Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reflections from 2014 Team Members

Corinne and Elise Schroeder were part of the mother/daughter team that served with us in June 2014.   I recently received a copy of the thank you letter that they sent to their donors and was deeply touched by all that they shared.  May their words encourage your hearts...

I am writing to thank you for all that you did to partner with Elise and I in our time of service in El Salvador, and to share some of our experiences that God so generously orchestrated.  

Our week was full of tears and smiles and beauty and pain as we were introduced to 90 girls living in four different orphanages.  Our team of 16 moms and daughters from Young Women of Vision, along with Jenni Ramsey and her team of 10 from The Village Church, combined with wonderful “translators” living in El Salvador who interpreted for us.   As we drove to our first destination on our first day, I reflected on the words from our morning devotion given by the youth pastor, David:  “Just as ‘Jesus looked up’ and saw into peoples’ hearts and souls, we too want to see the hearts of these girls and to listen to their stories.”  

We were given that opportunity as we each took different girls to choose their perfect dress from the 200 dresses that were donated by our wonderful community here in Orange County. I will never forget my time with Eva, a beautiful girl full of kindness, poise and strength who chose a black and cream dress and then a pair of leopard shoes!  When I had the opportunity to sit and talk with her through the help of a translator named Lilly, I learned that she had only been at this center for a few days (brought there by the police after an argument with her aunt).  Through tears she asked for prayer that her parents would choose to come and pick her up from the orphanage that Sunday.  Sunday was the day of our quinceanera.  God chose instead for Eva to remain at the orphanage and to then participate in the quinceanera.  

One of our team members shared her story of childhood abuse and spoke these words of Scripture from Psalm 27:10 to the young ladies, “Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”  The Lord was there pouring out His love on these girls.  They were so full of gratitude and joy from the first moments to the last as many of them were preparing for and then experiencing their very first birthday celebration in this 15th year birthday celebration that holds such meaning in their culture.  I wish you all could have been there to watch them as they proudly entered the ball room at the Holiday Inn with an escort on their arm, full of hope if even for just that evening that one day they might grow up to go to college, or to get a job and to live in a home, or to be married to a man who would love them and care for them.  

I wish you could have heard them scream and jump up and down with delight as each new song began on the dance floor.  And I wish you could have watched them walk through our tunnel of mothers and daughters at the end of the evening with tears rolling down their faces as they were given a parting gift and a goodbye hug.   Please know that your prayers and support resulted in something much bigger than a birthday party for these 90 abandoned girls and that because of the scope of this event, the First and Second Ladies of El Salvador attended and afterward, asked Kurt Ackermann (founder of Sus Hijos and full time missionary in El Salvador) to head up the spiritual formation of all government run orphanages in El Salvador.  

Gabrielle from the main government center shared with us the day after the quinceanera, “I believe that you desired for us to feel like princesses. I want you to know that this is just how we felt.” The girls also expressed that they felt like we were moms to them.  Our eyes were filled with tears as we realized that God had done such a beautiful work in both us and in them.  We had felt His love for these precious girls and they had been able to experience the deep love of our Heavenly Father through this week that we had together. 

There is something that Jesus said to me towards the end of this trip.  He led me to the verses in Psalm 27 that follow those that Jenni shared at each of the centers: “I am confident of this.  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  Psalm 27:13, 14.  Will you join me in praying with persistence for the people of El Salvador and for these abused and neglected children, that they will see the goodness of Jesus in the present, and that they will  live with hope and joy here, on earth, even before they reach their true home?

Hi this is Elise, I just wanted to share one way in which I was specifically impacted by this trip.  The day after the quinceanera we went back to visit  the girls  for the last time.  Many of them shared how we had impacted them.  I will never forget when one girl from the orphanage said how lucky we (the 8 of us YWOV girls) must feel to have the moms we do.  She shared how she couldn’t imagine having such an amazing mom as we all do.  After reflecting on what the girls had shared, I realized how incredibly blessed I am to not only live in Newport Beach, but to have the loving parents that I have been given.  I take my parents for granted and I had never thought about how blessed I am to have them prior to this moment.  Those girls helped me to understand what a privilege it is to have parents who love me unconditionally, support me, and who would never kick me out onto the streets.  My life is truly a dream come true in the eyes of these girls, and now I am able to see through their eyes and learn to appreciate all that I have been blessed with.

Thank you again for helping to bring the Kingdom of God to this area of His world.  Elise and I have been forever impacted by this very special mission experience.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Welcome Mercy Church, Frisco, TX!

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

We're thrilled to announce that a team from Mercy Church in Frisco, Texas, will serve with The Village Church of Irvine this summer in El Salvador.   Mercy Church and Village Church are both part of the Acts 29 Church Network.  Mike connected with Mercy Church this past fall on a business trip and had a deep connection with the lead pastor, Jason Brewer, his church leadership and family.

