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 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 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 and her son, Stephen, is hoping to serve in El Salvador for nine months in 2015. Valerie and her husband David recently started hosting monthly prayer meetings for El Salvador in their home.  

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 currently talking with a missionary who provides missionary care and support to missionaries, pastors and church leaders about possibly traveling with our March team.  This amazing woman loves to come alongside church leaders and missionaries.  She has been speaking with Sus Hijos to determine their needs and to see how she can best serve them.   Our hope is that she will be able to help Sus Hijos develop a long-term plan for discipleship in the government centers and provide care their staff during the trip.  We are raising support for her trip costs (approximately $1200).  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.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Crean Lutheran High School Trip Report

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

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 9:37-38

Today the students from Crean Lutheran High School, Irvine, shared about their trip to El Salvador in front of their entire student body in chapel.  I was so proud of them!  It warmed my heart to hear the laughter and gasps of emotions from the student body as they watched our touching trip video (made by team member, Jordan Bishop).

The team members shared their trip highlights and put together a wonderful Powerpoint presentation.  It was obvious that their classmates were intrigued and responsive as they listened intently.  I am so thrilled to watch as this incredible Christian school develops a passion for the beautiful people of El Salvador.

Crean has committed to send a second team to El Salvador from July 25-August 1, 2015, and the interest is growing!  I have told many people that this team was my "dream team."  The students from Crean were so easy to work with and they made my job easy.  They were willing to serve, worked incredibly hard and gave sacrificially.  I look forward to serving with these students next year.  I am also honored to serve again alongside the wonderful staff members, Coach David Anderlik (girls' basketball coach/science teacher) and Coach Lindsey Warneke (girls' assistant basketball coach/math teacher).  David and Valerie Anderlik and Lindsey have become dear friends and they are passionate about the ways that God is moving in El Salvador.  They recently started hosting a prayer group for El Salvador on the second Saturday of each month.  It brings me so much joy to watch as others catch the fire that blazes in my heart for El Salvador. 

Our team will be sharing in a chapel service again in January, 2015, to recruit for the summer trip.  Please pray for the students and staff as they continue to share about their experiences in El Salvador and spread the word about ongoing opportunities to serve.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2014 Quinceanera Trip Video

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

Last night we had an incredible trip report for our June 2014 team.  It was wonderful to see so many people gather together to hear how God moved so powerfully through our team of 26 volunteers.  We showed our trip video for the first time and the room was filled with laughter, tears and gasps as we viewed it together.  The video not only includes footage from the quinceanera, but also includes videos taken during meal preparations for the homeless and the visit to the Hernandez family home.   Our 2013 team built a home for the Hernandez family and 2013 team members contributed funds for a home expansion/electricity upgrade this summer.  Both 2014 teams were able to visit the Hernandez family (see blog posts below to read more about their amazing family).

Click here to watch the team video:

El Salvador 2014 Video - HIS HANDS / HIS FEET

We have already scheduled three weeks of El Salvador ministry teams for the summer of 2015 and will be accepting applications this fall:

June 27-July 4 - The Village Church of Irvine
July 4- July 11 - Young Women of Vision (quinceanera)
July 25-Aug 1 - Crean Lutheran High School

Feel free to contact me about our future trips at

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Reflections from American Airlines Flight 1520

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

As I gaze over the luring, turquoise waters of the Caribbean from my passenger seat, I am overwhelmed with emotions.   This week was simply supernatural.  We experienced the undeniable hand of God on our team over and over again.  We felt His presence as we fed the homeless and were reminded that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him (Matthew 25:40).  We fed Him this week and we all knew that He was proud.  We knew He was near when we cared for special needs children who were unable to feed themselves.  We were humbled as we shared our personal stories of faith and watched troubled teenagers living in government orphanages surrender their hearts to the God who created them and sent His son to suffer and die for them. 

