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.

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.

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!

 

Marathon of Mission Trips

Last year, we were blessed with the opportunity to host three mission trips. This year one of our goals was to be able to host at least three trips, and maybe even throw in a fourth!  As of now we have met that goal, and currently have three mission trips planned for this summer.(We’d still love to host a fourth, if anyone is looking for something to do this fall?) It’s gonna be a little crazy, because each trip is one after another, but we are up for the challenge!

In a few weeks, we will welcome our first group. It’s a small group with only two girls, but we are confident that we will be able to accomplish all the work we have planned. During the week-long trip, we will be returning to the same community where we did a lot of work last summer, and once again, lead a VBS there. We will also be bringing clothes and supplies into two other neighborhoods that are in need. This trip is coming up soon, and we are very excited to see how God uses our mission in the lives of these children.IMG_3938

The day they leave, our next mission trip begins. This will be a four-week long trip with one young lady. Together, we will be running a kid’s soccer camp, and leading a VBS program for children in a different community. We also plan to do work in three communities, bringing them food, and other items that they are in need of. In addition, we will be going to be visit a local hospital and bring stuffed animals to the sick kids who are there. We have many things planned for this month-long trip, and are eager to start the projects we will be doing during those four weeks!IMG_1520

The final trip of the summer starts just three days after our four-week trip ends. This week and a half-long trip has a larger mission team than the others. The group of ten is a mix of people, some who are new-comers, and others who are returning for their second and third summers in a row! This group will be focusing on doing construction work, but they will also be doing handouts of supplies in 2 neighborhoods, and running the last week of our five-week soccer camp. (Started during the four-week mission trip.) We are looking forward to seeing some familiar faces, and getting to know the newest additions to this mission team!

This summer is going to be busy, with our “Marathon of Mission Trips”, but we are very thankful for all who are willing to come and work with our misson. We have some exciting things planned, and we know that God will use each and every one who comes on these mission trips, to be a blessing in our community!

“Hope” and “Smiles”

Over the past few weeks, we have been blessed to partner up with our friend and volunteer, Esther, and her group Regalando Sonrisas-Giving Smiles.(https://www.facebook.com/regalandosonrisassv) Together, Hope and a Future Missions, and Regalando Sonrisas, have been able to help some needy kids who live in a pretty remote area. Esther took a bunch of items that our mission had, as well as some donations she had received, and brought them to these kids.

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Above is 2-year-old, Ariel. His mother is not able to care for him right now, so she had to leave him with his grandparents. The couple had very little for him, and don’t have the money to buy him new clothes and toys. Our mission was able to give him a bunch of clothes, (including the outfit he is trying on here) as well as a pair of shoes, and a stuffed animal. Esther, also brought some stuff she had to Ariel’s family. During her visit she was able to share a tract about Jesus with the family. The grandparents were very thankful for all the things we were able to give to them.

248391_469663269768476_1565425134_n[1]A struggling single mom desperately needed shoes for her children, so they could go to school. After hearing about this family, Esther, shared their story with me, and I knew we needed to find shoes for these kids. We were able to give each child a pair of shoes or flip-flops, as well as a goodie bag. Each of the goodie bags had some cookies, candy, small toys and activity pages about Jesus dying on the cross for them, and rising again. The two older boys are holding their new shoes, in the picture, (which looked too big, but surprisingly fit!) and the younger two children are wearing their shoes.

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In addition to the children in that family, Esther was able to bring a bunch of pairs of shoes and flip-flops to other children in need in the community. This young man was very happy with his “new” shoes. They were a little big for him, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was just thankful to have some shoes to wear as he walks down the rocky roads in his village.

941284_469663129768490_811713551_n[1]This little boy with Esther, belongs to another family Hope and a Future Missions, and Regalando Sonrisas, were able to help. His father, only 25 years old, recently died as he was working. He had been trying to provide for his young family, by cutting branches from trees, when he fell, hitting his head on a rock. Esther was able to spend some time visiting with this little guy, his mom, and 6 week old baby brother. She brought them several things that had been donated to her group, as well clothes for each boy, some food, and stuffed animals, that our mission had for the family. During her visit, she tried to bring some “hope”, and “smiles” to this hurting family, by sharing God’s love with them. The mother was very grateful for Esther, and all the things we were able to provide her family with.

It can be challenging for my family and I to bring items to people in these very rural areas. (Some of these villages cannot be reached by car.) We are so thankful that Esther is able to bring a bunch of the food and clothes that our mission has available, to these families who are in need of them. Working together, we hope we are able to bring many smiles to some people who don’t always have hope, or reasons to smile.

 

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”.

Don’t Worry

Have you ever felt like you future was resting in the hands of someone else?

Your freedom, in the hands of a judge. Your promotion, in the hands of your boss. Your health, in the hands of a doctor.

It’s hard enough not knowing what will happen in the future, but knowing that one decision, one wrong call, or one slip of a surgeon’s hands, and your entire future could be changed forever, is just plain scary. Maybe that is why there are so many verses in the Bible reminding us not to be anxious.(Phil. 4:6) God knew this world would not be easy for us. In fact, it says in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Think about that for a minute. God has not promised us a care-free Christian life. He has told us pointblank, YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE! Isn’t it a blessing though, to know that in the face of all the troubles we may have, we can bring each one of those problems, every heartache, to the One who has overcome this world. In the end, our future is ultimately in God’s hands, and “It is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Prov. 19:21)

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Everytime I feel like life is spinning out of control, and my burdens are too much to bear, I cast off my anxiety, and cling to the promise, in Rev. 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

A few days my sister told me something that I have thinking about a lot over the past few days, she said, “I used to worry about a lot of things…and then I’d think of Heaven, and how I would be with Jesus, and nothing from the earth would even matter anymore, and I wouldn’t be able to feel worried or sad anymore…”

She’s just 10 years old, but she’s right, there is nothing to worry about, because in the end, it’s all under control…God’s control.