Substance

Hammocks and stove installations

We've been in El Salvador for 3 days now. And we are loving it. The people, the hospitality, the food, the natural beauty, the freshness of the fruit, the vitality of the churches! We arrived an hour behind schedule on Saturday evening due to delays in Dallas. We stepped out of the airport in San Salvador to have our glasses and cameras immediately fog up from the humidity. Welcome to Central America during rainy season. Though it was only 7:30pm, the streets were dark already as the street lights weren't on from communities not paying to keep them on for drivers. We had to take an alternate route to our hotel to give way to a night 10K race taking place. That gave us ample time to cheer on the runners! We arrived in time to grab dinner and head straight to bed after a full day of traveling.

Breakfast found us overlooking a gorgeous pool and the San Salvador volcano. After getting our fill, we hit the road for a 3 hour drive to San Miguel (a state in El Salvador), which would be our home for the week.

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We quickly settled into our hotel, changed for church and grabbed a good bite for lunch. We went to church in the Abelines community, where we would spend our week installing eco stoves in a number of the families' homes. Church was packed and the speaker volume was cranked to the max. The church was much more conservative than most of us were used to, as the men sat on one side and the women sat on the other, both however were equally involved in the service. After much music and announcements, we introduced ourselves to the church. And then I had the privilege of preaching. I'm not sure what it is, but I love preaching with a translator.

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And it is always such an honor to be able to share the Gospel with brothers and sisters in Christ in another country and culture who speak an entirely different language, but with whom I am family! After church, we headed back to our hotel for a quick dip in the pool before dinner and then bed.

This morning we had breakfast and were on the road before 8am. On our way into Abelines, we passed by what has become my favorite waterfall as we went up up up...

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After arising at the first beneficiaries' house, we got a lesson in building eco stoves by Eduardo, whom we learned can seriously fix anything and everything with practically nothing. One of the leading causes of death for women and children in El Salvador is smoke inhalation. The typical method for cooking in El Salvador is over an open flame in an adobe home (which, if you've ever been in one, you know they don't breathe). This causes many children and women to get sick, a lot. And it's easily preventable with a different stove. The eco stoves are made out of local materials and pipe the smoke out of the homes. They can have anywhere from 2-4 burners on them (made from the pans already used by the women to cook) and use much less wood than the traditional way of cooking, saving the family lots of money that can then be used in food or clothing. After our first one was complete, we all stood outside waiting for the white smoke to rise from the newly installed chimney, and there it was! The stoves only take about 2ish hours to make. Here's our first one in the making:

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We will spend the next 3 mornings building stoves in the homes of those identified as the most in need in Abelines. As well as visit homes for food distributions in the afternoons.

Please keep us in your prayers throughout our week here!

yarn bombing and paint fumes

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You may say I’m a dreamer... but I’m not the only one

Dreams. We all have them, but we don’t always get to see them become reality. But that’s the beautiful thing about being a dreamer: there is always something to push towards, something to strive for. Our team had the incredible opportunity to help a vision and dream come true. Krochet Kids intl. launched their Peru location over a year ago, and an awesome man named Blake led the way. He, his wife, and four kids moved from Southern California to Lima, Peru, building the Peru factory from the ground up.

Krochet Kids? What is that?

If you haven’t heard of Krochet Kids intl. yet, then pay attention! This organization is really amazing. Now, there are few things that excite me more than social entrepreneurship. I’ve had the pleasure of working for a really amazing company that sort of launched the philanthropic business model into mainstream America, and I love seeing what these companies can do. Krochet Kids is all about sustainability (among other things). What sets them apart from the rest of the companies that go into other countries and set up factories, is that not only do they provide jobs for the people who live in the area, but they also set out to educate and mentor them so that they can take what they learned and bring it into their community. Empowerment!

The dream

Because mentoring is such a big piece of what Krochet Kids does, Blake had a vision for what their mentoring space would look like. He and Danny schemed and dreamed together, and came up with a blueprint/plan for what the space could look like. It involved tearing down walls, building walls and doors, repainting the entire space, and yarn bombing. They also wanted to provide chairs for the women (previously, they would have to bring their chairs from the factory across the street, up the stairs that can only be described as a steep climb, and into the room in order to sit on something).

