Thursday, May 31, 2012

An Adoptive Dad's Perspective

Post by Larry May (from Indiana)

Much of what we have seen this week has been suffering and neglect as a result of broken families. We have experienced mixed emotions - sadness for the fatherless, homeless, and abused kids and adults we have connected with, and happiness to be able to be hands and feet delivering a small taste of hope and fun and joy to these same people.

Having adopted our third child from here only 18 months ago, I think I have felt a sense of relief and gratitude more than anything. But for the grace of God, Diana could have been assigned to an orphanage that would not have given her such love, care, and support for her first 6 and a half years. But for the grace of God, she could easily have been stuck in an apathetic court system as an unadoptable child who would "age out" of the system at 18 and have very few options from there.

Through a rocky and risky road, there was grace from God -- good news for Diana and good news for the May family in November, 2010. And, as a member of this team, I can report that there is other good news from El Salvador!

Even though the system for adoption is very broken here, there are still many lives who are being touched and changed by the grace of God. I've seen very dedicated workers at CIPI and CISNA who are giving their entire working lives (in one case I heard about, 30+ years) to caring for children who desperately need help. I've met two families who have abandoned comfortable lifestyles in the U.S., selling all their possessions to move here, sacrificing privacy and security to intercede for the fatherless, one life at a time. Transitional homes are being opened to teach "life launch" skills to 18-to-20 year olds. And occasionally, but not often enough, children are being adopted.

Oh yes, more good news...I've also been blessed to work with 17 people who are investing their time serving the neediest of needy in El Salvador. Countless hours were spent raising funds and preparing for this week. Some sold personal jewelry to make the financials work. All are operating most every day here way outside their comfort zone.

By God's grace, there is good news coming out of El Salvador. I'm looking forward to getting home to see mine. :)

An Island Adventure

Post written by Jon and Christella Hudson (from Kentucky)

We will start by saying God is good. No, check that.... God is Awesome!!!!!! Today was an experience of multiple blessings that I will never forget as long as I live. We began our day on an island called La Calzada. We drove about an hour, then took a 30 minute boat ride to finish the journey.

We broke into small groups to deliver bags of beans, rice, and soup. Lilly, a 19 year old who was called to missions at age 7, and preached in Peru at age 9, escorted the Hudson familia and translated for us. Her love for Jesus and passion for telling others about him is so evident, and we learned so much from this young lady. We had 5 bags to deliver. We really did not know what to expect. This remote island community was filled with homes made of mud and sticks. If you can imagine your living room being your entire house, you might have an idea of the size. 

We met a man named Incarnacion in one of the homes.  He told us it had been many years since any gringos had come to the island and he was so surprised and happy to see us. The conversation quickly turned to God. He joked that he might believe in Jesus when he was starting to die, as his father had right before his death at age 45. We continued to talk about God, how temporal this world is, and that we never know when we will die. We told him we did not want him to make a decision just because we were there, but only if he truly believed. He accepted Christ at the end of our conversation!!! 

In our last home visit there were 12 people present, ranging in age from 5 to very old. We sang "Jesus loves me" with the children, and shared about God and his great love for each one of them. We began to pray, and there was lots of Spanish being spoken so there was a bit of a moment where we were unsure what was happening. Soon, everyone present was repeating after Lilly. When she said Amen, I asked if anyone accepted Christ while she was praying. Lilly said, "All of them!". Then each person told us a physical problem they would like us to pray about, so we prayed individually, laying our hands on each one of them.   We were so blessed to meet them all and witness God's miracles.

In the afternoon we had the privilege of giving good news to three families on the island. Kurt and a team will be returning very soon to build them new homes! All three families were surprised by the news. They were told that their new homes were a gift from God and God alone. Our team members prayed for them and Christella sang a song to bless the families. Our day was filled with story after story of hardship and pain but God was present and with us. Through the heat, the sweat and the tears he showed that where two or more are present and call on the name of Jesus he will be there. We are all so thankful and blessed to have this day to remember.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Loving on Some Very Special Kids...

Blog written by Cathy Carpenter (from Kentucky)

Yet another amazing day in El Salvador!! This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. Showing God's love to others is what we are here for. The first center we visited was a Catholic center for special needs children. Everyone was so friendly and we were given time with the children, many who needed the touch of love from anyone who loves Christ and was willing to share with them. First, there was a beautiful girl named Claire who I got to love on until she fell over asleep. The caretakers tried to awaken her, but she was sound asleep.

