Tuesday, May 28, 2013

All Blessings Outreach Director attends Summit 9 in Nashville

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

Last month Hailey and I traveled to Nashville to attend Christian Alliance for Orphans' Summit 9.  It was an honor to represent All Blessings Intl. at my third Summit, which exploded in registrations with 2600 participants from 25 nations and 49 states.  Registration actually closed the week before Summit due to maximum capacity.  Clearly God is moving His Church to care for orphans.

It is difficult to describe how it felt to worship, connect and even cry alongside believers from around the world who share my passion for orphans, foster care, missions and adoption.   Every speaker and breakout session was moving.  The session on deinstitutionalization examined the ramifications of institutionalized care and passionately discussed how to find permanent solutions for children without families.  I listened to a panel of multi-ethnic adoptive families and laughed and grieved as they shared the joys and challenges they face in daily life.  I was especially moved as I listen to Emily Richards, the daughter of Stephen Curtis Chapman, speak on the theology of adoption, God's father heart for his children and the "forever family" that we are adopted into when we become believers.

The above photo was taken for a Summit photo contest on "hopes and dreams" for orphans.

There were many unexpected surprises during the trip.  On the first day of Summit I received an email from our former adoption agency notifying us that our adoption paperwork had been returned to them by El Salvador.  They wanted to know if they should shred it.  This email stirred up painful emotions that had been hidden in the depths of my soul.  As I listened to David Platt, author of "Radical" (the book that all of my outreach team members are required to read), speak in the closing session, I was shocked by his heartbreaking journey of a failed adoption.  David and his wife tried for many years to adopt a baby girl in Nepal, but their dream died when Nepal closed for adoption.  They later adopted a baby in China and started a ministry in Nepal as a result of their passion for the country of their broken dreams.  I couldn't believe the parallels in our stories!

As David shared about their failed adoption, the floodgates opened and I began to weep uncontrollably.  I wept as though I was grieving a stillborn birth or a miscarriage.  I wept for the injustice that we experienced with our first agency and for a country that struggles to create family plans for abandoned children.  I had no idea that I needed to grieve so deeply and it was truly healing for my soul.  As I gazed at Hailey through my tears,  I was reminded of God's redemption.  He truly does work all things together for good.  If He had not led us to adopt in El Salvador, we would not have been led to Hailey.  We also may not have become aware of the desperation in orphanages in El Salvador and may not be leading trips today.  It was so special to be sitting next to Larry and Tammie May, dear friends who adopted in El Salvador and have supported our adoption journey, as I wept.  Larry served with me in El Salvador last year and their family has become part of our family.   I loved introducing Hailey to "Uncle Larry" and "Aunt Tammie". We are forever family.

Throughout the week I loved spending time with other former El Salvador and Guatemala team members and numerous families who have adopted through All Blessings.  Hailey and I stayed at the home of Phil (Larry's brother) and Amy May, who served with me in Guatemala in 2011.  The Mays adopted their beautiful daughter, Sophie, in Guatemala four years ago.  It was so precious to watch Sophie and Hailey play together.  The Mays will be serving on our team again this November and have become very dear friends.  Thanks "Uncle Phil" for babysitting Hailey!

Lisa Bussard and her daughter served on our 2011 Guatemala team as well and hope to return this year.  The Bussards played a significant role in collecting jeans and raising funds for uniforms for the children at Casa Bernabe orphanage.  Lisa and Amy took me on a tour of Nashville after Summit and I fell in love with the city.  I was also struck by the Southern hospitality and hope to bring our family back one day.

I enjoyed another "girls' night out" with an amazing group of adoptive moms during Summit.  Heidi Weimer (pictured below in the middle) has a powerful adoption story and founded "We Have Room" with her husband.  I loved spending time with Heidi and Tabitha Lovell, the travel agent for our  outreach trips. Tabitha has been a tremendous blessing handling all of our international flights and she is currently in the process of adopting in Congo.  I loved spending time with such inspiring women!

