Sock Monkey Adoption :)

This blog is for the adoption of Sock Monkeys.
100% of each adoption fee will go to a fund for a Medical Mission Trip to El Salvador.
Each monkey will have photos taken by Monica and personality profiles written by Darcy :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Arrival of Last Monkey...
(And Second to the Last Monkey Gets a Make-Over!)

One custom monkey had been ordered long ago, but was waiting on his new care-taker to be born! The second to the last monkey to be made went home at the same time, after a make-over, to join the same family! One monkey for each brother!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Looking Back

(Walther and Darcy)

Being stationed in the pharmacy, the experience Darcy and I had of the mission trip was different than what most of the team experiences. Unlike the others, we see EVERYONE who passes through clinic--not just a portion. We see each patient seen by all the other team members combined (the many physical therapists, the eye glass folks, and four to five primary care providers)...which means we have far less TIME with each person and far less chance to interact individually with any one person. In fact, our interaction primarily consists of filling the prescriptions they bring in. This trip, David, our interpreter, gave the instructions on how to take the medications to nearly everyone as the rest of us in the pharmacy scurried to gather the medications together. That is why, I don't see as much of what God is doing through the clinic at the time that it is happening. I don't generally have the one on one conversations with individuals (through a translator) that the most of the team has during the normal course of their day. Running the pharmacy is more a support position than a front line position. I get a more accurate sense of what God has been doing through us later on, as I hear storied from our fellow team members.

We are so fortunate to have such a large number of nationals who partner with us in this endeavor. Pastor Jimmie (the youth pastor of Gethsamani Baptist--son of the Pastor Renee) did much of the organization of this trip. There were many workers from the local churches in El Salvador and surrounding areas working with us throughout the clinic. I counted local workers from at least four different Baptist Churches and one Assembly of God Church. Everyone who came through the clinic was registered for future follow-up by whichever church is nearest their home. 375 people accepted Christ as their Savior while being seen at the clinic. I have seen enough of our sister churches in El Salvador to feel confident that those 375 people will be supported, loved, and discipled long term. The work in their lives has just begun.

In a country that has so much poverty, the simplest of things make a profound difference in people's lives...glasses to see with, a walker to be able to walk again... The medicines we are able to provide are just a band-aid because they are limited in quantity. Even bringing in 700 pounds of medications (as we did), still it is so little to distribute among so many. But the man who had not been able to walk for two years, since having a stroke, who now can walk on his own with his new walker--that is a life changing difference! The child who receives glasses and can finally see clearly again--that is a life changing difference! Dr. Brian Neely told me about a 14 year old girl he saw in clinic Tuesday (the day we were at Ayutuxtepeque). She came in by herself and explained through the translators that she wanted to be seen by a doctor because she had passed out three time in the past year. Dr. Neely examined her and found that she had a mass pressing on her carotid artery. This explained the times she had lost consciousness, as the pressure on that artery was sometimes depriving her brain of needed blood flow. Left untreated, she was at very high risk for having a massive stroke in the near future. Dr. Neely asked the child to go home and get her mother and bring her mother in to talk with him. When the mother came, she said she had taken her child to a doctor when she had passed out, but that they had not found anything wrong with her. Dr. Neely wrote out in detail what the local doctors needed to look for (what he had found was fairly subtle and could have been easily missed during previous exams) and wrote down his personal cell phone number, asking the doctor to call him if he had any questions. He gave this to the child's mom, and stressed the importance to her of having her child followed up with local doctors immediately. The mother asked many questions and appeared to comprehend the severity of the situation. That child's contact with our simple medical clinic may have saved her life....though we will probably never know the final outcome.

We are there so briefly. What we can do is so limited...yet, for some of the people we see, it will be their only chance ever to see a doctor. The clinic draws the crowds. Then the local church members do the real work...speaking one on one with each person as they wait in the lines...telling them about Jesus and giving them the chance to ask questions.

We saw a total of 1,994 people during the four days we held clinic. 375 of those accepted Christ as their Savior.

