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.

Honoring Our Fathers

If you walk down the streets of my town, one thing you are sure to see are moms. They are everywhere…making pupusas on the side of the road, selling breads from a basket on their head or sitting with a wheelbarrow full of fruits to sell. You know these ladies are moms, because they are surrounded by kids. They are feeding their newborns while they sell that fruit, and keeping an eye on their toddlers while they flip those pupusas. I recently saw a lady selling tamales, while her daughter, who was about a year old, sat in a small cardboard box behind her. These moms work hard. Watching them work while trying to care for their kids can make you wonder, where are all the dads?

Unfortunately, it is not that uncommon here, for a mom to have a half a dozen kids, with no father in the picture. Their reasons for leaving can vary. Some men decide that the things they want are more important than the needs of their families. They leave, and never give it another thought. For other fathers, the needs of their families are so great that they have to leave the country in order to provide for them. The only way that these dads can make sure that their families have food on the table, is to forfeit being at the table with them.

A man’s reasons for leaving their families can be selfish, or selfless, but either way, their children are effected by it. The absence of fathers, and the break-down of families is very evident in El Salvador. It can been seen in young boys who look to gang members to be their role models, or in young girls who run away with men, hoping to find a father figure. It’s sad really, that the impact of not having a father can be so devastating.

In the United States, society is still in denial about the importance of fathers.

I know that there are situations where a mother is single, and it cannot be helped. Many of these moms are strong, loving parents. Likewise, there are some great single dads out there, and I’m in no way trying to put them down.

I am talking about people pretending that whatever boyfriend a mom has this week is a good enough role model for her kids, or suggesting that having two moms is equal to a child having a mom and a dad. This is not the way families were designed to be, yet society would like us to believe that they are “just as good”. Sadly in doing this, it’s like saying that fathers are no longer necessary, or important.

God’s word has a very different view on the role of fathers. In the fifth commandment we are reminded to honor our fathers, and there are still fathers out there who are worthy not only of honor, but respect.

Growing up I was blessed with a hard-working, Godly, father. All my life he has worked to provide for his family, and teach his children about the Lord. My children have also been blessed with a loving, Christian father. There is nothing that my dad wouldn’t do for me, and nothing that my husband wouldn’t do for our sons. They are two men that truly deserve to be honored.

In my opinion, if society would start reminding people how important and irreplaceable fathers are, more men may want to live lives that are honorable. I know no one could ever replace my father or my husband. This Father’s day, I want them to know that they are respected, and honored, and I want to thank them for living in a way that is worthy of respect and honor!

“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.

 

Sunny Days and Rainy Nights

I am mom to two very active little boys. At 2 and 3 years old, they are always playing and running around. The older they get, it seems the less time they want to spend cuddling with me in the hammock, or giving me hugs for no reason. Every once in a while they might come over and need me to kiss an “ouchie”, or want to drink a sippy cup by me, but once they spot a toy to play with, or a tv show they want to see, they are off!

Where we live, May is the start of our rainy season. For about six months straight it rains almost every night. Hard rain on our tin roof, mixed with thunder and lightning, is a guarantee that we’ll have some little visitors in our bed!

The other night as it was thundering, my 3-year-old told me that he needed to come in my bed, because he was scared. He laid down real close to me, and I put my arm around him. A few minutes later he whispered, “I’m not scared anymore, because mami has me!” A little later, I thought he was sleeping, and I moved my arm. He quickly grabbed it and put it around him again. He need to know I was there next to him as he fell asleep.

Isn’t it funny how during the day he is too busy doing his own thing to let me hold him, but all it takes is some loud rain at night, and he wants to be close to me. He wants to feel my arms around him, and know that he is safe, and that I will take care of him.

As I was laying there next to my son, I couldn’t help thinking that sometimes I act the same way in my relationship with God. When things are going well, and everything is “sunny”, it’s easy to feel like I don’t need to spend as much time with God. Sure, I’ll stop by and say a prayer, or maybe ask or thank Him for something specific going on in my life, but I don’t always focus on Him. Then those “rain clouds” move in, and I realize just how much I need Him. Suddenly, I need to feel His arms around me. I need to be reminded that He is near.

It’s sad that sometimes, it takes those tough times, for me to remember that God is there. Just like when I ask my boys to come and sit with me, or want them to take a break from playing, God is there wanting to spend time with us. He’s there, in the good and  bad times, but sadly, sometimes I let every day life get in my way of spending time with Him. 

