Friday, June 30, 2017

Out of the Dust

Blog post written by Kara Price from Prosper, TX

On Tuesday we started building a concrete square divided by a wall so that two families will be able to live in peace, not harassed by gangs and safe from various weather conditions.  The house is located in the luscious, tropical mountains in El Salvador.  The ground is so fertile here that everything and anything grows and flourishes.  The community is lovely and they have a genuine love for God.  The property is owned by a ministry that purchased the land to give families a future. There is a beautiful Christian school in the community and a strong, local church.   The children mimicked us digging with trash and gloves they found.  The boys and men played soccer at the end after a long day of building. 

God gives us supernatural strength and abilities when we're open to loving others.  When our motives are pure, He gives us what we need to accomplish His will in our lives.  I seriously didn't think I would be able to walk the next day after a hard day of manual labor, but I wasn't even sore.  Cinderblock by cinderblock, our team started to create something basically from sand sand and water.  It reminded me how we were created out of dust.  The sun bore down on our heads and our hands got stiff as we worked, but we didn't quit.  We had a purpose that was greater than our pain.  Although the people in this particular community live differently that we do in the United States, I personally admire their way of life.  They live in a beautiful country, surrounded by caring people, able to worship God without all the worldly distractions.  

In the evening we met two Salvadorian missionaries who are leaving on Sunday for Afghanistan with their daughter.  They're excited and feel privileged that God has chosen them for this mission.  In a nation of twenty six million people, there are only about a thousand believers living in secret.  They know that they have to go there with an attitude that they may never come back to El Salvador.  I was in awe of their courage and faith.  They've given everything to God, their worldly comforts, even their lives.  Their love for Jesus is undeniable, as is their love for the Afghani people. They're clearly overwhelmed with a deep burden to communicate God's love to Afghanistan.  They will have to minister through friendships.  They will not bring any Bibles or Christian  materials.  The demonic control in the Muslim world is strong but God will be their protector. Our team was humbled by their faith and we were honored to pray over this incredible family together on our knees.  

The Least of These

Blog post written by Marty Newman from Prosper, TX

In the US we like to encourage each other to "get out of our comfort zone."  I've learned this week that the best way to do that is to visit a country whose culture is not familiar with the term "comfort zone."

On Monday this week we visited first a special needs orphanage for adults, and then the special needs orphanage for kids. Dina and Jessica (professional hair stylists back in Texas) set up shop and began providing their services to all who wanted or needed it.  This included many of the young teenage men who were severely disabled and wheel chair bound.  When they were finished, it was apparent they all needed to be bathed because of the cut hair all over their necks and shoulders. My wife, Kim, and I were asked if we would mind assisting their care givers in this task.  We were happy to.  I figured that they probably just needed help lifting these twisted, fragile, and broken bodies. Yes, but they also needed their clothes removed.  And diapers.  Lifted into the tub, bathed by the caregiver, lifted to a table to be dried and diapered, and then carried to their bed.

I have struggled to write about this for days.  First, I wasn't sure if I could find the words to describe how emotionally moved I was to help.  Though we encounter different emotions and heartbreaking stories here every day, this was the most impactful to me so far.  Secondly, I feared that when telling others of our work here, it would be seen as just calling attention to myself and my "good works." Please trust me when I tell you, that is not the case.

Back to the emotions.  I'm not a guy that can quote Bible verses from memory on demand.  But I kept thinking of the biblical practice of washing feet.  And, I kept thinking of "the least of these." These young people are completely dependent on others for their every need. They can not speak. Their caregivers are heroes.  Uncelebrated, but heroes still.  The love and dedication they showed for these young men and the HARD work they provide minute to minute, hour to hour, and day by day is something not many of us could do.

