Thursday, June 30, 2016

Re-entry, Refreshment & Relaxation

Blog post by Jenni Ramsey
Director, His Hands His Feet

Today our team headed to the beach for a day of rest and refreshment after shopping in a local artisan market.  We had our re-entry training on the bus, where we processed the trip, shared scriptures about God's heart for the poor and discussed how our lives will be different when we return home.  

Team members were encouraged to journal and process their trip experiences during their time at the beach today.  We also had the privilege of praying over our Sus Hijos ministry partners.  My heart filled with joy as I observed people praying together on the beach, in the pool and around the property.  It was a wonderful day of fellowship!

We typically schedule our beach day on the last day of the trip, but since Guido will be speaking at the teen boy's prison tomorrow, we had a schedule change.  Many of the other men on the team will be visiting the prison with Guido, where he will be talking about exploitation, gang issues and sharing the hope of the Gospel.  Please pray for these boys, that their hearts will be softened and lives will be radically impacted.  Pray for the other team members as we visit a Catholic orphanage and prepare to return home on Saturday.  

Thoughts from Destinee and Diana on Feeding the Homeless

Blog post written by Diana May (age 12)
Evansville, Indiana

My favorite part about this week has been feeding the homeless.  First, we all worked together to put the bags of food together. Next, we loaded the food in Kurt's truck. Then, we all rode in the back of the truck (I never get to do that in the U.S!) and went around and handed food to the homeless from the back of the truck. 

When we saw the people on the streets it made me feel sad because they have nothing at all. We saw many women and children and that was hard to see.  In El Salvador the homeless don't receive help from the government and there are no shelters for them to stay in. 

Last night, I saw a lady walking toward the truck who had her arms folded across her chest and she looked very cold, so I asked my dad if I could give her my jacket. After I gave it to her, and after she got her food, she put it on and smiled and waved at me. The woman looked very pleased. That made me feel very loving!!

If Jesus was riding in the truck with us I think he would have done the same thing!! 

Blog post written by Destinee Delgado
Huntington Beach, California

The first time we went to feed the homeless the team came back too tired and sad to talk about things, but I felt different.  I felt joyful and was so happy to be able to help. Yes I felt sad for their situation and the life they have to live, but I felt like I was doing God's work. That made me feel good about what we had done and filled with emotions.  It wasn't until the second time we went out that I experienced sadness.  

That night it seemed like we ran out of food faster and that's when I understood how everyone else felt the first night.  I was overwhelmed with pity and sorrow, it was like we hadn't done enough. I wondered why we had to run out of food. I learned that night that there is never enough. They always run out of food and there will never be enough to feed everyone, but there is still a huge impact on the ones who are fed and touched.  We didn't just impact them, they impacted me.  I'll never forget their smiles, gratitude and shouts of "gracias!"  I am grateful to have been able serve and to have this experience on this amazing trip.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Strong Foundation

Blog post written by Xavier Limon
Costa Mesa, California

Today we had the privilege  of beginning construction on the Hernandes family home.  When we arrived at the property, we met the family, prayed over them and reminded them that this house is a gift from the Lord.  We were simply his tools,  His hands and His feet.  

Then it was time to start the foundation.  Everybody was excited, the house was going to be built!  But a builder has to be smart. It's critical to have somebody on the team who knows what they are doing. The foundation of any house is THE most critical component. Build incorrectly and ultimately you may have to tear down and start over.

Our walk with God is the same way.  A new believer is excited to know Jesus, but needs solid teaching. They need a level foundation to grow in their relationship with God.  Without a solid foundation,  storms, strong winds and the rivers that rise in life will cause destruction.  It's important to remember the wise man, who built his house on Him!  So today we poured a foundation for the Hernandes family! A literal foundation. 

Construction days are what I enjoy most!  I will be honest, going to the children's homes is tough for me. It's totally outside my comfort zone and I never really know what to say.  I prefer to keep quiet and swing a hammer or carry gravel and sand.  In my own personal time at home, I enjoy building for myself and for others, so I'm at home doing the same thing in El Salvador.  To me, nothing builds relationships and teamwork more than lining up a brigade and passing buckets of cement or concrete blocks.  