Jon and Christella Hudson recruited a team of twelve to serve with me in El Salvador last May.  The Hudsons also adopted their son, Freddy, through All Blessings in Korea.  They drove all the way from Kentucky so that we could spend time together and I even experienced Tennessee's famous, "Cracker Barrel" restaurant.  Aren't these kids adorable?

One of the highlights for me in leading orphan outreach teams has been the incredible people that I have met along the journey.  Every trip has been life changing and every team member has become like family.  I am so thankful to All Blessings for the opportunity to lead teams to experience the father heart of God for abandoned and orphan children.  The location for Summit 10 has not yet been announced, but I hope to be there next year!  Stayed tuned...

Donations Needed for Home Costs and Trip to Water Park

We are so thrilled to be serving God's people in El Salvador this July.  This is our largest team thus far and will be serving in new ways this summer.  We are humbled to be building a house for an impoverished family.  With five high school boys and four men (including a professional builder) on our team, we should be able to complete a home in just two days!

How does building a home help with the orphan crisis in El Salvador? Unfortunately, many of the children in the government centers are "economic orphans".  Tragically, their parents can not afford to care for them due to economic hardships and the lack of proper housing.   Our missionary partners, Kurt and Susan Ackermann, who serve with "Sus Hijos", have been seeking to meet some of these economic challenges, and ultimately to re-unify families through building homes with their short-term teams.  The families are identified and "Sus Hijos" spends time researching, counseling and praying for these families throughout the home building process.

Our team budget already includes the building of a wood home, which costs $1800.  However, we would like to be able to build a sturdier, concrete home for $3500.  This means that we need to raise an additional $1700.  Can you help us to meet this goal?

We have more exciting news!  The government center is going to allow our team to take the kids off site to a water park.  Since the kids hardly leave the center, this is a special privilege for them to get away for the day, laugh, play and be silly. In order to make this happen, we need an additional $830.

The above photo was taken when a previous team took the kids to the water park.

If you would like to contribute towards either of these costs, please send your tax deductible gift to "All Blessings" at 13111 Hewes Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92705. Thank you for making an eternal impact in El Salvador.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Stuffed Animals for El Salvador

Help Jordan and Aidan Ramsey to meet their goal of collecting 100 stuffed animals for El Salvador!  Our missionary partners in El Salvador, Kurt and Susan Ackermann, have recently begun visiting hospitalized children.  They have a vision to bring stuffed animals as gifts for the children with scripture attached to each animal.  Last week Jordan and Aidan launched a "Ripple Kids" project at their elementary school with their stuffed animal drive.

They shared about the project in front of the entire school and spoke about the fact that El Salvador is the poorest country in Latin America.   The entire student body was challenged to bring new or gently used stuffed animals.   Let us know if you have stuffed animals to donate!

We are also in need of the following donations:  shoes and clothing for children, diapers, bandaids, over-the-counter meds, vitamins and underwear/bras for teen girls.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Meet Stephen Keenan

Stephen Keenan is a remarkable young man.  I have had the privilege of knowing Stephen since he was an adorable, chubby-cheeked toddler.  When Stephen was only nine years old, he served in Bosnia on a short-term trip through our church, led by my husband.  His heart for children and his compassion for the world was already visible at that time.  We have had the privilege of sending Stephen on other short-term trips around the world and have observed him serving the local community for many years by feeding the homeless alongside his grandfather, Ben, a deeply compassionate man who strongly impacted Stephen's life. Stephen's grandma, Roberta, has served with me in Guatemala and needless to say, the Keenan family has become part of our family.  It has truly been a joy to be part of their lives and to watch Stephen blossom into a godly leader, student, athlete and servant.

