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Archive for April, 2008

The Dealbreaker List

As a nice segue back to my normal blogging schedule, on Friday, in a grand display of church unity, our mission team gathered around my rickety old mac to watch the latest Rock TV:  The Dealbreaker List.

Everybody seemed to love it, so you probably will too.

Enjoy!!

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PS

Before I stop blogging about El Salvador, I wanted to share one last item.

Yesterday before we got on the plane, Seth shared with us some news about the Soccer Tournament on Sunday. Apparently afterwards some of the people from the tournament took some of the players to The Pupuseria and nine people came to know the Lord just over dinner. We were blown away.

Honest conversations and real love is all it took for God to dramatically change the lives of 16 people in San Salvador this week.

Praise God.

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Day Nine

April 27, 2008

Sunday marks our last day in San Salvador. Certainly the most astounding day of our trip was the one Jim blogged yesterday. Gracias a Dios for such an unbelievable harvest, no? There’s not much more to say about it aside from how grateful we all are for being able to be a part of such a huge day for our students.

I was hugging one of my students goodbye Sunday morning and she whispered to me: “I can’t believe how close we’ve become in such a short amount of time.” It struck me how right she was. As we eagerly exchanged email addresses with all our students, I realized how ridiculously wonderful it is that anyone could feel so close to people after having only known them one week. Gracias a Dios.

We are grateful to look around and know that seven more people (seven people that our team has gotten to know and love this past week) have invited Jesus Christ into their lives. At this morning’s church service, Jamie noted to me that there were seven people worshiping God, REALLY worshiping Him, for the first time in their entire lives. It’s been a humbling, yet exciting, couple of days – to say the least.





Following such an intense and fruitful Saturday was a pretty lighthearted Sunday (Did I segue okay there?).

First, we took the bus back to San Salvador. On the way home, the bus overheated so we pulled off on the side. A conversation I found hilarious (basically between Ben and himself):

Ben: Estamos stranded.
Ben: Necesitamos ir antes de los animales nos comen.
Ben: Los llamas tienen hambre.

Translated:

Ben: We are stranded.
Ben: We need to go before the animals eat us.
Ben: The llamas are hungry.

Then later I turned around to find Ben almost asleep and muttering to himself “Los animales vienen comernos” (The animals are coming to eat us)



Hilarious.



Then after our church service, we had a lunch/graduation ceremony for the students.

Here’s a picture of the two girls in my class, Josselyn and Rosibel. I LOVE THEM!

And here’s a picture of Rob’s and my whole class (Rob, Israel, Josselyn, myself, Rosibel, and Irene):

There were a literal ton of pictures taken at the ceremony – I got a picture of just about every student – but I couldn’t post one without posting all of them (which I simply don’t have the time to do), so please check picasa later if you want to see all our students graduating!

Then we went to a Futbol tournament where our guys formed a team (not fully a USA team as we had recruited three El Salvadorans to play alongside us). We didn’t win any games, but we made two goals! Minnesota would’ve been proud – for real. We did, unfortunately, have one injury as one of the soccer balls hit Rob square in the mid-section:



While we were at the tourney we had another piñata party (the first piñata party was at the orphanage):

We also did some face painting for the kids (and of course on ourselves as well):

The moment face painting was announced, the kids stampeded toward Jamie:

Jorge, the scariest clown I’ve ever seen:

I wrote “Eli” on Eli’s head, but when he scrunched up his forehead, it looked like “Ew.” ¡Chistosa!

Jon went the Braveheart route:

And Irene made Ben look completely insane:



And of course on the way back to the church office from the tournament, as is our custom, we all squeezed into the van (17 people in one van!). This is the solution we’ve found for the back row:



Then we had a closing ceremony for the missionaries, leaders and host families. We ate tamales, and since Jamie will kill me if I keep forgetting to blog the Bob Marley story, here it is: Earlier this week Jamie and Lindsey were woken up early in the morning to someone outside yelling “BOB MARLEY! BOB MARLEY!” Or so Jamie thought. Really it was just someone selling tamales (yelling “TAMALES! TAMALES!”), but at this point in the trip Jamie didn’t speak a word of Spanish, so she could only assume they were yelling for Bob Marley. This has been a running joke all week, so we were happy to actually eat tamales tonight in remembrance.