Next time that I’m watching my boys play, and thinking about how much I want to be close to them, and spend time with them, maybe it will remind me that God wants the same things from me. He wants me to spend time with in His word, and talking to Him, and I need to be as close to Him on good days as I am on days when I am worried, or afraid.   

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A Grama’s Heart

I love my Grama. She has such a good heart, and really loves her family! Ever since I was a little kid, she has always been one of my biggest supporters. Whether she was coming to watch me sing a solo in a Christmas program, or cheering me up with some of her yummy baked goods on a bad day, she has always “had my back”!

Well, I’m not a little kid anymore, but she continues to show me her love and support all the time.

Whenever I am in the States, I am sure to spend a lot of time visiting my Grama in her nursing home. When I am there, she always tells me the same two things, “I pray for you every night” and “I love you very, very much”! Even at 2 and 3 years old, my sons know that whenever we see “old Grama” or talk to her on video chat, that she will finish by reminding us that she prays for us and loves us!

When I first moved to El Salvador, it was hard for her to see me go. I remember clearly saying goodbye to her and my Pop-Pop, and praying that I’d see them again. I think the fact that my Pop-Pop died less than two months later, and I never got to see him after that day, has really made me appreciate the visits I have had with my Grama over the past five years.

When we first started, Hope and a Future Missions, my Grama was full of questions about the work we do, and the people we help. After hearing about the needs of people in El Salvador, she helped us with a fundraiser, selling crafts with the red hat society at her nursing home.

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Yesterday, my Grama turned 85! When my mom first told her that they were going to have a party for her birthday,540599_10200500708432929_1687904414_n[1] one of the first things she said, was that she didn’t need any presents. After talking it over with my mom, she decided that if people wanted to give her something, that they could make a donation in her name, to our mission. Thanks to her friends and family, $175 were donated to Hope and a Future Missions, in her honor!

We are so grateful for this donation, and my Grama’s willingness to help our mission! We look forward to using the money in June, for our Vacation Bible School. It will allow us to purchase supplies for the kids, and food for the families of kids who come!

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I may not be able to see my Grama as often as I’d like, but I still “pray for her every night”, and “love her very, very much”!

Inside the Big Box

 A few days ago, we received a HUGE box of donated items from the U.S. We are always excited to see what has been sent to us, and we were in no way disappointed at large selection of clothes that were donated to us this time!

IMG_5734Among the clothes were these 65 brand new, New York Islanders t-shirts. A man had been doing work for the team and was given these shirts, but was told he wasn’t allowed to sell them. He decided to donate them to us, and we are really excited. They are marked $27 each, so that is a total of $1,755 worth of t-shirts! They will be a huge blessing to so many men and teen boys in our town, especially because we tend to have less men’s clothes donated to us.

IMG_5736Also in the box, were 100 pairs of brand new flip-flops! A lady saw them on sale and bought all of these because she had been in El Salvador in the past, and seen first hand the kids, and adults, who have no choice but to walk barefoot. We can hardly wait until next month when we bring a bunch of these flip-flops into one of the communities where we work. I have noticed that many of the children in this area show up to our programs without any shoes, so getting these flip-flops will make them really happy!

IMG_5730The majority of the children’s clothes that were sent to us came from a girl who was on a mission trip with us last summer. She was part of a group that organized and handed out a bunch of clothes in a needy community. Seeing how much these kids needed these clothes, and how excited they were to receive them, really made an impact on her. She knew we were out of kid’s clothes when she left, so as soon as she got back to America, she sold a Coach purse she had, and used the money to buy clothes for the children in El Salvador. She shopped on clearance racks at Kmart, and went to a Savers used clothes store on a discount day, and ended up getting tons of new, and like-new clothes!

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After we got the box I had a conversation with her. During our talk, she said something that really stood out to me. She was talking about how she really didn’t need to have a Coach brand purse, and how it’s really amazing to think that selling a small purse for about $50, is making it possible for all the kids in an entire village to get some new clothes. Some of these kids have never owned new clothes in their lives, so seeing the tags still on these clothes will be a real surprise to them.

She’s right, it is crazy to think that by her making a small sacrifice, she will be blessing an entire community. She is planning to return this summer, and I am happy that she will have the opportunity to see these kids’ faces light up as they receive their clothes!

We are so thankful to each and every person who has donated to us. No matter what you gave, no matter how big or small, every single donation touches lives here, and helps us show God’s love to others! Thank you!

