Update on Esperanza

Have you ever done something small, and then that small thing snowballed into something that quickly became something more than you ever dreamed possible?  Something beyond what you think you can do or handle?  You know when you are in ocean, wading up to your ankles, pleasantly letting the water wash over your feet.   Then out of absolutely no where, a giant wave hits you smack in the face and knocks you clear off your feet?  That is what underestimation feels like.

I was just reading in Isaiah today, God was speaking about his sovereignty, his power, his oneness… and he said, “I will equip you.” Simple. Powerful. Profound.

God will equip us. He said so. If I’m asking him to use me, if he calls me out on that blasted water to take a walk, well then gosh darn it, He’s gonna keep me from sinking.  Its when we try to do it on our own that we sink and flail about, searching for a dinghy.

Alex and I began Esperanza as a tiny nugget of a dream… Now it is…. on the cusp of something magnificent that can be huge for the youth and families of El Salvador.   In the days to come I’m going to share with you where the program is at, where it is going, and how you can help.  Its all about these kids.

But in the mean time, here are some gorgeous photos that will give you a tiny peek into what is going down!!View More: http://adorephotograph.pass.us/projecthope

View More: http://adorephotograph.pass.us/projecthope

View More: http://adorephotograph.pass.us/projecthope

View More: http://adorephotograph.pass.us/projecthope

{Photo credit: Adore Photography}

Its about these kids. And the time they are spending with their mentors.  The mentors who’s lives are changing as they learn new skills, and become role models to the younger ones.  Its about the moms and dads earning a fair wage.   Its about the families who never dreamed college would be possible for their children.  Its about every second they spend at the community center (temporarily housed in the church) is one more second they are safe  inside with us.  Its about not letting the evil forces controlling this country steal one more person from us.

This is how God moves. He moves in the people, in their lives.  He moves in you, every time you purchase one of our goods.  Every time you write with your pen, use your bottle stopper in your wine, wear your scarf, order a bed for a child in need, this is God working for good, through you.  Since the beginning he has used average, every day people to achieve his goals!  He can use you too if you let him.

esperanzaCollageGo to www.hopeforfutures.com to donate to the program!  Or leave a comment for more information on how your group, business or church can get involved by placing an order to sell at your personal event.

 

 

 

 

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Lives of El Salvador: Giovanni

Giovanni Bonilla

View More: http://adorephotograph.pass.us/projecthope

{photo credit: Loren & Mary Beth Noyes}

The first thing that hits you when you meet Giovanni is his incredible smile. He is rarely with out it. The reason his smile is so memorable, is because few people in life wear one with the genuineness, that Giovanni does. Giovanni is a son, a husband and a father in Puerto La Libertad. He is one of the pastors of a church here fighting for the youth of the city. Giovanni is committed to reaching and ministering to as many at-risk children and teens as he can. He stands in the gap in places where no one else will. He is a loving, dedicated husband and father, director of worship, and an amazing friend.   I have the distinct honor of working with him. Here is more of his story:

M- Giovanni, what event would you say has had the biggest impact on your life?

G- Jesus. Without a doubt the day I knew that Jesus was my savior and wanted to know me. Absolutely it was Jesus.

M- How old were you?

G- I was 13 years old when someone shared with me the salvation of Jesus Christ. My whole perspective changed, the way I was thinking about my life. Because you see, I didn’t come from a loving home. It wasn’t nurturing, I didn’t receive a lot of love, hugs or kisses from my family. But when I met Jesus, I knew his amazing love for me.

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M- Can you tell me more about how your perspective changed? How was your life different with a relationship with Jesus?

G- Well, I was really depressed and thought a lot about suicide. I was not happy at all, and I would for sure be dead right now without Jesus in my life. I had a really hard time growing up. My dad committed suicide 25 days before I was born. Can you imagine? When our children are about to be born this is a time of anticipation, happiness, and excitement. So to know my dad killed himself right before I was to be born was really painful. And I grew up with this pain. I thought a lot about committing suicide. It was really hard…. To know that I wasn’t exciting to my dad…. So without Jesus, I would either be dead or with a lot of girlfriends. Probably with many kids.

M- If you could change one thing about your country what would it be?

