I am writing to thank you for all that you did to partner with Elise and I in our time of service in El Salvador, and to share some of our experiences that God so generously orchestrated.
Our week was full of tears and smiles and beauty and pain as we were introduced to 90 girls living in four different orphanages. Our team of 16 moms and daughters from Young Women of Vision, along with Jenni Ramsey and her team of 10 from The Village Church, combined with wonderful “translators” living in El Salvador who interpreted for us. As we drove to our first destination on our first day, I reflected on the words from our morning devotion given by the youth pastor, David: “Just as ‘Jesus looked up’ and saw into peoples’ hearts and souls, we too want to see the hearts of these girls and to listen to their stories.”
We were given that opportunity as we each took different girls to choose their perfect dress from the 200 dresses that were donated by our wonderful community here in Orange County. I will never forget my time with Eva, a beautiful girl full of kindness, poise and strength who chose a black and cream dress and then a pair of leopard shoes! When I had the opportunity to sit and talk with her through the help of a translator named Lilly, I learned that she had only been at this center for a few days (brought there by the police after an argument with her aunt). Through tears she asked for prayer that her parents would choose to come and pick her up from the orphanage that Sunday. Sunday was the day of our quinceanera. God chose instead for Eva to remain at the orphanage and to then participate in the quinceanera.
One of our team members shared her story of childhood abuse and spoke these words of Scripture from Psalm 27:10 to the young ladies, “Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” The Lord was there pouring out His love on these girls. They were so full of gratitude and joy from the first moments to the last as many of them were preparing for and then experiencing their very first birthday celebration in this 15th year birthday celebration that holds such meaning in their culture. I wish you all could have been there to watch them as they proudly entered the ball room at the Holiday Inn with an escort on their arm, full of hope if even for just that evening that one day they might grow up to go to college, or to get a job and to live in a home, or to be married to a man who would love them and care for them.
I wish you could have heard them scream and jump up and down with delight as each new song began on the dance floor. And I wish you could have watched them walk through our tunnel of mothers and daughters at the end of the evening with tears rolling down their faces as they were given a parting gift and a goodbye hug. Please know that your prayers and support resulted in something much bigger than a birthday party for these 90 abandoned girls and that because of the scope of this event, the First and Second Ladies of El Salvador attended and afterward, asked Kurt Ackermann (founder of Sus Hijos and full time missionary in El Salvador) to head up the spiritual formation of all government run orphanages in El Salvador.
Gabrielle from the main government center shared with us the day after the quinceanera, “I believe that you desired for us to feel like princesses. I want you to know that this is just how we felt.” The girls also expressed that they felt like we were moms to them. Our eyes were filled with tears as we realized that God had done such a beautiful work in both us and in them. We had felt His love for these precious girls and they had been able to experience the deep love of our Heavenly Father through this week that we had together.
There is something that Jesus said to me towards the end of this trip. He led me to the verses in Psalm 27 that follow those that Jenni shared at each of the centers: “I am confident of this. I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13, 14. Will you join me in praying with persistence for the people of El Salvador and for these abused and neglected children, that they will see the goodness of Jesus in the present, and that they will live with hope and joy here, on earth, even before they reach their true home?
Hi this is Elise, I just wanted to share one way in which I was specifically impacted by this trip. The day after the quinceanera we went back to visit the girls for the last time. Many of them shared how we had impacted them. I will never forget when one girl from the orphanage said how lucky we (the 8 of us YWOV girls) must feel to have the moms we do. She shared how she couldn’t imagine having such an amazing mom as we all do. After reflecting on what the girls had shared, I realized how incredibly blessed I am to not only live in Newport Beach, but to have the loving parents that I have been given. I take my parents for granted and I had never thought about how blessed I am to have them prior to this moment. Those girls helped me to understand what a privilege it is to have parents who love me unconditionally, support me, and who would never kick me out onto the streets. My life is truly a dream come true in the eyes of these girls, and now I am able to see through their eyes and learn to appreciate all that I have been blessed with.
Thank you again for helping to bring the Kingdom of God to this area of His world. Elise and I have been forever impacted by this very special mission experience.