I want to thank each one of you who shared with us in this ministry, by making it possible for us to purchase our ticket to El Salvador. Thank you.

(Darcy riding to the airport in the backseat of a police truck!)

(Jacob, Carlos, and David--David was our translator in the pharmacy!)

(Juan and Darcy)

Taty, Jacob, Darcy, and Karla.

(This last picture was copied from Karla Villatoro's facebook photo album.)

Our translators always become such good is heartbreaking to leave.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Link to 200 photos (with more coming)...

I want to sit down and WRITE about our time in El Salvador...but, since returning, I've been busy sorting through the over 8,000 photos that I took...culling through them and posting some of them on my facebook page. Since facebook is more accessible to other members of our very large team (both here in the U.S. and those in El Salvador) than this blog would be, I have decided (at least for now) to focus on posting the pictures to facebook. Please feel free to visit my facebook page to look at the photos even if you aren't on the "friend list"...I am leaving the El Salvador albums open to everyone (you don't have to be on the "friend list").!/profile.php?id=1433334749&v=photos

Saturday, July 24, 2010

So THAT Was the Trigger!

Interesting how missing one small fact can totally change how you see the overall picture. No one from the United States side of our group seemed to know exactly WHY we had such impressive police protection throughout this trip. All the facts I had on hand were accurate....but it was one small fact that I did not have on hand which totally changed the entire picture! Come to find out, Pastor Jimmie (from our sister church in El Salvador) APPLIED to the government in advance for us to HAVE this police protection. There is a special unit of police that specialize solely in the protection of visiting heads of state, diplomats, etc--called the PPI (Proteccion de Personalidades Importantes)(Protection of Important People--the El Salvadorian equivalent of our own Secret Service). Pastor Jimmie had APPLIED to the government REQUESTING that we have this protection....HE was the trigger!

It is true that a group traveling by bus was recently killed by one of the gangs in the exact area that we held our Tuesday clinic in (and where our sister church is building a mission church). It is true that it is rumored that the gangs are targeting church groups. It is true that gringos (white folks) aren't safe being out alone at night in San Salvador (but then, even our translators (native Salvadorians) said it was not safe for THEM, even, to be out walking on the streets of San Salvador at night. (San Salvador is like El Salvador's New York City.) But I added all the facts up--along with the observation that the other medical mission groups and church groups we saw here did NOT have a police unit protecting them and the conclusion I drew was that our group, SPECIFICALLY, must have become the target of one of the gangs. Well, that was totally wrong! The reason the other church groups did not have police protection is because they didn't have Pastor Jimmie watching out for their well-being, like we did!

Even WITH the police protection, still, one of the tires and the decal was stolen off Pastor's Jimmie's vehicle while it was parked in Los Llanitos on Tuesday. That is just a very rough area. That is where they are building the new mission church. We will be sending a construction team back to El Salvador next summer to help them build that church. While we were here this time, Herb and Larry were able to present our sister church with $5,500 that was donated by two families in our own church to buy the plot of land the mission church in Los Llanitos will be built on.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wow! Can't Believe We Have Only One More Clinic Left!

Well, I had a little apprehension yesterday, but today our police escort seems a big to-do over nothing. In the meantime, we are thoroughly enjoying our new heavily armed friends! Yesterday we were downgraded to only three policemen and that pattern carried through to today. I asked Larry and Herb if the policemen would be coming to the Orphanage tomorrow but they said they have no idea. We (all of us) really are not informed much...we just follow directions and wait and see!