G- That’s a hard question. I think I would change people’s attitudes about how they see God. Here many people know God is real, but their attitude is like he is a genie for when they need something.   Or like he is a fireman. They only want to call to God when there is a fire, an emergency or problem in their lives. They don’t know that God doesn’t just want us to know of him. God wants us to KNOW him, He wants to love us, for us to love him. He wants a relationship with us. On our flag of El Salvador it says, “God, Unity and Freedom.” God is first for a reason. I would like my country to know that is where He should be in our lives too.

M- What would you say is El Salvador’s greatest strength?

G- My people are hard workers. We have a saying, “El Salvadoreño se rebusca.” It basically means we do whatever it takes. Take a rock, paint the rock and sell it. Whatever it takes. It is such hard life here.  But the people are so strong and work so hard.

M-Thank you so much for being so open to sharing your story Giovanni. I hope that if someone is reading this, who maybe doesn’t know Jesus, or is depressed will find hope from what you shared.

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Everyone who has ever met Giovanni feels like they have made a friend for life, which ironically is how Giovanni also describes the way he feels about meeting Jesus. He is right, El Salvadoreños are hard workers, who do whatever it takes to care for the ones they love. Giovanni is one of those people. I’ve been blessed to call him and his wife Susanna my dear friends for many years, and am so thankful for the amazing people they are.

Giovanni is one of the reasons for this series about the Lives of El Salvador. I want you to know more than negative headlines and the murder rate here.  We want you to know the caring, loving people who are breaking negative cycles.  We want you to know them personally.  Dads and moms just like you and me, who love our children.  We aren’t such a big world after all.  We are all in this together.  Especially considering all of the hate that’s erupting all over the U.S. and the world, we need to rise up together and say we have had enough.  We need to give, to love, to experience the joy of generosity with nothing to gain.  Only then will the hate be quashed.

Leave a comment or ask how you can help Love Like Crazy and walk beside us in La Libertad.

And finally….

We want you to know that if you are depressed, feel alone, and you think your only option is suicide…. please don’t.  Find someone who knows Jesus and know there is a deeper, more lasting love than you can ever imagine. Please find someone to help you.  A counselor, a teacher, a friend.  Giovanni will testify that there is hope and joy to be found in a relationship with Jesus.

Power of Story

Lives of El Salvador: Samuel

 

 

 

 

Lives of El Salvador: Samuel

I would like to introduce you to Samuel Rivas.  He is a twenty-three year old student, working towards a degree in graphic design.  Samuel sings in the worship band at his church, volunteers to teach kids basic computer skills at the child development center, is a mentor in the church youth group and is a devoted son to his parents Maurice and Maria Elena.  He wakes up at 4 am each day to take a bus to go to the university in San Salvador.  He cares deeply about his relationship with God, his family, friends and his country.

View More: http://adorephotograph.pass.us/projecthope

[Photo Credit: Loren & Mary Beth Noyes}

M: Samuel, what is the biggest challenge you faced growing up in El Salvador?

S: “The biggest challenge growing up here is the lack of dreams people have and also there are very few people who can realize their dreams.  There are very few resources accessible to achieve them.”

M: If you could ask your president anything, what would it be?

S: “If I could say anything, hmmm… I would say that he should stop thinking of his political party, and start thinking of his country.  Start making laws, follow through on his objectives, stop forgetting them, and to stop the criminals once and for all.”

M: How do you see God working in your life?

S: “Every day God works in my life from the air that I breath, to the works of His creation.  I see Him in the care of my family, how He has never left us, and greater still how He is always  helping us and giving us strength.”

M: If you could change one thing for the kids here, what would it be?

S: I would change the education.  The education system is deficient and not good quality. I would implement lessons from the Bible in the schools and the teaching of Jesus.

I am so thankful that Samuel was willing to open up and share a snapshot of his story.  In a world that only sees news about young men getting involved in gangs, young men who’s only focus is womanizing, selfishness, and abuse, you need to know there are better men than what you have seen.  So here is a man of God who willingly and voluntarily is caring for his family, and fighting for the youth of his country.

As I mentioned in “Power of Story,” I will be posting a new story of a person every week.  So don’t miss a week, and subscribe over on the right!

 

 

Maybe Tomorrow

 

I go to an orphanage, torn in my heart whether I actually want to do it. Fighting the feeling. I procrastinate and I stall.  Maybe tomorrow. But I get in the car.

“But you’re a missionary!”  you think to yourself now.

You might even now be asking yourself, “Isn’t that what you went there to do? Stop complaining, you asked for this. You are being paid, by other people, from their salaries to do this exact job.”

