Monday, March 15, 2010

Trusting God to Grow Seed

Well, we’re back—much to my dismay, I must admit. After spending many months preparing for this trip, it seems strange that it’s already over. But the work the Lord has been doing in El Salvador is far from over! His name be praised forevermore! As I returned to classes today, I had several people ask me what I did in El Salvador and every time I told them the trip wasn’t at all about what the team did, it was about what GOD did and is still doing!

One of the things that stuck with me the most from the trip was our outreach in the girls’ prison on Thursday. That was a rough day for me. The girls are split into two groups—the girls who are waiting to hear their sentences and live upstairs in the prison, and the girls who are serving their sentences and live downstairs. It was a blessing to sing with the girls upstairs as they unashamedly praised the Lord! When asked if any of them wanted to rededicate their lives to Christ, almost all of the girls came up and prayed with us. How awesome to see those girls desire Christ-filled lives! (Note: We were not allowed to take pictures in the prison. The photo above is from the park outreach day.)

The girls downstairs, however, were tough. They live in a world that is cruel and unfair and their hearts are hardened as a result. I admitted later that I didn’t want to look in their eyes because what I saw there scared me. Just one glance will tell you everything you need to know about their lives—they are young but the world has been mean to them and they are determined to make it on their own. They have no need for this Jesus we spoke of.

To see such disregard for the Word of God first startled me, then frightened me and eventually even angered me. Couldn’t these girls see we were trying to provide them with hope and a way to eternal life? How could they simply turn and walk away from it? As usual, the Lord turned my eyes back on myself and I realized that I have often done the same thing. He reminded me that He still loves them even if they show no interest in Him, and that my job is not to be angry with them but to pray for them.

The Lord is moving in that place. The Lord is moving all over El Salvador and the work He is doing is nothing short of incredible! Please continue to pray for the county of El Salvador, Lorraine and the work she is doing there, and the people we met this past week. Seeds were planted and His name was glorified—we can ask for nothing more.

Thank you again for all your prayers! There may have only been five of us who went to El Salvador but it was your prayers that got us there, kept us safe, and made a way for the Lord to work through us! Only when we arrive in Heaven will you know the full impact of your prayers!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

For God's Glory

What a great day! We went to an orphanage again today. At the orphanage we worked with the children with special needs and the babies that we spent time with Monday. When we arrived, we split into two groups and the group I was in went to help with the baths for the children with special needs, but their baths were already completed. So, we went out to their shelter outside in the courtyard. Robert Gray, the PE/Physical Therapist was there again today. We were able to play with the children using his equipment that he has built over the years. The children played with the balls hanging from the roof. Several of the children could use their arms, so we put them near the balls and played with them and let them play by themselves a little while we worked with some of the other children. Robert had built “benches” on wheels, so a couple of the children got to be strapped to the wheel-boards to try to push themselves around. It was so fun to watch their faces as they played with these “toys!” (Robert has been coming from the US and working with special needs children for three months each year for several years. He complimented Lorraine and told her that this team has done more with these children in two days than any team has done in the entire time he’s been coming. All praise goes to the Lord who enabled us to work well with these children!)

After a couple of hours, it was time for the children to eat lunch. We helped the workers feed them. Some had bottles of pureed food, some ate whole foods, and some ate soupy foods. It was messy! We were able to use extra shirts as bibs today, so the children stayed pretty clean and dry throughout the process.

After our quick lunch, we were able to go play with the babies. This is my absolute favorite part! We were able to carry them around, change their diapers, change their clothes, sing little songs to them, and play Patty-Cake with them. Wish you could have seen the babies faces light up. The one or two workers that take care of them don’t have time to feed them by holding them and rocking them; we did. What a blessing! Nothing compares with cuddling a little tiny baby and rocking them.

This evening, after eating a pork roast dinner prepared by Chef Greg, we will be working on the drama that Laura Kuhns and Megan Creed put together and practicing songs in Spanish for tomorrow’s undertaking. Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to do all this for Your Glory.
Thank you for all your prayers!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Small Talents, Big Changes Day By Day

Today we visited the girls of Hope House. In January we did many repairs to this house so today we went back for minor follow up repairs and were pleasantly surprised by the condition. The picture is of Lorraine McNeill, Hannah's Hands missionary, and Myrna of the house.

All of the work we did in January was appreciated and was being kept up! The house looked great and when we arrived the girls were all doing homework.

When the homework was finished Sheila gave sewing lessons on a brand new sewing machine to all of the girls. Now they have a talent they can work with. While that was going on Curtis and I worked on plumbing, painting and fixing of cabinets but we did this with 2 of the young men from the boys orphanage (Faith House). We worked with them to teach them how to do these basic yet important skills. What a joy to see the satisfaction on all of these young men and women when we were finished! They were so proud and now this week the boys will go back on Friday and while the girls have a bible lesson the boys can finish what we taught them! What a great experience to work with them while mentoring them at the same time.

When We finished at Hope house it was off to San Diego Beach. What a blessing to get to go and unwind for 3 hours after our day with the children yesterday and reflect on our first 3 days.

Please pray for our team, as tomorrow we return to help with the babies and special needs children again. The things we see here are difficult to understand and heart wrenching.

We ask that you pray for strength, courage and wisdom from God for all of us.

