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.

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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.”

 

When God Says Wait…

It’s no secret that it was never my plan to live in El Salvador. I never planned to start a mission, in fact, I never even thought about going on a mission trip, but here I am.

I said, “Lord, please don’t send me.”

God said, “Trust Me, I have a plan.”

That was five years ago.

In the beginning, the days dragged on, and I basically just tried to pass the time, all the while dreaming of when my American dream would come true. Fast forward five years, and I am a part of Hope and a Future Missions, hosting mission trips, sharing the Good News, and helping out the needy in our community.

I came here with no plan, but God brought me here because of His plan.

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I love what we are doing. Sharing God’s Word, and bringing hope to the hurting, has been such a blessing to me. I am confident that this is where God wants us right now. I’d be lying though, if I said this is where we want to be forever. There are daily struggles, and hardships that we face, and our children will face, because of where we are. I am content right now, but I still dream of what life would be like if we didn’t have to worry about some of the dangers that we face every day.

I said, “Lord, please send me home.”

Today God said, “Wait. I’m not done with you here, trust Me.”

So, I am trusting Him, and you know what? I agree. I do feel like we have work that still needs to be done here. Hope and a Future Missions, is just getting started, and I am excited to see how God will continue to use us here.

God said, “wait” and today, I am at peace with that…because He didn’t say, “No”.

For My Own Good

A week ago yesterday, in church, the Pastor preached on Romans 8:18-39. I have always loved that passage, (most of it is highlighted in my Bible) and I was excited to hear what he had to say about it. Well, between translating, and trying to keep my kids quiet, I didn’t get as much of the sermon as I had hoped. Last week, I read that passage again as part of my personal devotions, and even repeated Romans 8:28 over in my head several times. It was a difficult week being reminded that everyone at home was having thanksgiving, and I was here, missing out on it. Saying these words were an encouragement to me, and really helped get me through the week.

Last night, I was thinking about what I was going to blog about today. There is nothing major going on at the moment, so I wasn’t sure what I’d write about, but I knew something would come to me.

This morning, I was straightening up my room, when I came across a note from my dad. When I opened it, a piece of paper fell out. It was a verse that he had printed out, and stuck in there. The verse was Romans 8:28. I had forgotten he put it in there. I started feeling like maybe this was what I’d write about.

A little while later, I wanted to write down a little “to do” list, so I grabbed an old notebook and jotted down my list. It had been years since I had seen that pocket-sized notebook, so I decided to flip through it. I was shocked at what I found. It was filled with verses from Romans 8, and I had written down what they meant to me, and why I liked them. As if that wasn’t enough to give me goosebumps, I searched for the date that I wrote it, and it was five years ago this week. It stopped me in my tracks, and I began to read what I had written.

My life is so different now than it was five years ago, but the words that I wrote were almost identical to what I would write now. Yesterday was my six-year wedding anniversary, but this week is also another anniversary for me. It is five years ago this week that my husband, Adan, was deported. I wrote those verses in that notebook the night he left America.

It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life, and I had written how I was scared about my future. I wrote that I was confused, and upset. I didn’t know what my prayers should be. I didn’t know when I’d see my husband again, and everything felt hopeless. Then, I read the passage, and wrote reminders to myself. I wrote things like, my “present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed…” (Rom. 8:18) and “if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Rom. 8:25) Other verses I wrote about were Romans 8:26 “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us…” and “If God is for us,who can be against us?” (Rom.8:31)

All of these are verses that I could read daily, and they would speak to me every time, but the one that has really meant the most to me, then and now, is Romans 8:28 “ And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

In that note from my dad he wrote, “I know this is not where you want to be, but it is where God wants you, and I’m glad you understand that.” He’s right. I would have never chosen to come to El Salvador in a million years. During the holidays, it’s surely not where I want to be. There hasn’t been a Christmas in five years that I haven’t broken down and cried at some point. Either I’m sad because I am here, far away from my family, and all our traditions in America, or I am in the U.S. crying because it’s breaking my heart that Adan is missing out on one of our baby’s first Christmases. Every year I come into this season, knowing it will be one of mixed emotions. The excitement of decorating the tree, or watching my kid’s open their presents wears off when I realize that there is no Christmas caroling, or candle-light Christmas Eve church service. For every one thing I love about the Holidays, it seem like there are two things that will make me sad.

During those moments, I know, I just have to remind myself, that in the end, it’s all for my own good. I do believe that God has a purpose for me in El Salvador. Although there are times that I question it, I know that He wants me here, even when it is hard for me to be here.

Special Stories~Part 1

Over the past few weeks, I have tried to summarize what we have been up to, and all the activities we have been a part of. However, there are some special people, and special moments that have taken place that really stand out in my mind. I wanted to write a little bit about each of the situations where we saw God working in ways we never could have imagined. The last night Colleen was here, we put together a list of eight stories, that really stood out to us, and touched our hearts.