I go to the orphanage and they are excited to see me. And I them.  My jaw hurts from smiling so hard.  I hold the baby with no muscle tone at 1 year close to my beating heart and never want to let her go.  That beating heart in so much pain because I know how this came to be.  Wanting nothing more in the world than to take both of them into my heart and home and love them as if I had carried and birthed them both. Her 15 year old mom looks on, as I hold her baby with all the experience 4 babies has given me.

I leave the baby house to go visit the older kids.  Kids who have endured horrors no child should, and now live in an institution. They run up and ask for Alex and my biological kids.  They smile and group hug me, even though I’m a lone visitor for the day.

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They forgive me for not visiting in so long.  Illnesses had me away for a few months, but they welcome me back.

You think, “You’ve haven’t been in months? What have you been doing? You’ve let them down like every other adult in their lives.”

I get back in my car amid 15 kids watching me leave. Again. I roll down my window and shout an “I love You!”  I shut the window and I can breath again.  Breaths coming in gasps.  I drive home to my husband and my kids.  Nothing can break the images running in my head and the pressure on my chest that remains after relinquishing her. I can still feel her heavy on my heart.

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You are probably thinking, “Why do you even bother? You will just keep hurting them by coming, and going without them. Just stop.”

 

And that voice, questioning me and my inaction, and my inability to give these kids families?  It kicks my emotional ass all night long.

It was mine all along.  The voice telling me I’m not enough.  Questioning me. All me.

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{photo credit: Samuel Rivas}

The only respite, the gracious quiet voice that comforts deep in my soul.  The voice that is not mine.

“They are mine Mari. Not yours.  Consider the lilies of the fields, and the sparrows…do I not love them infinitely more than you? Do I not weep for them with more tears?  This is not yours to fix.  They are yours to love. Feel it, and go back.”

I’m a missionary in El Salvador.  Some days I yell at the people I love, and lose my patience.  Dogs get into bathroom trashes (where all our TP goes), and food burns to pans on stove tops whose only setting is high and medium.  Floors need mopping every day, which is annoying and I let it do just that, annoy me. Some days I don’t want to go do the hard things.  Missionaries are just people.  We’re real, and fallible.  But that Father, who will never fail a single one of us, He is mine too.  And full of grace.  So I can grant myself grace.  But maybe tomorrow.

 

Power of Story

When I was a little girl my mom would sit out in the hall, with 3 bedroom doors open, her five children already tucked in, and she would open a book.  As she read to us, Mom would make the story and the characters come alive. She would do different voices, dramatize and make the ink on the page become so much more than printed letters.

I think those nights being told a story are a huge part of why I love story today.  Now I read to my kids, I read for myself, but more than this, I love to learn the stories of the people I encounter.

Humans crave story. Whether in a book, play, song, poem, movie or television, we want feel what the story is saying.  We can learn about ourselves.  We can learn about others. We can escape for a moment in time.

Being open to someone else’s story, if they let you in, is an incredible gift.  I am not a fan of superficial or casual friendships.  I want to KNOW you. Start at the beginning, first grade if necessary.  Knowing a person, and their life, takes bravery, because you will begin to care.  Caring about others outside of ourselves, outside of our bubble, is like putting on glasses for the first time!  The whole world becomes vivid, worthwhile and interesting. And you will care about it.  When you care about something, then you take action. When you care about someone, you start to love, and if the whole world started to care, and love a whole lot more???? A revolution.

With this is mind, I’m going to begin a series on stories of individuals.  Living, breathing, thinking, feeling, individuals, of El Salvador.  Its easy to just read news articles, or hear what the media wants you to hear and believe…. but that is not the real El Salvador.  I always tell people, the real story of El Salvador are the hard working, faithful people who love their country and each other.

Make sure you subscribe over there on the right side bar.  Once a week you will receive a a new story.  I will never flood your inbox.  Be brave, open yourself to someone’s story, you will be so happy you did.

12716395_10207284904514362_7976793031138941208_o{incredible photo credit: Loren Noyes}

 

Start Again

When I moved to El Salvador I really thought I was going to be writing ALL the time.  I had big huge aspirations of writing beautiful words, accompanied by fabulous meaningful photos, that would make you feel all the things…..Life just doesn’t quite happen like you think it might. For me, writing got pushed to the corner.  I have a lot of reasons for stopping, but a good friend I’ve had since the 7th grade, told me to just write. It can be scary and overwhelming, but that’s not a reason to stop.

