This past week I had the joy of taking a short trip to El Salvador, only a three hour flight from Dallas. My three day trip was beyond incredible. In fact, it's hard to find the words to describe the emotions I experienced during my time there, with all that God did in our midst and the anticipation that floods my heart as I prepare to lead our teams back this summer.
The main reason for my trip was to attend the quinceanera (fifteenth birthday celebration) of Trinity Knepper. Trinity's parents, David and Kathy, are full time missionaries in El Salvador, serving with Calvary Chapel. We have known the Knepper family for seven years and they have become very dear friends. The Kneppers are one of our long-term ministry partners and their family has served with over ten of our short-term teams. A quinceanera is a significant rite of passage for a Latin American teen girl. Trinity's party was Christ-centered and she used her celebration to publicly proclaim her commitment to Him and desire to serve Him with her life. Trinity also shared her quinceanera with a young girl from their church, who would not have been able to throw a party in light of her family's circumstances. It was so touching to watch David dance with both Trinity and Michelle. What a powerful demonstration of the Gospel!
Is is traditional at a quinceanera for the birthday girl to present a candle to people who've had a significant impact on her life. I was deeply touched as Trinity called me forward and presented me with a candle. It was an emotional moment that I will never forget. Trinity and her family are so special to me and I'm so grateful that the Lord allowed me to be in El Salvador to celebrate this momentous occasion.
I was blessed to attend an incredibly powerful missions service, where the church prayed over missionaries who are serving all over the world. Many of these missionaries serve in closed countries, where persecution is intense. We were forbidden to take photos of these families in light of the risk it might present. Their faith and dedication was humbling. The Lord is raising up Latin American missionaries to minister to the Muslim world, where they have favor, cultural similarities and open doors to share the Gospel. It's truly an honor to be a part of the mobilization of these missionaries into some of the darkest places in the world! God is on the move and we know that the Gospel is the only answer to the suffering that so many people face today.
It was such a gift to spend my Mother's Day with the girls who live in the Sus Hijos transition home, some of whom I have known for many years. Sadly, the kids living in government run orphanages are kicked out when they turn eighteen. Many have nowhere to turn, and end up living on the streets or joining gangs. In light of this, Sus Hijos has opened two homes for young men and women, where they provide life skills, family structure, counseling, discipleship and full time jobs at the States Diner for all of the residents. We enjoyed an unforgettable girls' night out/slumber party and dined at an amazing restaurant on the hills of a volcano, with stunning views of San Salvador.
The girls were given gifts that I had brought from friends in Texas; new pajamas, make up, jewelry, nail polish, hygiene products and clothing. It warmed my heart to watch their faces light up as they opened their gifts and giggled with glee! They were so excited and I loved watching them as they were pampered. I was able to share my testimony at the end of the evening and encourage them with the hope that Jesus has given me in the midst of painful experiences in my life. The Lord has clearly given each of them hope for their futures and it's such a joy to watch them grow into godly women who've been healed and empowered by His Spirit! I can't wait to be back in El Salvador next month and continue to watch His redeeming work in their lives!