Have a Heart for El Salvador

Last year we were blessed with several successful fundraisers and we are hoping that this year will be even better! Our Mission Board has put together a special fundraiser for the month of feb. called “Have a Heart for El Salvador”. Please consider being a part of our first fundraiser of the new year. It’s easy, and you can do it wherever you are. Below is a list of facts about El Salvador, and the areas where Hope and a Future Missions, does our work. On the list there is also a small donation and a prayer that goes with each day. It’s a great way for kids and adults to learn more about life in another country. You can use your spare change to make a big change for some needy families in El Salvador. Just keep track of what donation you make each day, and at the end of feb. you can write a tax-deductible check to W.S.R.B.C. with Hope and a Future in the memo. Checks can be mailed to 111 Rollstone Ave. West Sayville, N.Y. 11796, and are due March. 3rd.

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Thanks for your support!

Feb 1:
Fact: Some people in ES do not have enough food to feed their families.
Donation:  If you have never had to worry where your next meal was coming from give 50 cents.
Prayer: Pray for these parents as they struggle to feed their families, and for those going to bed hungry.

Feb 2:
Fact: Schooling available in ES, but it is not uncommon for students to have to share books and supplies.
Donation: If you have/had your own text books in school give 50 cents.
Prayer: Pray that these children will have a good education despite the circumstances.

Feb 3:
Fact: Jobs are not plentiful in ES, and wages are low.  The average pay for a day’s work is only $7.
Donation: If you have a job give $1.
Prayer: Ask God to supply jobs for those seeking them.

Feb 4:
Fact: Emergency medical care is not readily available.  Ambulances are few, and unreliable.  As a result, many people have a more serious outcome to their injuries, or even die.
Donation: If you or anyone in your family has been in an ambulance or been to the ER give 75 cents.
Prayer: Pray for those people, and families whose lives have been affected because of unreliable medical care.

Feb 5:
Fact: Many children have never received a gift on their birthday or Christmas, because their family is too poor to buy them.
Donation: If you received a gift on your last birthday give 50 cents.
Prayer: Thank God that Hope and a Future Missions, was able to give out small gift bags to children at Christmas, including an activity book of the Christmas story.

Feb 6:
Fact: ES is overrun with gangs and crime.  It is normal to see armed guards outside of stores, restaurants etc.
Donation: Give 50 cents if your grocery store does NOT have an armed guard.
Prayer: Pray for the safety of the people in ES.

Feb 7:
Fact: Christians in ES anxiously worship the Lord in HOT, LONG church services, which are usually over 2 hours long.
Donation: Give $1 if your church has a/c to keep you comfortable in hot weather.
Prayer: Pray that these Christian’s faith will continue to grow as the serve the Lord in ES.

Feb 8:
Fact: Churches in ES do not have Bibles for the people to use, and some people cannot afford to buy their own.
Donation: Give 25 cents for every Bible in your home.
Prayer: Pray that Hope and a Future Missions will be able to continue to Bibles to those who cannot afford them.

Feb 9:
Fact: Some people in ES have had very little education and as a result struggle with reading and writing.
Donation: If you can read and write give 50 cents.
Prayer: Pray that these people will be able to learn to read and write better, so they will not have to struggle with so many things in life that require these skills.

Feb 10:
Fact: Some areas of ES are extremely poor. In these areas, most people live in shacks with dirt floors and leaky roofs.
Donation:  If you were kept dry in your home during the last rain give 50 cents.
Prayer: Ask God to supply the needs of these people, as they struggle to survive.

Feb 11:
Fact: There are homes so poorly constructed that their walls are made of plastic garbage bags, or scraps of tin. Some of these poorly constructed homes are in areas that get mudslides and flooding during storms.  These people live in fear of their homes being washed away.
Donation: If you have NEVER had to worry about losing your home in a storm give $1.
Prayer: Pray that God would spare these people’s homes and their lives during the stormy season.

Feb 12:
Fact: There are few, if any, adult homes in ES. Those with special needs due to their age, must rely on their families to care for them. This is a huge responsible for people who have no special training.
Donation:  If you know anyone that is a resident of an adult home give 50 cents.
Prayer: Pray for patience for those families caring for elderly family members.

Feb 13:
Fact: There are few, if any, schools and programs for children with handicaps in ES.
Donation: Give 75 cents if you know a child with special needs.
Prayer: Ask the Lord to bless the lives of these children, that they will not be seen as a burden, but a blessing to those around them.

Feb 14:
Fact: It is not unusual for crowds to get rowdy during handouts of food or clothes. The people are so afraid there will be none left for them, that it can become a dangerous situation.
Donation: If you have clothes in your closet give 50 cents.
Prayer: Pray for the safety of the people in these situations and for those giving out the food and clothes. 