I just looked at my last post date and it was in October y’all. So it got me to thinking about this little old blog of mine.  Its gone through quite an evolution.  I started out “journaling” and keeping long distance friends and family up to date with my babies.
Then I went through a phase of recipe blogging. Included in this was party planning ideas for families on a budget, and how to make special traditions and memories.  I am not kidding you when I tell you I have a draft sitting in my bank of writing, solely devoted to 90’s music.  Boys II Men, Mariah Carey, girl bands and boys bands.
Soon after this I became involved in Adoption and Orphan advocacy.  Fundraising for friends’ adoptions and starting orphan and foster care ministry at my church became a focus and I started attending seminars, holding planning meetings and going to the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit every year.  (Really going to miss going to Orlando this year!) I met so many incredible people and made great connections.
As my writing drifted away from my family and more towards social justice, I began to creep towards a journey that would forever change me too.  An enormous life change happened and we moved to El Salvador. We worked with the local church on sharing Jesus, and community development to combat that severe poverty, gangs and lack of hope. Writing was pushed aside for a number of complicated reasons.   This brings us to today.

As you can see, if you have stuck with me through all of that time, I’ve added ring, upon ring, upon ring to my tree of life. And I’m not even done yet.  God is not done with me yet.  I’m working on adding another ring, that is big and bad and scary…. and essential.

I’m really hoping to resurrect this blog, but for me that involves fear.  And insecurity. Why would people care about what I have to say?   What do I even have to say?  For a writer, its  kind of like putting a piece of art in a museum that no one stops to look at.  Then I saw this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald on Pinterest:

And my favorite fan is my Grandpa, so I know he will continue down this path with me.  What else could I possibly need? Plus Julie says to go for it 🙂
So I invite you to come along,  be encouraged, learn something new, meet new people, feel new things, and as always, to Love Like Crazy.

 

Missionary Kid Life

When we moved to El Salvador, we really had no idea what it would entail for our kids. The impact it would have on them, the sacrifices they would make, or what kind of life they would have here.

There have been many times when I have wondered if we are seriously screwing up our kids. Many days have been a little unfair. Many days they are left out because they don’t speak Spanish fluently. Many times they get dragged along, to go to various places. Many experiences they are losing out on in the United States. 
However, many days they have had adventures that they will remember for the rest of their lives. For all of the hard days, there have been people who have loved them, adored them, and gone out of their way to spend time with them. My little caucasian children are so well loved by the people here, and by the visitors. The most incredible thing to watch is the way the people who live here and the visitors always love them in such a genuine, heartfelt manner. No one will ever be able to convince me that the teens and young adults of this world are all selfish, difficult and self involved. Because I have witnessed so many amazing young adults who CHOOSE to serve, choose to love and choose to have fun with my kids, without being asked. 
  
I have one kid who never wants to move away. 
I have one kid who feels like they are in a lose-lose situation now, because in the U.S. are people we love and want to be near. And likewise in El Salvador there are people we love and want to be near (I did explain this is win-win).  
I have one kid who thankfully still wants to be wherever Mommy is!…… okay, I think everyone knows that one is Donovan!
I have one kid who longs for their life in the US, but still says, “How are you and Daddy ever supposed to stop doing this job? You can’t!”
When I think of all of things, people, experiences that they have given up to go on this ride with us, what always pops into my head is, what they have gained. 
There have been missions teams who make it a priority to make sure they have a wish list from my kids, so that they can pack an extra suitcase for them! And holy smokes have they been spoiled with favorite snacks from home.  I could have included 50 more pictures, of people we adore right back. 
So I just want to send out a gigantic thank you!!  Its hard to be an MK. Really hard. So thank you, to all of the people who have loved on, cared about, laughed with, wrestled, tickled, sang with, made them a priority, sent a care package and hugged them. You have helped to make a very different life, more Okay-ish and even wonderful!

Esperanza Sewing Project Update and the Best Tuesday Ever

If you walked into the sewing room at Iglesia Gran Commission last week, you might have seen fabric strewn about.

You would have noted the threads on the ground interspersed with discarded scraps of fabric.

You definitely would have seen chairs askew, scissors misplaced and bolts of fabric on the cutting table, not nicely folded.

