Today was a crazy day! We started today with horseback riding which was very scary! My horse was very disobedient and didn’t want to stop but started to run like crazy the only thing that I could do was hold on for my life! I prayed to God and asked him to keep me safe! I yanked on the reins and the horse came to a sudden hault and it almost through me over board! Later on we went to the thermal spring it was beautiful there with tall water slides and nice palm trees! We went down the water slides and then we went in the wave pool!
Tonight I preached on the Sabbath! The crowd was very attentive and every one there accepted the Sabbath truth! Later the pastor made a appeal and 7 people came forward! Today was a awesome day and God was with us and portected us from the horses! It is simply amazing to see God work!
- Greg Shaffer
August 19, 2010
Today was an interesting day. After a strange rainshower of various and sundry items over the top of the wall separating our room and the guy’s room – including pillows and toilet paper – we started off with worship. This morning was my turn to give the devotional thought so I shared briefly a few thoughts on the previous night’s message and how God had worked even in the midst of my feelings of unwellness. We also all had the opportunity to sample the joys of Pedialyte (an electrolite replacer). We had decided to visit a local vegetarian restaurant and I was looking forward to it. So shortly, after worship, all of us except Greg Shaffer, who was going on visitation with his pastor, pilled into Oscar’s van. Oscar is our driver for activity days. Once we reached the restaurant, we discovered that they had a great lunch buffet, so we decided to do to run to the supermarket, Super Selectos, first and then return for lunch.
Oscar was really sweet. throughout that morning and afternoon, he called Pastor Tara to check in with us and make sure we were all right. We passed him with his other appointment in downtown Santa Ana, and all of his riders smiled and said hi to us. Oscar has a lot of Adventist family, but does not himself believe. He loves our faith though, and I pray that we will influence him to make a decision.
We got to the mall, and in a short time Pastor Cruz arrived to pick me up. At first I was afraid my flip-flops were too casual, but as we picked our way through the rain-puddles and ubiquitous litter mixed with mud, I realized the practicality of my chosen footwear. We started by picking up Hermano Hugo and his wife, Hermana Silvia, leaders of the church where I preach and driver of the truck picking up and dropping off the people each night. Pastor Cruz has nine churches so it is really his elders and deacons who run the churches. Hermano Hugo is one of 3 or 4 men who help and support me each night and on Sabbath morning. Then we picked up another active church member, and her mother and daughter. We went to see Marta about two or three houses down in their same neighborhood.
Marta, was one of the girls who had hung back to talk with me after the sermons, once or twice. She had asked me how old I was, if I was married, and if I had children. I remember smiling and explaining that I was only 24, and that I was single and childless. I had been surprised to learn that she was just 14 and remember thinking the whole thing was just cute. But as we talked to her, her child started crying, and the Pastor told her to go ahead and attend to the child. She came back with a little girl (I think) and started to nurse, and at that point I realized that the child was her’s. It suddenly clicked for me. She must have assumed that someone my age would have almost certainly had a child.
I have never really been on a pastoral visit before and had been looking forward to it. I watched as Pastor Cruz patiently and simply explained the process of re-birth and repeatedly emphasized that, while it was ultimately her decision; Now, was the time for baptism. I watched as he answered her objections and fielded her excuses, the way he was gentle yet persistent with her. It was as if he were making an alter call except that it was just for her. It struck me that this is what Paul was talking about in 1 Cor 4:15-17, Gal 4:19, & 1 Peter 5:1-5. I began to understand that to pastor or elder, meant not just preaching and teaching, but bringing new infant christians into the world, nurturing them into maturity, and launching them to do likewise, as Pastor Cruz demonstrated through his labor pains with Marta, and his apprenticeship of his church members and their children (and me).
Marta did not then make a decision for Christ and for baptism, but Pastor Cruz and Hugo both assured me that they would continue to labor with her. I pray for her now, daily. Please add your prayers to mine, both for Marta, and for the many others who stand at the brink of decision but have not yet been re-born in Christ.
In His Service,
Sunday, Day 13 Mission Report
Fruits in El Salvador are like music in the States. In America we say, “Have you heard the new Kanye album?” And here we say, “There’s a new kind of papaya out!” Or, “It’s Hocotes season! Check out this new breed!” Delon and I are actually working on a Hocotes theme song, keep an ear out. The roads here are so bumpy you can literally feel whatever you just ate or drank sloshing around in your stomach. I see so many beautiful faces looking on to the sidewalks of El Salvador as the road scrambles my insides.