I end by asking you to read Mathew 25:32-40 which ends with "And the king will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to me"

"The way to the Father is through the Son"

Greg Lewis

Monday, March 8, 2010

Their smiles broke our hearts

We are now on day three of lots of sunshine, Spanish, and wonderful, heart-breaking service! Sunday (yesterday), we attended the Union Church with Lorraine and met and were encouraged by some of the other believers. After lunch with our translators we headed over to Mi Casa, a home for orphaned boys and girls. We had worked with the kids from Mi Casa on saturday night to put together a drama to present in a community park on Sunday afternoon. The kids from this orphanage are so well behaved and loving towards each other, it is truly encouraging and wonderful to see. Some of the older boys (college age) who used to live in the orphange but have now 'graduated out' have chosen to stay involved with the orphans who are still there. These young men live together in an apartment, go to work each day at their jobs, have their own bills to pay and their own lives to worry about, yet they have all decided that they want to spend some of their free time with the younger children, and spend some of their salaries to help with the upkeep of the orphanage! It's incredible the love that exists between these kids!

At the park we put on a drama and a little bit of music. There was not a huge crowd of listeners, but our mission was as much about sharing the gospel of Christ as it was about teaching the orphans and helpers to share the gospel of Christ. The kids were wonderful and really seemed to enjoy putting on the drama! Laura, Sheila and I began the singing in the park with our fumbling Spanish, but by the end the children had taken over and were singing the Christian songs they knew. It was a beautiful thing to witness! As they sang, several people from the park (most of them claiming to already be born-again christians) came up and asked for prayers and talked with our team some!

Today (monday) was the most difficult day for me so far. We got an early start and went over to a state orphanage that houses babies, children with special needs, and young pregnant girls who have all been raped by family members. We split ourselves into two small groups: one group with the babies and the other group with the children who had special needs; we switched stations after lunch.

It was difficult to see the conditions of these children. Most of the babies had rashes and their skin was dry and cracked from the heat. The saddest thing, however, was that their eyes just seemed so lifeless. The woman who works in the baby room truly does love the children, but the fact of the matter is she is one woman who sometimes has over a dozen babies to take care of. She told us that sometimes all she can do is start at the first crib and go down the line changing all the diapers, then start over going down the line giving each child a bath, then start over again with a bottle for each child. She has no time to give special attention to each child, nor hold and play with each one. We prayed over the babies and told each one that God made them and loves them more than they can imagine. It is my prayer that those words will follow those children for their whole lives, and that they will come to know just how much they are worth in God's eyes.

Playing with the children with special needs was fun, simple, but emotionally challenging. Most of the children are in make-shift wheel chairs, and only a few can speak. Their smiles say it all however, when you begin pushing them around in circles. Their eyes lit up like Christmas had come; and all we had done was push their wheelchair and make zooming noises. In those smiles I saw complete joy, and felt complete sadness.

For the most part, no one is allowed into this orphanage to visit the children. For several years they shut out any groups wanting to come in and help because some people were taking pictures of the children and then getting the organization in trouble for the conditions of the facility. It is not so much that the organization neglects the children or that they don't treat them well, it is simply that they do not have enough resources or staff to keep everything perfect and lovely. These people do the best they can with what they have, and it is a blessing that there is a program for these unwanted children at all. But even so, the children get hardly any personal interaction - no sensory stimulation - and they seem so lifeless. We did meet a man today who has been coming to the orphanage to do physically stimulating activities with the kids for the last 4 years. He told us that today was the liveliest he had seen the children in a long time, and he believed it was because of the attention and interaction we were giving to them! We praise God that we can be a spark of light in the lives of these children!

(By the way, because of the recent tension over visitors in the facility, we are not allowed to post any pictures from the state orphanage on the internet).
We stayed at the state orphanage today from early morning until mid-afternoon and afterward were mentally and emotionally exhausted. But God is our sustainer and we trust Him to give us new strength for tomorrow! We are having a wonderful time here and being blessed by everything we see and everyone we meet. We are growing in our giving, and I know God is working in us just as much as He is working through us.
Keep checking for updates!
In Christ,

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Riding Shotgun with the March El Salvador Team

Lorraine McNeill, ministering in El Salvador with Hannanh's Hands International, had a need for additional people to fill out her March missions team!
Megan Creed and Laura Kuhn, students at Appalachian State University, graciously welcomed three of us from the January 2010 Hope Chapel team to join them for this March trip!
Allow me to introduce the March 2010 Hannah's Hands team! In this picture, left to right, are Laura, Megan, Sheila Smith, Greg Lewis, and Curtis Smith.

We arrived in San Salvador around noon on Saturday, and traveled to the Mission House to drop off our bags and Lorraine, and then take a quick tour of the area. Our driver gave us a tour of the countryside few people have the opportunity to see! We definitely took the "road less traveled"! Within minutes of leaving the city of two and one-half million people, our van was driving along a trail bordered by beautiful trees and plenteous vegetation. Breath-taking vistas and humble dwellings were interspersed along the way. Vehicular traffic was unusual here as attested by the local people's inquisitive reactions to our passing by. The few people we saw were walking several kilometers from the last bus stop back up the mountain to their humble homes. Cows laid claim to the right-of-way, and we were happy to yield, as their horns were much bigger than ours, and turning around on this rocky, narrow trail was not an option. We could not have planned a more effective team-building adventure!

Stay tuned!