The church we were at today, Mejicanos, is one of the most highly structured, well organized churches I have ever seen. The workers from that church arrived at 5:30 this morning to begin preparations for Clinic....the workers were 157 strong! (That number does not even include our translators and the helpers from Brother Jimmie's Church (Gethsamani Baptist) and from Strong Tower Baptist, and from an Assemblies of God Church that have come to every Clinic with us. The workers from Mejicanos almost all wear uniforms identifying them as workers...different uniforms for specific positions. I tell you, the Clinic we had today had the most people that have ever gone through Clinic in a single day (well, this year and the last trip two years ago!...guess I can't vouch for the ones before that). We treated 542 people from the community and 45-50 church workers today....for a total of 587-593 people in a single day...and we were finished by 4:30! Many hands make light work! Having 157 extra helpers who KNEW their jobs well, made today stress free and run like clock work! The workers at Mejicanos are superior at managing the flow of traffic and crowd control. There was far less waiting today for those being seen than on days when we saw less people, just because we had such excellent assistance.

More than 76 people made a decision for Christ today. 76 is the number that prayed to receive Christ during the group meetings, but, then, the industrious workers of the church meandered through the halls, pausing to speak with folks one on one as they waited in line to see the physical therapist or the doctor or to be fitted with glasses. They do not yet have the final count on how many additional people accepted Christ as their Savior during these more personal one on one conversations.

Jimmie told me today that we saw a total of 556 people on Monday (final count) at ..... and that 75 people made a profession of faith that day. On Tuesday, he says our final count was that we saw 446 people and 66 of them made a profession of faith.

One of the stories I head from one the physical therapists was about an elderly man who had had a stroke several years ago and had been unable to walk since that time. Everywhere he has needed to go, his family members have carried him. They carried him to Clinic. She examined him and found that he actually had pretty good muscle tone and she suspected that, given the proper equipment, the man would be able to walk. She fitted him with a walker and for the first time in two years, he WALKED across the room. After he sat back down, his wife kept quietly glancing over at the walker and then back to her husband. They did not comprehend that we would GIVE them the walker. But the therapist could read the longing in the wife's eyes and realized she did not understand and was too polite to presume to ASK that such a valuable gift be given to them. The therapist hurried to explain through the translator that the walker was theirs to take home and keep. Upon hearing this, the wife broke down into tears. Their lives had been changed significantly by something that we take for granted here in the United States...access to a walker.

One of our physician extenders (a nurse practitioner named Claudine) told about a woman about her own age who came through Clinic and did not really have any physical problem, but was unable to work past the grief at having lost her mother. God sent that woman to just the right person, because Claudine had been devastated by the loss of her own mother and could weep along with that woman and then tell her how Christ had helped her in that very same situation. She was able to listen with a tender heart and give the woman the opportunity to grieve with someone who's heart was so very tender to her.

Tomorrow we go to the Orphanage.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vague Sense of Apprehension....

As I posted earlier, last time we went to yesterday's location (two years ago) there were soldiers waiting there for us when we arrived...toting M-16's that had to be at least four feet long! But, they did not follow us back to the hotel...just left themselves as soon as we loaded up our bus and started out. This year was different though...five heavily armed policemen met us in the hotel at 6:00 am yesterday morning. The explanation we were given is that since we were going to a heavily ganged controlled violent area, the government had assigned this unit to accompany us and "guard the drugs" for us. (That was before I found out that 16 Americans were killed by one of the gangs in that very spot just a few weeks ago by blowing their bus up.) Well, the police unit traveled with us to that area and made a perimeter around us all day and, to our surprise, followed us back to the hotel again and STAYED. We kept expecting them to leave, but they never did and they have stuck to us like glue ever since. They don't leave the hotel unless WE leave the hotel and we have been told that we are not to leave the hotel unless it is as the entire group on our planned events. They came with us to supper at Pizza Hut last night...escorting and guarding us like we were some important entourage. It was kind of fun, having them along because in order not to get separated from our bus, they always block the intersections (lights flashing, sirens on) as we make turns. Then they jump out of their vehicle lickety split when we arrive, rifles raised, eyes scanning up and down the street, before we step off the bus. They are always with us, forming a silent perimeter and ever watching. Last night I heard a rumor that one of the gangs has been targeting church groups. But, still I didn't feel any apprehension...until this evening. This morning we went to a very small, secluded area of tourist gift stalls in a very good part of town...of course our police escort was there, silently shadowing us, forming an unobtrusive perimeter around us. Well, while we were there, we ran into another church medical mission group that had come in our same flight Saturday night, but having been staying at a different place. One of them glanced nervously at all the heavily armed policemen and said to us, "We thought this was suppose to be a really SAFE area!" We assured them it WAS...that the policemen were only there because they had come with us. That is when it dawned on me that THEY are a church group on a medical mission trip with lots of drugs and THEY have not been assigned 24/7 police protection and the other church group from Alabama that arrived at our hotel yesterday have not been assigned any police protection. And the police obviously are NOT worried about "protecting our drugs" or they would have stayed behind at the hotel with our 700 pounds of medicines today instead of going to the beach with us. Not only are they guarding us (rather than the medicines) but they are guarding US, specifically....not all church medical mission groups, just ours. Which makes me wonder why. What do they know that they have not told us?