Their leaders had been praying about possible short-term missions opportunities and sensed the Lord leading them to partner with us in our ongoing work in El Salvador.   I'll be flying to Dallas this April to spend time with the Brewers, get to know their church family and train the team.   My brother and his family also live in the Dallas area so I'm excited to be able to combine a family visit with ministry!

To read more about Mercy Church, visit

Monday, January 5, 2015

El Salvadorians Visit So Cal!

Blog written by Jenni Ramsey

It has been so awesome to have some of our Salvadorian ministry partners in town over the holiday season.

Alberto Urquilla

Alberto served as a translator with Sus Hijos this past summer and is currently attending college in Pennsylvania.  He spent three weeks in So Cal this holiday along with his parents and sister, who flew in from El Salvador.  Here are some photos from our time with Alberto...

Lilly Landaverde

Lilly has served as a translator with Sus Hijos for many years and has close relationships with many of our team members.  Yesterday we had a reunion with Lilly and the Knepper family and over thirty people showed up.  It was so great to reconnect with so many people who have a passion for El Salvador.

Knepper Family 

The Knepper family serves as full time missionaries in El Salvador.  They are currently in Southern California for a missions conference.  We will be hosting a dinner and prayer gathering for their family this Sat, Jan 10.  Kathy and Rachel were able to join us yesterday at the reunion.  We received a large amount of donations for El Salvador and had a blast going through everything with Lilly and Kathy at the party.  We have an ongoing need for clothing, shoes, diapers, formal and hygiene products.  Please contact us if you have donations.    

Stephanie, Roberta, Valerie and I are so thrilled to be able to attend Katie Knepper's quinceanera in El Salvador this March.  

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Stephen Keenan prepares to move to El Salvador

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

Mike and I were privileged to interview Stephen Keenan at The Village Church of Irvine this past Sunday.  Stephen spoke about God's calling on his life to serve in El Salvador and shared how he is able to relate to the fatherless in El Salvador since he grew up without a father.  His personal journey as a Christian reveals the healing power of the Gospel.   He also shared about his grandfather's legacy in missions and it was an emotional morning as we officially commissioned Stephen as a Village Church missionary.

Stephen will fly to El Salvador on January 14, where he'll serve with Sus Hijos/His Children for one year.  It has been so encouraging for me to personally be involved in Stephen's calling to El Salvador. Stephen and his mom, Stephanie, first served on one of our summer teams when he was just 14 years old.  He's been serving yearly since that time and is dearly loved by the people of El Salvador.

Stephen originally planned to move to El Salvador in the summer of 2013 after graduating from high school.  However, he suffered a serious back injury just two weeks before the trip and had to postpone his move.  To read more about Stephens injury and calling to El Salvador, click on the following publications:

Brethren Magazine - Brethren Christian Junior and Senior High School - Fall 2013
"Mission:  Detoured -  Sometimes God Reveals Direction by Accident"

The Orange County Register - July 30, 2013
"I'm Glad I Can Walk Again"

Stephen and his grandma, Roberta, served on our Guatemala team last Thanksgiving as he recovered from his back injury.  Needless to say, the Keenans have become like family to our family!

Stephen has already received generous support from family and friends.  His monthly budget is $600/month.  If you would like to support Stephen in his work, go to, where you can donate online.  Please pray for Stephen as he transitions to life in El Salvador.  He will specifically be serving the young men who have phased out of government orphanages and live in Sus Hijos' boys' transition home.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to use him powerfully as he shares his story, serves these young men and walks with them in daily life.  Stephen will also be involved in orphanage ministry, feeding the homeless, special needs centers, Sus Hijos' new restaurant and building projects.

Last night we had a gathering of family and friends come together to encourage and pray for Stephen.  More than 50 people came to show their love and support.  Thank you for praying for Stephen and for partnering with him in the work of the gospel!

Stephanie, Roberta and I will be visiting Stephen and the Sus Hijos/His Children ministry team in March of 2015.  We will be doing missionary care/support during on this trip and attending the quinceanera for one of the missionary families that we partner with.  We also look forward to serving alongside Stephen with our three short-term teams in the summer of 2015.

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers in to his harvest field.” - Matthew 9:35-38

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Meet the YWOV Junior Class

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

Last night I had the privilege of speaking on the importance of serving (Romans 12:1-2) at the Young Women of Vision (YWOV) Junior Class in Newport Beach.  These beautiful mothers and daughters will be serving in El Salvador in July of 2015 and hosting our third quinceanera for a Catholic girls' home.  I especially loved spending time with the girls at the end of the evening, answering questions about life, dating, college, missions, spiritual warfare and more.  I'm so excited to see how the Lord is going to work in their lives as they prepare to serve in El Salvador from July 4-11!

