El Salvador has been on a tight lockdown for a couple weeks now. Thanks to Nayib Bukele, the new president, the country has experienced many changes, one being his early actions in putting the country on a quarantine and closing down the borders. He has approved a three month wave on electric, water bills and bank payments. They’ve also mobilized a 2,000 bed make shift hospital anticipating the coronavirus outbreak. He is doing the best he can to protect his people.
Thanks to the wonderful internet, La Capilla (Calvary chapel El Salvador) is still up and going! The church has been physically closed but on Facebook we are alive! Every night Pastor Carlos streams live for a book discussion that follows the daily guide he sends via text message in the morning (working though the book of Revelation). Since the Patmos program is in an enclosed property, they are still going strong, hitting the halfway mark of the term!
As for me, I am safely relaxing in my parents’ home in Florida. Missing my Salvador immensely, but trusting God’s timing for when I can go back. Currently Upon entering El Salvador you must go to a 30 day quarantine location, president ordered. My days now are filled with bible studies, Jon Courson sermons, walks with my family, deep cleaning, Netflix and delivering food to my feisty Bronx born grandma. I’m also hoping to take advantage of this time and educate myself (love YouTube) more in psychology and social work to be better equipped in serving our God.
With all that is going on in the world today it is very important that we know that the Lord won't leave us nor forsake us!
There has never been a time in history like the time we are living in now. The other day I woke up and was thinking that all I heard and witnessed was a dream. Then I realized that it was not a dream.
The world has been impacted by COVID-19. So many countries have experienced loss of life, hospitals packed, governments taking extreme measures to lessen the impact of the virus, economic concerns and spiritual warfare.
So, what are some of my concerns? A Granddaughter in Italy attending Bible College, a Missionary returning to the States, family members staying healthy, Chaplains going into the jails, people not having the ability to attend their church service, medical professionals staying healthy has they assist the sick, missionaries serving in other countries, and our own Pastors and teachers who are still pointing us to Jesus and people having jobs.
It is a time to reflect on what God has done for us. How simple is the verse, John 3:16?. So many people know it but now is the time to take it to heart. It reads “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” His only begotten Son, Jesus has given us His Word. We have the ability to read it each day. There should be no surprise as to what goes on within the world today because He has told us there would be times like we are experiencing. The question is, are we ready? Do we encourage each other? I would ask each of you who read this to reach out to someone, a missionary, family member, Pastor, church staff, friend, and/or a person that the Lord is asking you to encourage. Our hope is the same today as it was a month ago. Our hope is in Jesus.
And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you, do not fear nor be dismayed. NKJV
Oh, the delight in travel. The peace in a quiet overnight bus ride. The thrill in hiking around the crater of an “inactive” volcano. The breath-taking view of a small, Spanish style city in Nicaragua, called Granada. They say it wasn’t an active volcano, yet I had my doubts when we walked, or should I said trotted along the “unstable” area which for some strange reason was labeled: STAY ON PATH. We encountered the life on this giant crater, a living hole, breathing sulfur gases into our curious faces.
Monkeys danced around the trees above us with their precious cargo and we oohed and awed and even shouted as they began to bless us with their own special holy water. Monkeys are nasty little creatures; my grandma would say. She would probably add a story of her own encounter with a monkey. Or how her neighbor had one and they got so mad at it, they made monkey soup! I think I am getting the hang of these stories.
Dashing through the jungle-like atmosphere I felt childish, with some 20 of my closest friends, ready to conquer this country for Jesus. In just 24 hours we would start the conferences, until then it was a challenge not to be blown off the top of the Mombacho volcano.
The following day we arrived early to the church (La Puente) to prep for the 150 youth who were traveling from all over Nicaragua for this conference.
My time greeting was filled with lots of nervous giggles as I attempted to write out the most bizarre names I have ever heard. We finished checking people in and hustled to meet our small group partners. Each name tag had a number and that numbered correlated to your small group, which averaged about 7-10 people. 12 male groups. 8 female groups. After a few games to get everyone moving around and laughing we split into the small groups. My nerves slowly dissipated as I saw the weary looks on the faces of these young girls as they approached Alejandra and me as the representatives for group 4!
A little circle was made as we rounded our plastic lawn chairs together. Today we would talk about sex, pornography, masturbation, and what marriage is meant to be. These topics, which more than often are considered taboo in the church, are exactly the things that teenagers and young adults most struggle with. We started out by defining pornography, which nowadays comes in forms of TV shows, family movies, and is plastered all over the internet. Later we talked about masturbation, and wherein the bible does it actually even talk about that …
“But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart…and if you right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perishes than for you whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30)
Does that mean we should pluck out our eyes every time they fall upon some billboard or see a movie that displays nudity or sex? What Jesus wants us to do is LIVE RADICALLY. We encouraged the youth to delete Instagram pages that they follow, avoid friendships that lead them towards these conversations and even avoid certain family members who share pornography with them. (A 13-year-old girl bravely shared how some of her uncles and cousins try and show her pornography and she refuses). The last part of this verse, which refers to being cast in hell, refers more so to the severe consequences of these sins. The mind can become intoxicated with sexual thoughts, which could make social interactions with the opposite sex awkward as they may only see them as an object.