Next I was privileged to make beautiful bracelets. One of the children actually made a bracelet for another one who couldn't make their own. Then I saw two little girls sitting alone and watching me, as well as a young boy seemingly on the sidelines. I went over to them and pulled their three wheelchairs together and just began making up a nonsense song. I sang and jumped around and they just laughed and laughed. They were so sweet and their response so genuine. Time passed too fast and we had to take the children to line up for their lunch meal. Christella, Michelle, and myself entertained with a few songs while Jenny (one of our awesome translators) interpreted everything in such a fun way. We are so blessed to have an amazing team of translators!

I can't even begin to tell everyone how deeply moved we have been by all the children we have met.

Open Hearts and Open Arms

Post written by Melissa Strunk (from Kentucky)

Today we went to the orphanage that houses children with HIV. We weren't able to take photos of the kids or tour the facility due to security reasons, so they brought the kids out to us. We spent time playing with sidewalk chalk, singing, dancing and handing out gifts. I kept thinking of the verse John 3:16, for God so loved the world. That means that there are no second class people. We must embody the message of love or we fail to represent the Gospel. To see the children you would not think that they were sick. They were vibrant, beautiful and remarkable children. My fear for them is not for their health, but for the struggles they will face by the possibility of being ostracized just like the lepers in the Bible. God loves everyone and therefore we should love everyone! Nobody asks to have HIV and it's our responsibility as Christians to care for them and love them just as Jesus would have done. According to the World Health Organization, at the end of 2010 there were 3.4 million children under the age of 15 living with HIV around the world. The numbers are increasing and the chances of you or me having someone close to us who is infected with HIV is also on the rise. My prayers for each of us is that we will embrace them with open hearts and open arms!

Our team had lunch at KFC today. We thought it would be funny to get a photo of the KY team members together in front of this sign. It has been such a blessing to be able to laugh and joke with one another throughout the day as we process so many heavy and heart breaking stories. We are so thankful that God is in our midst and He is filling us with hope and joy each day.

Dance Party in El Salvador

Post written by Nancy Bates (from Kentucky)

Today we spent time at the San Martin center for adults with special needs. There are approximately 60 adults there at this time. We toured the facilities, which were obviously in desperate need of funding and improvements. We saw poorly dressed residents laying on the cold, hard cement. Our hearts were heavy and we all sensed a clear, unspoken sorrow throughout the tour. The staff are doing their best with the resources they've been given, but the conditions are absolutely horrible and ill equipped to care for residents with tremendous disabilities.

After the tour we moved to an open area to hang out with the residents, and our sorrows were lifted as we laughed and played together. It was time for fun and fellowship and we had an unforgettable afternoon. We did various activities with them such as making cross necklaces, bracelets, coloring, playing soccer, face painting and painting finger nails. They we so friendly and receptive to us! My favorite part though was when Kurt's team brought out music & speakers for the "Dance Party". We had a wonderful time dancing with the adults and they showed us some pretty terrific dance moves! The smiles and joy that we observed on their faces were life changing.

I have felt God's presence and seen Him working at each facility we've visited. And at San Martin I could see God in all the smiles, hugs, high fives and yes, even the dancing (to Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber songs!). It was truly a blessing for me that I will treasure in my heart forever!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Painting and Playing

Post written by Jill Imperato (from Maine)
Lamentations 3:22-23  "The faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies 
never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning."  
Today we had the opportunity and privilege to serve the boys at Cisna, an 
orphanage for boys in San Salvador.  We began the morning with painting.  It is 
truly amazing how much painting can get accomplished when you have over twenty people working together, next year the team is coming to my house for some projects! 

 We ate a delicious and healthy lunch at Burger King, then headed back 
to the orphanage to play and talk with the boys.  We had the opportunity to 
share the Gospel with them and several responded by raising their hands.  What 
an awesome testimony of what God can do even in the midst of so much hurt, 
abuse, anger, and rejection. I am awed by the strength of these children and so 
thankful for the many different talents in our group and their willingness to 
share these with others. 

Following this time, we were able to play with the kids; soccer, sidewalk chalk, 
crafts, football, and Frisbees.  It is awesome to see these boys relax and become 
children again, enjoying the things every child should be able to do.  God has 
not forgotten these boys and we were blessed to be His hands and His feet today. 
What an incredible and humbling privilege.