So, was it awkward?  Only briefly.  But Jesus immediately filled me with his love and compassion for these young men, and their caregivers, to the point that I was just overflowing and honored to help. And then gently laid them in their bed to rest. Thank you Lord for the many blessings in my life. Thank you for the means to join this mission team in El Salvador.  Thank you that I have always been healthy, and able bodied.  And help me to always remember that not all in this world are so fortunate.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Cries Heard from our Heavenly Father

Blog post written by Dina Flores from Denton, Texas

Today I had the privilege to visit one of the biggest Catholic government run orphanages here in El Salvador. I was able to spend time in different baby rooms ranging from ages 2 months to 2 yrs old. I was deeply touched as I spent time with these children.  The rooms were colorful, clean and cheerful. Lots of colors and plenty of toys to play with. While it seemed to be a perfect baby's room, I still walked in to find crying little babies searching for any human contact they could find. The moment we approached their cribs they were quick to smile and could only express with their little eyes that they wanted to be held. With many of them waiting for that interaction that never comes they have no choice but to cry themselves to sleep. 

I'm was overwhelmed by the fact that I couldn't actually pick them all up and comfort them in the way that my mother instinct wanted me to do. I contained back tears over the fact nobody seemed to be bothered by it.  It was my first time experiencing what daily life is for a newborn who's been abandoned in their early days of life.  In some way or another they seem to find a way to self soothe and put themselves to sleep. As I carried a little boy that I had the privilege to feed and heard cries coming from every direction, my Heavenly Father reminded me that there is someone who hears their cries and comforts them.  It their our Heavenly Father. Event though we can't possibly comfort every orphaned child in this world, I'm reminded that Gods kingdom belongs to all children. 

I was required to memorize a Bible verse this week.  The verse that I was given is Psalm 34:18 -  "The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves those crushed in spirit."  I'm comforted by this verse as I think about these children. These babies long for a motherly touch and the attention that they deserve. Every child deserves to grow up in a family but due to the sin of this world many children have been robbed of pure basics of life and the feeling of love. But I'm reminded that they are not alone. Their cries are being heard and comforted by our Father Jesus Christ for He is truly near those that are broken. He uses people like our teams and the missionaries that we are partnering with to be His hands and His Feet. Thank you Jesus! I ask you to pray with me for all the orphans of the world.  Join me in praying that every orphaned child would be able to experience Gods never ending love!

The Power of Empathy

Blog post written by Guido Hajenius from Santa Monica, California

This photo was taken at a presentation for orphanage staff members

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak in the fourth youth prison this week using our Empower Youth Program material from the organization I work with: iEmpathize.  I was looking forward to speaking to these kids who had been incarcerated for being part of gang activity under charges of criminal activity, including murder.

I learned that I wouldn’t be allowed to use the media I had brought with me, a Spanish version in our Empower Youth Program (  Instead, I’d need to utilize an interpreter. Our whole program is media-based, but because I’ve used it widely in LA with over 2000 youth, I knew I could “wing it.” So, as I went through the security, it was just me and these tools which are now deep inside of me after teaching the materials over and over. The main purpose of the Empower Youth Program is teach youth how to stay safe and to navigate through all forms of exploitation, including child sexual exploitation. This was a unique situation speaking to this group of youth but my focus was to capture a conversation around how to navigate through all forms of exploitation in order to stay safe. Even though these gang members have undoubtedly been a part of the exploitation problem, I strongly believe that they can also be part of the solution.

As we reached the inside of the prison, I noticed how clean the facility was. They brought in the first group, the MS 13 gang members, and I also noticed how each boy had brand new shoes. Even though the prison was new, clean, and the youth had new shoes, their tattoos reminded me of where they had had come from. I felt nervous as they sat down. One kid got my attention among the 40 gang members. This young man, who we'll call "Miguel," had tattoos covering his entire body, more than any other boy. I learned that the tattoos were an indication of their affiliation and deep gang involvement.  His eyes were dark, empty and even piercing. I noticed that while most of the other gang members smiled on and off, Miguel was different. He would smile just a little when he looked at me, and then he'd quickly shift back to an intense look on his face.  As I began to speak, I wondered what I would say to them, especially since I had never been part of a gang. How was I going to have a conversation with these boys about exploitation if many of these kids had been the ones exploiting victims? How could I present any truth about God if they have been involved with so much darkness and violent activities?