We had participation from all of the girls (ages from 13-28), in school, working, waiting. Before lunch, one of the girls asked what was so wrong with having a boyfriend. Her father highly disapproved, saying at 16 she wouldn’t be able to keep up with her studies. Lunchtime came and went but I never felt hungry. Sitting with this vulnerable, hurt, confused 16-year-old girl felt more fulfilling than the mystery rice lunch offered. Maria (thankfully there are many with this name), comes from a low-income household, essentially, she might not even go to school because her dad does not have the money right now. He works as one of the men who create wells, which looks like standing in a hole all day look chipping away at the walls. A job that can cause serious health problems due to the gases emitted in these deep holes. Maria tells me she is not a Christian. She does not want to accept Jesus yet because she does bad things (which like many teenagers look like cutting herself, looking at pornography, and getting angry with her siblings). She does not have a good relationship with her father, as he seems to disapprove of her. I had the tear-filled joy to tell her she has a Father in Heaven who loves her just the way she is. He came, lived a perfect life, and died on a cross for all the bad things she has done, and would do so that she could have a relationship with Him. He doesn’t ask for perfection. That would make the cross ineffective. She fought tears, as did I. I was able to pray with her and hang out most of the afternoon. Whether she decided to believe in God as her savior that day, only the Lord who sees all things will know for He sees our hearts. As for me, I was blessed beyond belief to just be used.
Later that night we held a dinner, where we introduced pupusas to a whole bunch of Nicaraguans. With around 100 people seated, Pastor Carlos and Vane started the games, which would lead to my debut singing in Nicaragua. We played a game called “The Kings requests…” which meant each table became a team with one representative. The representative would stand at the back of the room while the king (Vane) would ask for an object and the representative would have to run to their table and grab whatever it might be (a shoe, pencil, bible, etc.). One of these instances it happens to be a ripped sock, which to my glory and dismay I had on. Being the competitive person, I am, I tore my shoe off and went hopping towards our representative, ripped off the sock and handed it to him. Pastor Carlos and Vane erupted into laughter as they saw my poor little pink sock with a hole, and awarded us the point, but they kept my sock. At the end of the game they called the sock owner up to collect her sock, but it was a trap. As I went to reach for it, in front of about 100 people, Pastor Carlos stepped on it and goes no, punishment! This led to the crowd voting that I dance, or sing. I offered the song I sang at Christmas a few years back (Go tell it on the mountain). As I turned to the crowd (who was waiting with expectation) suddenly I felt ice cold and nervous. I laughed and turned back to Pastor Carlos looking for help. Some people giggled as well and he said SING! I tried to start and some friends in a lovingly jokingly matter busted out in applause which caused everyone to erupt into laughter. That happened a few more times before I finally tried to sing a few pathetic lines, with my eyes closed and fighting the laughter in my stomach. I finally hit a high note with “over the hills and EVERYWHERE” and Pastor Carlos was satisfied. Then he asked me to explain where that song came from and why. With my short explanation of going to share the gospel everywhere, I was freed from my duty.
That evening, once all the sober fun had slowed down, Pastor Carlos made the invitation for those to accept Jesus that had not accepted Him before. Almost 10 hands shot up immediately, one of a girl my age, name Cherry who was sitting nearby. I grabbed her hand and led her teary-eyed face to an isolated area. I asked her if she had ever prayed to accept Jesus and what she was feeling. The tears started pouring instantly as she said she had but she feels so empty. It was so sweet to see a soul come to the realization of who can really satisfy them.
The next two days were a blur. Mornings were early, sweet time hanging out on Hannah’s property (well her family’s ministry), seeing the boxers arrive from their 4 am run (a group training there), the world race team come back from prayer (their first month of service is in Nica, 10 countries to go), and chugging coffee while greeting the sweet kitchen ladies, the dogs, and the horses grazing around. Our taxi rides were more like live Mario cart races as we piled into 5 cars and raced across town, over dirt paths, bumpy roads, whizzing past bicyclists, and horsebacks. Time at La Puente church was even more of a blur. Up the front steps and into the open sanctuary we were welcome by worship, greeted by sweet kids dancing around. Our children’s ministry time was spent teaching about how God created the World, and then the arc of Noah, playing with the parachute, gluing crafts together, and giving lots of hugs. Afternoons full of teachings, hanging out with the best of people, sneaking pizza, and dinner parties for 20. Now I am left with the sweet memories of walking around Granada as if we owned it, laughing like a bunch of high school kids out on spring break.
It has been a busy few months since the last update I sent in November, but I would love to share all that has gone on since then!
Let’s start with Patmos!!
We finished our first complete term ever taught fully both in English and Spanish. 18 disciples of Christ were sent back into the world, extending from California to Colombia, New Jersey, Canada, Texas, Mexico, Nicaragua or right here in El Salvador to make more disciples of Christ. We had a beautiful ceremony for our students where family and friends gathered to celebrate the transformation God in their lives has done during the four-month program.