During the ceremony, Seth said some really encouraging things about each missionary and each leader. I feel like we didn’t get as much of a chance to thank Seth as he got to thank us…so! Seth, this is your official blog thank you. This was the first time Seth led a mission trip and y’all, he did such a great job. He worked SO hard this week. He had to make a lot of decisions on little to no sleep, and he had to deal with a lot of carnality and crankiness from just about every team member (of which I am certainly not excluded). He kept himself joyful and he never ceased to encourage, or care for, any of us. We’re really grateful for you, Seth!



Before I sign off, here are a few more pictures from el campamiento:

Before we left, Zulma, one of the girls in my room, bought me a coke. It took me like an hour to get over how nice that was:

Leon had a more frightening reaction:

My favorite El Salvadoran translator, Irene!

Christina, La Reina De La Roca:

And these are the Castillo sisters!! These are two of the girls who came to know Christ with us Saturday night. I love them both so much:



Pienso que es toda.

We should be arriving back in Minneapolis at about 11:30PM tonight (Monday).



To those reading in Minneapolis, we’ll see you soon! To those reading in El Salvador, we’ll miss you!

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Day Eight

April 26, 2008

Galations 6:9 – Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

This is Jim guest-blogging for Christine.  The team, lacking in internet connectivity, called quickly to report.  There’s good news from El Salvador!

The group had a Gospel message today with Leon sharing his testimony and Pastor Victor sharing Christ with thirteen students that had been learning English throughout the week.  After the message the group was divided into three tables.  At the table Christine was with, the translator Luis spoke for nearly an hour and spoke passionately.  The missionaries had no idea what he was saying, but the students were all moved to tears.

Seven of the students accepted Christ!  (This includes Israel, Diana and Joselyn.)  The people are hungry, and conversations are plentiful.

Needless to say the whole team is ecstatic to welcome new brothers and sisters to our family.  They are in awe that God worked so powerfully during this week and ask that we pray for the new believers.

Praise God, right?

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Day Seven

April 25, 2008

As the week goes on, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to remember to take pictures, so please forgive me for the lack of team photos yesterday and today. ALSO, as a warning, we will not have internet over the weekend, so if you don’t see a post over the next couple days that is why. I’m hoping to be able to post again Monday morning before our flight back (to recap the weekend), but we’ll see!



Our morning started with a devotional led by Jon. He talked to us humbly about the discouragement that our flesh can bring, consistently, to our walk with God. It’s easy to feel defeated, but Philippians 3:13 tells us to forget what lies behind and press forward toward the goal that lies ahead. This was a verse that my friend Alyssa got me thinking about a few weeks ago when she was talking about trying to grow in spiritual disciplines. I really appreciated her thoughts then and I appreciated Jon’s thoughts today. We could wallow in our failings and never grow nor ever get anywhere, or we could forget what lies behind and press on toward the goal. I want to choose the latter.





Tengo hoy tres historias sobre algunos de nuestros estudiantes (Today I have three stories about some of our students).

First: Remember Diana? Last night Jamie got an amazing opportunity to talk with Diana. One thing to know about Jamie is that she has always had a special desire to minister to women with messy life situations. At the beginning of the trip, she was wishing that she’d had more of an opportunity to reach out to women with addictions or difficult pasts. Unfortunately (or so it seemed), the way the circumstances were it didn’t seem possible for that to happen: she would have to teach English Camp like everybody else!

Well, Diana is a testimony that God knows the desires of our hearts and has a unique way of working in our lives! Diana openly shared with Jamie last night (and gave Jamie permission to share with others) about some of the addictions she’s had to deal with in the past. Jamie got the opportunity to share with her from experience, and also share with her some Celebrate Recovery Material that we had on hand – which Diana was eager to receive. It’s unbelievable the kind of turnaround and vulnerability we’ve seen in Diana! As much as a huge blessing I’m sure Jamie has been in Diana’s life in these couple short days, Diana has been just as much of a blessing to Jamie. Praise God, am I right?!



