Memories

The best memories from my childhood took place at my grandparents house. I’m pretty sure it was almost impossible for me to go there and not be having a good time. My mother’s parents were always such a big part of my life.

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My Grandpa has been gone for over six years now, and last week I found out my Grama doesn’t have much longer. She’s had a good, long 86 years, and mentally she is still there, but her heart is very weak, and her body is simply wearing out.

The realization that the next few days are likely the last days I will spend with my Grama on this earth, has been hard. She means so much to me, and I cannot imagine what it will be like to come back to the U.S. to visit, and not see her here. Truthfully, it makes me tear up to even think about it. She’s my last living grandparent, and the only grandparent to have ever known my kids. With her gone, it would be like a chapter of my life was over.

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If you saw her in recent years, you might see my Grama as just another frail woman sitting in a wheel chair in her nursing home, but that’s not what I see.

Here are just a few of the things I see when I go to visit my Grama…

I see catching lightning bugs with my cousins in the summer. Sleep-overs and thick shakes. Skip-bo games, and those dreaded 12’s on top of the pile. Sunday dinners with the family, and Grama is not in her seat because she is re-filling the gravy, AGAIN! I see myself dressed in my Grama’s old clothes, and trying to beat my cousin to the best clip-on earrings in Grama’s jewelry box. I taste that spaghetti that made the Italian in me cringe, but the Dutch in me smile. Those days when I’d pretend to be sick cause I knew my mom had to work, and that meant I’d end up at Grama’s getting the cheesiest grilled cheese for lunch. Begging my mom to let me ride my bike “all the way” (around the corner) to my grandparents, because I knew my Grama would have a glass of her iced tea, and Vienna finger cookies waiting for me. Crumb cake, cinnamon bread, and those amazing chocolate almond bars she knows I love so much. Those early mornings when my mom would bring us to my grandparents before school, and we’d have chocolate milk from a glass pitcher, and Cheerios with limitless spoonful’s of sugar on them. Hazy, hot and humid, Long Island Augusts that were spent cooling off in that air-conditioned house. Playing office in a closet and writing on the basement walls. Trips to Orient Point where I’d almost pray for a thunderstorm, because it meant sitting up and listening to my Grama and her sister tell old stories about growing up in New Jersey. I could go on and on…

Time has changed many things, but one thing that hasn’t changed is how much my Grama loves her family. When I first moved to El Salvador it was hard on everyone, including my Grama, but even from her nursing home she has been a big supporter of my family and our mission work. She would always tell me, (and still says) that she prays for me all the time, and her prayers have meant so much to me over the past few years. She has also helped us do a fundraiser at her home, and last year she had people donate money to our mission in her honor instead of giving her gifts at her birthday party. (Both of which you can read more about in previous posts on this blog.)

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My Grama grew up in a time when society still considered being a stay at home mom an important job, and my Grama sure took pride in her work. She would do anything for her family, and was more than happy to tell others how wonderful her kids and grandkids were. I am so thankful that my boys have been able to spend so much time with my Grama over the past years and know first hand why she is so special to me.

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They say my Grama’s heart is very weak, and I can’t help but think that it’s because she has spent so much of her life giving her heart away.

The Past Two Months…

It has been over 2 months since I have posted on our blog…not sure how it can be that long already! The lack of writing isn’t because nothing has taken place, if anything, it is the opposite. So much has been going on that it has been hard to find the time to sit down and write about it all.

Shortly after my last blog post, we headed to the U.S. Over the next few months we will be spending time fundraising, talking about our mission, setting up mission trips and collecting donations to be handed out over the next year. So far, we are off to a great start!

At the end of September we had a Flea Market Sale. Several people paid for a space at our sale, and sold all kinds of things. We had yard sale items, clothing, crafts, and more! The sale was a success, and we raised a good amount of money for our mission.1371302_10200834675014039_1886777216_n[1]This October we received two donations. One community is collecting grooming items for us, and they have already gathered a good amount! We were excited to receive all the shampoos, soaps, lotions, etc. they have collected for us so far!IMG_7723We also received a large donation from a family who bought all kinds of things for us to bring back to El Salvador. The items include toys, clothing, school supplies, and more! We know all these things will be a blessing to the many people who will get them. IMG_7707

We are so thankful for all the help and support we have been given so far in the United States. Over the next few months we will be doing some more fundraisers and activities, and we are confident that we will return to El Salvador with more than we could have imagined! Thank you to all who have blessed our mission with your generosity!

