Sylvia and my grandmother (and Convoy of Hope)

From 1941-45 my grandparents were missionaries in El Salvador. They first served in Santa Ana where they pastored Templo Betel, and then pioneered the Assemblies of God work in San Salvador, the capital.

Grandpa is with Jesus, but Grandma is a strong 87-year-old. Though she hasn’t been to El Salvador in years, she’s been sponsoring Sylvia, an Latin American Child Care student in Santa Ana, a city in which she lived 67 years ago.

The team and I met up with Sylvia. She and her family invited us to her home where she showed us some photos my grandmother sent, some letters she wrote, and shared her amazing personality. To say that she’s thankful for Grandma’s sponsorship is an understatement. Here are her words of thanks.

A few weeks ago, I returned to El Salvador with the team from Oregon. We met up with Sylvia again…wow. We met her father for the first time.

Two things stand out from that night:

1. It was her father’s 45th birthday. We’d asked Sylvia about her favorite restaurant (Pizza Hut). As we ate there with her family, he let me know two things that humbled me, it was his first food of the day, and it was the first time he’d ever eaten out to celebrate his birthday. Wow. We were honored to join him on his special day.

2. I asked about her little brother, Walter. He’s a fun and energetic 9-year-old. In speaking with the familiy and then the school director, I learned that Walter stopped attending school after 1st grade because the family didn’t have money for school supplies, the uniform, or small school fees. A team member decided this should change…Walter will be back in school when the next term begins in January.

Our Convoy of Hope teams have worked in Sylvia’s schools and dozens like them this summer. These are the types of students and families with whom we’ve been working. We loved getting to know Sylvia and her family, learning more about El Salvador and opportunity in this country.

I like it when leaders are real and obviously care

I’ve read books about leadership, worked with an amazing array of leaders over the years, and have heard stories of leadership (good and bad) from friends. If there’s a quality, outside of integrity, that impresses me the most about leaders, it’s when it’s clear to all that they’re real people and they care.

This week our interns have met leaders like that. Hal Donaldson (Convoy of Hope’s founder/CEO, etc.) is as sincere and gentle of a man as I’ve ever met. He cares. He shows interest. He’s real, and everyone who knows him, knows that.

Then tonight, we had dinner together and John Bueno and his family joined us. John Bueno is the Director of the Assemblies of God World Missions. He also started Latin America Child Care in El Salvador where he served for 28 years (and continues to serve in many ways). He hung out with the team for a few hours eating dinner, telling stories, asking questions, spending time, showing interest and more. I like that. The team will spend the next 4 weeks working in the schools he started decades ago. Then, they’re off to Nicaragua.

He then sat down and reminisced with the group.

It was normal. It was good.

Here’s the group photo. His son Ron, and daughter-in-law (Bob’s wife) joined us as well…as did numerous grandchildren. Fun times, good conversation, interesting talk.

The team is wonderful. We leave tomorrow for Kansas City and they’ll fly to El Salvador early Tuesday. I’ll join them soon.

Full week and a great team

These days have been very, very full, but wonderful. The team heads out Monday and I’ll join them soon after. We’ll be at a team building rope’s course tomorrow. Will blog about that day too. When I get a minute I’ll actually blog a bit more about what’s going on. Good week.

One note…we had a great time hearing from, learning from and receiving inspiration from Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolates. Good stuff.


A Moldovan pioneer leads people from their sadness

Pastor Victor faced communism with courage. Nearly 20 years ago he defied the authorities in his Soviet-eera Moldovan village and held an open air presentation of the gospel. Thousands of people came. Life in his village changed forever. Here he shares the short version:

About a year later, his church became the first officially sanctioned in the Soviet Union…it’s approval came from the top. It’s now a large mother church that has planted churches across Moldova.

While the country is in great need (Eric Weiner called it the “least happy country” on earth in a Newsweek article), people like Pastor Victor are seeing to it that people learn of truth. He’s not sad. The elderly people who’ve moved from their cold in the winter/no running water homes to the retirement center his church has built are not sad. The men at the Teen Challenge weren’t sad. Still, many others are.

I’m excited to work with our team and Pastor Victor there this fall…and to see some sad people find joy.