There was a question as to whether our team could complete the project. Not any doubt in our abilities, but genuine consideration for the short amount of time that we would be at the worksite. To get a better grasp of what the space looked like when we arrived, here is a picture:

before What you don’t see are the 10 chairs that we had to sand and repaint, the three counter/cupboards that needed to somehow get into the space and sanded and refurnished, and the art that we wanted to include to brighten up the space. It may have seemed like a daunting task, but we were up for the challenge!

Hi-Ho... Hi-Ho

Each morning when we arrived, we assessed what needed to be done and then got to it! There were a few hilarious, yet dangerous moments. Like when Josh and Jose perched precariously on a ledge three stories up as a team of men lifted really really heavy counter/cupboards up to them. Or when Alicia, Josh and Andres experienced an electrical fire and someone (ahem) tried to fix it by sticking a screwdriver into the open wires. Or when our entire team was inhaling paint fumes for hours on end... it was only until Danny was giggling that we realized we probably needed a break!

It was hard work, for sure. And there were times where we weren’t sure we’d be able to get it done! But the beauty of it all was how our team of rag tag people (some more muscular than others) banded together, and did what needed to be done. There was no complaining, just picking up a paintbrush if something needed another coat or handing the hacksaw to Josh when something needed to be cut. We lifted, sanded, sawed, hammered, painted, and scrubbed. It wasn’t all work, there were definitely moments of joy. Like, when Kori, Amy, Kelly and Grace yarn bombed two of the posts in the room. Or when Lauren and I hammered in nails to create a KKPeru wall hang. Or when people started singing along to Justin Beiber when he came up on my playlist!

All I know, is that when Thursday noon hit, we had somehow created a beautiful space for the women to use, to learn and be mentored in. It’s almost crazy how different the after picture is:

after

So now what?

We had an awesome “reveal” for the women on Thursday, which also happened to be our Fourth of July. We had rotisseried chicken and potatoes, and showed the women the space for the first time after the remodel. It was just an incredible moment, seeing all of our work come together and then getting to spend some time with the women and their kids.

At the end of the day, this is what “missions” is about. I put the word “missions” in quotes, because technically we are called by God to serve the poor, the needy, the hungry, the orphaned, the widowed, as a part of our every day lives. So our time in Lima was just another opportunity to be mirrors of Christ (remember my Justin Timberlake post?). But this is what it is. Partnering with other believers, figuring out what needs are in the community, and then finding ways to address those needs.

On the surface, the KKPeru project was a chance to beautify a space. Goodbye lime green walls, hello bright yellow curtains. But in reality, it was much more than that. Because of the additional room we built, the mentors will now be able to double their time with the women. Instead of only being able to work with one person at a time, both mentors can sit down and teach, listen and help two women. The counter space allows the KKPeru team to keep notes and binders where the women will be taught. And instead of lugging chairs from the factory to the mentor space and back, that time can be added on to the teaching time.

Ultimately, revamping the space was our way of telling the women of Chorrillos that what they do matters. The Krochet Kids doesn’t just care about the product they put out, but wants to invest in their lives and their community and their futures. I wish that there was a better way for me to articulate all that we processed through on that last day at KKPeru. But this is the best I can do. That and include a nice little picture collage, per the usual. :)

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Thank you for all your prayers!

-Phyllis

it's like you're my mirror

Taken completely out of context, I sometimes imagine that God is singing this over and over again to us. Obviously how this post relates to Justin Timberlake is next to none... but I couldn't help but let that line from the song roll around in my head after our morning team devo time this past Saturday.

what are we doing here?

That is the question that many of our team members got from friends, family and loved ones. It can seem strange, to spend thousands of dollars and travel thousands of miles to Lima, Peru, just to spend time in an orphanage and painting walls in a factory. It doesn't always make sense to everyone.

But what are we doing here? We all have different reasons for why we came to Peru - but when it boils down to it, we were motivated by the same thing: God's love. We've experienced it and know it, sometimes more deeply than other times. There is so much joy that comes from experiencing His love with others and sharing it with others. (even that can seem a little selfish v selfless - because we know that when we leave Peru, we will have experienced God and how he loves in a new way).