This morning we all went to the Mission (conferance headquarters) for a meeting with the two other ShareHim groups that are now in El Salvador. One is an American group mostly from California and the other group is from the Dominican Republic. The D.R. group looks so powerful in Christ, so cool, young, and strong, so confident that I see them as evangelizing super heroes. Delon and I were the last ones to leave the house on our way to the Mission and apparently I left the front door unlocked. The house is in a rough neighborhood in El Salvador and no one broke in the whole 4 hours we were gone. God is most definitely with us. I mean, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalms 23:6.) God’s mercy is just unbelievable.
There’s actually a “watchman” who rides around at night on his bicycle with a wailing train-like whistle he blows to let you know your safe. We hear him all night long and Delon imagines that he drives in slow motion.
I’ve realized that in this group, Amanda and I are the most similar. We’re both very introspective, inside our own world and journals. And thank God we both have Pastor Mario Cruz as our host pastor. He also has a self-reserved demeanor and reminds me of an old school gangster for Christ. He works for God and dresses like a smooth criminal, hustling from church to church and baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Those same skills of hustling and organization could potentially have been used in the drug game and organized crime but he’s using them for God. Every one has gifts that can be used by Satan or Christ. The decision is ours, and every moment God gives us the choice, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15.) Pastor Cruz is very inspiring, writing and preaching 15 sermons a week, visiting his 9 churches and the members, writing articles for the Ministry Tribune publication, raising his son Roy Andrews with his lovely wife Sylvia and being a loving, kind person. I got a bilingual evangelist named Harvey Miller to ask Sylvia how she met Pastor Cruz. She said he came to pastor at her church three times. The first time they didn’t like each other, the second time they were engaged and the third time they got married. When asked what she saw in him that sparked her interest she said she saw him kneel down to pray and noticed his shoes were polished, his socks matched his trowsers, and he prayed fervently. I’ve noticed that all the host pastors have AMAZING superwoman wives.
Tomorrow’s my birthday and I’m in El Salvador. How about that? Just drove by cows eating trash like it was grass.
Life is short and life is strange, time is vain and times have changed.
I will never feel the same, I will never feel the same.
I can easily say my 22nd year of life has been my craziest yet. 1) Got baptized. 2) Did colporteuring with the Pennsylvania Youth Challenge and witnessed countless miracles. 3) Went to El Salvador to evangelize. 4) Produced a song with Delon for The Roots that was released internationally. 5) Filmed two proffessional quality music videos. 6) Encountered some of the most amazing and inspiring people I’ve ever met.
Pastor Cruz offered to take me on an adventure for my birthday from 8 AM to 3 PM and I’m so down. It’s a shame I don’t get to spend my birthday with the group but we’ll have the night to spend together at least, God willing.
At my church site, La Providencia; 11 to 12 people said they want to get baptized on the decision cards we handed out and 3 people were baptized tonight. Praise the Lord. The church has really been warming up to me. They (Irid, specifically) made me INCREDIBLE pupusas (Philly is to cheese steak as El Salvador is to papoosa), these circular tortillas stuffed with deliciousness and some FANTASTIC hot oatmeal juice. And now the boys at the church call me brother and hug me. One of the children named Esteban was baptized today. He’s very young and I wonder what his decision means to him. Please pray that we will all stay faithful and continue growing in Christ. And please pray that all of those who keep putting off baptism in the valley of indicision will choose today to serve the Lord with all their heart, soul and mind and go down into that watery grave; specifically Homer, Brian and Sandra.
Thank you and God bless you.
Day 14, Monday, August 23
So today me and pastor Tara, Amanda and Pastor Montano went horseback riding. This time was even better than the first time. Pastor Tara rode her favorite and i rode the no name crazy one, and Amanda rode the paint. The ride was very interesting. Rafaelle surprised me by pulling a freshly killed rabbit out of a bag and handing it to me laughing. It was kinda weird but funny at the same time. Me and Pastor Tara raced. She insisted that she won, but we all know better :) The second time i rode my favorite the gray that i named Cataschnickey. They did not have enough saddles, so I rode bareback, which was fun. He is young but a really good horse. The rancher Rafaelle is
a really nice man and I like him alot. He does not charge us anything, he just likes to see us have a good time. While we were riding I saw a few people from my church and they were really surprised to see me. It was really cool. We went to eat at the vegetarian restaurant in Santa Ana, and it was good. I was really hungry because riding takes a lot out of you.