I am confident that was accomplished today! With the help of the team members under the guidance of Orsy from Sus Hijos, we were able to pour the complete foundation today. Our dirty shirts and the smelly bus ride home was evidence of our hard work!  Some team members spent time with the Hernandes children throughout the day and even organized a soccer game in the neighborhood field.

Our team will continue construction tomorrow and then the July His Hands His Feet team from Crean Lutheran High School will complete and dedicate the home.   Please pray for the Hernandes family, that their spiritual foundation will be strengthened as their  new house becomes a home. Pray for Kurt Ackermann, the director of Sus Hijos, as he oversees all of the projects and short-term teams this summer!  

Leaving My Heart in El Salvador

Blog post written by Robert Delgado
Whittier, California

Yesterday I met one of the most beautiful little girls ever.  She lives at a special needs center and her name is "D."   "D" and I laughed, danced and prayed and with the help of some of the kids on our team, we made about six balloons animals together.  "D" can’t walk or talk but when she smiled it lit up my world.  There were so many kids in the center but when "D" held my hand for the first time I knew we made a connection.  

When it was time to leave I couldn’t stop myself from crying because all I wanted to do was take her home with me!!!  My heart longed to give her a bath and make her every balloon animal she could possibly imagine. The center was a very clean and loving place but in my heart I know she deserves so much more. I am blessed to be here in El Salvador with my beautiful, healthy daughter that needs very little supervision.  I have done everything possible to spoil my daughter with whatever she needs.  I couldn’t help wondering if this sweet, innocent child of God has ever been spoiled.  When it was time to leave I prayed and begged the Lord to take care of "D," make her healthy and allow her to be spoiled in his love. I may have plenty of material things but I know if "D" has God's love she will be spoiled with a love that I can never give her.  

So I’ll say it again.  God, please take care of my new friend "D" and overwhelm her with your love.  

Following His Path

Blog post written by Kayla Giunta
New York, New York

God clearly paved the path for me to embark on this journey and blessed me with the knowledge and supplies to make a difference. The events leading up to my experience yesterday have opened my eyes to so much opportunity. I've been saying for about two years that I'd love to serve in impoverished countries 'one day.' I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to do so this early in my career as an occupational therapist, and better yet, to do so while spreading God's love.

Yesterday we visited two orphanages for adults and children with special needs. Thankfully I had Lily, a dedicated Sus Hijos translator, by my side the whole day as I spoke to the therapists and staff workers at the centers. 

We received a tour when we arrived at the adult special needs center.  After the tour I spoke with the physical therapist and quickly learned that their needs are plenty. I found comfort in knowing I had some supplies to meet their needs, but am still struggling with the fact that there's so much more to be done. It broke my heart to see how misunderstood some of the children with special needs appear to be. 

In one of the homes a young adult boy who was nonverbal and appeared very anxious was locked behind a gate in his room.  I asked if the boy was aggressive and found that he was in there for having some obsessive behaviors that no one was equipped to deal with. I know the staff workers only have love in their hearts for the children and young adults at the centers, unfortunately they just don't have the resources or the training to support all of them. They were eager to learn as we spoke with them and they expressed how helpful it would be if I stayed for more time to treat the children and train the staff. It was hard for me to communicate that I couldn't stay as all I wanted to do was help.

The next center we visited was for children up to 18 with various mental and physical disabilities.  I was able to educate the staff and provide them with resources to address their current needs as practitioners.  Although I was impressed by their resources, they too expressed desire for more training and support. I left my email with them to open the window for communication as they try new techniques. 

As appreciative as everyone was at both centers, I still left wishing I could do more. I will continue to pray over these centers and gain more experience in hopes of making a more long lasting difference in centers like these. One thing I've learned for sure in all of this, is that I am on the right path to discovering God's plan for me.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Little Drummer Boy Who Touched My Heart

Blog post written by Devin Burke
Marina del Rey, California

Today I learned something new.  Well, to be honest, I knew it already, but I had conveniently forgotten it. 

Whenever I've visited a "home" in the past, whether it be an elderly home, an orphanage, a hospital or like today, a home for kids with disabilities, I usually make it a point to "connect" with as many people as possible.  I act as if I'm going to a party, and being an outgoing person, I have no problem doing this.  I have this inner sense that I don't want to miss out on even one person that I can possibly meet.