It's in these moments when I remember that I need to practice empathy--- relating to the suffering of others--in order to best help them. And make no mistake, although these boys have inflicted pain and suffering upon others, they too have been the recipients of this as well. My presentation lasted for 75 minutes. I explained how problems of exploitation are what causes the most suffering in the world and how empathy is a solution to all forms of exploitation.  I spoke about negative push factors that push youth into being vulnerable to exploitation. The boys were incredibly engaged. 

After I finished the presentation, I made sure to shake Miguel’s hand. My interpreter, Edwin, informed me that he was the leader of that group. I was told that in order to be a leader of a gang, one has to have more kills than anyone else in the group. It's incredibly difficult to comprehend how the only way to find your significance and be acknowledged in a gang is to through taking another person's life. This explained why his eyes they were so dark and empty. Miguel is 17 years old. He has a lot to navigate through and has already experienced so much. I left him and the other youth with not just inspiration or a feel-good message, but some real tools to help them navigate their context. They now also have a better understanding of why things have evolved the way they have. They will inevitably have opportunities to choose to practice what was discussed. Sometimes people just need to see that there is another way, a better way.  I'm incredibly grateful that God has allowed me to serve in this capacity and bring His truth to the people of El Salvador. 

This photo was taken at a presentation at a government run orphanage 
for special needs children

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"La Princesa Bonita de Dios"

Blog post written by Lisa Barger from Prosper, Texas

Monday we visited the adult and special needs ministry homes.  We started at San Martin, the home for people who are eighteen years and older.  Upon arrival we received a tour and visited with some of the more severely disabled residents, which was difficult.  But we were warmly welcomed by caregivers and residents as well.  The welcomes came in different forms..... from a great big smile from amazing Sandra, a squeeze of the hand we were holding, or just eye contact from a resident that has difficulty with even a slight was amazing!  Their stories are heartbreaking but their spirits are beautiful.  

After the tour most residents were able to leave their living quarters and join us outside for some fun. "DJ Lilly," one of our translators,  kept a great mix of 80's and Latin music going.  It was one of the most fun dance parties I've ever been too!   These beautiful people love to dance and their joy is contagious!  It would be impossible to have a bad day at this's a place where I felt God's presence in a huge way caring for His children.

In between the dance parties we did crafts the residents.   My 5th grade daughter Elianna was working hard doing nails, necklaces, and face painting.   My nails were done too by a resident who was eager to give back.  Everywhere we've gone this week the people of El Salvador have extended their giving hearts....wanting to serve us as well.  Many of us "gringos" had our nails manicure ever!  It was very easy to tell who was tipping scale on the receiving end....definitely the gringos!  At one point Maria asked us what we thought of how she looked.  She was moderately disabled but very aware of the world perception of beauty.  In the work she may appear to be "ugly," through the eyes of God she is perfect.  It was one (of many) moments that I was beside myself elated to have Christ with me and my focus firmly on Him today.  I was out of my element in a place with very little selfishness, greed, or materialism.  I was able to see this young lady the way Jesus sees her and with sincerity tell her she's beautiful.  Perfect in every way and created on purpose.  I put the necklace that we were working on around her neck and told her that she was a most "bonita" princesa de Dios.  Thank you Jesus for giving me that moment.