That night at church was really good. The sermon went good. The people were a little loud, which was kinda frustrating but i know part of it was beacause there was a deaf person there, and that created a lot of commotion, but it was still a good night. Afterwards Pastor Montano came to pick me up. No one wanted to leave so we were all there talking and laughing. The people seemed to get a kick out of my horror that there was a frog the size of a small dog around my church.
Mauricio, my favorite boy at my church, is going to go with us to the beach on Tuesday, so tonight he slept at our house and he really liked it. We stayed outside at the church for maybe 2 hours after the service ended and it was nice! It got really dark because there were no lights, but other than that everything was swell.
- Alyssa Bianco
Santa Ana, El Salvador
Day 15, Tuesday, August 24
We woke up reluctantly at about six in the morning to what would possibly be one of the best days of each of our lives. At about six-thirty, our faithful tour guide arrived to take us to the beach resort. We all packed our swim suits into the van and departed. We had no idea what paradise was ahead of us.
Yesterday on the news El Salvador received a Hurricane warning. Beaches were supposed to be closed and weather conditions were expected to be ugly. Most of the team gave up hope on spending the day at the beach. Our plans seemed to be ruined. Then something happened that flipped the script of the bad weather prophets-The pastor prayed. Pastor Tara said a prayer to God asking him for a clear and peaceful day. Her prayer was answered times ten. The movie Avatar presented a colorful world of mind boggling creations in 3D. Today, what we saw proved that no man’s imagination could even remotely surpass the creative Genius of the only true and wise God. It was almost as if God took Holy windex, sprayed it on the windows of nature, removed all the spots of distraction and said, “look what I made for you.” We saw hills and valleys of perfect shades of green. We saw the horizon kiss the sky. We saw mountains pass the clouds. We saw spiders. We saw lotus and real grass hoppers. We saw life. Today Creation yelled to the top of its lungs, “Look what God can do!!” We were all mesmorized by the tedious handy crafts of God.
Among the many wonders we saw today was a volcano. This monster of a mountain screamed, “Humble yourselves!!” Why do humans glorify themselves when even things on earth belittle them? One eruption from that volcano could silence thousands. The volcano appeared dark-brown from a distance. We took pictures with and of it. I still can’t believe I got a chance to see such a creation. It was awesome!!
We arrived at the resort which was the portal to the great pacific ocean. The waves of the water seemed to long for surfers. Greg, Alyssa, and, Mauricio were the first ones in the water. Mauricio is an incredible child who seemed to have been dealt a terrible deck of cards. Alyssa asked if he could sleep at our home since his only other option was outside, and he did. Apparently, his keepers are angry at his attendance and baptism at the evengelistic series. They show their anger by locking him out when he gets home after they do. While Greg, Alyssa, and Mauricio got their first taste of the ocean, Amanda rocked back and forth in a Hammock as she read her Bilble. Lee rocked with sunglasses on. I on the other hand, was in my own world as I ran back and forth to the trash can spitting out hocotes seeds. Hocotes are nature’s special candy reserved for those with great taste. I think they might also be halucinogens because today felt like a dream. Pastor Tara ran around with her camera trying to capture and recapture special moments. She clearly had her own memory recording agenda. I finally entered the water. The waves tossed and pulled me; Twisted and turned me. I have never seen waves as big as what I saw today. They resembled thick pipes that stretched across the ocean as they turned. We all ran into the waves, jumped over the ways, tripped on the waves, and travelled on the waves. The beach was wondeful. The pacific ocean packed a specific blast.
