Monday, July 30, 2018

Daily Devotions - Read the same daily scripture passage and meditation that we use every night

El Salvador Devotions and Prayers
Annual Mission Trip:  July 28 - August 5, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

Saturday, July 28

Then I heard the Lord say “Whom shall I send?  Who will be my messenger?”  I answered, “I will go!  Send me!”  -  Isaiah 6:1.

You might be thinking:  Who, me?  What was I thinking when I made the decision to go to El Salvador this year?  Jim, Bob, and Marilyn have been on this trip before, but not me.  Why did they go back?  It’s hard work, a lot of sweat, maybe some blisters and a sore back. 

Our El Salvador Mission Trip is a major step in service as we fulfill the Lord’s command to love our neighbors and put God’s words of love into action.  You will experience joy in traveling with a group from our home base, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, to form a partnership with our southern neighbors to build decent, durable homes for them.  This trip gives us the opportunity to share our love and see what we can do together.  Loving one another is important.  People are different but we are all children of God.  You may not be able to have a fluent conversation with our friends in El Salvador but a touch, a thumbs up, or a big smile all go a long way.  The folks you will be working with have huge hearts of love. Do things humbly and sincerely with an open heart, and everyone will be paid back in many ways.

Let us pray.

We thank and praise you dear Lord for bringing us all together at one time, and in one place, to do your work.  Prosper the work of our hands this week, O God.  May your work and your will be done in us and through us while we are here in El Salvador.  In Jesus’ name we pray. 



Sunday, July 29

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands.             -      Psalm 90:17

 “Can you give me a hand?”  We ask when we need assistance.  You might hear it when a test is given to a student, or when someone has nothing to eat, or maybe when in El Salvador to help build someone a home.

The psalmist knows that for our energies and efforts to grow and prosper, we need to know the fullness of God’s blessing and favor.  We need to be doing God’s work, not following our own desires.  Before this psalmist asks for God’s prosperous blessing, a prayer is offered:  “Let your work be manifest to your servants”  (verse 16). We pray that we might know God’s work, and we ask that it might be done in and through us.  We strive to live out our prayer, “Thy will be done.”

The ELCA logo contains this phrase: “God’s Work, Our Hands.”  It’s a commitment to discern God’s will in the world and the work God calls us to do.  It’s a call to get our hands busy doing God’s work in our daily lives.

Let us pray.

We thank you once again, Father, for giving us the opportunity to celebrate and praise you with the people of Cristo Rey Lutheran Church.  Be with us as we set out tomorrow to make our hands busy in building new homes for these friends here in El Salvador.  In Jesus’ name we pray. 



Monday, July 30

One Mission Sunday, when we raised money for the Mission Fund with the help of empty tomb, Jason Fisher was asked by Barbara Hack if he could say a few words regarding his experience in El Salvador.  He chose a reading from Luke 10: 1-11, and expanded on these particular words:
“Going out two by two”
“The harvest is rich but the workmen are few”
“Carry no bag, nor sandals”
“Whatever home you enter first say ‘Peace be to this house’”
“Eat and drink what they provide for you”

Our dusty work will be as hard as we expected, but the home we help build for our El Salvador friends will be a lasting memory.  As scripture says, “The Kingdom of God has approached you”.  This will be for us more than what we give.

Jesus sent the disciples, 70 of them in pairs, to tell of the good news.  We may not be able to say the exact words because of language differences, but we can certainly act it out by the love we show to these new friends.

Can you imagine Jesus’ closest friends coming to your door with the good news of the gospel and showing their love for you?  We are all children of the Heavenly Father and we must show the love He has for us to others.

Let us pray.

God, when you send us to places unknown, help us know your presence in all we say and all we do.  In Jesus’ name, we pray. 



Tuesday, July 31

And Jesus said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”  -  Mark 10:36

We always seem to be asking Jesus for something.  We want better lives, better jobs, more money, food, forgiveness, healing, happiness, safety – the list goes on.  We pray,  “We want …  or give us …”  Sometimes we ask Jesus his own question:  “What is it you want me to do for you?”

Each of us has unique, God-given talents, gifts, circumstances, occupations, interests, and hobbies.  It is through these blessings that we serve the Lord.  Our special skills and knowledge become the tools to be part of the work of God’s kingdom.  We each have a job to do for Christ.  We are never asked to do more than we are able to do; with God, all things are possible.  Jesus has given us each something to do here in El Salvador.  Living with the love of Christ is an adventure waiting to happen tomorrow.  God has answered our question “What is it you want me to do for you?”  by being here in El Salvador, where Jesus will help us and the Holy Spirit will guide us.