Psalm 34:18 says “The Lord is near to the broken hearted.”  I know that everyone on our team felt His nearness this week.  We felt His love over and over again through the passionate commitment of the Sus Hijos ministry team of North Americans and Salvadorians.  We felt His Holy Spirit as we heard stories of trauma and understood the reality of a God who longs to heal and redeem the deepest wounds.   We experienced the true peace of Heaven as we grieved with a church whose pastor just entered eternity.  And we felt His strong presence this morning as we spent time affirming one another in the ways in which we’ve seen our team be the HANDS AND FEET of Jesus to the beautiful people of El Salvador.   

My personal highlight this week was when some of the women on our team gathered with some of the Sus Hijos missionaries, translators and the young women who are part of the transition program.  These girls have been given the incredible opportunity to live in the transition home for two years, where they are learning life skills like cooking, cleaning, laundry and managing money.  They are working at The States Diner and their futures are definitely bright.  We spent four and a half hours sitting on a hard floor in what felt like an intensive therapy session.  Valerie Anderlik led the women through a study on healing that she leads at home.  Many of our team members shared stories of God’s healing in their lives.  This allowed the girls to feel the safety and comfort of knowing that we “get it.”  We were able to hear their stories, weep, encourage and pray for one another.  We experienced an extremely supernatural moment at the end of the evening, which was yet another evidence of God’s tremendous power in the midst of intense darkness.  We were emotionally exhausted when we ended at 12:30 pm, but we knew that hearts had been set free that night.  “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” – John 8:36. 

Yesterday we spent our final day at a beach rental property processing the week, addressing the re-entry challenges that team members will face and encouraging the Sus Hijos team.  Our team members intentionally spent time affirming and praying for the Sus Hijos staff.  We were able to hear the founders of Sus Hijos, Kurt and Susan Ackermann, share their testimonies and were deeply challenged as they shared how God called them to leave their successful lives and comforts in the US to serve orphans in El Salvador.

We celebrated the end of our week together at a traditional pupusa restaurant, where we were entertained by a lively mariachi group.  The city lights near the restaurant were breathtaking.  It was difficult to say good bye last night to the Sus Hijos team and kids from the transition homes and there were many tears.  Our hearts have been knit together and deep friendships have been made.  

Needless to say, we have all left a piece of our hearts in El Salvador and we will never forget the miracles that God has done in our midst.  

Our team members read David Platt’s book, “Radical” in preparation for the trip.  Yesterday we re-read part of “Radical” and were especially struck by this quote:

“Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names.  They are easier to ignore before you see their faces.  It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms.  But once you do, everything changes.” (page 139)

Please pray for our team members as they process the ways in which their hearts have been broken.  Pray that our lives will be different as we return home.  Be intentional as you listen to them share how God moved in their lives this week.  Re-entry can be extremely difficult.  Adjusting to life in a first world country is always challenging after having our eyes opened to third world poverty.  Pray that team members will consider how they spend their time, money, resources and gifts in light of all they have experienced this week.  

Thank you so much for your love, support and prayers of our team.  We are overwhelmed by the donations we received, the hundreds of people who prayed for us, followed our blog and went above and beyond to support our team.  Please continue to follow our blog as we share updates on the ongoing work in El Salvador.   

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Day at the Zoo

Blog post written by Jordan Bishop
Senior, Crean Lutheran High School

On Thursday we took the kids from HIV+ center to the zoo. I didn't know what to expect from them at first. Were they going to be like normal kids? Would I be able to tell that they were HIV+? Will there be a noticeable difference? With all these questions running through my mind, we left the adult disabilities center and picked up the kids for a pizza lunch. The kids were super excited to be able to visit the zoo for their first time. They were jumping up and down with smiles so wide. They were so happy to be able to go with us.  We weren't able to take photos of the kids, but took a group photo (above) with a tiger.

Once at the zoo, we separated into groups with one child, two of our team members, and a translator. Lisa Yamashita and I were paired with a twelve year-old girl. The girl was smiling the whole time we were at the zoo. She was running around and laughing just like any other kid on the planet. You wouldn't even be able to tell that she, or any of the other kids for that matter, were HIV+. We had a great time walking around and bonding with her. She couldn't stop laughing at Lisa and my horrible pronunciation of the animals' names in espaƱol. All of the worries I might have had at the beginning were all forgotten. It was an unforgettable day for all of us and I'm so blessed to have been apart of it.