After we came from the ocean, we entered the pools. The pools were a vital part of the day, because it was there that Alyssa taught me to swim. Learning to swim was a combination of faith, strength and will power. I still have a long way to go but I am happy with the progress that was made. Coconuts, rice, plantains, beans, and salad followed an incredible time in the resort’s pools. We all ate and were satisfied as the food went well with the empty stomach created by the struggle with water. After eating, some of us travelled to our own world of alone time while others chose to continue conquering waves. Pastor Tara swinged in a Hammock as she obviously talked to Caleb on the phone. Lee swinged in a hammock while studying his sermon. I chose to fall asleep in a hammock as the ocean breeze snuggled my body. When quiet time was over it was time to go home.
We loaded the van and travelled. The ride was silent. Some slept while others contemplated. We drove back through the sun and into the rain. God kept the storm from getting to us before we were finished at the beach. On our way back, all the places we stopped to see when we were going were completely covered in fog. The curtain had been closed.
The show was over. The time had come for us to preach again. We are grateful that all went well in the evening with our sermons. Praise God for all His many blessings!
- Delon Lawrence
Today I believe I saw the Spirit work powerfully. Last night, our opening night of the evangelistic series, had been challenging, and
I had been discouraged. So when Pastor Tara asked me what time I wanted to wake up, I decided to wake up around 6 AM, with the others,
even though the Pastor overseeing my church wouldn’t be there to get me until 8:45, after the others had left, and we getting to bed
late. I knew I would need the time to pray. I am a morning person, but I don’t wake up quickly, or function well on less than 8-10 hours
of sleep. So when I woke up around 4 or 4:30 this morning, it was a little of a surprise. I struggled against tiredness, but I eventually
realized that God was not going to let me sleep. I couldn’t shake the sense that I needed to pray and review the morning and evening
sermons. So around 5:22, I began to pray, not really knowing what to pray or even being able to focus on prayer. I also started practicing
and editing my sermons, focusing especially on the morning message, entitled Sleeping through the Sirens, which was on signs of the end.
After awhile, I heard the others get up and I joined them for breakfast. After talking and frankly, being distracted, I realized
that I was going to be late unless I got in the shower. I HATE cold showers, but I determined that I was going to stand right under the
blast, quit being a wimp, and get it over with. I told myself that real missionaries had far worse things to endure and that it would be
character-building. While in the shower, my friendly fellow evangelists decided to play a trick on me and told me, “Amanda, are you almost
ready? Your Pastor’s here.” Of course, being that I’m often late, I believed them. So I hurried to rinse off and get out. I got out and
slipped into my skirt and blouse, only to discover that they had been kidding me. But I had conquered the cold shower.
Soon enough, though, the Pastor did arrive, and I chose to use the time to continue in prayer and spiritual preparation. The ride
was somewhat longer since we first had to drop off Lee. Also the roads were very rough—pot-holed, and rutted. I prayed for the host church.
I prayed for the visitors I was preaching to, and church members who were not yet fully convicted and converted. I prayed that I would preach
with passion and conviction. And I prayed for the annoiting of the Holy Spirit. I realized that while I knew and thought, in my head, that the
world is ending, and Jesus is coming soon, I didn’t believe it or want to believe it with my heart. I realized that I was confusing the extremism
and wild conspiracy theories of some, with the substance of genuine belief; and that that confusion was feeding an attitude of skepticism. So I asked
God to reveal to me a balanced and rational understanding of His truth, and to give me a passion to share the message.
The morning started off more or less like last night, and I found myself in constant prayer for a pleasent attitude, knowing that across
the language barrier, a smile would be my only means of personally blessing the people. God heard my prayers. Two little girls, sisters, had taken
to me almost immediately, and would run up to greet me and shake my hand during every meet-and-greet song during the service. The youth and young
adults of the church were friendly, enthusiastic, and competent leaders in the church. I felt smiles welling up and spilling over every time I turned
to greet someone—even in the midst of my frustrations. Then came time for the main service. I was confused alot since the head elder kept looking to
me to lead out or give a word, yet I often could not understand, even with translation, what he wanted. At the last minute, after the opening hymn,
they asked me for the scripture text, and I had to pull one up on the spot. I was then grateful that I had studied this morning, and was able to choose
Matthew 24:30 as a suitable sermon text reference.
I preached with all the enthusiasum and energy I could muster, but I still feared I was not dynamic enough to meet their cultural expectations.