But let me tell you a little bit about what I saw (before I cleaned it up).

I see opportunity. I see the chairs where Gaby, Kimberly and Leslie worked so hard to make extra scarves and some special orders two days last week. I see where Sylvia was sitting, smiling and sewing with precision.

I see all of the donated machines, and the donated fabric, buttons, thread and so much more…. that makes me smile so huge.

Once in a while, I get to be a part of something so completely amazing.

Last January, I told you about an idea… to find our girls in La Libertad a way to go to the University someday. 
In less than 48 hours you fully funded our Sewing School. 
In March, 6 girls earned 1 month of tuition each by sewing infinity scarves and selling them to a church women’s ministry in Toledo, Ohio. 
In June, they sold more scarves to visiting short term missions teams. I haven’t done the math yet, but it was about 20 more scarves. 
In September they have an opportunity to fill an order for another church in the U.S. 
Last week I shared with them what had been put into the account for them, and their jaws dropped. And oh the smiles and looks of increduality!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Because of your generosity, a local woman and member of our church is earning a little bit of money to teach our girls important sewing skills. 

But Tuesday was one of the very best days ever in ministry. All along, the idea has not just been for the girls of our Development Center to be able to go to college, but also to minister to the women in our community as well. 
Tuesday I invited a woman I know, to come in and learn to sew bed sheets for the bed donation ministry. In a nutshell, people from anywhere, can donate the funds for a bed. In that bed donation is the money for the materials to build a cedar bed, a mattress, pillow, sheets, small stipend to a local we trained to make the beds, and a small stipend to someone we train to sew the sheets. 
Yes, we could go to a store in San Salvador and buy sheets and pillow cases. We could also buy a bed. But we want to help more people than just the bed recipient. We want to hire three people in the process 🙂 
So Tuesday arrives, I have a game plan. I made a list of words I would need to know to teach her sewing skills. (p.s. Senora Clifford of year 4 Spanish… my education in did NOT include sewing terms, you might want to consider adding it to the curriculum). 
I am all prepared to teach her basics and maybe get to the fabric later on in the afternoon. She comes in, and after I briefly introduce her to our machine, I take her over to the cutting table to show how I cut, and pin the fabric.  
She asks me if the pinning process is really necessary. I say yes. 
She asks for a scrap of fabric to try out the machine. I say yes. 
She expertly folds and doubles the fabric to create a beautiful hem….. as she guides it through the machine.
I think “so when you say you’ve sewn a little in the past, what you really meant was I’m an expert seamstress and I’m about to knock your socks off.”
So I worked on some fabric cutting, and she commenced sewing…. for 5 hours. I forced her to take a break for lunch. By the end of the time she had sewn 9 sheets and 7 pillow cases. 
In one day at her regular job, she makes $7/day. For 12 hours of work.  In 5 hours of sewing, and because we pay per item, she earned $45. And she was proud. I oooohhhhed and awwwwedddd and gushed over her meticulous work and then I took her to Pastor Giovanni to tell him, and gushed to him about her. 
I cannot even begin to tell you all of the feelings about seeing her face and her pride in her work that day.   
When you sponsor a child here, or you sponsor a bed, you are not just feeding a child. You are not just  putting a person into a bed off a floor. Those 2 things alone are HUGE!!! But you are also creating opportunity for God to do abundantly more with your sacrificial gift.   Having a child in our program means them learning skills to help them earn a college education.  Having a bed donation means hiring 3 local people who desperately need a good, fair job. That is what your gift does. That is what God accepts and stretches and grows, and molds  into His ultimate plan. 
And as Alex would say “How the hickity heck do we beat that?!”
Oh, and that incredible woman who will return Saturday to do more fulfilling, well paid work? Her sweet daughters received beds last week! So there is that too 🙂 