On a practical note, this trip is also an investment. The time we spent cleaning and fixing the missions house is an investment into future missions and the teams that will follow. The time we spent with the kids and beautifying the orphanage is an investment in the orphanage and the children who will one day live there. The remodel and design of the Krochet Kids Peru mentor space is an investment in the women who work there and the women who will one day work there.

reflecting God's image

Genesis 1.26-27 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

I love this. These verses tell us that God was so intentional about creating us in His image: a reflection of Him living and breathing on earth. Our example was Christ. In Colossians 1.15, Scripture tells us that Jesus is the image bearer of Christ. He is our example of what it means to love others as God does. Now, we get to be reflections of Christ. To others who may not have experienced the love of God, we are the image bearers, mirrors. And we get to experience Him through one another as well. Thats why we are called to first, love Him with all our heart, soul and mind, and then to love others as ourselves.

to close, I just wanted to share a bit of our time at the orphanage. This orphanage is very close to the hearts of Danny and Steph, and their two girls. It was an amazing blessing to spend time with the kids, just playing with them and getting them out of bed. One of our team members, John, even cut their hair! This orphanage is not government-funded (Peru has many of those) and they take in children who have mental or physical disabilities. Many of these children were left to die at hospitals because their parents abandoned them and the hospital couldn't take care of them. But as we were reminded before we arrived, each child is made in the image of Christ and loved dearly by God.

It was so much fun. We got the kids out into the play area, into the ball pit. We drew pictures and played catch. We joked and told stories. For those who were not able to move from their portable beds, we stroked their hair, held their hand and just let them know we were there for them. It was a humbling experience and opened our eyes to just how blessed we are as Americans, living in the United States. I don't think we will ever forget their faces and their spirits.

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prayer requests: our team is sick! pray for healing!

I'm excited to share in the next post, the work we are doing at Krochet Kids Peru!

- Phyllis (or Joceline, as Danny calls me...)

#peruvida

How far can you get in 22 hours? Our first Peru short-term missions trip traveled more than 4,000 miles in 22 hours to arrive in Lima at 1am on Friday morning! Coming from Minneapolis and Nashville, our team of 12 arrived exhausted but excited to see what the Lord has in store for us for the next 9 days. Here are a few things we knew before our trip:

  1. The line at immigration was going to be crazy - at least an hour and a half of waiting with the hundreds of other travelers arriving in Lima
  2. Our hosts, Danny and Stephanie, are awesome (and so are their two little girls, Madeline and Macy)
  3. Due to the location of Lima, fresh fruit and fresh seafood are some of the best here
  4. Lima is known as the foodie capital of the Americas
  5. Within the city limits, there is a huge financial disparity among the 9 million city-dwellers

It was definitely difficult to retain any information when we arrived (we were in a daze from being up for so long), but we were picked up by Danny and two others who brought us back to Danny and Stephanie's house in the neighborhood of La Molina. Danny's two pieces of advice: watch out for geckos, but don't kill them... watch out for scorpions, and definitely kill them. With those thoughts dancing around in our heads, we went right to sleep in our guest house on the hill.

Friday was a whirlwind. We did some cleaning up around the guest house (which will be used to house short-term missionaries from Substance and other organizations in the future), which included sledgehammering and swinging an ax. Sanding chairs were involved, chairs that will brought to Krochet Kids on Monday when we start our work helping them build a mentoring space.

We met as a team in the morning, to get more information about our week and to get to know our hosts a little better. Danny and Stephanie moved to Peru two years ago as missionaries, with their two girls. They are both pastors at Vida en Surco, a portable church in the Surco neighborhood. Their passion for missions and their love for God was infectious and got us excited to serve in whatever way we could for the time we are here.

expectations

What do you expect when you hear about or go on a missions trip? This was the question that we were asked. Are you expecting incredibly crazy miracles where limbs grow back and water comes bubbling out of a dry well? Are you expecting hundreds of people to hear the gospel preached and for many of those to make public declarations of faith?...

God does amazing things, there is no doubt. But Danny reminded us that miracles aren't necessarily in the spectacular, but sometimes the miraculous happens in little ways. It can be in the few hours that are spent with children at the orphanage, loving on them and playing with them. It can be in the roof that is built so that the kids at Krochet Kids can play outside in the summer. It can be in the short, but sweet conversations that we have with the women who work at Krochet Kids.

It is easy to miss these moments, if you are only looking for the spectacular. But we are excited to share with you over the next week and a half some of the miraculous that happens in the little ways.

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Peru - Day 1

(left to right)

1. arriving at the airport at 1:30am 2. breakfast included 3 different avocados 3. our hosts, Danny and Steph 4. chatting at the breakfast table 5. getting ready to do some work 6. alicia is doing some sanding 7. trying Inca Cola for the first time 8. tasting fresh fruit from the market

- phyllis