Sunday, June 3, 2012

Final Trip Reflections From First Class!

Post written by Jenni Ramsey (from California)

"God is not unjust;  he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." - Hebrews 6:10

I never imagined that I would be writing the last blog for this trip from first class.  Somehow I was bumped into first class, and this is a rare privilege for me.  However, as I enjoy the comforts of my leather chair and first class service, I can not help but remember the poverty we observed and the beautiful faces our team encountered this week.  These faces have nestled themselves into my heart and I will never forget them.

It is always difficult to summarize the life changing experiences of a short term missions trip.  I have had the honor of leading many missions teams around the world, and this is my fifth trip to El Salvador.  This team of volunteers was a joy to serve with.  They awoke early every day with willing hearts that were ready to work, serve and operate "out of their comfort zones."  They are returning home with a radically changed worldview, a greater desire to impact the world, and a deeper passion for the poor, the forgotten, the widow and the orphan.  

It has truly been a privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus this week.  We have experienced the presence and hope of Jesus amidst deep tragedies.  The first child that we met at the government center was absolutely breathtaking, but had shaved hair. When we inquired about her hair, we were shocked by her devastating story.  "Maria" (not her real name) had been stabbed in the head with a machete by a family member.  She had just been released from the hospital, and we were privileged to play with her, laugh with her and pray over her.  Sadly, Maria's story is not uncommon.  One of the greatest ramifications of poverty is neglect and abuse of children.  This week our hearts were broken over and over again.  Yet it was an immense joy just to be with children like Maria.  We watched their faces light up as we brought gifts, played games together, sang songs, and held, kissed and prayed over each one.

Our team members were required to read "Radical," by David Platt in preparation for the trip.  In this book, Platt challenges Christians not to be trapped by the "American dream." He reminds us of how Jesus loved the lepers, the outcasts and the forgotten.  Here are a few thoughts from the book:

"Caring for the poor is one natural overflow and necessary evidence of the presence of Christ in our hearts.  If there is no sign of caring for the poor in our lives, then there is reason to at least question whether Christ is in our hearts." (page 110)

"It is a constant battle to resist the temptation to have more luxuries, to acquire more stuff, and to live more comfortably.  It requires strong and steady resolve to live out the gospel in the middle of an American dream that identifies success as moving up the ladder, getting the bigger house, purchasing the nicer car, buying better clothes, eating the finer food and acquiring more things." (page 136)

"The way we use our money is a barometer of our present spiritual condition.  Our neglect of the poor illustrates much about where our hearts lie.  The mark of Christ followers is that their hearts are in Heaven and their treasures are spent there." (page 138)

As we reflected on these words last night and processed all that we have seen, we discussed how we can have a greater influence on our local communities and our hurting world as we focus less on ourselves.  We wrestled through the difficult question of how we can help more children like Maria through living more sacrificially.  We have much to process, many stories to share and many praises to sing.  We are deeply grateful for all of the support that we have received from family, friends, churches and even strangers!  Thank you for "holding the rope" and for allowing us to participate on this incredible journey.

Before leaving the mission house this morning, I chose some of my favorite photos from the week that have not yet been posted.  One of our team members, Christella Hudson, has done an unbelievable job capturing our experiences in photographs.  Thank you Christella!

Please continue to follow our blog.  I will be leading a team of nineteen volunteers from my church back to El Salvador in July.  We are thrilled to be throwing a surprise quinceanera (a traditional Latin celebration for girls on their 15th birthdays) for the teenage girls at the government center.  Most of these girls were never given quinceaneras and it will undoubtedly be an unforgettable event (see blog post below with details dated May 18, 2012).  I can't wait to return to El Salvador to be part of God's redemptive, healing work in this breathtaking country once again.  

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