years, and was so excited to finally meet them face to face! Our home church (The Village Church of Irvine) has supported the Camarenas for many years, and Leo and Sandra are definitely one of the fruits of their ministry. They are a typical poor Guatemalan couple, who could never afford to pay for a marriage ceremony. They lived together for many years and had many children before meeting Art and Lisa. Sandra came to know Christ in Lisa's Bible study, and later expressed her desire to be officially married. Our church paid for their wedding and has supported them (through Art and Lisa) for many, many years.

Our time together was very emotional and impactful. Leo and Sandra explained how "words could not express their gratitude" for our investment in their lives. It was a moment that I will never forget, and I could not hold back the tears. God has moved in powerful ways through the lives of Art and Lisa, and it's such a blessing to partner alongside them. They have a very unique ministry and touch the poorest of the poor as well as business leaders, the military and government leaders in the presidential palace. We truly enjoyed their warmth and hospitality. Art and Lisa have an immediate need for a team from the states to serve alongside them and repaint their home. Let me know if you are interested! Our entire team was touched by Art and Lisa and we hope to return again soon.

Our team stopped in Antigua (for some quick shopping and lunch) on the way to the orphanage. Antigua is absolutely breathtaking and I got some great photos of the shops, cobblestone streets and ruins. Meryah will post soon on our first day at Casa Bernabe.

Jenni for the team

Friday, October 22, 2010

A night in Antigua

We spent the evening in the vivacious city of Antigua. This historic, colonial city is located about 30 minutes from Art and Lisa's home in San Lucas. Antigua is lined with cobblestone streets, bright colored buildings, large doors everywhere, and historical monuments. We went to dinner at a hotel and were entertained with a Guatemalan/Mayan dance and serenaded by marimbas, the national instrument. Jenni and Meryah danced with swords and maracas in hand alongside the Guatemalan dancers.

We had a great time with Art, Lisa, and their grandson, Brett Jr. Tomorrow begins our time at Casa Bernabe. Buenas Noches mis amigas.

Josie for the team

We have posted some of our favorite photos from our day as well...