Return to Dani and Lena’s

A year ago in  Moldova I met Dani and Lena. Here’s Dani.

daniI blogged about those days here.  Their father abandoned them  years ago, and at the time, their mother was in another country where she went to find work.  There were a couple of older brothers who didn’t know how to help cleaningthem.  The kids were very cold and hungry when we went by their house.  The hearts of the team were moved and we went by there a couple of times.  Thankfully, the hearts of the people of the local church were moved as well.  The pastor’s son told us, “I didn’t know that poverty like this exists in my village.”  They commited to keeping in touch with them and helping in any way they could.

Since then, I’d heard nothing about the kids, but have prayed often for them.  We even put their photo in a prominent place in the intern area and it’s helped remind us to pray.  We’d hoped that the church was still helping them and that the family was reunited.

When I returned to Moldova, we wondered the latest.  We stopped by and connected with their mother.  The members of the church new them well and shared the latest:

  • The mother returned shortly after we left last fall.  She’d been gone for many months, and came back home before winter.
  • There are two older sisters we don’t know…nor does the church.  We learnd they’re in a desperate place and need help. 
  • The mother has been working hard, but can’t make ends meet.  The day we connected with her, she was in the danilena04corn fields working hard…we heard that for about 12 hours work, she’d make about $10.  Dani was with her as she worked in the field. 
  • The church had regular contact with the family…sharing food with them, asking if they needed help with things and more.  The mother accepted some help but not other help.

The team wanted to help.  We didn’t want to do anything that would cause the family to expect the church to do everything for them, but we wanted to share the love of Jesus.  We spent a day in their home cleaning, painting, cleaning, scrubbing, and more.  The church members pitched in as much as we did…maybe more.  The mother worked harder than anyone…and Lena pitched in too.

 

danilenaa03The family loved it.  You could tell it meant a lot.  We also had fun playing with the kids, getting to know the mother better and more…

The next day we returned to take a family photo.

danilena01They loved it.  We also shared a few things with the family and had some great prayer with them.  Since then, they’ve been to the church, connected more with people from the church and see a glimpse of hope in their lives.  The team is still in Moldova and keeping in touch with them.  I look forward to what’s ahead.

Poverty looks different in so many places…and it’s too widespread.  While we’re always trying to help “the masses” I love connecting with kids like Dani and Lena and their mother (w/local churches) and learning more about individual stories.  And helping.

My prayer is that in this hard time, their mother (and the family) will see hope, hear His voice, and turn to Him.  Hosea 2:14, “I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.”

 

 

 

Good timing…

On our Plan B trip to El Salvador, our first place of ministry was a small village about 30 minutes from San Salvador.  There, we worked with a local pastor who was preparing to start a church at our place of ministry.  The church started Easter Sunday.

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They’ve been working in the area, but without our Plan B, they wouldn’t have been there that day.

While there, we shared food, shoes with those who needed them, and toys for the kids.  Jorel and Bethany also shared about hope and life and a future with Jesus.  After we shared with the people, a woman came to Bethany with the news that when she arrived, she had planned to kill herself in the very near future.  She decided not to that day.  Bethany prayed with her. Hope.

I don’t know the woman’s struggles…I know there’s extreme poverty, violence, drug use, gangs, and more where she pile o' foodlives.  I know that many men have abandoned their families and woman are left with little or nothing.  I don’t know her struggles, but I know they must have been big. Now? Hope.Bethany with a friend

We made sure she met people from the soon to start church.  She said she’d go…and it’s in her village.  I’ll be back soon and will check to see if she made it. The woman in the photo isn’t the one of whom I write…it didn’t seem right to take her photo.  However, this woman’s life changed that day too.

Here’s Bethany sharing the story from her perspective…

A bitterly sweet time with Sylvia and her family

manuelwalter1I can’t believe they killed her father.

Last summer, April and I had the immense privilege of spending time with a young lady my grandmother sponsors through Latin America Child Care.  Her name is Sylvia.  She attends a school in Santa Ana, El Salvador which is helped by Convoy of Hope.  We met her, her brother Walter, and their parents, spending time in their home and sharing a meal with them.  I blogged about it all, including my grandmother’s connection to her, last summer. http://bit.ly/iBSHr.

While there, among other things, we enjoyed taking Manual, her father and family to Pizza Hut for his 40th birthday.  It was a special day at the restaurant they’d always wanted to try.  Everything changed just one month later when violent gang members uselessly shot and killed her father…the man pictured here.  It happened about a month after I took this photo.  I can’t believe they killed him. 

