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Sometimes God speaks to us as clearly as if He came down from the sky, looked you straight in the eye and started talking. Other times it seems like He’s speaking in riddles, or not speaking at all. Since I made the decision to come on this first mission to El Salvador, the Enemy has been whispering doubts in my ear: “Has God indeed said...” you should go on this mission? (Genesis 3:3) I figured at least once I got here I would feel certain. But after 3 nights away from home, I still woke up this morning praying that I was supposed to come. Tonight I received assurance. 

Our day was spent playing, laughing, and loving the orphans and special-needs adults, at the centers we went to. Who knew a little music and some rubber band bracelets could bring so much joy? We also got to speak with one of the workers there who shared how God has been working in her life. She told us how she had worked for years at another job but was never able to get a house. When she changed jobs to work here, though, after only a couple of months, the Lord intervened and she found a house! It is so good to hear the stories of God working in the lives of those who obey Him, even on the other side of the continent!
After a full day, we came back to the mission house to prepare the food we would take to feed to the homeless. Most of the veterans of this mission describe this as the most emotionally difficult part. But for me, it gave me so much joy.

Of course, I can see how the heart-wrenching state of poverty that so many people live in can be overwhelming. But instead of focusing on the sad things, God brought my attention to the smiles, the laughter, and the sound of “¡Dios te bendiga!” (God bless you!) being proclaimed on the streets. 
As we drove, in my mind I argued against the devil’s lies and asked myself: what biblical reason can you find that tells you this is *not* something God has called you to do? All that could come to mind was 
“Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my Brethren, you did it unto me,” and “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Matthew 25:40 and Mark 16:15) Of course this is what God has called me to do! He calls me to this every day! 
I am blessed that this week I get to obey Him here in El Salvador, but the call is always there. God is not speaking in riddles. 
He has put it in black and white for me so that I may have no doubt.

                                                                 -Ashley Hartung
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What a wonderful first day in El Salvador. We enjoyed a time of worship with Pastor Haziel at Mt. Calvario Baptisto Church. I always enjoy the upbeat music and often sing songs that are familiar such as “How Great is Our God” and “How Great Thou Art”. Ginger and I stayed to hear the encouraging message of the value of the believer to God. The rest of the team worked with several children during the message time. Lydia shared about Jonah and the big fish and the kids made a craft that helped them understand it.

Later we took nine young men from an orphanage to see the new movie “Alladin.” 
They were very surprised and enjoyed the treat! Normally these teenage boys would have spent yet another day in their orphanage, likely playing soccer barefoot with a makeshift soccer ball so getting to go out on an excursion is a treat. Thank you so much to those of you who helped to make this possible!
(For the safety and protection of the boys, we are not allowed to post their photos, but here is part of our team in front of the theatre we took them to.)


We finished the day with some instructions for the week and to bed. 

Dios te bendiga!, Martin Severns 
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Today was a great day.  We were able to take kids from a teen boys orphanage to a beach house to swim and play.  It was a lot of fun throwing footballs and playing soccer on the beach.  I played frisbee in the pool for a whole hour.  After a few games and a lot of fun, we ate some really good, fried chicken.  After eating, we danced to alot of songs with the boys.  My favorite song to dance to the cupid shuffle.  At the end of the day, we made a tunnel with our arms for the boys to run under when they were leaving.  This was the best day so far.  











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The team had a fun filled last day, visiting with the special needs adults at San Martin.  From dance parties to face painting, nail art and lots of coloring, it was a wonderful way to end a wonderful week!




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Hi my name is Megan and today our team finished the two houses we were building. It was an extremely touching day and it was a feeling that I had never felt before. Our groups switched houses so that we could meet the other family. We painted the houses and decorated the insides. It was great to be able to have time with each family and really get to know both of them. I was able to hand the keys over to one of the families and it was a truly great feeling that I know is a once in a lifetime experience. I hope that I get to experience this feeling again.
-Megan Davis







Today was one of the most rewarding days so far. We finished both houses by painting them, assembling the roof, and decorating the inside. Along the way I met many ninos that helped paint and loved learning how to be a “gringo.” When we were able to dedicate the house and show the families the house, their faces and smiles made me realize the amazing work God enabled me to do. God placed me here today to change multiple lives and help kids who need it most. So even though it was hard and I even almost fell (thanks Hal Ford for catching me), the smiles, laughs, and joy I witnessed today were amazing! After dedicating the house, we were able to pass out eye glasses, t-shirts, hats, dresses, toys, and candy to all the kids and families. We also played games with the kids and taught them many new games. I loved learning new Spanish words and having fun with the kids. The work we put in today produced many smiling faces, 
and that’s all worth it to me.
-Kate Rogers






