Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Serving Alongside Friends

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

Our team this week is very dear to my heart for many reasons.  Not only do we have many returning team members and leaders from The Village Church of Irvine.  We also have two incredible families from our neighborhood in Irvine whose kids are close friends with our boys. It's been a dream come true for Jordan and Aidan to serve alongside their buddies in El Salvador this week.

In addition, our lifelong friends, Guido and Julien Hajenius, are serving with our team.  Guido's wife, Katie, is one of my best friends from college and we've supported each other through our weddings, the birth of our children and years of life and ministry.  Katie and Guido's son, Julien, is one of Aidan's best friends as well.  Guido serves with iEmpathize, an organization that seeks to eradicate child exploitation, engage the culture and empower kids.  To learn more about iEmpathize, click here.

This week Guido has been given four opportunities to present his materials on sexual exploitation, empathy and empowerment.  His presentation connects the hope of the Gospel with practical tools that empower young people to make the right choices.  Sadly, the majority of the children that we serve in El Salvador have experienced extreme trauma and abuse.  They are desperate for healing and Guido's presentation has given them incredible tools for their futures.  Mike and I have loved partnering with the Hajenius family and iEmpathize for many years and it's truly a gift to serve together in Central America.  My heart has been overflowing as I've watched the Lord use both Guido and Julien over and over again this week.

Serving the Homeless on the Streets of San Salvador

Blog post written by Sammie Evans

On Sunday evening our team had their first experience feeding the homeless.  We set up the assembly line and filled the bags with sandwiches, chips, apples, juice and cookies.  I was on this trip last year and will be spending 5 weeks in El Salvador this summer.  Feeding the homeless on the streets of San Salvador is always emotional and tonight was no different. We see many things while out feeding on the streets.  On Sunday night we saw kids sniffing glue to ease the hunger and take away the pain.  It was heart wrenching.  We also saw prostitutes, cross-dressers and many small children, including babies.  It was devastating to encounter a young, pregnant woman living on the streets as well. I thought that I would know what to expect since I've done this before, but it wasn't any less painful or heart breaking.

We handed out bags in one particular area and one man wanted to thank me personally.  He reached out to shake my hand along with a few others, so I shook it respectfully.  We have been talking every day about the power of touch in serving others.  It was hard to see such beautiful people living in such horrible living conditions. Sus Hijos feeds the homeless community regularly, but my heart just wants to keep giving them more.  

We also had the opportunity to feed the homeless on Monday. We headed to a different area, where we once again encountered broken people.  I love the fact that Sus Hijos doesn't discriminate with who they feed.  The meals are distributed to everyone who has a need, whether they are on drugs, inebriated or "ladies of the night."  Jesus touched and healed the lepers and prostitutes that came to him, so we do the same.  

One moment stood out to me while serving on the streets.  After handing a gentleman a bag of food,  I was expecting a "gracias," but received something completely different.   The man looked me in the eye and began to speak in perfect English.  He said, "Thank you, I love your country!" I was shocked.  Because I was so shocked, all I could think to say back was a simple, "Thank you."  As we drove off, he shouted, "I love your country!"  I have been so blessed to feed the "least of these" these past two nights and look forward to serving this community again on Thursday evening. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hope and Purpose in Suffering

Blog post written by Hilary Cook

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” - Romans 3:5

In the two days that our team has been in this country, we have been in directed contact with many people who have suffered much. However, we've been overwhelmed by the fact that the Salvadorian people are people of great character and perseverance. This morning our team loaded into the bus and the back of Kurt Ackermann's (Founder of Sus Hijos) truck to visit another orphanage.

I had an opportunity to get to know one of the women who cares for the kids. The kids call these ladies "tias" ("aunt" in Spanish). With the help of one of our translators, I learned that the orphanage has been around for many years.  Many of the kids in the center get taken in off the streets or are placed here after being deported back to El Salvador from the States.  Others are rescued from abusive home environments or prostitution. When I asked this “tia” why she decided to work for an orphanage, she answered simply “Amo a los ninos"  ("I love these kids"). Because she loves the kids and because she is a woman of character, she has been working in orphanages since she was 18 years old.  I was touched by her love for the kids and her hope in the midst of suffering.

This morning one of our team members gave a presentation on sexual exploitation to fifty girls as well as the orphanage staff.  It was a powerful and interactive time. Please pray that their lives are impacted and that each young woman is empowered to make the right decisions for their future. 

We had a delicious lunch break at The States Diner, a restaurant which was opened last year by Sus Hijos to provide employment for kids from the orphanages.  I loved meeting the servers and seeing the hope in their eyes.  When kids turn 18 in the orphanages of El Salvador, they are kicked out of the centers.  The Sus Hijos transition program provides housing, jobs and life skills for kids who would otherwise be hopeless. 

This afternoon we toured a special needs center for children who are not able to thrive in other orphanages. Again, I found myself overwhelmed as immense suffering met great character. The men and women working there were so kind, patient, calm, loving and joyful as they cared for, cleaned up after, and loved on those precious children. I found myself constantly in awe of their strength to continually serve the kids day after day. I was there only for a few hours and it broke me.