Feb 15:
Fact: These poorly constructed homes we mentioned a few days ago, can single people out as targets for being robbed.
Donation: If you feel safe in your home and in your neighborhood give $1.
Prayer: Ask God for His protection for the people who seem to be easy targets for robbery.  Pray that they would be kept safe from harm and danger.

Feb 16:
Fact: Some homes in ES do not have indoor plumbing.  These conditions can sometimes lead to disease.
Donation: Give 50 cents for each bathroom in your home.
Prayer: Pray that these people would be kept healthy despite some undesirable conditions.

Feb 17:
Fact: Many people in ES do not drive, or cannot afford a car, and are forced to find other means of transportation, which can sometimes be dangerous.
Donation: If you have a car or truck to get you around give $1.
Prayer:  Ask God to continue helping these people to find ways to safely get where they need to be, that those who are blessed with their own transportation would be willing to help those without.

Feb 18:
Fact: It is not uncommon for people to have only gone to school for 2 or 3 years.  Even today some children are not able to go to school for long, because they must help support their family.
Donation: If you are in school give 50 cents, if you have a HS diploma give 75 cents, if you have a college diploma give $1, any degree beyond college give $2.
Prayer: Pray that the children in ES today, can continue their education so they can further themselves, and be able to get better jobs to care for their families in the future.

Feb 19:
Fact: Several areas in ES do not have water that is safe to drink. The people there must get their water from other areas or buy it.
Donation: If you can drink water from your faucet give 50 cents.
Prayer: Pray that safe drinking water will be readily available to those that need it.

Feb 20:
Fact: Even in the doctor’s offices and hospitals there are often unsanitary conditions.
Donation: If your doctor’s office is clean give 25 cents.
Prayer: Pray that the people going to the doctor in ES would not come out with other issues due to the sometimes unsanitary conditions.

Feb 21:
Fact: Several children in ES have hand me down clothes or used clothes.
Donation: If you have any clothes that were bought new give 50 cents, if you have any clothes that are hand me downs give 25 cents.
Prayer: Thank the Lord that these children are happy to receive used clothes, as many of them only have one or two outfits to wear.

Feb 22:
Fact: Most children in ES do not have access to electronic games like Wii, Xbox 360, Gameboy, DS, computers etc.
Donation: For each of the 5 games listed in the fact that you have, give 50 cents.
Prayer: Ask the Lord to make you mindful of how much you take for granted, and how much you have been blessed.

Feb 23:
Fact: It is rare for most families in ES to be able to go out to eat to a restaurant. They just cannot afford to do it.
Donation: If you have gone out to eat during the month of February give $1.
Prayer: Pray for contentment for the people of ES. There is so much that we take for granted that they live without.

Feb 24:
Fact: Children in ES have very few toys.
Donation: If you have more toys in your house than you can play with in a day give 50 cents.
Prayer: Ask God to help the children of ES to find ways to have fun with the little they have.

Feb 25:
Fact: Dengue fever is a virus carried by infected mosquitos. It is a serious virus that many people become infected with.  It can be treated if caught early, but many who get the illness do not get proper treatment and become very sick and can even die.
Donation: If you don’t have to worry about your mosquito bites killing you give 75 cents.
Prayer: Pray for people whose living conditions put them at high risk for this virus, those living near the water are at a greater risk.  Pray also that those infected can get the proper medical care quickly.

Feb 26:
Fact: There are still many people, especially in rural areas, without electricity.
Donation: For each load of wash you did today give 25 cents, if you watched TV give 50 cents, if you used a computer give 75 cents.  If you did 2 out of the 3 give $1 more.
Prayer: Pray for the people living without electricity every day, as this makes their daily chores more difficult.

Feb 27:
Fact: So many families in ES have a family member in the United States trying to make a better life. Many times it is the father, working in the US to make money for his family.  Some have children that they have never seen.
Donation: If your family has never had one member apart from the rest for more than a week give 50 cents, if you have NEVER EVER been apart give $1.
Prayer: Pray for the families of ES that have family members apart from them trying to make a better life for their family. This is such a hard way to live.

Feb 28:
Fact:  There are several communities that have come to rely on the work of Hope and a Future Missions, for food, clothing, activities for their children, and even gifts for their children at Christmas.
Donation: If you are grateful to have been a part of this fundraiser and to have had the chance to learn more about ES and pray for the people there give $1.
Prayer: Pray that God will raise up people who desire to go to ES on mission trips and help Hope and a Future Missions, with their work there. Please continue to remember Hope and a Future Missions, in your prayers over the year to come.