Mis otras historias estan sobre mis estudiantes (My other stories are about my own students).

Earlier today we found out that Israel had become a Christian 6 years ago, but has been struggling and stumbling throughout his faith ever since then. He feels like he’s on an uphill right now in his faith, but we encouraged him to get involved with a community that would help sustain him and encourage him should he ever fall again (which he, and we all, inevitably will). Pray that he’d get hooked up with some solid dudes at the church here in El Salvador – that would be a huge gift for Israel.



And my last story is a short one. Basically I just wanted to share that relationships are forming here. For real! Obviously Diana is building a strong connection with Jamie, and Israel has been building strong connections with, well, pretty much everybody. To top it all off, I have been pretty much falling in love with my two student girls – Josselyn and Rosabelle. They’re so fantastic! My times of teaching and working with them have been some of my favorite moments down here. At the end of class today, they both asked me for my email address so we could keep in touch after I return to Minnesota. Say What?? Talk about heart meltage! We exchanged email addresses and agreed to keep in touch and continue helping each other with English (and Spanish). When our conversation was over, I looked over and saw that Israel and Rob were also exchanging email addresses. ¡Que perfecto! Friendship! ¡Amistad!

I mean, I know making relationships was kind of the point of coming down here, but somehow when it starts actually happening, it seems all the more incredible.



I guess that’s all for today. A purely serious post! Who knew I was capable??

Thanks for reading!

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Day Six

April 24, 2008

Technically day six isn’t over yet, but I thought I’d post while I had a few minutes.

Today we took a trip to the orphanage. It was amazing how quickly the kids warmed up to us. Instantly they were our best friends. A little boy sat next to me looking as forlorn as forlorn can be, and after asking him “Como estas?” a couple times and offering him some bubbles, his mood flipped a complete 180. He became a typical, happy, little boy. In fact, when we did the piñata, he was the feistiest of them all – grabbing at the candy like it was going out of style! All of us seemed to latch onto one or two kids that we hung out with the whole time we were there. For me it was definitely this little guy.

One thing I thought about while we were out there is how every child is the same. You almost expect to go to an orphanage where children under the age of five are infected with AIDs and have all the kids be sad or complaining. I’m sure they do get sick and sad, but for the most part, that’s not what’s true! Whether they’re dying or healthy or have a family or don’t: all kids want to smile and laugh and get tickled and give hugs and climb all over you. It’s the nature of kids, and despite knowing of their heart-breaking circumstances, it was a pleasure to laugh and play with them for a little while.

Today would’ve been the absolute best day for pictures, but unfortunately they didn’t let us bring cameras in. Lo siento!!



We have another class to teach here in a couple hours. Right now our entire team is taking a nap in various places around the office. Please pray that we’d be filled with joy and energy to keep going despite how tired we all are!

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Day Five

April 23, 2008

Subtitle: El Dia del Mono (The Day of the Monkey)

Today started off normal enough.

We met early in the morning for a devotional as a group – this time led by Ben. Ben spoke about grace, sharing about the absolute importance of it, and how if our good works could be enough to right ourselves with God than there was no reason for Christ to die. He shared some good verses from Galatians.


Not to downplay his devotional or anything, because it was some good stuff, but it’s important that I get in to the nitty gritty of the ridiculousness of this day. It’s late and I haven’t much time to blog.


First, I’d like to note that I am the embodiment of everything we are NOT supposed to do while in San Salvador.

1) I accidentally rinsed my toothbrush in tap water twice.
2) I ate chorizo (sausage) in a pupusa today (but I didn’t know).
3) I ate half a stick of cheese with breakfast before we discovered that we weren’t supposed to eat the cheese because it had been left out all night.

DON’T BE ME! Yep, it’s like I took all the rules we’ve been given here and am actively trying to break them all, one by one. Surprisingly I haven’t gotten sick at all, despite my consistent accidental disobedience.