Stephen and his mom, Stephanie, have participated on our last three summer trips to El Salvador.  I have loved serving alongside both of them and their passions, gestures of love and personal sacrifices have impacted many lives in the beautiful country of El Salvador.  In the summers of 2011 and 2012 Stephen stayed for an extended period in El Salvador to serve alongside our ministry partners, Kurt and Susan Ackermann.  Stephen is a warm, easy going young man who gets along well with everyone and it's clear that he is deeply loved by the missionaries, translators and children he has served in El Salvador.

I was in no way surprised when Stephen began to consider moving to El Salvador after his high school graduation.  It has been an honor to walk on this journey of faith with Stephen and to see his excitement and passion for El Salvador grow.  I fully support his decision to live in El Salvador and am so excited to see how God uses his life for His glory.   Stephen will graduate from Brethren Christian High School in June. Way to go Stephen!  He will travel with our team on July 20 and we will return home with one less passenger (and one sad, but proud mom!) as he stays and serves for another 9-12 months.

The following is an excerpt from Stephen's support letter:

"After much consideration and prayer Stephen has decided to take a gap year and serve long-term in El Salvador! He will serve with the Ackermann family helping with their ministry, "Sus Hijos". We are so excited about the many different opportunities that he will have to serve while he’s there, from building houses to helping with short-term teams, teaching English to young boys in the orphanage and living in a transition home with boys that are learning to live non-institutionalized lives. As far back as I can remember, Stephen has always talked about wanting to be a missionary, and it’s a blessing to be able to see this come to fruition. We have expectant hearts as we wait to see how the Lord will use Stephen and his story in the coming year as he digs deep to live and breath what he’s always dreamed about" - Stephanie  

While most 18 year old American boys are concerned about the cars they are driving or purchasing the newest iPhone, Stephen is dreaming about El Salvador.  He has caught the vision to serve others, live radically and give his life away.  I have no doubt that his huge smile, broken Spanish and heart to serve the poorest country in Latin America will impact many lives for eternity.   Please join us in praying for Stephen as he boldly follows the Lord, departs from the normalcy of the "college path" and heads on the adventure of a lifetime.  He is currently raising $500/month to cover his living costs in El Salvador.  If you would like to help with a one time gift or with monthly support, please contact me.

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

Our Largest Team Ever

It's official!  Our July, 2013 team is our largest team yet with 20 members!

Meet our incredible team...

Jenni Ramsey (Team Leader) - 7th trip to El Salvador
Stephanie Keenan - 4th trip to El Salvador/Accounting @ Olive Crest Foster Care/Adoption Agency
Stephen Keenan - 4th trip to El Salvador/Staying to serve for 9-12 months/Senior @ Brethren Christian High School
Amanda Deal - 3rd trip to El Salvador/Senior @ Cal State LA
David Hughes - Youth Pastor, The Village Church of Irvine
Jessica Hughes - Youth Leader, The Village Church of Irvine
Summer Cheser - Freshman @ Orange Coast College
Michelle Lam - Senior @ UC Irvine 
Kari Lauterbach - Recent UC Irvine Graduate
Ashley Bittner - Senior @ UC Irvine 
Ron Bittner - Businessman/Construction/Overseeing house building project on trip (Ashley's dad)
Tori Younger - Junior @ Northwood High School, Irvine
Jeff Younger - Businessman (Tori's dad)
Tori Ascuito - Junior @ Crean Lutheran High School, Irvine
Dr. Thomas Ascuito - Pulmonologist/Will be performing medical treatment on trip (Tori's dad)
Philine Qian - Junior @ Northwood High School, Irvine
Carter Padgham - Junior @ Northwood High School, Irvine
Jake Ludwick - Junior @ Northwood High School, Irvine
Zach Pierce - Junior @ Northwood High School, Irvine
John Edmond - Junior @ Northwood High School, Irvine

Our team is currently fundraising for trip costs, which includes building a home for an impoverished family and taking the kids from the government orphanage to a water park.  We are also collecting donations such as children's shoes, clothing, diapers, over the counter medications, bandaids, toys, etc.  Contact Jenni Ramsey at jenni.ramsey@cox.net if you would like to help.