The Nike Sneakers

In July 2011, a girl went to a “Savers” used clothing store and bought a pair of used Nike sneakers. She was going on a mission trip to El Salvador in just a few weeks, and knew with all the painting and construction she’d be doing, that they would probably get very dirty. She didn’t want to spend a lot of money on shoes that would get ruined in one week, so this pair seemed perfect. During her mission trip, the shoes got concrete on the bottom from the house she helped build for a needy family, and purple paint on the toes that had dripped while painting a house for a widow. When the trip was over,  she asked if she could keep the sneakers at my house, because she knew she’d be back next summer for another mission trip. I didn’t mind, and I put them on a shelf in our storage room.

As promised, she returned the following summer, and we dug out her shoes. They still had the paint on them, but were really in good shape other than that. She wore them during the week as we handed out food and clothes to people in several different communities. By the end of the week, they were very muddy, but once again she asked if she could leave them behind, this time adding that we could clean them up, and hand them out if we found a good owner for them!

This summer about a week before returning to El Salvador once again, she messaged me to see if her sneakers were still here. They were, so shortly after arriving, she got them out of storage, and put them on. She wore them this summer as we lead VBS, played games with kids and handed out grooming items to some people in need. Before heading back to the States, she wiped off the sneakers, and said that she knew she would be back, but that she also knew someone here would need the shoes more than her, so we should try to give them away. After all, she had gotten her money’s worth, and the shoes had already been a part of years of mission work!

Last week, our friend and volunteer, Esther, had been telling me about some very needy people she knew of in her town, and in another area a few hours away. We had some food, clothes and stuffed animals that I was able to give her. In addition, we also gave her 40 pairs of shoes. Included in all the shoes, was a pair of Nike sneakers with purple paint on the toes. (The blue and white pair on the top!)photo[1]A few days after taking all the shoes, Esther, met a man in her town who was selling lemons. He asked her is she would like to buy some. Seeing the condition the man was in, she knew she would do more than buy some lemons to help him. Esther, invited him to her house, and was able to give him food, and a pair of shoes. He had come from a town that is fairly far away, and he now has a pair of Nike sneakers to wear as he heads to and from his home each day. 1000957_615003291877882_1887377549_n[1]Years ago, someone in NY donated a pair of sneakers to a Savers store. Someone else bought them and brought them to El Salvador. A house was painted. A home was built. People were clothed, fed, and taught about Jesus. Now a man has shoes to wear as he works to provide for his family.

God can use the smallest things to make a huge difference. Never feel like you don’t have enough to give, or that your small donation doesn’t mean very much. Sometimes those little things end up being the biggest blessings!

By Fifteen Years Old…

I love watching my kids play. Sure, I could do without all the hitting, biting, and fighting over the same toy, but the things they do together when they are getting along are usually pretty creative. In the past I have shared stories about my little boys pretending to hand out food to the needy, and pretending to lead VBS, they really like being a part of the mission work we do. Just a few days ago I over-heard them playing that they were going to build a new house for someone who had nowhere to live. It’s those moments, that I am so grateful for the opportunity that God has given us, not only help those in need, but also for our children to see first-hand the importance of showing God’s love to a country that has so many who hurting, and in need of a Savior.

Sadly, there are also times that I find my kids playing things that I wish they didn’t know about at 2 and 3 years old. A couple of weeks ago I found my older son with his arms behind his back, and my younger one was tying a bandana around his wrists. I asked them what this game was, and I was told that the younger one was “being the bad guy, who ties up people”. I was confused, so I asked some more questions, and was told, “you know the bad guys who have the really big guns, and their trucks have red and blue lights”. A cop? I was shocked that he thought those were the “bad guys”! When I asked why he thought they were bad, he said because he always “sees the other guys trying to move and get away, and the police take them and put their hands like that even though they don’t like it”. I tried to explain that the police were the good guys, and the other guys did some thing wrong, which is why they have to put their hands like that. I think it finally clicked for them when I said that grown-ups don’t have naughty chairs, when they do something bad, they have to go with the police. After our talk I asked where they saw the police taking the guys like that, and my 3-year-old said “on the show Papi watched after dinner”. The news.

Generally, we do not watch the news until after the boys are in bed. There are too many graphic pictures of dead bodies laying in the street, or videos of “bad guys” being taken to jail. It’s not really something I want my kids to see or be aware of at their young ages.

A few weeks ago I heard a few things on the news that really stuck with me, mostly because they bothered me so much.