However, today I was reminded that although it's good to be friendly and to mingle with lots of people, it's not necessarily the best way to spend my time in every situation.  The best use of my time today was doing what I felt the Lord led me to do,  pick a few kids and spend those hours together.  Doing this enabled me to break through barriers that naturally occur whenever I meet someone new, but especially with disabled kids that speak another language.  As each minute ticked by today, a natural bond occurred with the kids. By just smiling at the children, touching them and praying for them,  I started to understand them and my heart was able to hear them more and more.  I sensed their hearts heard mine as well.  

I spent a considerable amount of time with four different boys. I will never forget them.  I was especially touched by one boy named "Jose." Jose was small.   He used a wheelchair but would sometimes crawl out of it and move with his hands across the floor.  I taught him to play my dumbek drum and he loved it.  I let him wheel off at times with my drum and he would just play with the music.  Later when I was in his room I discovered that he loved being tickled.  So I kept tickling him as his  face filled with utter joy, until he finally crawled up to me and threw himself in my lap, where he hugged me and wanted me to tickle him.  He was in absolute heaven.  It was then it struck me.  I had broken through so many barriers at that point and God was using me to demonstrate the Father's loving touch, which he so desperately craved.  

My heart was hurting as I said good bye to Jose and the others today.  I wanted to stay and spend a few more hours with each of these boys.  And my heart wants to go back tomorrow but there's more work to be done and other needs to be met.

Dining at The States Diner

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey
Director, His Hands His Feet

Today our team had lunch at the States Diner, a "one of a kind" restaurant opened two years ago by Sus Hijos to provide employment for young men and women transitioning out of orphanages.  The food is delicious, the atmosphere is warm and it's so incredible to know that the diner is changing lives every day.  The young employees learn desperately needed skills such as customer service, quality management, punctuality and the importance of a strong worth ethic.  The diner provides hope for future employment and I always love eating there!

We were thrilled to bump into Miguel Hernandez, the new guard for the dinner.  Our teams were honored to build a home for Miguel's family last year and Sus Hijos offered him employment at the diner.  Miguel was beaming from ear to ear as we greeted him from the bus and he asked me to send his love to all of the team members that helped to build his home.  Tomorrow we begin construction on a new home for another Hernandez family.

An Artist Discovered

Blog post written by Larry May
Evansville, Indiana

I had the pleasure of meeting "Maria" today, a sweet, feisty lady at an adult special needs center.  I offered to paint her nails, and she reluctantly accepted.  As I was completing my "expert" services, she started trying to communicate something to me.  With the help of interpreter Myrna, we figured out that Maria wanted to provide to me some of her artistic services.  She painted an amazing picture of the cross and a heart on my arm, then proceeded to paint a beautiful floral picture on my daughter Diana's arm too!  Her only request was that we take plenty of pictures of the artist with her work.   

What a cool reminder that when we choose to serve others we often gain much more than we give!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

My First Trip to an Orphanage

Blog post written by Beth Giunta
Newport Beach, CA

Today was my first time visiting an orphanage. Although the tour of the facility was heartbreaking, the children were precious. I was overwhelmed with sadness when we walked into the room where the children sleep. I had to walk out of the room as I burst into tears unexpectedly. As I walked outside a little eight year old boy named "W" walked right up and took my hand and introduced himself. His excitement over our visit put a smile on my face. 

There were three sections of the orphanage; one with boys, another with girls, and another with teenage moms and their babies. After the tour, I stayed with the teenage girls to visit and make necklaces. Most of the girls were excited to have visitors. Seeing my daughter dance with a twelve year old little girl who had shared her difficult story with us and watching a precious girl with special needs braid her hair will always be imprinted on my heart. 

There were a couple girls who weren't interested in seeing us and stayed inside. My daughter and I decided to go inside and visit. I approached a 15 year old girl, and began to inquire about her interests. She quickly told me that she wasn't good at anything and there is no hope for her future. My eyes welled with tears as I listened to this young girl, who had already given up on her life. After talking for a couple minutes about God's plan for her life and His love for her, she became completely disengaged and went to her bed. We gave her space and stayed in the room and talked to the other girls. After about 20 minutes, she made her way back over. I knew God had touched her heart when she showed me the necklace she had made and asked to take a picture with me. We held hands and prayed together before we left. She has forever touched my heart and I will continue to pray for this precious child of God. 

