Hopefully you’re not tired of hearing about El Salvador, because I plan to write about the El Salvadoran people often. In doing so, I hope and pray not to forget the deep love God gave our family for these people and I want to encourage you to get involved. If not in the orphanage in San Miguel, then somewhere. And I pray that you would not only get involved, but that you would stay involved. That you would commit to the long-term.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we do missions, and I’m not talking about missionaries. I’m talking about those annual trips churches take. Often, we pop into a country, build a building and work with a local church, then pop out, never to return. The next year, we go somewhere else. And this makes us feel good, right? We got to experience numerous cultures and we feel all spiritual for stepping out of our comfort zones.

Only it’s not about us. It’s about making an eternal kingdom impact, and as I mentioned in my previous blog, that takes time. It takes commitment. It takes relationship-building.

What if each church adopted one orphanage and stuck with that facility? What kind of change might be accomplished in five years? Ten? While in El Salvador, we taught the girls of the Remar El Salvador orphanage in San Miguel how to make bread and beads. They’ll sell the baked goods in the market, and the beads in the US. Although I still have some hurdles to cross to make this happen (and would appreciate your prayers) my long-term vision is to develop a web page for this orphanage where I can help sell the beaded items. My dream (and prayer) is that the bead-busines will grow to the point that I can then hand it over to the orphanage, teaching them how to run it.

And I don’t think this would be a difficult model to follow. We chose beads because one of our members has a relationship with a bead dealer and a couple of our members are gifted in this area. Perhaps your church has quilters, or knitters. It’s not difficult to teach these skills and help facilitate sales.

Because here’s the thing….building are great, but one day these girls are going to age out of the system. The building won’t be of value to them then. But if we can teach them a marketable skill, we increase their chance for success.

Over the next few months (and God willing, years) I’ll be sharing my vision with you and throwing out ways you can help. Pray about getting involved. It really doesn’t take much to make a world of difference in someone else’s life.

Here’s a slide show our pastor made of the trip. I’ll give you a low-down of how our trip went so you know what you’re seeing.

We started our week at a local church we partner with. Our reasoning is, by partnering with a local church who knows the area and already has established connections in that area, we can multiply our efforts. (While functioning as the body.) Our youth pastor preached, a few of our members gave testimonies, and our youth band played. Then I led a conference for children’s Sunday school workers. This was exciting! I was able to talk with them in-depth about child-development and ways to engage. That night, our senior pastor preached and his sermon aired on local television stations.

On Monday-Wednesday we worked at the Remar orphanage in San Miguel. While there, we performed maintenance stuff, brought new sheets and made the girls’ beds, spent some one-on-one time with the girls’ and taught VBS.

On Wednesday night we helped a local church launch their three night crusade. Thursday-Friday, we spoke in the public schools and held crusades in the public park. Somewhere in there we hit the beach and market, but my days are jumbled at this point.

During the crusade, I watched the people in the city. The first night, curious heads poked out of doorways and the local policemen watched from their stations. But very little people outside of our group came. The second night, some students from the local schools gathered on the outskirts, but they didn’t stay. By the third night, a few of the locals started to meander over and one man in particular rode his bicycle over, stayed, and accepted Christ.

As I thought of all this, I was reminded of a story our pastor shared. Our church picks up students from local apartments every Wednesday. The bus is normally packed, but that wasn’t always the case. Our pastor tells of a time when he’d park outside the mailboxes at this complex every Sunday morning waiting for someone to show, only to drive away in an empty van. But he kept going again, and again, and again. And now, we have a bus-load of kids that come–a bus-load of lives being changed. But it didn’t happen over night.

I believe this holds true with missions as well. Our church plans to go back to El Salvador in January and I believe our results will be multiplied as those who watched us the during our recent crusades gain the courage to come near. I believe we’ll be able to expand our teaching to the orphanage and build stronger relationships with the girls. The longer we commit to this orphanage and city, the greater the chance of lasting change.

Many of you are probably feeling overwhelmed right now. My talk of El Salvadoran orphans tugs on your heart, but so did my talk of foster children. Then there’s all the other very important ministries in our world. The tendency is to dabble in a bit of everything, following where our “heart leads”. I challenge you to look at your service and giving differently. Find a ministry or organization to commit to and stick with them for the long-haul. And think in terms of how you can help facilitate long-term change, not momentary self-gratification. Because again, it’s not about us, is it?

(In the following slide show, you’ll notice we took the girls to a water park. This is an amazing story. Our pastor really wanted to do this, but was worried about how much it might cost and didn’t know if we had the funds. Yet, we went….and God went before us. While there, Elaina, the orphanage “mother” talked with the water park owner, explaining who we were and what we were doing. He let us in for free. Because of his generosity, thirty girls got to be kids for one afternoon.)

This morning I am writing this post in El Salvador. On Saturday I joined seventeen other members of my church for a mission trip. We arrived near midnight (although I’m not sure if that was states time). On Sunday, we spent the day with a local church we have partnered with. That afternoon I led a children’s conference for local Sunday school teachers, then yesterday we spent the day at a local orphanage for sexually abused girls.

When I get back to the states, I’ll post pictures.

This orphanage houses 30 children ranging from four years old to sixteen. The orphanage survives completely on donations. Yesterday, the orphanage director and her husband fed our team. Before we left we tried to pay for our meal, and she said the meal hadn’t cost her anything. Everything had been donated. Then she went on to tell us how each day, they trust in God to provide and each day they receive exactly what they need. My husband asked them how much it cost to fund their orphanage and they said $3,000 per month. That’s a lot of money to wait in faith for, especially when you have so many young mouths to feed.

Last night during our evening devotions the youth pastor talked about how we really have no concept of what it means to live by faith–to trust in God to provide daily. We really on our paychecks and our jobs. And yet, this precious brother and sister in Christ turn to God moment-by-moment for their needs. And they do it all with a smile.

In the United States, if we lived like that we’d be miserable, complaining, spiraling into depression, and making everyone else around us miserable. And yet, the directors of the orphanage live in peace and joy, vitally connected to their Savior at every moment. And their focus is not on themselves. Their focus is on how they might meet the needs of those entrusted to their care and how they might share the gospel with others.

And perhaps that is there secret. Focusing on ourselves, it seems, leads to discontentment. Focusing on others and God leads to increased joy and peace.

Today I’m linking to an article I wrote for the Christian Pulse that in light of my day yesterday is quite fitting. After you read it, ask yourself, what would it mean to live by faith? And as you consider your “needs” (air conditioning, hot water, store-bought cereal, new shoes…) remember millions live without those things and are very happy.

Learning to Trust