One was that there are roughly 20,000 young people between the ages of 15-24 in gangs in El Salvador. In a country that is only about the size of Massachusetts, that is a large amount of youth. No wonder why we are constantly seeing pictures of gang members being taken by the police, and the bloody bodies of their victims. It’s a huge problem in this country, and the reason why our homicide rate per capita is among the highest in the world.

I also heard another pretty shocking statistic. In the poorest communities of El Salvador, 1 in 5 girls will have a baby by the time she is 15. We have seen this first-hand in some of the areas where we work. There have been times that we have handed young girls a toy, only to have them turn around and say, “no, I need food for my family”. It’s shocking to me to think of these girls who are so young being mothers, but it happens very often here. In fact, 30% of all babies are born to girls between the ages 10-18. TEN YEARS OLD and a mother! Just think about that!IMG_0083

Facts like these are the reason why so many of the activities that Hope and a Future Missions offers are geared toward kids. Programs like soccer camp and VBS are usually filled with kids between the ages of 2-14, but the majority of the kids are usually about 9-13 years old. This is such a critical age for these kids, because based on the statistics, by 15 years old many of them will find themselves becoming parents, or a member of a gang. I truly believe that is why God has placed it on our hearts to reach out to these kids, and show them that there are better options for their future. To teach them that they can be a part of God’s family, instead of the MS-13 family. That Jesus loves them even when it feels like no one else does, and that He cares for each one of them.996847_485510474850422_2144464520_n[1]

My kids may see things on TV that I wish they didn’t, but for many of these kids, they face things like violence and gangs on a daily basis. It’s not just something they saw on the news, it’s their families on the news and in those situations. It is our prayer that we might be able to bring hope to these kids and their families. We pray that we will be able to teach them about Christ, and show them the love of Jesus in all that we do in their communities. Even if one life is changed, and one heart is opened to Christ, it is well worth it.

9-Day Mission Trip~2013

A couple of weeks ago, we were able to host our third, and final mission trip of this summer. The group of ten stayed for nine-day, during which we did several activities.IMG_0295

We were able to spend some time playing soccer with kids, and finished up the 5-week soccer camp we had started during our last mission trip. On the last day of soccer camp, we handed out stuffed animals to all the kids, and a bunch of grooming items to their parents. The kids were so excited with their new animals, and the parents were equally as happy to receive things like shampoo, soap and toothbrushes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One afternoon we went into 2 other villages, and handed out more stuffed animals, and supplies to the families there. In one area we gave the family’s food, and in another we brought a bag full of clothes to each family.101_3014

The main focus for the trip, was building a new house for a family in real need. Maria and Jesus had been living in the house pictured above, when we met them. It was in terrible shape, and looked more like a kid’s fort than a house for a family to live in. We knew right away that we wanted to help them, and prayed that God would make a way for us to help them get their new house.

101_3006 We had been praying that we would know exactly what construction project God wanted us to do, and right from the start we were very confident that this project was in God’s plan for us. A friend from church, Jorge, (above with Adan) is a contractor, and had offered to help us with the house, which made us pretty sure that we’d be able to conquer such a big project in only 6 work days. IMG_3463

The mission team, Adan, Jorge, and his son, Jorge Jr. worked hard all week to get the house done. Throughout the week, Jesus, and his young grandchildren, Stefany, and Oscar, also helped to do any jobs they could. Maria, the woman whose house it was, could not have been more thankful for the mission team and their hard work. All week she was thanking them, and praising God for bringing the group to El Salvador to make this new home for her. She was determined to pay them back in any way she could, and spent one morning insisting that the girls let her wash the dirt and concrete off their legs. I have honestly never seen someone more thankful, and in everything she was thanking God, and praising Him for all the blessing He was giving to her through the mission team.P1280193

The last day of work, we were able to bring lunch to the work site, and eat with Maria, Jesus, and their extended family, as well as Jorge and his family. It was a great time of fellowship, and a way to show Jorge how much we appreciated him, and all his hard work on the house.IMG_0419

It’s hard to imagine that this little house, that most American’s would think of more as a shed, could be such a blessing, but for Maria and Jesus, it is their first real home. They finally have a safe, dry, house that they can call their own, and to them, that is huge! They now own the second best house in their area. Think about that for a moment.IMG_7393

The last full day of the mission trip was a Sunday. We spent the morning in church, and it was a very special time. We were going to be handing the key to the family, and singing in church, so Jesus came with Maria to church for the first time in a very long time. She was so happy to have him come with her, as well as her grandchildren. After the group presented the couple with the key to their new home, Maria said a few words, and continued to thank God, and the group for giving her the best home she had ever lived in.