Our police unit will remain with us 24/7 the remainder of our stay in the country. Tonight, as we were leaving the hotel to go to supper, I saw twice as many rifled hotel guards posted than I have seen since arriving here. One of them was on a second floor balcony and he kept looking at our bus and then staring far down either side of the street. THAT is the moment when the first vague sense of apprehension started to wrap up in a knot in my stomach. ...Enough so, that I changed seats so that I was sitting in the seat nearest Darcy so I could shove her down if needed. Probably melodramatic on my part...after all, I AM the woman who was stalked by serial killer Pete in Alaska! And we all know how innocent THAT turned out to be. Still, I keep noticing things that, in my heightened paranoia take on omnious signficance. We went out to eat papoosa tonight. I was expecting us to end up at same place we went to for papoosa on the last medical mission trip....a large busy restaurant that is full side of the building open to the street and right ON the that everyone in the restaurant is in full view of passing cars. This time, we went to a small restaurant high in the mountains and taken to a private room in back. It was a covered balcony looking out over El Salvador far below. My paranoid mind took in the fact that there was no way to approach the back of the building where we were without coming through the doorway, flanked by our policemen...and we were not at all visible from the street. The balcony jutted out over a steep drop, that could not be traversed on foot without great difficulty...a fairly secure, easy to contain set up. Paranoia! Then, I thought, "Yeah...and we didn't go to our "usual" marketplace this morning, either...instead we were taken to a much smaller, more isolated, safer area. Paranoia! When I asked why we didn't go to our "usual" papoosa joint, it was pointed out to me that our "usual" place was in Il Sulitan, not San Salvador and would have been a much further drive. That makes total sense! Last time, we stayed some of our nights in Il, of course we would have gone to a different papoosa restaurant.

We leave at 6:30am tomorrow for the church in the inner city portion of San Salvador. I am suspecting we will see more people there than anywhere else while we are here. That church has it's own security force in addition to the San Salvador police unit that will be accompanying us. When we were there for church service Sunday evening, I had noticed two men with ear pieces standing on either side of the front of the church continually scanning the large crowd...and stepping up onto stage each time we bowed our heads to pray. It finally dawned on me they were security guards. I asked one of our translators about it later and he said that this church has it's own security force and that the pastor is guarded to keep him from being kidnapped and held for ransom. This is a very large, very well organized church. They have a HUGE outreach to the inner city in San Salvador. I expect we will see our largest crowds so far. We have never had clinic at this particular church before. Tomorrow will be a completely new experience...not a familiar one as Monday and Tuesday were for me.

My apprehension is was fleeting enough. But, it surprised me that I had it at all...I don't tend to be a worrier. (I am quick to figure "worst-case scenario", but, then, having come to an awful conclusion, I do not actually feal fear or dread over me, a worrier is someone who experiences fear and dread over what might be...but, easily envisioning "worst case scenario" with serene detachment is just being imaginative, not being a worrier!

The frustration of writing this blog is that there is SO MUCH I want to write, but honestly do not have time to write but a smattering of what is wanting to boil over through my fingers upon the keyboard.