Its Complicated

Hello to you from El Salvador! I didn’t realize when we moved, that I would write less…. I guess what I didn’t factor in was going from being a stay at home mom/wife, to being a part time employee and full time teacher (homeschool), in addition to still being a wife and mom.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me recently how we are doing. How are the kids doing? How is it living in another country for almost 18 months now? Are you coming back? Are you staying? Do you miss the United States? 
I don’t know that I can ever fully answer these questions. It is nearly impossible to help you understand all the feelings involved in all those questions. 
If I say I miss the United States, that implies that we don’t also love it here. 
If I say that it is difficult to live here, that implies that it is easy in the United States. 
If I say the kids are very happy, that doesn’t explain just how very complicated it is for their little hearts. 
We were recently having a family meeting to discuss how everyone is doing. And my little Addison put into words what no one else could. It was incredible to me that she could analyze her feelings so succinctly. 
“No matter where we live now, I’m going to be sad. If I live in the U.S. I’m going to be sad for missing our friends here. If we live here, I’m going to miss my friends and family in the U.S.” 
We are of course going to try and help her see that it is a win/win, not a lose/lose. For to be loved in multiple countries is a great thing, and not a sad thing. But how do we do that, when we often feel the same way as her???
Here is truth. This isn’t an exotic vacation. Its the tropics, and its beautiful, but its hard. Glennon of Momastery uses the word “brutiful.” That’s what this is. Beautiful and brutal. 
We live every day with the hearts, histories, tragedies and triumphs of people in our hearts and minds. Some things are hard to let go of. So we try to let God be the God of those hard things. Because who can live with all of that in our heads all the time? And at the same time, we desire to have them let us into their hearts and minds, to be able to bear part of their burden for them. To know that someone cares. 
Some days it is as simple as wishing I could just go into Target and find what I need at a reasonable price. Or waking up and thinking, wouldn’t some nice, cool, Ohio, Autumn weather be nice right now???? Or wouldn’t it be nice not to sweat today?? Or, how amazing would it be to hug my nieces and nephews and have coffee with my grandma today?  I cannot even speak of being in the same room with my siblings and my parents without tears. Or holy Moses what is with these enormous beetles all over our door???!!!! Tarantulas…. there are no words. Don’t even get me started on bike rides and libraries with millions of books!! And pretty puhleeeeezzzeee stop posting pictures of your Disney World trip on Facebook! (just kidding we are happy for you and not the least bit jealous… a little). Oh Bath and Body Works how I miss you and your coupons, (I never had a shoe or purse vice, I had B&BW).  And then there is imagining watching Donovan in Little League, or Addison in dance recitals.
As you see, its complicated. Feeling many things, at the same time.  Ha! That all just spilled out suddenly 🙂   The thing is we live here. This is life right now. So to answer your questions:
The answer, as much as we can figure, is to find the joy. If this is a short season, or a long season of living here then we find the joy. The joy in today. 
*I can think of our friends.  I visited one of my closest friends last night. Just for a bit. She is a gift to me, and her husband is a gift to Alex. Two people that in 13 years of our marriage, we feel closer to, than almost any other people. I love her baby, and she loves my kids, without reservation. I said three times that we had to go home to bed, and she told me 3 times not to say that again and stay.  So to have that in our lives….. 
*The puppy that has been a healing balm for my little girl who struggled with this more than the rest. 
*The daily sunshine. 
*The little boy I gave birth to who is the most hysterical person I’ve ever met. His facial expressions, booty dances, taunting sisters with nakedness, laughter, schemes, hummed theme songs, teasing his dad, the way he says so many words fantastically wrong… the list goes on and on. Joy.
*Last night it was in the car, “Mom, I have a lot of ‘uhspicion’ that Layla is going to try and scare me while I’m sleeping tonight.”
*When I miss church due to a migraine and I receive 10 texts from people wondering where I was. 
*Pupusas
*Avocados 6 for a dollar. Helloooo guacamole every day. And on a sandwich, and with rice, and with eggs… just yum. 
*Fresh Papaya. 
*Worshiping in Spanish, which always makes me think  of Heaven where we will all worship in different languages.
*The adorable little boy Christopher, who just giggled uncontrollably in my arms as I picked him up and swung him around. 
*Friends on missions team coming to serve and visit. And insist on me giving them a wish list for my family.
*The girl in our sewing program who used to be angry all the time, but now she is smiling all the time. She is incredibly proud of her sewing accomplishments, and I am even more proud of her. 
*All of the beds going out to families who may be sleeping on the ground. 
*Tiny little people who right this very minute are eating a plate full of healthy, delicious food!

*Hugs from  tiny people who yell “Mari!!!!” when I come into the nutrition center.

So I don’t have the answers. Not short ones anyway. I don’t know when we are coming back. I don’t even know how I feel from 1 minute to the next. But I do know about joy. 