The YWOV Junior Class consists of 36 women (18 pairs of mothers and daughters).  Please be praying for this group of women as they make some difficult decisions about family schedules next summer.  Some already have conflicts with the kids' sports schedules.  Pray that God speaks to each family and pray for all of the details as they begin the application and fundraising process.  I look forward to meeting with them again in January and seeing all that God is doing to do in and through them in 2015.  

"And do not forget to do good, and to share with others.  For with such sacrifices, God is pleased." - Hebrews 13:16

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

March Quinceanera/Missionary Care Trip

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

I am thrilled to announce that I'll be traveling to El Salvador this March with former team members, Stephanie Keenan, Roberta Keenan and Valerie Anderlik.  The purpose of the trip is to attend the quinceanera (a traditional Latin 15th birthday celebration) for one of the missionary family's daughters and to provide missionary care for our ministry partners, Sus Hijos.   Both Stephanie and Valerie have a deep passion for El Salvador and will be serving on our 2015 summer teams.  The March trip will be Stephanie's sixth trip to El Salvador. Stephanie and her mom, Roberta (who has served with All Blessings in Guatemala) are looking forward to visiting Stephen, who will move to El Salvador in January, 2015, to serve for a year. Valerie and her husband David recently started hosting monthly prayer meetings for El Salvador in their home and will be co-leading a team from Crean Lutheran High School with me next July.  

What's so special about a quinceanera?

In 2011 our summer team was spending time with teen girls living in a government center.  It became glaringly clear that one of the greatest heartbreaks of these young women was the fact they would never have a quinceanera.  Quinceanera celebrations are a rite of passage into adulthood for Latin American girls.  They are often more significant than even wedding celebrations.  Sadly, many of the kids who live in government centers have never had a birthday party.  Some don't even know their date of birth.  We committed to return the following year to host a quinceanera for the teen girls and the event surpassed our wildest dreams.  Our short-term teams have been so honored to host two large quinceaneras over the past two years.  We will be throwing our third quinceanera in July of 2015.  To read about those quinceaneras, visit the July posts below in 2014 and 2012.

The Knepper Family

Our team met the Knepper family in 2011 while serving at a boys' home (run by Calvary Chapel, San Salvador).  It was truly a "divine appointment" since they were not originally planning to work with our team that week.  We quickly fell in love with their family and they have been partnering with our teams for the past four years.  They Kneppers are sent out by Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa.  Our team members have been so blessed to spend time with them on their home assignments in Southern California.  Kathy was able to attend our daughter Hailey's adoption court hearing in June of 2013. It was so special to have her there!

The Kneppers pastor a church in San Ana, El Salvador.  They are also involved in a number of ministries including hospital visits and orphanage work (in partnership with Sus Hijos).  The Knepper's oldest daughter, Katie, will celebrate her quinceanera on March 7th.  I have developed a very close relationship with Katie over the past few years and am so excited to celebrate her quinceanera in El Salvador!  Katie is pictured below (in the gorgeous, yellow dress) at the 2014 quinceanera celebration for teen girls:

Missionary Care for Sus Hijos

Our team is also looking forward to providing missionary care and encouragement to Sus Hijos, the organization that we partner with in San Salvador.  The staff of Sus Hijos are an incredible group of Salvadorians and North Americans.  They labor selflessly day after day to provide spiritual, physical and emotional support to men, women and children who have been marginalized in El Salvador.  We are looking forward to spending one on one time with their staff without a large team during this trip.

We are raising support for our trip costs (approximately $1000/person).  If you would like to help with this need, you can send a tax deductible check to All Blessings, 95 Spring Valley, Irvine, CA 92602.  Thank you for your prayers and support as we continue to serve His children in El Salvador!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Village Church El Salvador Trip Report

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers in to his harvest field.'” - Matthew 9:35-38

We are so grateful to be part of a church that has such a strong commitment to missions.  The Village Church of Irvine has two international areas of focus in El Salvador and South Africa.  We are honored to send short-term teams overseas annually to both of these areas of the world with a focus on serving orphans and those who are impacted by HIV/AIDS.   Last month our 2014 summer teams were invited to share how God moved through the teams in our church service.  It was so incredible to see how many people from our small church had served the Lord in short-term missions this summer.

We are also excited by the fact that so many team members continue to return year after year, with a long-term commitment to the countries in which they serve.  During the trip report one of the members of the South Africa team, Bryan Watanabe, announced that his family is praying about moving to South Africa long-term.  There were tears in his eyes as he shared how God has burdened his family and broken their hearts for the South African people.  There are also four El Salvador team members who are praying about moving to El Salvador in the future.  We are thrilled that God is raising up workers within our midst!

Please pray that God continues to raise up both short-term and long-term laborers for our ongoing work in El Salvador and South Africa.  Pray for our team leaders and ministry partners, that they will be filled with the Holy Spirit as they support, encourage and lead others to take the gospel to the nations.  And finally, pray for those whom God is calling to serve in 2015; that their hearts will be open to leave the comforts of home for the life changing experience of serving in his marvelous harvest field.