Let us pray.

Dear Lord, make each of us part of the body of Christ, so we can play our part in your work.  In Jesus’ name we pray. 



Wednesday, August 1

For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.  -  Luke 21:4

For this devotion, the writer met Maria while on a Habitat for Humanity build trip.

Maria is a proud, committed Christian woman with children living in an El Salvador home most of us would find unacceptable to use even as a garden shed.

On the second day of the Habitat work week, Maria left and took a bus to the city of Santa Ana,  where she purchased a single item, and then used her precious remaining money for return bus fare.  The round trip took four hours.  What was this one necessary item?  Air freshener.  Maria was so concerned about the group having to use her outhouse that she gave nearly everything she had to accommodate her guests and make them comfortable.

In the scriptural passage, Jesus comments on the widow’s two small copper coins.  He was astounded by such genuine, selfless generosity.  She gave everything she had.

You will experience a similar generosity this week.  For instance, the women who prepare your lunches are giving of their time and talents.  You are giving back to them and their friends your time and your talents in building a home.

Good Shepherd folks gave generously to provide transportation to El Salvador, and out of our own giving enables God’s work - our hands - to be here.

Let us pray.

Dear Jesus,  we offer ourselves to freshen the lives of others in building a home for people in need, and knowing that in showing our love, we are also sharing your love.



Thursday, August 2

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses.     -    Acts 1:8

Jesus’ disciples took on a new job title in their adventure:  “witnesses”.  They were out and about telling of the crucified Jesus, raised by the power of God, who now lives so that all people can live with God forever.  It was a radical message.

We have the privilege of knowing this message, a message that includes the people of El Salvador.  It was such an honor to worship with our new friends as we have this week at Cristo Rey Lutheran Church.  Their Spanish tells the same story as we have heard it in English.  God is love, a story of hope, and a plan for loving everyone forever.  The world needs this hope now more than ever.  We are called to go and be witnesses.

Let us pray.

God, give us confidence to use the gifts you give us to show our love for you, and for all your people. 



Friday, August 3

But God has so composed the body … that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.   -  1 Corinthians 12:24-25

When you get back to the USA, a place is waiting for you. 

The next time you are in church, think about this: 
-         Offer a laugh at the pastor’s joke;
-         Offer a smile to the teenagers who wish they were somewhere else;
-         Shake the hand of a grumpy old man and thank him for his dedicated devotion to the church; 
-         Slow down for the woman with the walker and patiently listen to her tale; 
-         Invite the newcomer; 
-         Compliment the young couple in their care of their crying child;
-         Console someone who is grieving;
-         Sip a little coffee and join in the conversation

Be who you are in the midst of all those gathered to hear God’s word, and be encouraged to go out and be His witnesses.  You are a necessary part of the body of Christ and have been placed exactly where God wants you to be.  In our diversity, Christ himself unites us.

Here in El Salvador, we witness the diversity of the body of Christ.  Despite communication difficulties, it didn’t deter why we came here, and it didn’t impede the love shown from both sides of the so-called language barrier.  There are no differences among us in God’s eyes.

Let us pray.

God, your Spirit gives life to the body of Christ, and we thank you for making us a part of it.  Make each of us part of the body of Christ, so we can play our part in your work.  In Jesus’ name we pray. 


Saturday, August 4

At the end of the days, I lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever.   - Daniel 4:34

This is the end of our week here in El Salvador.  At times, we were exhausted from our work.  “What was I thinking?” may have been on your mind more than once.  We have seen many life stories walk before our eyes this week.  Did you notice the happiness and the hope in the eyes and faces of our new friends?  When God asks us to do something really difficult, he gives us the strength and knowhow.  After all, we just may have had the right skills, tools, and words to make a bad situation easier for someone.  The folks we worked with walk in humble pride with what they have, and they are God’s children just like us.

Perhaps you’ve been moved many times this week to thank the Lord for our many blessings in the United States.  But, when we’re faced with the many material things these friends do not have here in El Salvador, yet see them living among strong families and communities, it gives us second thoughts about those many material things we have back home.  It is good to remember that Salvadorans have the same Jesus Christ who died on the cross - for them as well as for us.  We have the truly important things in common. 

Praise God that we can come to El Salvador and help build new homes for people.  Being here is like receiving a gift from those we came to help.

Let us pray.

Dear God, thank you for the talents and blessings you give us to work in your kingdom here in El Salvador and back home.  In Jesus’ name we pray. 



Sunday, August 5

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you.  -  1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:10

A rallying cry often heard today in our economically challenged world is “less and less”.  Governments are called to balance their budgets.  People are urged to use less energy and decrease consumption of limited resources.  It is good advice that we should all heed. 