We reconnected with Sylvia and her family while in El Salvador with our spring interns a few weeks ago.  We shared hugs and tears and prayers and we talked.  We returned to Pizza Hut.  We smiled.

sylviafam“Walter is the man of the house now,” Sylvia told us.  “(Walter) wakes up and asks why people have to be mean,” her mother explains.  They’re grieving but growing through their grief.

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The day after we reconnected, the family joined us for an outreach in a village about 30 minutes from their home.  There, Sylvia shared her testimony, starting by quoting Psalm 23.  She sang with our team in ministry for the people of the village and she and her family handed out groceries to those who had gathered.  The woman here is quite happy with what Sylvia shared.

Afterwards, her mother (pictured in yellow in the group photo above) said, “This has been the best thing for helping us heal…serving others.”

I’ll see her and her family again this summer and look forward to keeping in touch with the family for years to come. 

waltertruckOne final note…last summer we asked 9-year-old Walter about his school.  He didn’t attend “we don’t have enough money,” his parents said.  God touched a team member’s heart who decided to work with Latin America Child Care in sponsoring Walter.  He’d never been to school.  He couldn’t read.  It took time for Walter and extra money for his sponsor, but last fall, even as the family went through this tragedy, Walter had a personal tutor.  This January, he was able to start school with his class.  At Pizza Hut, he read me the menu…didn’t struggle with a single word.  God’s got a plan for the young man…who’s now the head of his home.sylviamatt

Sara’s story

2008-0717-el-salvador-24Today, the Springfield News-Leader covered the story of one of our summer ’08 interns.  Sara Perez worked hard in both El Salvador and Nicaragua.  Her father had dreams of playing basketball in El Salvador but was forced to make the decision to move to the USA during El Salvador’s civil war. 

On a missions trip with Convoy of Hope, Kenton Moody and Rick Ryan, from our staff, saw her skills and encouraged her to come to Evangel to play ball.  It worked out and she’s here with a scholarship.  She returned to do the summer internship and hopes to serve in El Salvador after college.   We were thrilled at the interpreting skills (and laughter and energy and love of coffee and more) she brought to the team.  Kudos to Rick Ryan and Kenton Moody for the impact they’ve  made in her life…

Check out the story here.

This photo of Sara hangs on our intern wall here at Convoy of Hope.200perez1

OneHope

Today at our Convoy of Hope offices, many on our staff met to discuss the various ways we seek to share hope with people around the world. We were all pretty excited and awe struck as the opportunity God is providing grew in clarity and sank in even more. People around the world are facing a really, really hard time and we have the privilege to work with others in sharing hope with them.

Though my five years on staff with Book of Hope International are over, I still see myself as part of the family. Today, I got an email from the president of the organization who mentioned they’ve changed their name to OneHope. I like it…it does a good job emphasizing “hope” and not so much just “book”. You can see more at http://www.bookofhope.net/.

It all reminds me of a billboard I saw in Bangalore, India a few years ago,

In case you can’t read it, it states,

“1 billion people

4200 communities

1625 dialects

29 states

18 official languages

9 major religions

1 HOPE
Sonia Ghandi”

Now I certainly have no interest in getting into the politics of India. However, if there’s one hope for India or anywhere else in the world, it’s not a person…not even a politician type person.

There’s a whole lotta hope being placed in a whole lotta places. I like Hebrews 6:19 which speaks of the hope we have in Christ as an “anchor of the soul.”

My friend Travis is in Honduras now with the newly named OneHope. Read about his travels at www.the1814project.com. Also, our Convoy of Hope interns are in Haiti and doing well. They head out for ministry in the morning…I’ll keep in touch about how things are going with them, and will join them in the region soon.

onehope1

What’s her story?

I’ll admit, that often when seeing other people my mind wanders, wondering their story. Like one time, I saw a pink Cadillac with a Mary Kay sticker on it and just three burly men were in the car…what’s up with that? What is their story?

I’ve flown a number of times, but never have had an experience like today.

I’ve been to Africa a few times and have met some absolutely wonderful people from remote areas that I would imagine could experience some big culture shock in my country.

Today, a woman from Mali flew next to me from Chicago to Paris (I’m on my way to Armenia). She was experiencing significant culture shock. She didn’t speak English or French (it was an Air France flight) or any other major language. I’m not sure what language she was speaking. The only way I got her name/country was when she showed me her passport. She’s in her 60s and the passport didn’t have any stamps in it. I didn’t understand the no stamps part.

