Thursday, May 28, 2015

True Religion

Blost post written by Jenni Ramsey

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." - James 1:27

Last weekend The Village Church 2015 El Salvador team had the opportunity to serve a widow in need in our community, Marlene Eckert.  Marlene is a dear friend of the Ramseys and she has served on two His Hands His Feet teams to Guatemala.   She recently lost her husband and had some handyman/cleaning needs in her home that desperately needed attention. The team was honored to work at her home and in exchange for their service, Marlene donated towards the team costs, which will ultimately serve orphans.

It's so beautiful to see the body of Christ function as it should; with young and old, men and women and people of different cultures and backgrounds serving one another.  I'm so proud of our team and can't wait to serve alongside them this summer.  This team will be building a home for an impoverished family, visiting children living in government-run orphanages and feeding the homeless.  One of the things that I love about this team is the number of kids serving with us!  Meet the team:

Mike, Jenni, Jordan (13) & Aidan (11) Ramsey
Stephanie Keenan
Mike & Ben (16) Langdon
Geoff & Ryan (10) Youd
Max Moore (12)
Joseph, Valerie (14) & Cameron (12) Cheng
Guido & Julien (12) Hajenius
Hilary Cook

The team still needs to raise over $6,000 and all funds are due by June 7.  Please pray for God's provision and let us know if you'd like to help with the costs.  Donations are tax deductible and checks can be written to His Hands His Feet and mailed to 95 Spring Valley, Irvine, CA 92602.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Taylor Wasson and the Power of Short-Term Missions

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

Taylor, Aidan, Samantha & Rebekah

Taylor Wasson served with her mom and sister on a His Hands His Feet trip to El Salvador in 2011. She was 12 years old at that time and her life was deeply impacted by the trip.  Taylor has always dreamed of returning to serve children in El Salvador and this year the Lord spoke to her and called her back.  Despite the fact that many of her friends from her church were going to the Philippines this summer, Taylor decided to return to El Salvador at the Lord's prompting.  She also invited a few of her friends to serve with her and even organized informational meetings for her friends.  Taylor is a gifted leader and we're so grateful to have her on our team this summer.  She will be serving alongside her close friend, Shannon Smith, who attends Trabuco Hills High School, Mission Viejo, along with Taylor.  Many of Taylor's close friends who attend Crean Lutheran High School are serving on the team as well.  It's always incredible to watch our teams come together but I have especially been blessed by Taylor's tenacity and passion in inviting her friends to serve alongside her on this particular team.

This March I was privileged to lead a small team to serve in El Salvador.  During the trip I spent time reading through Sus Hjos mission house guest book.  The guest book allows team members to leave their thoughts about the week on paper before their departure.  I was deeply touched as I observed comments of past team members throughout the pages of the book.  I was inspired as I reflected on the many ways in which our team members' lives have been transformed since serving on our teams. It was so thrilling to find Taylor's comments in the guest book from her 2011 trip and I marveled at the fact that she's returning again, this time with a close group of friends.  The memories of the children that Taylor encountered in 2011 have a permanent place in her heart and her passion for orphans is obviously contagious.

Lexi (who served on our team last year), Cassie, Shannon and Taylor

Short-term missions trips can and should be life changing.  I often tell our team members that these trips should not be an item to check off their bucket lists.  Their trip experiences should change their future decisions in how they spend their money, careers, time and passions.  When North Americans are willing to leave the comfort zones of safety and familiarity and serve in third world countries, their eyes are opened in tremendous and often unexpected ways.  Team members are forced into deep reflection  as they encounter children who've been abused and abandoned, young women who've been victims of human trafficking and lives that have been devastated by poverty, addictions and gangs.  Psalm 34:18 says that "The Lord is near to the broken hearted." We definitely encounter His nearness as we serve in broken places and see lives transformed by the hope of the Gospel.   I have been overwhelmed as I've watched our team members's lives radically impacted by the trips.  Some of our team members have returned home and started the adoption process.  Others are now serving in long-term missions.  Many students have switched their college majors and career paths and others have started ministries in their local communities.  Some, like Taylor, have chosen to return again, bringing family and friends alongside them, and my sense of anticipation is mounting with the knowledge of the life changing impact we are about to encounter together.

Meet the 2015 Crean Lutheran High School Team

Blog post by Jenni Ramsey

Last summer I was honored to lead a team of students to El Salvador from Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine, CA.  We had a very special group of students and leaders and we're thrilled to be partnering with Crean for the second year in a row from July 25-August 1.  This team will be serving in government run orphanages.  They will also be throwing a quinceanera for young ladies and women who live in special needs homes.  David Anderlik, the women's basketball coach and a biology teacher for Crean, co-led the team last year and is co-leading again.  Coach Anderlik prayed that the number of students would double as he prepared to lead a team in 2015 and they did!   This year we have a total of twenty-two team members and nine are returning team members. The students have organized a number of fundraising events, including a baby-sitting night on Friday, May 29 at Crean Lutheran High School (from 6-10 pm) and a garage sale in Mission Viejo on Saturday, June 20.

The team is collecting gently used dresses, shoes and jewelry for the quinceanera.  They are also bringing gifts for the orphanages such as diapers, formula, hygiene products, toys and sports supplies.  Please let us know if you can support the team through donations or financial support.  We are extremely grateful for your prayers for the students and team leaders as they prepare to serve this summer.