Some of the members seemed almost asleep and little children were running around in the back. I feared the head elder and the two youth leaders might have
been the only ones listening. But as approached the climax of the sermon, something began to change. As I half-read, half-recited from memory, Matthew 24:14 and Revelation 14:6-7; I felt my skin tingle and flush, I heard my voice rise in volume, and take on a passion and conviction previously inaccessible to me. I was as though I was not speaking but that someone else, was speaking through me. I believe the Holy Spirit came upon me. I continued in this way until I reached near the end of the appeal, at which point my slides got out of sync and my clicker quit communicating with the laptop. I believe I was seeing the Great Controversy being played out before me. God heard and powerfully ansered my prayers to work on me and through me.
This experience has strengthened my faith in God’s call and purpose for me in El Salvador. I pray for still greater faith and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I would ivite all of you to join me in this prayer.
In His Service,
Sunday, Day 6
I have posted some amazing reports from the students participating as evangelists on this trip. Their experiences that they’ve shared after
returning from our evening evangelistic meetings each evening have caused me to laugh and cry. I hope you’ve enjoyed the stories they’ve written for this
mission report blog. I am so proud of our team and I praise God for what He’s doing in and through each of them. Today, it is my turn to share.
This Sunday morning, we woke up early to leave the house by 7:30am for worship and meeting at the Mission Office. Each of the student evangelists
and the local pastors discussed how the first meetings have gone and how we can improve. After this, it was time to work on sermons and prepare for
our evening meetings. Tonight we made a very important appeal to follow Jesus and surrender their lives to Him. It was a beautiful gospel presentation
and our first altar call.
Last night at Amanda’s site, two girls raised their hands to accept Jesus. At Alyssa’s site one person was baptized that evening and two more committed
to baptism after her appeal. At Greg’s site, he had the opportunity to pray for healing for a little boy and the mom was crying all through his prayer.
At Lee’s site, a couple that has been going back and forth about committing to Christ, surrendered to him and said they want to be baptized! At Delon’s
site he had everyone’s attention and many talked afterwards about surrendering to Jesus. At my campaign site, there were many who surrendered to Christ
as I made the longest appeal I have ever made. I felt the Holy Spirit leading my words, saw tears in people’s eyes and invited them to come forward. We
all had powerful experiences with the sermon and appeal last night and we really see God working among all classes of people – poor and professional –
impressing their hearts with God’s amazing love!
It’s been a great experience leading this group, and preaching an evangelistic series myself here in El Salvador. The West Mission has really
devoted pastors and its been such a pleasure to join them in the evangelistic efforts with their churches. It’s encouraging to me as a pastor
to know that I have such amazing collegues in other parts of our world church!
The site that I am preaching at is a 3-sided government building with a metal roof and an open recreation area. This campaign is the joint
effort of three beautiful churches, lead by Pastor Juan Montano. He is the ShareHim coordinator for this Mission and he and his wife have been
fantastic! They are around the same age as Caleb and I too, which has been fun. His mother-in-law cooks amazing meals for us everyday for lunch and
then the church members provide us dinner each evening.
When I met with the church leaders on Thursday night before the meetings began, I told them that there was a church in Philadelphia called Chestnut Hill
Seventh-day Adventist Church that was joining them in prayer for all that God would do during our time together. That even as we are serving here, there
are members who are over 4,000 miles away who are a part of this evangelistic effort. You – my dear community – were an encouragement to them, and I pray
that they are an encouragement to you.
One of the most powerful experiences for me so far was yesterday, on Sabbath. After my sermon about the signs of the coming of Jesus, I felt impressed
to make an invitation for anyone to share the burdens of their heart and to have special prayer with me. One at a time, people came up to me as I stood
under the tree in the courtyard area of the church yard, and shared the burdens of their hearts.
As my translator and I ministered together, we heard stories about cancer, gang activity, engagements, abuse, family members who left the church,
sick babies, and addictions – and we prayed with each person, seeking the throne of grace on their behalf. As Luis, my translator, and I flowed seamlessly in conversation and in prayer, I sensed the Holy Spirit rest on us. There were many people who looked up after we said amen, with tears flowing
down their faces. It was a powerful experience of God’s grace!
I praise God for this experience, especially because I was praying to be able to minister even though I only speak a little bit of Spanish. I felt a
burden on my heart, as I do while ministering at Chestnut Hill, that I needed to make an invitation and to seek God with them in prayer. I followed what
God said and despite the language barrier meaningful connections and pastoral ministry took place!