Later in the service, something even more special happened. Jesus accepted Christ into his heart, something Maria had been praying about for a long time. After church, we were able to welcome Jesus into the family of God. Maria was so happy she could hardly contain herself. She told us that she now had a new home, and her husband was a Christian, she had everything she could want!

We were blessed with such a wonderful final mission trip. In all we did, we were able to see God’s hand. We are praying for Jesus, that he will have a true relationship with Christ, and that this couple will grow in Him.

Throughout the week we had been singing a song, that ironically was also sung in church on Sunday, and it seemed to be really fitting for all at took place during the week…

“Y tu nombre sobre todo es ,Tu eres digno de alabar
y mi ser dira, Cuan Grande es Dios.”

“Name above all names, You are, worthy of our praise,
My heart will sing how great, is our God.”

 

4-Week Mission Trip~The Second Two Weeks

The second two weeks of our four-week mission trip went even better then the first two!IMG_7209We were able to bring a bunch of grooming items to the River community. The people there are so friendly, and it was great to be able to do something for this area, since it is the only location where we work, where we are not doing any children’s activities this summer. In addition to the items we gave each family, we also brought little bags we made up for the kids in the neighborhood!IMG_7235We also continued our Vacation Bible School with kids in a different location. We were able to share the stories of Daniel (above) and Jonah (below) with the kids. They loved listening to the stories and especially enjoyed the crafts! IMG_7276

On the final day of VBS we handed out flip-flops to all the kids who were there, and any parents who had stayed. All together we gave out about 20-25 pairs. The kids were especially excited, and many of them were really in need of a new pair!IMG_7279

One day during the second two weeks, we had the opportunity to go into town and hand out some little bags to kids in the park. Each bag had a small toy that had been donated to us, a coloring page and crayons, some cookies or candies, and a witnessing bracelet and card that explained what each color represents. It was great to watch the kids light up as we handed out the bags. We are praying that each of them will read the card, and learn about God’s love for them. 391338_364351640299640_1000104169_n[1]

We also continued our soccer camp. It was a great spending time with the kids, and trying to teach them to play with a Christ-like attitude. IMG_7315

At the end of each day we would handout awards to the two kids who showed the best attitude, and worked the best with their teammates. This little girl was so excited to get an award!IMG_7264

We had a great four weeks working with our missionary, Lisa. We are so thankful for her willingness to come and help us serve Christ, as we work and minister to people in our community! God has opened so many doors for us over the past four weeks, and we are so thankful for the opportunities He has given us to help those in need!IMG_7330

4-Week Mission Trip~The First Two Weeks

Two weeks ago a young lady named, Lisa, came down to El Salvador to help us work for four weeks. Over the past few weeks we have been able to do several things together to help people in our town.

The first week that Lisa was here, we started our second Vacation Bible School of the summer. This time we were working in a different neighborhood. These kids have never been to VBS, so they didn’t know what to expect, but they were excited! We taught them some songs, and they heard the story of Noah. The kids also did a fun ark craft, and had some Noah’s Ark animal crackers for snack! 1016222_489066944494775_1970377473_n[2]A few days later, we started our five-week soccer camp, in another community. We have done several activities in this location in the past, so the kids were very enthusiastic about us returning to do soccer camp. Each week of camp has a theme, and a verse to go along with the theme. The first week our theme was “Encouragement.” We taught the kids that even when a teammate misses a shot, we can still cheer them on, and encourage them. At the end the kids got a coloring page with the verse of the week on it.1016222_489066954494774_1155485270_n[1]We also spent some time handing out toys and stuffed animals at the free hospital in our town. Most of the children in this hospital come from lower-income homes, so they were very excited about the toys and things we were able to bring them! We were also able to give each child a tract teaching the kid’s about God’s love for them.382524_490559604345509_1765840560_n[1]Our second week of VBS we taught the kids about David and Goliath. They had fun singing the songs again, and enjoyed craft and snack time. IMG_7125When we led soccer camp the second week, our theme was “Teamwork.” We tried to teach the kids that it’s important to pass the ball, and work together, instead of just shooting, or hogging the ball. IMG_7185So far our four-week trip has gone really smoothly. We are so thankful for all the opportunities God has provided for us to share His word, and help out some people in our town!