The flight attendants…and I’ve not seen this before…were drawing pictures of cows and chickens on her menu, so she’d know her dinner choices. They even made cow and chicken noises. She got chicken.

When the plane started backing up from the gate, she got visibly scared, and kept holding on to the seat in front of her. I tried to calm her down. The flight attendant asked me if I wanted to move. “Nope.”

She looked at my cell phone with awe, as if she wondered what it was or something. As we started speeding down the runway, she grabbed my arm with both of hers and held on tightly for quite some time.

I grabbed my camera towards the end of the flight and took this photo…

She loved seeing it. I think it may have been one of the first digital cameras she’s seen up close.

Anyways, while it’s certainly none of my business, I wonder if she was visiting family. I wonder if she needed medical treatment. Vacation? Someone’s guest for a presentation or something? Wander-lust?

That all being said, she’s a child of God, and a special person. I don’t need to know her story, and will never learn it. However, He knows her and understands whatever language that was quite well.

Meet Maria

On Monday, the team and I went to a village church about 30 minutes from Sarata Galbena. Many of the homes in the village were abandoned as people had no money and left for other places. We worked with local Christians to share food with some gypsy families, the elderly, and some very poor people. Few times have I seen poverty on this scale.

Here, Claire gives us a bit of a tour and her thoughts…


Then, we went back to the small church building (it’s actually more of a home) where they fed us and we had a service for about 25 kids. What a wonderful time. There’s a family from the main church in Sarata that’s sees this village as their mission…we loved partnering with them for this day. (We also provided a lot of groceries for the church and food for the ministry.)

While there, I met Maria (not her real name…). We were sitting down, and there were balloons on the floor and we, not knowing each other’s language, got in a mild balloon fight. Fun. We palled around for the rest of the afternoon.

I then learned her story. She’s 10-years-old and has a little sister. Her father has been gone for years and her mother left last year as well. She’s taken care of her little sister for months now. This church found her, and has been helping her. In fact, the couple pastoring the church are letting Maria and her sister move in with them. She’s now well fed, warm and has some adults who love her and are telling her about Jesus.

The larger church is working towards perhaps starting an orphanage to help children such as Maria and her sister.

Great girl, fun afternoon, honor for Convoy of Hope and our interns to partner with churches like this.

More from Dani and Lena’s

I texted a blog entry with a small photo as we left Dani and Lena’s yesterday, but wanted to write more.
The village of Mihaileni is a village of about 6000. There are hundreds of them around this country. We partnered with a growing church to help them by painting and reaching out to the poor in the community. In a meeting with the mayor, he told of a family of siblings. The father abandoned the family years ago and the mother is in another country working. She left some money with the market to take care of her children, but the money ran out a long time ago. Thankfully, there are some older siblings in this tiny home, but they’re gone all day, leaving the little ones home alone.
They clearly bathe quite seldomly, are malnourished and in need of some serious attention. Multiple team members have stopped by in the last few days, and I was able to go with some yesterday. They devoured the chicken and soup we brought them, and loved the ball and other toys we shared with them. Here’s Mikellah with Dani…

Not sure how to process that kind of poverty, but I know that God smiles on a young lady going out of her way to help. I know he really smiles on a young couple in the church that have commited to keeping in touch with the kids and doing whatever they can possibly do to help. Igor said, “I didn’t know that poverty like this exists in my village.”

Here are the kids devouring the food…

Is there poverty like that where you live? What can be done? I realize some soup, chicken and toys won’t change their lives…but in combination with a caring couple from a caring church who walks with those kids as they get older…I think it could.

Proud of Zach, Mikellah, Karen, Claire and the team. Here are Zach’s thoughts about the day… http://zachfornerministries.blogspot.com/.

Thanks for keeping Lena and Dani in prayer.

At Lena and Dani’s house…

I've been a lot of places, but few of them are like the home of Andre, Lena and Dani. These three siblings don't know where their father is and their mother has gone to another country for work. She left some money at the local market for her kids to have food. That was last summer and she hasn't returned.

There are older siblings who help watch them but they're in the fields all day. The kids stay home…when it's hot and when it's cold.

We got their information from the mayor. He said they were in desperate need.

Igor is a local pastor's son. He and his wife went with us to their home yesterday and today. Igor said he didn't know poverty like this existed in his village. They were moved.

More photos and video later…