One of the things that I have been pleasantly surprised with is the receptivity and excitement amoung the people to see a woman pastor. In this
country there are many women serving as elders and head elders. One of them shared with me that she was so happy to see me serving, because she
has prayed for the day women would be able to be pastors in our church, “and now here is the answer to my prayers,” she said. Men and women, young and
old, lay members and pastors all alike have been welcoming and supportive. They have invited me to minister here and embraced me with open arms.
I am encouraged that God is doing a work in our world-wide Seventh-day Adventist Church to draw us together around our mission and purpose in these
days before Jesus returns. As we unite together in God’s work – telling His precious children of His love and the truth in His Word – we will be
able to resist the arguments and “discussions” than can alienate us from each other and distract us from our calling.
It has been such a privilege to minister in El Salvador. Yesterday, one of the elders said to me, “We really like you and when you leave, a part of
our heart will go with you.” I can honestly echo the same in return – a part of my heart will remain here in El Salvador.
Know that all of you are on my heart and continue to be in my prayers!
Signing off from Santa Ana, El Salvador,
Last night something hilarious happened. Delon saw Pastor Tara throwing out papaya seeds and was like, “What are you doing?!” He said that he used to eat papaya seeds in the islands and we were crazy for throwing them out. I personally would never think to eat them because they look like fish eggs but Delon exlaimed, “We used to eat those by the spoon full!” So Pastor Tara invted him, “Go ahead!” So Delon took a big spoon full and shoved it in his mouth. At first he was all into it like, “This is medicine in the islands dude!” I looked away for a second and then looked back to find his face with this serious, distraught expression. He was chewing slowly now with his mouth slightly open and then… “I was wrong. I was wrong… These things taste like shoe polish! I just ate motor oil! It burns! My stomach!” We laughed so hard we cried. That was rich.
Earlier that night I did my first alter call. No one came forward but a young couple decided to be baptised that night. I’m falling in love with the church I’ve been preaching at, La Providencia in El Salvador. The people are so kind and sincere. Even though we don’t speak the same language there is always such reverance, respect and love in the worship and I know I will miss them when I go.
It was obvious today that we were sleep-deprived. Everyone was on edge but we still had some big laughs. Today the group had an all-time high of arguments. 9 out of 10 conversations quickly turned into disputes within minutes and we hit a new record by 1:30 PM! And best of all, we’re in a foreign country and can’t escape each other! Today we went to the grocery store to get pens, crayons and notebooks that we’ll give to young students at a school tomorrow. On our way back home the car was overpacked so we had to squeeze four people into the back seat and I got the privelage of riding with my head out the window like a dog down a busy El Salvadorian city street; breaze blowing in my face and squinted eyes shielded by my glasses. I looked up at the vibrant blue sky with whisps of white clouds wondering if the sky in Philly looked the same… Probably not.
I gazed ahead as we sailed towards a huge green mountain clothed with trees grass and shrubs that stood proud and tall like a prize against the sky, causing the brightly colored houses and stores we passed to seem pale in comparison. I smiled in awe as I beheld this small piece of the beautiful earth God has made. We have tainted, imposed on and corrupted this planet with sin but one day God will cleanse and make it new again. I look forward to that day and am enjoying telling people in El Salvador that it’s coming soon and all we have to do is confess our sins to Jeusu Christ and accept him to be part of it. Please continue to pray that God will work through us so we can touch hearts and bring people to Christ. Thank you for your support and prayers.
Sincerely and with love,
Today was a really good day. We went to the public school. Oscar our driver has a wife that works there. She teaches the first grade room There are about thiry to fourty kids in her room. They loved us we brought them balloons, notebooks, and pencils. We attempted to teach them a few English phrases, when the lunch bell rang all came out and surrounded us. They loved my camera and we took lots of pictures. It was awesom! ITs kinda awkward. everywhere you go people just stareat you. strange.
The people at my evangelism site are really warming up to me. Today was kinda strange at first. My driver Daniel and I got there with about 30 minutes to go until I started to preach and there was no one there at my site yet. Well that concerned me because Daniel only knows one word in English !! He knows the word “tree” and that is only because took a half hour to teach that to him. So meanwhile i got my equiptment set up. By that time a few people trickled in. But then the bus came and it was FULL of people! Amazing! We had about a hundred people there that night!