A few of the transformations that occurred in these students sounded like:
Bound in Shame → Bold in love
Surrounded by Walls →Free in the truth
Fearful → Missionary of The Gospel
Praise God for His faithfulness and thank Him for the power of His word to give freedom and purpose in our lives.
Please be praying for these students as they are transitioning back into another season of their lives.
Please also be praying for Patmos 10!! This next term will be Spanish only and begins early February. We have 16 eager students ranging from four different countries counting down the days until their adventure of faith begins. Please also pray for wisdom, and flexibility for our staff as we prepare for this upcoming term.
A little update on my family! Thank you for all the prayers for my family and my brother as we walk through the craziness of his cancer treatments. Since March of last year, he has gone through quite a plethora of treatments and is currently living under some limitations due to his compromised immune system. I want to give glory to God because Mark has gained weight since starting the variations of chemo and breezed through the stem cell transplant process. He is currently finishing up his radiation treatment and hopefully will be all clear. Christmas was a sweet, needed time with friends and family.
Please be praying for his health, and that as a family we can grow in our relationship with God through the trials of life.
Eikon Soccer league
Our women’s soccer league came to an end and we placed third out of six teams. The best part of the league was the increased attendance of women who normally don’t come to church. To participate in the league, you must attend a church which makes it an incredible evangelistic outreach.
Glory to God for the variety of women (ages 13-40) that come to church every Saturday and spend the entire afternoon off the streets and in a loving environment.
Please pray for the next season we kick it off with 6 teams (7 players per team) and the three moms from my Campo Blanco who are playing on my team! Praise God for how He is using the soccer league, the CDI (afterschool program) and the Campo Blanco to pull these families in. All three have children involved in these different children’s ministries.
We had well over 300 young adults gather at our central church for the annual Eikon Competition. Eikon is our young adult’s ministry at the central church, but 5 others function in our affiliate churches. Using resources, we already have, we were able to create a dynamic obstacle course that challenged even the fittest of the youth. The long day in the sun ended with a time of worship in the temple where we lifted our voices to heaven.
Please pray that God continues to provide for these ministries to flourish throughout the country as the young adults are easily influenced by many things.
Christmas gift giveaway
The gift giveaway finally arrived for hundreds of children living in nearby neighborhoods (Campos Blancos ministry). The morning kicked off with a hilarious clown, dancing, singing, and games for all the children. We raffled off bicycles and let the kids come running towards the tables where wrapped presents labeled with their names awaited, their arrival. Many of these kids wait all year just for these presents.
A little peek at what my backseat looked like after the event. The kids from my Campo Blanco piled in and their moms headed on the public buses. Yup, 6 in the backseat. Love these kiddos.
Please be praying for the kids to be consistent in their attendance at church and in our Campos Blancos ministry (bringing The Gospel to their neighborhoods).
Vacation Bible School!
We started the year off with a bang in our Vacation bible school! For a week straight we bused in over 300 kids every day to spend the morning hours teaching them The Word of God. Thanks to a church sponsorship out of California we were able to feed them a solid breakfast, teach them a different bible story each of the five days, play games, and do arts and crafts. My mornings looked like:
5:45 am Leave the house
6:30 am Arrive in my Campo Blanco to wake up all the kids
7:25 am Board, my 15 kids, on the bus and join the other counselors and 30 kids already on the bus. Pray we all arrive in one piece.
8 am Arrive at church, drop kids off with their age groups and join my group of girls (age 10 yayyy).
8-12 pm Worship, dance, arts and crafts, breakfast, drama, class, game time!
12 pm Gather my 15 little ducklings back onto the bus and bring them home!!
It was crazy, to say the least, but an absolute blast! At the end of the week, we celebrated family day and I was so blessed to see that almost every one of my attendee's moms showed up to church that day.
Please pray that the seeds that were planted would continue to grow and the love these children felt in the week we had them at church would be one they would remember as from JESUS. Please pray for the parents who visited us to return and grow in their relationship with God.
There are so many things I could write about, like the one time I unknowingly dropped a dollar coin in the dark street of my Campo Blanco, returned a few days later to have somebody’s grandma slowly walk up to me, and in her wrinkled shaking hand, place the coin in mine. She tells me I dropped it the other day and she held on to it until that moment. I was so touched, I didn’t know what to do, but say thank you. Or the other day when I went to drop off one of my four-year old’s at her house after the vacation bible school and her mom was nowhere to be found. Needless to say, she started crying, for this isn’t the first occasion this has happened. Thankfully a neighborhood took her in. Or when I came to play soccer on Saturday at church, and to my surprise, my little clan of teenage girls had already managed to find transportation to church and were there, along with a few parents from my neighborhood and all their children running like wild on the church grounds. What better place to be on a Saturday than in an environment of love and freedom in Christ. But, today is Wednesday which means in a short while I will head out to my neighborhood again, round up my kiddos, hopefully, a mom of two and board the church bus for our midweek service tonight.
I hope you enjoyed the snapshot and pray that it spurs you onto good works, knowing that we don’t work FOR salvation but we work FROM SALVATION. We get to share the best news ever; heaven is real. Love out loud.
Sent with a big hug!
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”