These photos were taken at our team meeting a few weeks ago.  Some of the team members are missing and we hope to have an updated photo soon.  It was so inspiring to hear how God led each team member to join the team during our meeting and I loved seeing the students praying together for the people that we'll be serving in El Salvador.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Meet the 2015 YWOV Team

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

Young Women of Vision (YWOV) has chosen to partner with His Hands His Feet for the second year in a row and we're so thrilled to serve alongside them this year.  This beautiful group of mothers and (high school aged) daughters will be hosting a quinceanera for teenage girls living in government orphanages during their week of service.  A quinceanera is a traditional fifteenth birthday celebration for Latin American girls.  It has been so amazing to watch this team of women come together.  The team is working hard to fundraise, collect donations and prepare for their missions trip.  They are currently in need of gently used dresses, dress shoes and jewelry for the quinceanera. To read more about YWOV, click on YWOV 2014.  To see photos and read about our 2014 quinceanera, click here.

This photo was taken at our last team meeting.  We're missing some team members and hope to have an updated team photo soon.  We have 24 team members total!   Please pray for our team as we prepare to serve in El Salvador from July 4-11. Thank you for your love, prayer and support!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Meet Our New Accountant

Post written by Jenni Ramsey

It's official! We are elated to welcome Stephanie Keenan as the newest staff member at His Hands His Feet.  Stephanie has served on six short-term trips in El Salvador and her passion for the ministry is contagious.  Stephanie's son, Stephen, is currently serving in El Salvador for one year and living in the boys' transition home.  The Keenans have become part of our family and both Stephen and Stephanie's mom, Roberta, have served with His Hands His Feet in Guatemala as well.

Stephanie and I served on our church staff together for many years before she transitioned into the role of payroll supervisor at Olive Crest six years ago.  She has already brought an increased level of professionalism (and a little bit of craziness!) to our organization and we're so grateful to have her on the team.  Stephanie will be handling all of our budgets, donations and year-end donor letters.

Stephanie's powerful testimony brings hope and inspiration to the children that we're privileged to serve in El Salvador.  It has been an immense joy to serve alongside her for so many years.  The Lord birthed the vision for the quinceanera ministry in Stephanie's heart in 2011 and she has served faithfully and sacrificially for many years.   Steph and I are thrilled to be serving together for two straight weeks in El Salvador this June and July.  I look forward to serving alongside my sister in Christ, "Estefania," in Central America for many years to come.  Welcome to the team, Stephanie! With fifty-eight team members serving on our teams this summer, I'm tremendously relieved to finally have a CFO!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Jenni's Trip to Texas

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

I have flown through the Dallas airport (the hub for American Airlines) for many years as I've served in Latin America, but this month I exited the airport terminal for the first time. We've recently developed some wonderful relationships with churches and ministries in North Dallas that are considering partnering with our work in El Salvador.   My brother and his family moved to Dallas in 2013 and I had an incredible week staying with their family and doing ministry as well.

Here are a few trip highlights:

It was such a pleasure to meet Ginnie and Sarah Johnson, authors, speakers, artists and founders of King's Daughters.  Ginne and Sarah were referred to me through Young Women of Vision, Orange County, and they are interested in partnering with our quinceanera outreaches in the future.  Ginnie has generously donated her book, "Trading Up For a King's Daughter" to many of our missionary partners serving in El Salvador.  We spent four hours sharing, laughing and marveling at the amazing things the Lord was doing in our midst.  We had two unexpected guests from El Salvador who joined our meeting and are anxiously watching as future ministry partnerships unfold from our time together.

Mike traveled to Dallas this past fall on a business trip and connected with Mercy Church, Frisco, during his trip.  He developed a significant connection with Mercy Church lead pastor, Jason Brewer, and Mercy Church hopes to send a team to El Salvador in the future.  I really enjoyed my time with Jason, Lindsey and their church family and was honored to speak at Mercy Church about missions and the orphan crisis in El Salvador.

We are continually talking and praying with King's Daughters and Mercy Church about future ministry partnerships in Central America and sense that His Hands His Feet has great potential to grow in the Dallas.   I deeply enjoyed everyone I met during my week in Texas and appreciated the Southern hospitality, conservative values and slower pace of life.  I am definitely looking forward to returning to Dallas again soon to see my incredible family (the picture below shows my brother, niece and nephew) as well as our new friends and family members in Christ.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Feeding The Homeless

Blog post written by Roberta Keenan
Village Church of Irvine, CA
First trip to El Salvador

After a full day and a tasty dinner for 20 prepared by our hosts at the Mission House John and Judy, our team started the process of preparing meals for the homeless.  After doing this for many years, the organizers have this process down pat.  An assembly line was created and 150 sack meals were prepared in about 1/2 hour.  Many hands make light work.  These bags were loaded into the back of Kurt's truck along with as many people as possible, and we set out to bless those much less fortunate than us.  

We were only on the road for a couple of minutes when we made our first stop.  Kurt honked his horn to alert us that he spotted a homeless person, and the guys on the back of the truck jump out to hand out the sacks.  My grandson Stephen was one of the guys in the back.  It was such a joy to watch him approach people with bags of food.  He wasn't shy at all.  He was not only blessing them with food, but gave many of them big bear hugs.  They weren't the most pleasant looking or smelling people, but it didn't matter.  He still approached them and placed his arms around them with a shout of "Dios the bendiga."  We were all there to be Jesus' hand and feet to bless these hurting, struggling people and it felt incredible.  

We continued this process for the next 30 minutes until all of our sacks were delivered.  One stop was at an abandoned train station.  Everyone in the back of the truck was able to get out and deliver the meals personally to people who were sleeping on cardboard boxes.  This was an eye opening experience, especially for first timers like me.  The people were so grateful and expressed their love and appreciation over and over again.  I'm so glad that I finally had the privilege of being part of such an amazing ministry after hearing about it for so many years.  

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for  me." - Matthew 25:35,40