After breakfast and devotional time, we took the bus to the black sand beach in La Libertad. The beach was amazing! We enjoyed catching some seriously incredible waves for an hour or two before having lunch.



Are you read for the funniest moment of my entire life?

Okay. Here we go.

There was a monkey at the beach we were at, whom we were all cooing over her. Here she is, el mono:

After lunch, I went over to her and started petting her. She proceeded to rub her back against the fence and point at the places on her back where she wanted me to scratch (seriously). She pretty much fell in love with me, as she then turned around and held my hand with both of hers.

Lindsey thought this was pretty cute so she told me to lean in for a picture with the monkey.

Because the moment I leaned in, the monkey betrayed me and STOLE MY GLASSES.

The monkey stole my glasses!

It was complete anarchy. I yelled to the group that something terrible had happened. Then I started laughing so hard that I collapsed into a heap on the ground – so everyone rushed over thinking I’d been terribly hurt. Ben began laughing so hard that he also collapsed onto the ground. In the midst of laughter, I would occasionally mutter things like “You guys, this is serious. I need those to see.” And “I’m never going to get my glasses back.” And, of course, repeatedly “the monkey stole my glasses!”

Unbelievable.

Take a look for yourselves:

It became a bit of a team exercise as the entire mission team surrounded the cage trying whatever they could think to get the glasses back. Jamie tried to bribe the monkey with a granola bar, but she wouldn’t give the glasses back. Instead she tried to attack Jamie for even looking at her new glasses. Then Jamie tried to bribe her with an empty granola wrapper – which only served to enrage the monkey.

“That’s enough, Jamie. That’s enough.” – Seth

Anyway, somehow the monkey managed to drop the glasses just outside of her cage when she was grasping them with her feet and Sarah leapt for them and saved the day.

I had my glasses back!

It was the most hilarious moment of my entire life. Seriously. The only thing better would’ve been if the monkey had put the glasses on.






Okay, so…after that fiasco completed, we went back to the beach and swam some more. It started to rain a little bit so the waves were gigantic. Then we went back to our huts. Some of us played cards, some of us played music, and some of us napped on hammocks. I chose hammock nap. This was the view from my hammock:

Pret-ty good.



After our time at the beach was completed, we were dropped off at our host families’ houses to spend the evening with them. Our family made us tacos (Raquel loves Mexican food). I told them the monkey story and showed them the pictures and we all laughed pretty hard about it together. Then our family took us out for ice cream at the mall: delicious! We had some pretty good discussions over dinner and dessert – Andrea (the daughter) is learning Spanish and I am learning English so we both got a lot of practice.

Here is a picture of our host family:

After ice cream, we went over to Raquel’s sister’s house to help her son with some of his English homework. I’m not sure I can handle any more cute children. I can’t get over how wonderful these kids are!

That’s about it for today’s happenings, but let me take this time to share another story about one of our students:

On Monday, Jamie and I got to talk to a new student, Diana. She immediately openly up with us about how scared she was to come to any sort of church gathering. This is a girl who used to hide during the sacraments at the Catholic Church she grew up in. So her church experiences have been less than positive, to say the least. She was scared to come to these classes in fear that people would be stuffy and judgemental. After meeting Sarah, and talking to Jamie and myself, she felt a little calmer about Christians (especially after hearing that Jamie and I listened to normal music), but was still a little scared to hear about God and learn English from Christians. She told us, verbatim, “I don’t want to hear about God at all.”

The next day she came to Seth and Beth’s advanced class and after going through the story of Jesus and feeding the 5000, she took on a mix of curious and excitement – what you might perhaps call “curiously excited.” By the end of the class, she was requesting to read all the stories for all the lessons she had missed. So Seth made her copies of all the Bible stories and then we got her a bilingual bible to read, which she was uber thankful to receive. I have been completely blown away by the total turnaround of Diana’s perspective! Please pray for her that she would continue to be moved by Christ’s love.





I guess that’s all I have for today – thanks for reading!!

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