I wanted last night, to be able to share the things I heard as we all met together and various members of our team shared what they had seen God do, thus far. I am going to write that...but, there is not time enough yet.

Tonight, the most pressing thing on my heart is the realization that God is in control. We can never be out of His loving hands...particularly not when our hearts are yielded to Him and we are obeying. Do I feel guilty for having brought Darcy along? No. Emphatically, no. She has been an enormous help and I see how this mission trip has impacted her mightily. We cannot live our life in fear of the "maybe's". To do so would be a poor life, indeed. This has been such a joyous trip for every member of our team. And God IS using does not get any better than that! And, He sure gave us a wonderful break today as we had this one free day to go to the market and to the beach...the weather could not have been more perfect. And what a joy that we have five policemen literally living with us this week. Our translators interact with them often and there is always three or four of them sitting interspersed with these policemen during their meals with us. I know our translators well enough to know they are taking advantage of the opportunity to befriend these fellows and share Jesus with them.

Darcy goes to the marketplace and what does she buy? A MACHETE, of course!

"El Salvadorian Police just enjoying a day at the beach!" (with us!)

(It is a bit disappointing that the Police have such small rifles...only about half as long as the automatic machine guns (M-16's) that the soldiers carry. But, the Police are a lot friendlier than the soldiers ever were!)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Another busy day! Today we set up clinic in the grade school at Ayutuxtepeque, a very impoverished area built on the steep sides of the mountains on the outskirts of San Salvador. The church we were at yesterday is planting a mission church in Ayutuxtepeque. We went to Ayutuxtepeque two years ago when I was on the medical mission trip. At that time, we were warned that it was a very dangerous area because it is heavily controlled by gangs. When we arrived, we found that there armed soldiers sent by the government to protect us. That time, the soldiers met us there and did not follow us out when we left later that day. They were very uncommunicative...all business. This time, I was surprised when five soldiers showed up at our hotel, automatic machine guns strapped across their shoulders. We invited them to eat breakfast with us after we were informed that the government had sent them to ESCORT us all the way to Ayutuxtepeque and back. This time, the soldiers were very approachable. It was only after we got back to the hotel tonight that one of the translators explained to us that 16 Americans were killed in tiny, isolated Ayutuxtepeque just a few weeks ago. They were tourists. One of the gangs blew their bus up. The translator that was with us in the pharmacy confided in us that HE did not feel safe in Ayutuxtepeque and was really glad the soldiers had accompanied us.

It is a very different setting in Ayutuxtepeque. The people are so much poorer and the needs are so much greater. One seven year old girl seen by one of the physical therapist had a racing heart. She told them that she was still frightened from the gunfire that broke out beside her house last night. The poverty there is so intense. What few medications we are able to provide those people, likely is the only medication they ever have access to.

We saw 454 people today...checked out by the physicians and the physical therapists, fitted for glasses, wounds attended to, medication provided for...and told about Christ who brought us. Again, every person that was seen by a doctor at the clinic also had the gospel shared with them. I had so much fun with the children today. The lines were very long and the kids were so approachable and loved having their photo taken. They were eager to show me the game of marbles they were playing or take me to see their brother, sister, or mother! Some of our team played "Simon Says" with a crowd of waiting children later this afternoon! There was so much laughing. And there was crying...Claudine, one the doctor extenders, told me this evening that the last person she saw was a 40 year old woman who looked far older than her years who broke down in tears as she talked to Claudine and told her that she wished she could just go to sleep and never wake up again. Claudine spoke with her a very long time through the translator and told her about Jesus and gave her a Spanish Bible. Please pray for her.

Monday, July 19, 2010 Gethsemane Baptist Church in El Salvador...

Too exhausted to post much tonight...will just suffice by copy/pasting my facebook status here!....