Love in Every Language

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey
Director, His Hands His Feet

This morning we visited my favorite church in El Salvador, Monte Calvario.  Monte Calvario holds a very special place in my heart since we have been privileged to bring teams to this wonderful church for many years.  Pastor Jahaziel is a dear brother who always opens his pulpit to me and our teams.Their passion for worship, their warm hospitality and their love for Jesus is absolutely contagious.  Our team was honored to lead a worship song in English, and they sang along in Spanish.  It was so beautiful to hear the church worshipping the Lord together in both languages as we shouted out "Yes, Lord, Yes, Lord, Yes, Yes Lord" (Si Señor, Si, Si, Señor in Spanish).

Larry and Tammie May are dear friends who adopted their daughter Diana in El Salvador five years ago through All Blessings Intl.  They have returned to El Salvador with Diana this week for the first time since her adoption and were overjoyed to share their adoption story this morning.  Diana's adoption its nothing short of miraculous due to the incredible difficulties in adoptions in El Salvador.  I was privileged to visit Diana six years ago while she was living in an orphanage and I have been deeply blessed by their family in many ways.  Larry served with one of our El Salvador teams four years ago and his brother Phil and his family, who adopted through All Blessings in Guatemala, have served with me twice in Guatemala.  It has been an honor to be part of their family's journey and I was moved to tears as they shared their adoption journey today.

Guido Hajenius is also a close friend of our family.  Guido's wife, Katie, and I met in college and were immediately drawn to one another through of our mutual passions for missions.  Guido and his son Julien served on our team last summer and we're so thrilled to have them on the team again this year.   Guido works with iEmpthazie, an organization that combats child exploitation and human trafficking.  He delivered a powerful message on the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and challenged us in how Jesus modeled empathy.  Julien also shared a brief testimony and he was eloquent and inspiring.   The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.   My heart is overflowing as I feel privileged to serve alongside our boys and close friends this week.  I can't wait to see all that God has in store for this team!

The Gang's All Here

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey
Director, His Hands His Feet

Our team of 18 volunteers has been emailing, fundraising and preparing to serve for the last six months and it feels so good to finally be together in El Salvador.  We're thrilled to have team members from New York, Texas, Indiana and California serving together.  Please pray for us as we have a full schedule visiting orphanages, starting construction on a home, feeding the homeless and speaking at a young men's prison.

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers in to his harvest field.” - Matthew 9:35-38

Thursday, June 16, 2016

2016 Summer Teams Prepare to Serve

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

I have recently returned to Texas from California, where I was overjoyed to meet with our three short-term teams.   And let me tell you, we have some awesome team members!  They are working diligently to fundraise, collect donations and prepare to serve the beautiful people of El Salvador. We are extremely grateful for your love, support and prayers as we prepare to minister to orphans, serve the homeless community, throw a quinceanera (15th birthday celebration) for one-hundred teen girls living in government run orphanages and build a home for the Hernandez family.    Meet the teams…

Village Church, Irvine - June 25-July 2

This team has 18 team members and almost half of our team members are kids.  These team members are from NY, IN, TX and CA.  Two of our team members will be giving presentations to government officials on preventing human trafficking/child exploration and occupational therapy for special needs children.

This team still needs to raise $2840 in trip costs.  They also need to raise $1,600 to cover the construction materials for the home.

Young Women of Vision - July 23-30

This team has 22 team members and consist of mostly mother/daughter pairs.  His Hands His Feet is honored to partner with YWOV in throwing quinceaneras for teen girls.  This team prepared World Vision "hope kits"as quinceanera gifts at our meeting last week and they raised $1800 to cover these costs!

The team still needs $3,150 to cover the costs of the quinceanera.

Crean Lutheran High School, Irvine - July 30-Aug 6

This team has 17 team members and consists mostly of high school students (or recent high school grads). More than half of the team members are returning for the second or third summer!  Their team will be completing and dedicating the home for the Hernandez family.

The team still needs $1,100 to cover the costs of the home furnishings (which will be a surprise to the Hernandez family)

All donations are tax-deductible.  If you would like to help with our financial needs, you can donate through Paypal by clicking the link at the top, right hand side of this blog.  Paypal charges a small fee.  You can also use Venmo or Chase banking (@ no fee) or mail a check written to His Hands His Feet to 69 Saratoga, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing." - Deuteronomy 10:18