That night their DVD songs were not working so they asked if i could put it on my computer. Now these computers are extremely weird. because they are on a syncromyzer. So I got that all set up and song service continued. When they were done and I was trying to get my compter back to normal, but for some reason it was not reading my sermons. Really bad! So I resarted the computer so many times. They finised the gift give-away and started to pray. I have to admit I did not listen to the prayer…I kept working. Literaly, as soon as they said AMEN it popped up. Amazing! The sermon went well and it was raining soooo hard. So after the service no one wanted to leave. So we had a photo shoot. The kids really warmed up to me then. One of the kids, Maurico rides home with me and Daniel every night. He is 12 years old. He came up to my translator and said that he was so proud because he rode in the same car as the preacher. It was so sweet.
Delon had one baptism at his church. Pastor Tara had a crazy taxi drive and God protected her through that experience. amen! Everything is going good!
- Alyssa Bianco
Today was an incredible day. I was given the task of directing the mornining devotional. My topic was being brainwashed by meditation. The main point was that after we see that God is perfect by testing his word, we must get to a point where we follow him completely. We must allow his law to be completely seen in our lives. The way we do this is by allowing him to brainwash us. David said in Psalms 1 “For in his law doth he meditate day and night.” By meditating on God’s word day and night, we allow our brains to undergo a transformation that is orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. The term brainwash in this sense therefore does not imply that God forces us to believe anything. Instead it refers to the ability of God to cleanse our brain of ignorance after we give it to him by choice. When we give God our brain by meditation of his word, conviction to do right will occur as the holy Spirit reconfigures us. Responding to God’s unfailing grace therefore becomes easier. God is grand!!
Devotion was not the only incredible thing that happened today. God used the night’s message to create a major change in my understanding of the law, sin, justification, and grace. I won’t go into detail about this enlightenment. All I will say is thank God that we are under grace. Can you believe that just a few weeks ago, I asked Greg Shaffer what grace was? This was because the Holy Spirit brought to my attention that the definition of grace was one of the furthest things from my mind. Even though this subject is a part of our basic adventist doctrine, God revealed it to me today in a marvellous way for the first time. During Preperation for today’s sermon, the Holy spirit lead me to see that grace is when we are pardoned when punishment is what we truly deserved. The law says that death is the penalty for all the sin we ever commited. The Grace of God steps in and allows us to recieve not just life, but life everlasting through Jesus Christ. God is grand.
Today’s revelation made clearer just how much I am responsible for following God’s law after he has given me grace. God pardoned me even though he hated my actions. The least I can do now is follow him in the best way possible. I don’t believe that I fully understand God’s grace, justification, sin, the law and the other components of salvation. However, today God started me on a new path towards fully understanding these concepts. Truly, There is only one God that is Grand!
- Delon Lawrence
Over the next 20 days I will be posting from El Salvador. Our group is made up of 4 college students – Greg Shaffer, Amanda Archer, Lee Givhan, and Delon Lawrence, as well as one high school student – Alyssa Bianco. Since I want to have a daily report from this mission field for you to read, I’ve asked the other participants, our young evangelists, to take turns writing about our experiences.