Wow! Full day today! Up at 5:45 am and ran non-stop until 9:30pm! We had so many people waiting to be seen in the clinic today that we worked 3 hours past what was originally planned to be our ending time and we saw 556 people!!! Every one of them listened to a presentation of the gospel!!! Got back to the hotel just in time for a quick supper and then all worked like ants counting pills and bagging them and labeling them for tomorrow's clinic! BUSY day!!! Several of the girls here are STILL counting, bagging, and labeling pills even now...but, most of us have hung it up for the night! We will be leaving the hotel at 6:30 tomorrow morning to go to the outsikirts of San Salvador in an area that is heavily gang controlled...the same area where the government sent soldiers armed with four foot long automatic machine guns to stand guard around the perimeter while we were there last time!

(Didn't get to bed last night until sometime after 1:45am....and was already behind on my sleep before even leaving for El so tired now I am about to fall over! Otherwise, I would post some photos and write a LOT MORE....but, the photos will have to wait until later. I haven't even had a chance to check my e-mail since leaving Bolivar! Might do that really quickly before working my way towards bed!)


Today was a practical lesson in treasuring the Lord over getting tasks done on schedule. It is so helpful that God chose to fill the Bible with examples of situations that speak right to where I am at! Today, we had such a blessed time of worship and fellowship...and, for once, I was able to lay the "Martha" in me aside and be in the moment even though "my" schedule was totally turned upside down.

Morning began quite pleasantly. We were planning on attending two church services, on in the morning at Pastor Jimmie's church and the other in the evening at the Tabernaculo Biblico Bautista Amigos de Israel "Mejicanos". Between the two services, we planned to count, label, and bag our pills for Monday's clinic (always an undertaking of mammoth proportions).

We had such a blessed time at our dear friend Jimmie's church. So many people hung around to talk with us after the service! I had such a fun time visiting with a sweet woman named Doris who could not speak any more English and I could Spanish...yet, by the end our visit, we actually knew quite a little bit about each other! It is so special to get to connect with brother's and sister's in Christ in a country that is not our own. We eventually got around to loading ourselves back up on the bus, and away we went to a Mexican Restaurant (not El Salvadorian foot, but Mexican food). San Salvador is like the New York City of El Salvador and it has many different kinds of restaurants to choose from. The food there was wonderful, but our huge group overwhelmed them. We had our mission team of 31 people plus a large number of our friends from Brother Jimmie's church with us. We filled up the small restaurant and there were no tables left. After we arrived, there were four or five other sets of people who came to eat there, who weren't able to stay because there was no room left. I had ordered Chicken Fajitas. Our tables were arranged in three long rows. The food trickled out four or five plates at a time. People on the near end of the first row had already finished their meals before the people on the far end of that same row had even been served. Next came our row. I was not worried, as either person in either side of me got their meals, but when the entire row had eventually been served and they began serving the third row (no one there from our team), I got a bit worried and spoke up. Someone went ahead and bused most of our team back to the hotel. I stayed behind, still awaiting my food(!) and six other people from our team stayed behind with me--all of them had been served already and most of them had finished. A bit later, Jimmie walked by with a burrito that no one claimed. It was just going to be sent back to the kitchen...and, I figured, any port in a storm!, I called the burrito in lieu of my still waiting to be cooked chicken fajita! I had considered getting the burrito made out of tongue when first ordering, just for the novelty of it, but, then had decided I did not want to invest my entire meal in something that I might not like. But, as I ate the unclaimed burrito, I, having no way of KNOWING what it was filled with, decided that the beef tasting meat was probably tongue! That made it worth skipping a fajita for!

By the time I wolfed down my "tongue" burrito and we raced back to the hotel, it was already 3:45 and we were to leave for evening service at 4:00! Gone was the time I had planned for us to prepare our medications for clinic! Oh, well...I figured that evening service would last about an hour and we could work on the medications after that. In the meantime, I was delighted to find that Darcy and three or four of the women had been busy bagging and labeling pills while I was still languishing at the restaurant. (Darcy has been a HUGE help already...from all the help she gave before we even left on the trip, unpacking and repacking the medications, to all the help she had genuinely been since we arrived.)