During our morning devotional, we were asked a question that so many people want an answer to… Why is there so much suffering in the world?  I believe there could be many answers to this question. Maybe it’s because we live in a fallen world where horrible things happen. Maybe God allows suffering so that we build up endurance, which builds character, which produces hope that one day Jesus will return and take all the pain away.

However, there is a question I find myself more frequently asking… Why am I not one who suffers like some do?  I have had my fair share of trials and struggles, but it doesn’t seem fair that I have been blessed with such a privileged life while others wonder if they will even eat today. When I asked God this question today, the answer was clear. The reason that I was given a salary job with benefits and vacation days in Orange County is so that I can come to El Salvador and serve the least of these. It’s this trip. Every comfort, commodity, gift, and talent I posses was given to me for the sole purpose of glorifying God by using them to love and serve His children.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Working For The Lord

Blog post by Jenni Ramsey

His Hands His Feet is honored to partner with Sus Hijos, a non-profit foundation serving children in El Salvador.  The tag line for Sus Hijos is "Working for the Lord, working for His children!"  We definitely had the opportunity to work for the Lord today.  We worked hard and it was a very full day of ministry.  We are tired but our hearts are full!

Monte Calvario Church

This morning we had the privilege of serving at Monte Calvario Church.  It was "Family Day" at the church and we were so thrilled to encourage the congregation, serve in Sunday School and worship alongside our Salvadorian brothers and sisters.  The pastor gave a powerful message on the power of the family and the importance of a firm foundation in Christ.

Pollo Campero

After church our group of forty North Americans and Salvadorians invaded Pollo Camperon, the popular fast-food chicken chain in Central America, and had an awesome time of food and fellowship!

A Catholic Home For Boys

It was such a joy to spend the afternoon with nineteen precious boys who live in a Catholic home. We got to play soccer, frisbee, make balloons, enjoy snacks and share the hope of the Gospel with these beautiful, young boys.  Guido shared his testimony of a broken childhood and how Jesus dramatically changed his life.  The kids listened intently and we pray that their hearts were stirred. We were deeply touched as we prepared to depart and many of the boys took the time to publicly express their gratitude for our time together.  Please pray for these boys and pray for Sus Hijos, as they consider a long-term partnership with this orphanage.

Visiting the Hernandez Family

In 2013 The Village Church of Irvine built a concrete home for the Hernandez family.  The family had used their entire savings to pay for cancer treatments for their son, Eric.  They were living in squatter.  We fell in love with their family that summer and were so thrilled when a family from The Village  Church donated funds for a home addition in the summer of 2014.  Sadly, Eric lost his life to cancer shortly after the home was completed.  Although they continue to grieve, their joy, faith and eternal perspective is contagious.

Today we were honored to see the completed home.  Oswaldo and Irma were beaming with joy and pride as they gave the team a tour of their home.  My heart was touched as I saw pictures of our former team members displayed on the walls.  Oswaldo has begun working as a builder for Sus Hijos and he will build alongside our team this week as we build a home for another family.  We were overwhelmed as we prayed over their family and home and look forward to a continued friendship with their family for many years to come.

Feeding His Sheep

The team was honored to prepare meals and feed the homeless at the end of the eveing.  It was an emotional and humbling experience for many of the teams members.  Blog post coming soon.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

On The Ground

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

The Village Church El Salvador team is "in the house!"  Actually, we're in the Sus Hijos "Mission House."  We had an uneventful day of travel and the kids had a blast bonding on the flights, discovering a candy store in the Dallas Fort Worth Airport and enjoying tons of games.   Our team has ten team members whom are ages eighteen and under!  It's going be such a thrill to watch these kids serving the children of El Salvador this week.  My soul is filled as I'm back in the land that has become so dear to my heart.  I can't believe this is my eleventh trip to El Salvador.  I love the unique smells and humidity that envelopes me every time I walk off the plane into this beautiful country. And it's such a gift to be serving this week with Mike and our boys.

Our team of twenty is settling into the house and preparing for a full week of ministry.  Tomorrow we will serve in the local church, spend time at a boys' orphanage and visit the Hernandez family. We are incredibly grateful for your prayers and support as we serve the Lord's children in El Salvador.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Toy Drive For El Salvador

The Village Church El Salvador team is collecting new and gently used toys and stuffed animals. Donations will be collected at The Village Church on Fathers' Day (Sunday, June 21) and the team departs on June 27.  The team will be building a home for an impoverished family and is also collecting house warming gifts for the family. This precious family has three daughters, ages 15, 12 and 5 and we're specifically looking for toys, stuffed animals and cothing for these girls. Contact Jenni Ramsey at ramseyfam@cox.net if you would like to drop off donations.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Vilage Church Bake Sale Fundraiser

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

Thank you to everyone who participated in The Village Church El Salvador team fundraiser!  We raised over $550 last Sunday and sold a lot of yummy treats!  Please continue to pray for the financial needs for our team.  We need $6300 to cover all of our costs and funds are due by June 7. If you would like to support the team, you can mail a check written to "His Hands His Feet" to 95 Spring Valley, Irvine, CA 92602.  Thank you for your support!

Hailey had a blast selling baked goods to people in the church.
She's a natural saleswoman!