Special needs adults have brought me some of the best moments in life and definitely the best dance parties.  I have missed out not serving in this way for a long time.  I am on this adventure with my daughter Elianna.  It was her first time serving in this environment and she loved it!  She can't wait to return next year.  Here are a few of her thoughts from the day in her own words;

San Martin was the one of the best days I ever had! God has helped me so much on this trip and I even raised just enough money to go on this trip. My mom says that normally a girl only 10 years old like me would have been very scared and would have flinched a lot at the differences of the residents but I didn't notice them at all. She said that I saw them as God saw them and she could see the Holy Spirit working.  God gave me so much courage! The residents enjoyed everything we did and it was awesome. God gave me so much confidence in what I did and I think that without Him I would be lost, and I might have been scared at how they looked and sounded. This really has been a life changing event in my life! I know God helps these people and will strengthen them as much as he can!

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." - Isaiah 41:10

Monday, June 26, 2017

Smile and Hug Somebody

Blog post written by Marty Newman from Prosper, Texas

Marty sharing at the boys' orphanage

Well, I didn't see that coming.  On our first full day in El Salvador, after attending  a local church service and enjoying lunch at a local restaurant, we hurried back to the Mission House for a quick change of clothes and were off to a government run orphanage for teenage boys.  Now it was starting to get real.

I had no idea what to expect.  I assumed it would be sad and difficult emotionally.  I assumed the teenage boys would be angry......or depressed.....or both.  Why shouldn't they be?  What would I say to them?  How could I possibly offer them anything when I can't speak hardly any Spanish?  But as our bus pulled up to the gate, I wasn't at all prepared for what I saw.  Four or five young boys running to the gate to greet us.  Huge smiles on their faces.  The emotion?  Pure joy.

Wait....what?  I guess I didn't need to worry.  I had prayed about this very moment........for God to give me the right words and actions when the time came.  And, He did.  As I walked through the gate, it became obvious what I needed to do.  I smiled.....and I put my arms around them.  Again and again.  They responded.  With joy.

We were prepared to play games because that's what teenage boys like to do.  We had balls for soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball and frisbees.  I dearly love basketball and played for years as a younger man.  I jumped at the chance to help organize a game.  It was a little ragged, but fun.  Most importantly, connections were made.  "Carlos" and "Juan" were on my team.  By the time the game was finished, we were buds.  After a water break, Carlos picked up the basketball, and though neither of us spoke the other's language, he made it clear he wanted to go back to the court.  So we did.  Just the two of us.  Now Juan wasn't athletically gifted, but he was eager.  So, I worked with him a little on his dribbling and showed him how to figure 8 around his legs.  He picked it up pretty quickly and loved it.  Then, we worked on his shot, and after a few minutes he was routinely making first close in shots, and then a free throw or two.  More joy.

Then "Edwin" wandered over.  I would describe Edwin as borderline special needs, and physically challenged.  But after a few minutes, he was also routinely banking in short shots.  He was BEAMING!  Here comes that word again.  Joy.  Not just for them for me also.  Yeah, I really didn't see that coming.

A couple of the young ladies on our mission team are professional hair stylists.  Dina and Jessica had the good sense to bring clippers and scissors with them and were giving all the boys that wanted one, a new clip.  Gel included.  They spent hours.  More joy.  For the boys, but also for Dina and Jessica.  (A quick side boy had by far the most thick, lustrous, Elvis like hair you have ever seen.  It was my bball teammate, the perfectly named Fabio).

So how do I wrap this up?  Well, I just completed my first 24 hours of mission work.  I had no experience, and I had no idea what to expect.  I simply trusted that if I was willing to go, and let the love of Jesus shine through me, that he would empower me when the time came.  So here is my now expert technique:  smile and then hug somebody.  And don't be surprised when you get more out of it than the ones you're there to serve.

El Salvador, You Have My Heart!

Blog post written by Kim Newman from Prosper, Texas

El Salvador, you have my heart. Today's church service at Monte Calvario exceeded all expectations. I have to admit, I was a little concerned about a longer service and no AC. Yes, I know, that's a first world problem. I was soon quickly distracted by an out-pouring of passion-filled praise and worship in a language that I have not mastered yet. And even though I didn't exactly comprehend  what I was singing, it didn't matter because I know I was glorifying God. Prayers were lifted up to our heavenly  Father in such an inspirational way that I was nearly moved to tears. Yes, again in a language that is vaguely familiar to me. How can this be? Because our God is great, and the power of the Holy Spirit transcends all boundaries and borders. 