Here are the first four…

1. Clato’s Son-If you follow this blog, or the work we have been doing here, you have probably heard us mention Clato. He is a man who a mission team came and built a house for. Over the past two summers, Colleen’s group has played a huge part in completing the house for Clato and his family, so naturally Colleen was excited to go visit the family, and see the house all done. Before we left for our visit, Colleen and I put together a bag of clothes for Clato’s family, and another bag to bring, just incase we saw someone who needed some clothes. One of the things we put in our “spare bag” was a pair of men’s flip-flops. They were pretty large, and we even thought twice about bringing them, because it is rare to see someone with big feet here, but we figured, you never know! Once we got to Clato’s, we gave his family the bag of clothes, and spent some time visiting with them. A couple of minutes later, his son came outside to say hi, and at the exact same time, Colleen and I looked at each other, and said, “the shoes”! We both noticed that he had large feet and that his current flip-flops were falling apart. She ran to the truck, grabbed the shoes, and we gave them to him. He was very excited with the new shoes, and changed into them right away. Colleen and I were both near tears just seeing his smile and realizing it wasn’t by accident that we brought those shoes with us. Even in something as small as choosing what clothes and shoes to bring, God was at work! It was definitely a touching moment for us!

2. The pregnant lady-In July when Colleen was here, one of the ladies who lives in an area where we work, shared with us that she was pregnant. Over the past couple of months, this lady has always come around when we do any activities, and brings her kids to spend time with us playing soccer, or attending VBS. She is always one of the first people there, listening to all we are saying, and watching all that we do. After VBS one day, she came up to me and thanked me for teaching her kids stories and songs about Jesus. I thought it was really nice of her, because none of the other parents thanked us, and we weren’t really expecting anyone to. As Colleen and I were sorting clothes to handout, I came across a few nice baby items, and mentioned I was thinking of making up a little package for her. The only thing was, I was afraid that someone else would see, and get angry that she was getting more than them, so I told Colleen I was going to give it some thought. The following sunday in church, who do we see, but “the pregnant lady”! She had never been in my church before, so seeing her there was a surprise. I knew at that moment that I had to find a way to give her that baby gift. A few weeks later when we went to her area, once again, she was among the first to arrive, and the last to leave. When everyone started going their separate ways, I called to her, and told her to come to the side of our truck. Then I pulled out the gift bag and I could tell she was shocked. I explained that it was for her baby, and she smiled so big! She could not believe that someone who didn’t even know her name, was giving her a baby gift. She walked away with her kids I could see her smiling, as her kids were trying to look inside the bag. It was definitely a moment I will never forget. It may have been a bunch of “used” stuff, but for her it was probably the only baby gift she was ever given. I was so thankful that it worked out that I could give it to her!

3. Antonio-One night, we spent a few hours preparing rice and beans to hand out. When we were all done, we didn’t have too many extra bags of food, so we hoped it would be enough. We had a few older bags of rice left from last a few months ago, but they weren’t in great shape, so we didn’t know if we wanted to hand them out or not. We put that rice aside and figured we’d decide what we were gonna do with it in the morning. The next morning, Antonio, one of Adan’s friends that he sometimes works with, came to talk to him. He shared that a few days earlier, he was injured pretty badly. He had been working with a machine that cuts metal, when a disk that spins around came off, and cut him in the neck. If it had been about an inch over it would have killed him. He was telling Adan about how he had to spend the little bit of money that he had, at the hospital to get stitches, and how he wouldn’t be able to work for a while. He was thankful to be alive, but concerned because he didn’t know where he would get the money to buy food over the next few weeks. Adan thought about those older bags of rice from the night before, and knew immediately what we were supposed to do with them. Adan sent him home with enough food to last him over a week. He was so thankful for our help. He didn’t come looking for us to give him that food, but he was certainly grateful that we did!

4. Maria-At the beginning of Colleen’s six-week trip, we went to a community by the river to hand out clothes. Last week, we returned to that area to bring things like, toothpaste, soap, and shampoo to the families there. Down at the bottom of the hill, there are a few houses in what is almost like a ditch. One lady who lives down there, is Maria. She is an elderly woman, who cannot walk. She has no way to leave her house, and even if she had a wheelchair, it would be impossible to get her out, because of the location of her house. When Esther and Colleen went to bring her the stuff, she got very emotional. She shared with them how just the day before she had been wishing we would come back, and bring her some pants. The mosquitos are bad near the river, and she was getting bit on her legs. Dengue, a disease that mosquitos can carry, is a big problem here, and in the areas near the water, they are at a higher risk of getting the virus. Untreated, it can be life-threatening, so this is a big concern for her. We didn’t have any pants with us, but she does have one pair, so they told her that next time we would make sure she gets some. She was sharing with the girls that she feels down sometimes, being stuck in her house. She was feeling like God had forgotten her, then we came and she began to feel hopeful again! The girls encouraged her, and explained that we have not forgotten her, and surely God has not either! They were able to pray with her, and by the time they left, she was feeling much better. We are planning to go back to that area next month, and will be sure to bring some pants to her.