I thought evening service would be about an hour. And, truthfully, it seemed about an hour. So, I was shocked when Darcy pointed out to me that it had lasted THREE hours! Three!...not much time left to prepare all Monday's medications!!! The church invited us to stay for supper, so we did. We had refried beans, fried plantains, cheese, sour cream (but not like our sour cream...this cream was good to mix in the beans) and the juice of a fruit I have never heard of that is grown here (begins with an "a", I think...already have forgotten its name!). By the time we got back to the hotel, it was already 8pm! Everyone went straight to work and we worked like crazy until 10:15pm. Then I came back up to our room and spent another hour and a half trying to sort out Thursday medications from Fridays (not labeling and bagging, just getting them separated from each other since customs tore open some of our bags and the medications had gotten mixed together)...and trying to figure out which suitcases had what day's medications in them (as the labels we had put on them in Bolivar had gotten smudged off)!

One thing God has taught me since the last mission trip is to live in the moment and not stress over what needs, yet, to be done. I am so thankful that my heart had the peace to be lost in the service tonight instead of fretting over what remained to be done back at the hotel. As it turned out, everything we needed to get done has gotten done, pretty much(!)...even though the time we had allotted to do it turned out not to be available for us to work in. God provided us with a second nurse this trip who has had past medical mission trip experience and has always been in charge of the pharmacy. What a blessing!!! And Sherry, who ran the pharmacy with me last time, has done SO MUCH ahead of time this time around...both of them had prepared so much before we ever even arrived in El Salvador that we were able to complete our preparations for tomorrow's clinic in the severely limited amount of time we had available today!

It has been a very good day! Tomorrow will be our first clinic. (Well, actually, today, since as I write it is already well past midnight.) We will be at Jimmie's church...our first clinic will be on familiar ground! My heart is eager to be there again! It's so funny...I was so stressed out and worn out before we ever left on this mission trip that my heart just was no longer in it. Honestly, if I hadn't already made the commitment to go, I would have bowed out. Yet, the moment I looked out our bus window as we sped through the dark night to our hotel last night, something in my heart just awakened and I was so very thankful to be back. As looked out the bus window into the night and saw familiar spots along the road, I remembered all over again two years ago when I rode a bus through the night and saw this place dimly in the dark for the first time. Then, everything had been so, everything seemed so familiar. A part of me felt like I was home again. And I am so grateful God has allowed me to come back. Last time, I was overwhelmed with the task ahead...always so exhausted and stressed...but, this time, something in me has learned Mary's secret of knowing what is most important and not letting the tasks which are piling up deter her from treasuring the gift God is giving in the present moment. That is the peace that allows you to get so caught up in a three hour worship service that you do not realize you have just worshiped right through the time you had thought you would have to finish all the work left undone! What a joy the service tonight was. What a joy the service this morning was! And what a wonderful time of fellowship we had together the hours that we spent in the Mexican Restaurant waiting on our food! I pray God will help me bring that peace back home to my life there, too...not just here!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Darcy and I Arrived in El Salvador Late Last Night...

The final leg of our journey, out plane was about an hour late departing. Darcy and I had only had two and a half hours of sleep the night before our journey began (from 3:30 am to 6:00am) because we were frantically trying to finish up loose ends before leaving. Neither of got more than a catnap here and there during the trip, then our wait through immigration and customs was very long. There was another team of medical mission group who we let go ahead of us (while we were still trying to track down whether or not we needed to say "yes" to pharmaceuticals on our customs paper) and they got EVERY SINGLE one of their bags hand searched...even their personal luggage...took forever. Our team had nearly twice the baggage per person as their team. Each of us were hauling about 140 pounds worth of luggage apiece. Darcy and I were the first ones through the line, followed by Larry. Customs officials checked our two large trunk suitcases that were filled with medications and the medication suitcases that Larry had, but then waved us through without going through our personal baggage and without checking any more of anyone's bags in our group of 31 people. As we walked out of customs, I saw Jimmie in the distance happily waving to us...and Walter there by his side! What a joy to see their familiar faces once more...brought back so many memories of the last time I was here with them! I remember last time, there were so many new faces and I could not keep straight who was who...but, this time, two of the faces in the group were quite familiar!