Impromptu testimonies, a thought provoking sermon by our own Chris Cain from Lighthouse Christian Fellowship about knowing God, praise and worship music  that was produced with such passion, worshipping as one community, and I never even looked at my watch once. You see, the people here aren't concerned with their church service extending over the allotted hour and a half. They aren't looking to the next thing they have to accomplish on Sunday before they go back to work on Monday. They instead glorify and honor their Creator with no concept of time.  Thank you, amigos de San Salvador, for such an authentic experience, 
and glory to God on high for the Great Awakening.

Bologna and Cheese and the Gospel

Blog post written by Chris Cain from Prosper, Texas

Dios le bendiga

It’s not the stomach groans.  It can’t be. Or protruding bone borrowing skin until the time when muscle and fat might once again comfort its span. It’s not that either.  Nor is it their eyes,  half sunk and beady, glazed with misery while remaining keen.         No.        It’s not their eyes.  Maybe it’s their clothes, tattered and torn like any cheap thread count would surely be after long nights on short concrete steps.  But I don’t think that’s it.  

What is it plucking the strings of my heart to the tune of Sorrow and Pity while chords of hope and joy round out the arrangement? Such a strange feeling . . . 

From my hand I extend a good bologna and cheese sandwich and from my soul I am extending something much greater.  

And I’ve concluded that while the rest of the world could easily hand out a sandwich to someone in need, they can’t do it like I can—like a Christian does it.  Tonight, I realized as some 20ish sandwiches departed my hands for theirs, a measure of grace is given that they could not taste apart from hands of God’s redeemed. 

There’s something spiritual about a bologna and cheese sandwich, after all.  At least for the Christian there is. While we certainly aren’t distributing some Ziploc variety of salvation with a light mayonnaise spread, we are (when we serve and when we give) providing a bite sized glimpse into God’s Kingdom—a place where all belong and everyone receives only because of the Giver and never due to any merit of those who hunger to partake.  

Is this not a portion of the ministry of Christ, Himself—to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to miraculously feed thousands?  And to what end?  The healed would likely be sick again, the raised would most certainly die once more, the fed would soon enough be hungry. 

Jesus was no short-sighted humanitarian.  He was (and is) an eternal King ushering in his Kingdom where in the fullness of his rule there is no sickness, there is no death and those who have partaken of his divine nature will never hunger or thirst again. 

And so we feed the hungry, we care for the homeless, we bestow bologna and we confer cheese in the name and example of Jesus knowing that as they satisfy their stomachs there’s a god, our God, who longs to satisfy their souls.  

No it’s not the stomach groans. It never was. It was their hearts all along, projecting pitch like a dog whistle—silent to those who cannot hear but piercing to any half-hearing hound on the backside of the globe.  

Like that hound, surely the Spirit of God hears their cries and responds, providing the salvation we cannot.

Yes, God saves and we give sandwiches and a blessing of hope.

Dios le bendiga.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Lighthouse Send Off

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

His Hands His Feet is incredibly thrilled to be sending our first team from TX to serve in El Salvador on June 24 in partnership with Lighthouse Christian Fellowship.  This past Sunday the team was commissioned by the elders in the church service.  The Lighthouse children's ministry collected hundreds of stuffed animals to send with the team.  They joined us for the send off to pray over all of the children who will receive the stuffed animals. It was a powerful time of prayer and commissioning.

Our team consists of eighteen volunteers from TX, AL and CA.  We have seven teenagers on the team (ranging from ages 13-18) and our youngest team member, Elianna, is eleven years old.  This is an incredible group of servants!  Please pray for our team as we prepare this week.  We are deeply humbled to take the hope of the Gospel to the beautiful people of El Salvador!

"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