These are just a few of the amazing things that God has done here. We are so thankful that He has allowed us to be a part of these people’s lives, and bring His love and hope to them. Sometimes it shocks me, how God can use a regular, weak, sinful person, like me, to carry out His perfect, wonderful plan!

The continuation, Special Stories~Part 2 will be coming this weekend, with four more examples of how God is at work in, El Salvador, so please check back!

Plans That Are Better Than My Dreams

When I was young, I never wanted to be a doctor, or a teacher, or any of those other goals that most kids have. My dreams were pretty simple. Get married. Buy a house in the town where I grew up. Have a bunch of kids. Send them to the small Christian school I went to. Every sunday after church, have big sunday with my parents and siblings. These were and still are my dreams. Yes, there are a few big ones I can cross of the list. I’m married, I have two kids (so far), but there are others that I have been waiting and praying for. Sometimes I feel hopeless, because I don’t know if or when they will happen.

A few months ago I came across this quote on Facebook, and right away I knew I had to share it. I didn’t write it, but it is certainly something I need to pray every day.

Sometimes it’s so hard to imagine that God has something better planned for me, than I could plan for myself. To be quite honest, there are days that I question why God had to take me away from my parents, and brothers and sisters. Why I had to lose friends I had at home, and not make many friends here. Why every single part of my life has to be more difficult than it was “supposed” to be, because I live here. Sometimes when I look from my own point of view, it’s really easy to think, Lord, how is this plan possibly better than the comfortable life I had planned in America?

There are moments, when I lose myself in sadness. Moments when I ask God why He had to bring me here. Moments when the loneliness I feel, seems too much to bear. It’s always at those times, that God reminds me, I was never supposed to be doing it on my own. I wouldn’t feel so lonely, if I were walking beside Him.

There are things in my life that I wish I could change. Things I wish I could go back and undo, but I can’t, and for good reason. They have all been a part of God’s plan. Yes, I wish parts of my life were different, but if they were, there is a lot of great things I would miss out on.

In my life, I have seen God at work in the worst of situations. I have seen Him change hearts and lives of the hopeless. People have been touched and helped, as a result of God’s plans for me. Plans that in the end, are so much better than any I could have made.

All I can see is the here and now, but He can see the big picture. I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t know where He will bring me, or how He will use me. All I know is that I have to trust that His plans for my life, are bigger, and better, than my dreams, and that He will be with me every step of the way!

What’s Going On

Can’t believe it has been a whole month since I have written anything! I think that’s a record! It’s not because nothing has been going on, in fact, it’s the just the opposite. There have been so many exciting things happening, that it has been hard to find time to write!

The first great thing is how blessed we were in all of our fundraising. When we were planning the fundraisers we’d do in America, I tried to estimate how much we could make at each event. I had hopes that we would raise about $1,500. Well, we took in over double that, making $4000, between fundraisers and donations! This was in less than 3 months! We were thrilled about all the money we raised, because we knew that it meant we would be able to help lots of people. There were other reasons it was so exciting, too. Taking in so much money, in such a short amount of time, really showed us how many people want to support us in what we are starting in El Salvador. It was great to see how many people, even strangers, wanted to help us out! Of corse we could never have raised this money without the help of our church family in West Sayville, or the prayers and support of so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ. It was also great for us to raise so much more than we planned on, because it made it clear that this is what God wants us to do. Before I went to New York, I prayed that God would bless our fundraising, and basically said, “If this is what you want us to do Lord, I know you will bless our efforts!” Well, He blessed us so far above and beyond what we expected, that we feel very strongly, that we are doing what God has planned for us.

The past weeks since I have returned to El Salvador have been busy. This summer we have 2 groups coming for mission trips. One in July, and one in August. We are looking forward to both, because we have so many exciting things planned. Most people don’t realize how much actually goes into these mission trips, aside from actually serving the people here. There are so many things to plan ahead as far as meals, transportation, scheduling, etc. I’m not trying to complain though, I like planning it all out. I love to cook and figure out all the meals. I also love trying to figure out the schedule, though it can be stressful trying to figure everything in!

The first group is coming in 4 days, so we have been really busy doing all the preparations for the group. A couple of days from now, we will welcome the group of 12 who will be staying with us for 10 days. Some members of this group were here last summer, and some have never been to El Salvador. The big projects this group is working on will be painting at a church, and cleaning up some land.

In August, the group that is coming is much smaller, only 4 girls. They might be a small group, but we still have plenty of things planned to do. Our main focus with this group will be leading a VBS program at a nearby church who has never had one. We are looking forward to working with kids and getting them excited to learn about Jesus!

There has been lots going on for Hope and a Future Missions during the past month, and lots more to come! Please keep the mission teams in your prayers as the travel and work with us over the next few weeks. I look forward to writing and sharing about the trips in the days to come!