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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.