El Salvador 2013

Kent and I flew to El Salvador, which I had been missing so much, last Monday. It is now our last day here. The kids are doing homework while we are editing a few of our many photos from the trip. I can’t believe we’ll be heading home on a plane tonight. I will miss all of the kids from Esther’s House and the moms so much. They are always and forever a huge part of my life. As we were on this plane I became overwhelmed with how big God is. I can only see the little balls of light in the distance, while He can see each ant, each soul, everything. He loves and knows it all. He sees each act of injustice and weeps. He sees each salvation and sings over us. Beauty.

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This was the first day that Kent and I got to see the kids and moms of Esther’s House. This is always my favorite part of the trip. I get to see how much the kids have grown since I’ve seen them last. I get to hear their little voices yell “Ashleigh” (usually pronounced Aaaa-tttteee or J’Ashaleee), hear their giggles, and see their big beautiful smiles. It’s not too long before the kids ask where my iPhone is so that they can take hilarious pictures and videos of themselves. My heart is full once again. I tear up just thinking about these special moments. After the kids went to school we went to Santa Tecla for some food shopping. We were getting food for Esther’s House and for our trip later that week to feed the homeless. It’s safe to say that during this first day the kids fell in love with Kent, and I do believe he has fallen in love with them as well. (We also can’t forget about meeting Beth’s cute, yet highly hostile kitten, Maggie.)

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While leaving the house on this particular morning I had the privilege of seeing Haily and Luis who were previously staying in Casa Ester. It was so fun seeing them again. Luis was shy and smiley, while Haily walked right up to me calling me by name. They’ve gotten so big over the past few months. When we arrived at Esther’s House the kids were being hipsters with their rubber band head bands.
That afternoon we got to meet up with my friend Emily Adams who happened to be in Salv at the same time as us with her school, Eastern University. We got to tour a martyrs type museum for quite recent issues that had happened in El Salvador. We learned that faithfulness to God is one of the most important characteristics a person could possess. I’m so thankful for having the opportunity to visit this place.

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We brought some chalk down to El Salvador for the kids to play with. Oh boy did they love it. When the excitement of that had worn off, Emily and her class from Eastern University stopped by Esther’s House for a tour. The kids loved the attention form the school team and I think the kids won a good few of the student’s hearts over. We played a Q&A game after the information and tour of Casa Ester was over. One of the girls from Esther’s House had a turn in the game to ask someone a question. That silly girl would ask me when Kent and I were going to get married. We all laughed and this had become a joke for the rest of the week (silly Mikey.)

That night we had the privilege to visit one of our sponsor children, Katia. Katia is paralyzed from the waist down. It was such a blessing to see her scoot around on her prosthetic legs. The joy, giggles, and smiles from her would melt your heart. Her mom and dad were so proud of her. So much love in such a poor family. They know the real meaning of happiness.

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This day we all got to pile onto the back of a pickup truck and head to the beach! I look forward to doing this each time I come. Spending the whole day relaxing and giggling with the kids is so awesome. This beach adventure, Kent and I got totally decked with an unexpected tide that thoroughly soaked my towel. This thing came out of no where and came up over five feet from where the tide came up just the wave before. I heard Kent say something, then heard a noise, and jumped up trying to grab my things from being taken into the ocean by the unwelcoming tide.

Over all the day was great–kids, laughter, tans, beaches, pools, The Explicit Gospel, devotions, Muuucha Carne, and flat bed riding.

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On this day we spent the day with Miss Beth’s church, Presencia de Dios. We attended Sunday morning church, threw Martha a birthday party there, then went out with the church to feed the homeless elderly.

I’ve been to this homeless shelter before. I could’t believe that almost five months later some of those same people were still going to the shelter. The sweet elderly who most likely worked hard all of their lives come here each night to sleep on a smelly bed(it’s one of the worst smells ever), then have to leave by six the next morning. They aren’t guaranteed to get food, either. This church just happens to go each Sunday afternoon to feed and minister to them. Watching their little wrinkly hands lifted to the Lord and their gratefulness to Him will change you forever. The picture of the elderly couple with me in it is so important to me. I saw these folks there last time and they remembered me. Just looking into that man’s eyes will bring you to tears. Each time I look at him I just want to worship the Lord and pray for His safety. He certainly warms my heart.

The last shall indeed be first.

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      The last few days  in El Salv are always the hardest. It’s hard to believe that I’m going to wake up the next day without seeing the kids, but it happens.
We had two World Mission Advance missionaries come to visit us. During devotions we learned that God directs us each step on each piece of the puzzle. We can’t see why certain things happen, but we can trust the outcome. The Lord is in charge of putting everything together and we are in charge of walking in faithful obedience.
One afternoon we went out to eat at a pupuseria that was on top of a hill looking out over the city. The yummy pupusas were $1.75 intead of the usual 25 cents or so. It is a luxury for the El Salvadorians. The look out from that restaurant was beautiful. We could see the soccer court from there and the guy next door screaming at the game. It was quite terrifying at first, but then we realized he was flipping chairs and screaming in joy. It became funny after that revelation…
We got to pile on the back of a pickup truck and go into the city around 9 or 10pm to feed 150 homeless folks. As we drove around in the dark we would see homeless men, women, and children laying along the sides of buildings on the streets. They would get up from where they were lying or sleeping, put some clothing on if they didn’t have any on, and come running as fast as their broken hurting bodies could run to come get some juice, a sandwich, and snacks. Most of these homeless people are rougher looking than any I’ve seen on the streets in America. In one area the homeless line up and make their home on an abandoned train station. They made a bathroom for themselves on that concrete station behind an old train cart. It’s quite heartbreaking. The smell is unimaginable. They are so grateful for the little meal we give them. They’ll even wake up their friends if they are sleeping to make sure they get a meal too. Oh, how the Lord loves them. We are so blessed.
I’m so grateful for the time I got to spend in El Salvador for my fourth time with these beautiful people. It was such a blessing having Kent along this time. I’m excited to go back maybe sometime this fall or next spring, Lord willing.

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