We traveled by school bus the long way to our hotel. I was amazed at how familiar things looked. I am so geographically challenged and have such a poor memory that I get lost in my own back yard, yet, as our bus sped through the black night, I recognized so many familiar places along the road, from my time here two years ago.

I Awoke this morning to what sounded like very LARGE tropical birds singing just outside our window. Looked out the window for the first time in daylight and found I was looking straight at a very large, very close volcano...whose top was obscured in a blanket of low lying clouds!

Now I am sitting in a nook just off the open air courtyard typing to the sound of silverware being sorted and someone singing acapella in a deep, rich voice as he works! When we arrived last night, it was to the sounds of a very loud band playing lively music. Music seems to be an integral part of life it the strange melodies of birds I've not heard before, or the joyous rhythms of a Latino band or the dear soul singing so beautifully this morning to the happy clinking of silverware being rapidly sorted.

We are to go downstairs to breakfast in a few moments, then we will leave to go to Jimmie's church this morning and another sister church this evening. In between times, we will be busy sorting medications and preparing for clinic that will begin tomorrow. I will try to post pictures later this evening if I have time!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monkeys Keep Coming!

My friends, Lisa and Laura, were recently making sock monkeys as they waited in the ICU waiting room between allowed times to visit their father. Here are two of Lisa's monkeys. I need to dig out the photo of Laura's monkey!...will try to get it posted soon! (The orange monkey Lisa was making for her nephew, Tommy, was not finished yet when I took it's picture...missing arms and it's entire adorable RAMBO costume!)

Also, I worked on a birthday monkey for Doug while hanging out with Lisa and Laura in the waiting room. Doug had begged for a "Bolt" monkey for his birthday, so I was able to surprise him with this electric orange monkey that Lisa gave me the socks for (fresh from Nome!). Bolt is pictured here BEFORE I had completed his super hero cape...but, he is almost finished in this picture.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Newest Monkey

This is our newest monkey...a baby-safe custom monkey. The orphanage is closed, but we are still catching up placing monkeys adopted before the orphanage closed!

(This little monkey is completely hand-stitched and is only our third monkey to have embroidered eyes.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Strawberry Has Received a New Name...

Newsflash: This little monkey is still en route to Nome, Alaska (it's a LONG trip up there, you know!), but I just got word from her new family that her name will be Matilda Louise Jenkins from now on. Maybe the new name will perk her up! Meanwhile, her new family sent us this picture of the the family she will be joining and of the room they will be sharing...

(It looks like the monkeys have their OWN inflatable boat there in their room! And I really like the sock monkey design quilt on their bed!)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Matilda Louise Jenkins is Going Home to Alaska

Well, we thought sweet little Matilda would perk up when she found out she was going home to her new family in Alaska. She still looks a bit blue, though...even in her cheerful new traveling clothes!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lilac and Peanut Have Been Adopted!

They've got their traveling clothes on and they are ready go! Lilac and Peanut are boarding a Priority flight for Arizona today!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Larry Arrives HOME!!!!

Wow! Life is good! Bri already LOVES me and gave me LOTS of hugs and showed me around my new home and then her mommy suggested I rest on the sofa, in front of the TV (World Cup match on, you know!) and brought me POPCORN (extra butter!) and Lemonade! Life just doesn't get any better than this!!! I LOVE Bri!!!! It is so wonderful to finally have a family of my very own!!!

(Of course I have to root for MEXICO over France(!)...I DO HAVE Mexican connections, you know! When I was just a pair of socks, I belonged to Mr. Susunaga who may live in Nome, now, but was born in MEXICO!!!! GO MEXICO!!!!)