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.

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_0473

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.

_MG_5646

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.

_MG_5756

{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.

 

First Trip Home. Home?

When I was a kid, my family moved all over the place. I was born and lived my first 11 years in Oregon. All my family is there, minus my sisters.  So every Summer we would take a trip back to visit family, camp, see the beach etc.  I so vividly remember being missed and loved by my clan.  In their love, adoration and eagerness, they would often repeat, “When are you moving back?” “We miss you so much!” “Tell mom and dad you want to come home.”   Huh….. home…. Oh my, they were so sweet and loving, and I understand completely the heart behind the questions.

For no fault on their part, my brothers and sisters and I would feel wracked with guilt. Guilt that through no fault of our own, we had made Grandma and Grandpa sad.  Guilt that… we liked it where we lived. We had school, friends, memories, youth groups, it was home.  I was absolutely jealous and still am, that my cousins can go see my precious grandparents whenever they want. I love and adore my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. I’m TOTALLY jealous. But I’ve lived away for 20 years.  Home is a tricky thing, and for us amidst the joy at returning was pain and guilt that we were gone in the first place. 
So when Alex and I moved overseas with our four kids, I knew exactly what they were going through, minus the language barrier. The concept of home is difficult for kids who have been transplanted.  I think it is exceptionally difficult for a third culture kid.  Moving to another country with missionary parents, presents extra challenges.   When we first moved a lot of their statements began with: “Remember at home….”  “At home this is…..” “In our house…” “I want to go home because….”  But now, those statements are directed towards our El Salvador home. 
Now, almost 2 years in we are preparing them for their first trip “home” tomorrow. These are not the same kids in their souls, that we brought down here. Two years taller, two years wiser, two years with other people, in another home.  Every one of them considers this place home.  They love their school, their friends, their people. They even love our tiny home.  More and more they are speaking the language, they are familiar will all of the roads, the routine, the places and the change in lifestyle. They are adjusted to tropical climate, so much so that when its 72  degrees in a restaurant, we are shivering.  

Alex and I were talking yesterday and decided that missionary years are like dog years. You know, how if a dog is 1 he is really 7?  We think missionary years are a 1:10 ratio.  So for those missionaries out there who have been at it for 15-20 years!! Holy mackerel, we stand in awe.   Its definitely been a missionary 2 years for our kids we think.  They are such different little people. And not so little anymore.  And right now this is their home.  Its familiar, and comfortable, and they love it. It feels like 20 years to us.
Yesterday, my most sensitive child, was getting teary. She came to me and told her that she is feeling sad that she is leaving. I was shocked, because a few months ago, she was REALLY missing the U.S. But she has come to love her teacher at school, her classmates and it is for sure reciprocated. Apparently her teacher started to cry because she is going to miss Addison so much.  We will only be gone 3 weeks and her teacher knows this, but that’s how it is.  She just feels so caught between two worlds.
I know that my kids are overcome with excitement right now to go back to the U.S. We all cannot wait to be able to flush our toilet paper.  Donovan said the first thing he is going to do is drink water out of the kitchen sink at Grandpa’s.  I am going to eat all of the pumpkin things. And all of the apple, cinnamon Autumn goodness. All of it. And consequently, also do a lot of running in the cool, not sweaty weather.  Oh my goodness, the family and friend time we are about to have!!! 
But they are going to struggle, I know its coming because I know their hearts like I know my own.  Or rather, I know their hearts, like Alex knows mine.  So much is different. They are different. The people there are different.  Everyone’s lives kept on steadily moving forward.  Some things will be the same, and somethings never will be.   Some places will feel familiar, yet strange all at the same time. Maybe they will feel guilty that they are so happy to be back, maybe they will be sad, maybe they will just be joyful. I don’t know.  Home is a tricky thing.     
So if you ever come across a third culture kid, here is what you can do to help their hearts.   I know you love and miss them,  we {missionaries} feel exactly the same about you.  But please do not use these phrases:
“Do you like it better here?”
“Do you miss living here?” —this one causes inside guilty feelings when the answer is very complicated in their hearts
“When are you coming back for good?” 
“Do you want to move home?”
We are so so so so so stinking excited to have the opportunity to come back. Some very, very, very kind people made this possible for us, and we are over the moon excited.  We have missed our other home so much.  Being in our country of birth and language is going to be so comfortable and easy.  Familiar.   Words cannot even express how I am longing to hear the word of God taught in my own language.  And I am so sorry if you are sitting next to me during Worship, because I will probably be sobbing at the ability to do so in my own tongue! I am going to have to buy waterproof mascara. 
To sit and have deep heart to hearts, in our language, with our friends and family is something  that I am desperately anxious to do.  I have missed my friends so much, like an ache down deep in the bones.  To laugh uncontrollably and just be with you all is such an incredible gift.  {Yes I’m talking about you Tim Gamble}.   And I’m not going to lie. I am totally going to Target and buying a suitcase full of Multigrain Cheerios!!!!!!!!!
One more day!

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.