Here is the first one, written by Lee Givhan of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In his words…
Even before we got on the plane to El Salvador God was working miracles for our group. All day I was helping Delon look for his passport. He was getting so discouraged he had even begun planning what he would do in Philly instead of going on the mission trip. We went to the Chestnut Hill SDA church to pick up our checks for the Pennsylvania Youth Challenge that had just ended and ran into Pastor Tara. After we explained the situation she suggested we pray and during the prayer we repeatedly asked God to give Delon a vision of where the passport was. We left and when I asked Delon where he would look for his passport next he sounded unsure about continuing the search. I encouraged him to keep looking so that God could show him were it was knowing we couldn’t just pray to find it and then sit back and do nothing. Kimmy Schwirzer offered to give Delon a ride to his parents house to look and on her way to pick him up Delon tried calling her 5 times to tell her not to come but Kimmy didn’t pick up her phone. She brought Delon to his parents house and God actually gave him a vision to look under his clothes in a droor in his old room and there it was! Less than 24 hours later we were standing on an active street in El Salvador taking in our busy surroundings. Police officers sitting in cars holding machine guns out the windows, a drunk homeless man stumbling, hissing and kicking at oncoming traffic as cars swerved around him, smogs of black clouds fuming out of overraged cars rumbling down narrow roads, markets with babies lying down on tables next to fresh produce as if they’re on sale. A man with a microphone promoting a credit company made us into a spectacle for the whole street as he asked us questions in spanish and laughed at our childish answers. Stray dogs looking worn and torn wander the streets but we, the out of place gawking tourists stand out attracting stares and turning heads. It’s been drizzling and raining all day. The hospitality from our hosts is heart warming as they tell us stories, feed us food and warn us of the dangers we face in this new culture. We moved into a beautiful home on a loud small street. I stood outside again looking at the street where bulls and cows sulk lazily down the cobblestone roads as I hold my bag close to my body, mindful of pickpockets. I go inside to eat some mangos I got in the market, the most sweet and juicy mangos ever that make any mango on the USA’s grocery shelves pale in comparison. I sat in bliss with a smile on my face and the taste still in my mouth feeling like I’d just had mango for the first time in my life, thinking about all the new experiences that would await us on this journey in El Salvador and how much we would need God’s presence and guidance each step of the way. Please pray that God protects and uses us to touch hearts with his Holy Spirit.
Thank you and God bless.
Today was some what of a challenge for all of us. We attended a training session that lasted thirty-nine hours and had lunch three-quarters of the way through. Ok, that was exaggeration. The meeting was only five hours, but it felt like forever.
I woke up with allergies, so for most of the day I was somewhat miserable. Other things contributed to my misery. When I found out that I could not preach my sermon in Spanish, I was not particularly excited. By the end of the day God had shown me that I really can’t always get what I want as my will so often contradicts his.
We concluded wednesday with a latenight dinner of pupusas. Estas son muy deliciosas (It was very delicious!). During this dinner, God used everyone to help lift my spirit. Hoy era una buena experiencia (It was a wonderful experience). Tomorrow we begin the seminar. Pray for us and our translators. We will need it.
- Delon Lawrence
Day 2 Report, El Salvador Mission Trip
From Alyssa Bianco:
After 14 hours of sleep, our group was ready to go on some sightseeing. We met our guide Oscar who had a eight passenger van, and he drove us all over el salvador. We stopped on the side of the road and saw a great view of a huge lake. There was a family of chickens that Amanda fell in love with. There are so many unique animals that are here in el salvador. Huge spiders, armidillos, and this weird lemur thing that we saw on the side of the road. Bulls walk freely on the streets of Santa Anna, There are so many dogs just walking around. We found a stray that i named frisbee. He was a stray that we found at the coconut stand. He loved Coco meat. Several Coconuts we bought at that stand. The young man that was chopping that coconuts with a machete was awesome. We drove up the mountain and the air was so fresh. We visited a graveyard that was so colorful, the graves are covered in colors, colored paper, and little trinkets. It was really beautiful. We continued up the mountain, And when we reached the top, We could see several volcanoes. We took a tour through the rain forest. the guide could only speak espanol. But Luckily we had super Delon to “translate” for us. cough cough. There were huge trees, and beautiful flowers. And huge leaves the size of me. I can tell that us being here will be a blessing. The people need God I mean they do not have anything, we are like rich here compared to them. We saw people on the side of the road who had very little clothes, and had to walk everywhere, because they did not have any cars. It is so sad, but i am so glad that we are here to make a impact. We kept going and our guide took us to a water park, We talked the operators if they could turn on the slides just for us. Well as it turned out they did, but then everyone had to go. Those slides were so huge. It was awesome. I was trying to teach Delon how to swim, i guess that will just have to wait for another day. We came back to our house, btw this house is awesome, even though the water is cold. The pastor took me to my preaching site, i met my translator, her name is Rosa. She is so sweet. And i also met my driver Daniel, he is really young but really nice, he only speaks Spanish, so i do not know how that will work out. I had to get up and talk to the congregation. I was a little nervous. But it all turned out for the best. I am really excited for the rest of this trip. Please pray that we make a impact of these people for the better.
- Alyssa Bianco
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