Long Awaited Conclusion to Car Adventure

Imagine with me if you will Mario Kart.  Or, if you haven’t played Mario Kart, picture any arcade driving game.
(google image)

This is driving in the Santa Tecla/San Salvador area…. With New York City traffic.  Where in, most of the traffic is gigantic school/public bus transportation, barreling at you from all directions.

There are round-a-abouts, merging traffic, on ramps, off ramps and nary a stop light (we saw one or 2).
Mario Cart.
(google image)

If you are following, then imagine yourself doing this all day……

Evelin and I had but one option, to laugh about many things. At one point we threatened Alex’s life if we did not come home with a car that day. In addition, if we didn’t get to the fun stuff of looking at houses, then he would also be in serious danger. Because we women, had only come along for the ride at the promise of browsing homes.

As if Alex had any control over the situation.

Now, since most of you have never been here, I just need to clarify that the used car lots we were looking at were not laid out like a car lot you are accustomed to seeing.  There is a lack of parking or open space at all, so the cars at the lots and the mechanics we visited were parked a bit like this:
(google image)

If you want to see something, or park, then there are approximately 6 other cars that have to be maneuvered first.

Please don’t misunderstand my intent with writing this. El Salvador is different, and I simply want you to be able to visualize. Different is not good, bad, wrong or right. It’s just different.
And we had quite the hilarious (different) experience… because after our 4 or 5thhour of doing this chase around the city… Evaristo (our friend and driver) took matters into his own hands.

When we reached another round about, going over the same ground…. We were stopped in traffic and I watch as he rolls the passenger window down and starts to frantically wave at a driver of a 9 passenger van next to us.

I smile and wave thinking Evaristo knows this particular man, because he is also quickly speaking to me in Spanish (and I have no clue what he is saying).

What is actually going down, and that I catch bits and pieces of, is that Evaristo is now trying to buy the guy’s van from him IF it has air conditioning in the front and back. IF.

While we are stopped in traffic.

“Do You want to sell us your van?”
“How are the tires? The engine? Does the air conditioning work??”

The man in the car chuckles, says the air doesn’t work, and we move along on our way. So Evaristo turns to me and remarks, “the air didn’t work, no sale.”….

Meanwhile I am dumbfounded, laughing hysterically, and have to explain to the rest of the passengers who missed this whole exchange.

I begin fervently praying that God would please, please drop a van into our laps, in our budget.
google image

That became the point in the day where Evaristo was determined to get us a car. I’m fairly certain he couldn’t take one more day of car shopping with us!
If not that, then what happened next proved it.

We swung into a shopping center to wait for Ivo to go get his daughter from school. I remembered that we needed some more water, so my family, Evelin and I went into the grocery store to buy some.  As I stepped out of the van Evaristo chuckled in my general direction, string of heavily accented Spanish (that even the people down here have a hard time understanding), and finally I make out as he is laughing;

“I will find you a van.”  Hahahahah, I smile, I laugh, of course he is joking around. We are in a parking lot.

Midway through checkout, Alex gets a call… from Evaristo. We go out to the parking lot to find that he has stopped a family while getting out of their mini-van and asked them if they would please sell it to us…….

A van with no “for sale” sign on it. Strangers.  Strangers who in fact had just purchased this van a month ago. But the wife says, “Sure.” But not for a penny less than the price we will ask of you. Don’t even think about asking for a lower price.
The price happens to be less than our budget.

So we agree to meet them in the morning at a mechanic. Meanwhile, we have a lead on another van, that a friend of a friend of a brother’s cousin might know about.

 But I have had it. I quit. And I just want to go see what may potentially be our new home. I agree to just send Alex with Ivo and Evaristo the next day, and Que sera sera sera.

We continued on our way to look at a furnished house. In our price range.
With…. Wait for it……… a washer AND dryer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Unheard of. I do not have to wash my family of 6’s clothes by hand!

I would. Lord knows I will roll with the punches adjust, and wash by hand. I will. Scout’s honor.
After all, I live with 2 lizards (I think, there could be more) and poisonous spiders. 

But if I don’tHAVE to wash by hand, in our budget? 
Well then, I am allowed to rejoice about that right?!

Epilogue:the parking lot people called the next morning and had changed their minds. But it’s okay because the lead on the other van panned out, and Alex preserved his life by bringing it home with him the following day. We have now been on 2 successful driving trips, un-escorted around La Libertad. We may brave going into Santa Tecla grocery shopping today.  If we are feeling exorbitantly brave.