In the realms of faith, however, there are no shortages of love and grace and strength.  Therefore, as followers of Christ, we are urged to demonstrate His love in our lives in ever-increasing measure. 

The apostle Paul urged the people to “abound more and more” in a lifestyle that pleases God.  He also commended them for their demonstration of love for each other, and called them to “increase more and more” in brotherly love.  That kind of ever-increasing love is possible only because it comes from God’s limitless resources, not from our own dwindling supply.  How much should we love God and others?  More and more!

Let us pray.

Dear Lord, today we depart from El Salvador and we pray for safe travels.  The blessings we received this week have come only from you, as you have shown your mighty love for all of us.  Help us to carry this message back to those who love and sent us.  We thank and praise you for your work, and our hands.  In Jesus’ name we pray. 


Arrived in El Salvador - Sunday, July 29

We're here!  Our trip down here went well.  A few holdups occurred on taxiways and airport waiting rooms, but we eventually emerged from customs, picked up our bags, and met our Habitat host, Francis Padilla.  She has been our weekly host for years.  We met our small bus and were driven to a lunch spot in San Salvador, the capitol city.
 Jim and Francis at the San Salvador Airport.  Bob looks on.

The group at the restaurant in San Salvador.  Left to right back row:  Group Leader Jim Hack, Bob Clark, Dean Olson, Dan Corkery, Gordon Hack (Jim's son), Nicki Kyle, Marilyn Dudley; front row:  Pastor Tom Hillertz, Laurie Johnson, Lisa Hack, Tolu Perrin-Stowe (from Saint Andrew's).

We help Bob Clark celebrate is ?? birthday in the hotel lobby in Indianapolis Friday night.
Bob says he's "Old enough to know better".  Bob's granddaughter's made the cupcakes.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Visit to Cristo Rey (Christ the King) Lutheran Church Santa Ana

Ernesto greets us at his restaurant called "Mix" connected to the hotel.  
It will be our daily breakfast location.  We have to walk past the pool to get to it.
More later on the hotel pool.
 Pastor Tom, Bob, and Marilyn at breakfast.
 Jim and Marilyn at breakfast.
 The members of Cristo Rey gather to greet us before the worship service begins.
 Pastor Vilma says a few words to us, as translated by Bris, from Habitat, doing the translation.  Bris and her colleague at Habitat, Luis, visited us a few years ago at Good Shepherd.  Bris delivered a video message to Good Shepherd attendees on Sunday, July 29.

 Pastor Vilma, Pastor Tom, and a Pastor from near Charlotte, NC, co-celebrate on the altar.
 Pastors Vilma and Tom distribute communion to members and visitors at Cristo Rey.
 Tolu and Nicki are recruited to bless the youngsters of the congregation by administering oil to each of them.  They did a good job and were spontaneously selected to do this during the service.
In addition, Laurie read the lesson from the New Testament.
 The three pastors co-celebrate communion as Bris looks on.  She has at least one more year of theology school whereupon she will ponder whether to get ordained.  We hope she does!
 Pastor Vilma says a few words to the congregation, as Bris translates.
 The kids of the congregation act out a skit about Christian values.

 The service was concluded with the skits, followed by dancing.  Yes - Pastors dancing!
 Tolu was very popular with the youngsters as she brought a Polaroid-type instant camera, took photos, and gave them to kids as the image developed before their eyes.  Iris, in the red blouse, is youth director at both of Pastor Vilma's churches.
They all want pictures of each other.
 People who have traveled to El Salvador in the past will recognize Douglas (Kara and Tyra - he sends his warmest greetings), Francis, Flor (not working with our group this year), and Kati from the Santa Ana Habitat offices.
Our Habitat Family 2018 joins us for lunch.  Pictured among Good Shepherd volunteers are husband Alberto, son Melvin, wife Yenifer, and daughter Sofia.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

El Salvador Sendoff - Friday, July 27, 7 p.m.

Come to the west lot of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church for our departure to El Salvador at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 27.  We'll head to Indianapolis for the night and catch a very early American Airlines flight to Miami where we transfer to a flight for San Salvador.  We'll have lunch in the capitol city, then go to Santa Ana where we'll spend the week working on our annual Habitat for Humanity build, supported by Thrivent.

Here's our Friday night hotel:

La Quinta Inn Lynhurst
5316 West Southern Avenue
Indianapolis, IN

Check in here often for daily posts, stories, and devotions.  Please be patient, as Internet service in El Salvador can be unreliable and slow.