Today, we finished two houses in Ahuachapán. We split up into two groups to finish the roofs, windows, and paint and furnish the house. In the afternoon, we prayed over the families and blessed their new homes. It was a great day and many people got emotional when we handed over the keys. After the houses were dedicated, we made donations to the community. We donated dresses, candy canes, eyeglasses and other clothing. It was a special moment for both the community and our group as our hard work was fulfilled through the joy of the families. A tiring, long day was met with a big meal at, El Salvador chain, Pollo Campero. Maybe it was the hunger that filled everyone after a hard day of work, but it is fair to say that the chicken schmacked. Some of the group stayed out late 
to feed the homeless after the rest prepared the meals. 
- Andrew Katz




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Today our group went to a school in El Salvador. At this school I met a boy named Melvin. Melvin and I became best friends in the short time we had together. We played games, danced, and watch the puppet show the translators performed. After the show, Melvin and I played soccer and threw a football together. We even made up a handshake. While it was sad to see him leave, I knew we had made him happy today. This is definitely a moment in my life I will never forget!
-Jackson Brannon




  Hola, soy Kirsten! I’m so happy to be part of this trip, it’s such an amazing experience already. I’m so grateful to be able to be here and help the less fortunate. Today’s events have impacted me in ways I wouldn’t have ever imagined. When we went to the school today, I saw the children’s happy faces and it made me feel so special. It was incredible giving them the most simple things, such as beans and rice, that make them ecstatic.  When we arrived to the location today where we would build the houses, we were introduced to the families we were building them for. While they were talking to us you could see how grateful they were in their faces. It was amazing to me to see how this thing we are doing for them can make them so emotional and blessed. I am so thankful to be on this trip and to be able to build a house for these families.

-Kirsten Jones




 Hola, me llama Jasmine. Today (Friday) we got to go to an elementary school. We played with them, painted faces, made shakers, had shaved ice and popcorn, and we had a puppet show. I loved spending time with the kids because they were so friendly. Even though we don’t speak the same language we had great interpreters and still a had fantastic time getting to know the kids. After we left the school, we went to the location where we were building the houses. We were introduced to the 2 families we are building the houses for. I introduced our school and students to them and explained why we came. After that I talk to Ana, who is the mom of one of the families we are building a house for. She was so so kind and happy. She said she was so happy we were here and said that she could finally sleep in peace because her son, Nelson, who is wheelchair bound, will be comfortable in the house we are building which will have a ramp for him. I feel like her and I have this great connection that her and I both felt, and I will never forget. I am so happy and grateful that I get to build a house for her and her family and can bring them peace. 
-Jasmine Meadows











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Our first day began at 3:30 am. We met in the hotel lobby eager to start our adventure. The first flight we took was from Nashville to Atlanta, our flight was late leaving so when we landed we had 10 minutes between the time we got off the plane and when we were supposed to be on the next plane to El Salvador. We sprinted to our gate and luckily the flight was delayed or we wouldn’t have made it. When we arrived in El Salvador we went to “States Diner” a restaurant owned by Sus Hijos. We ate there then went to the mission house. 
At the mission house we began to make food to feed to the homeless that night. We made sandwiches with mayonnaise, cheese, and bologna. The homeless people would also receive an apple, a shirt, and other treats. We packed bags full of food until we could fill 3 full garbage bags up with the food. From there we hopped in the back of a pickup and were driven around the town. 

To see the vast amount of homeless people living on the streets is a huge eye opener. It puts life into perspective and let’s you know how truly lucky we have it to be born in America. We would give each person a bag with the sandwiches and other items. Each time we handed someone a bag we made sure to say “dios te bendiga,” or God bless you. The people’s faces would light up with joy each time they received the bag and the blessing. It was an amazing experience that is truly humbling and allowed us to to see how unfortunate people here are, but how we can also help them through acts of kindness. - Quinn Atnip
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For their final day in El Salvador, the team took children from an orphanage to a beach resort! While living just a short drive away, many of these children have never even seen the beach, let alone visited a resort. They had a great time swimming with our teens and playing in the sand.




Eli Hudspeth - Today was easily my easiest favorite day of the week. As I walked into the Pacific Paradise resort, I felt that I was going to enjoy today a little more than the other days. Being able to just relax and play with the kids was so refreshing at the end of the labor intensive week. I connected more intentionally with this young girl named Stephanie. I was able to chase her around and make her laugh and smile as much as I could. With every smile and laugh I saw, it brought the same amount of joy to me. To her, I was probably seen as a stupid American that continued screaming “ladder” and “cockroach” for no reason, but, to me, she was the person who made the whole trip worth it. Stephanie had one of the most adorable laughs and smiles that I have ever seen or heard and I’m certain I’ll continually look back at the pictures and videos I have of her to reminisce on these beautiful memories I’ve made. I’m so appreciative of Starfish Orphan Ministry for allowing me and my fellow classmates the opportunity to visit with these sweet kids along with the many other people I’ve come in contact with. This trip has been so impactful on my life and the amount of lives Starfish is changing through experiences like this is astonishing.



                                           
                                       Hope Hodges -
No one could argue that this week was a long one for all of us. So we were all excited to hear we would be going to the beach with orphans from “Nuestros pequeños hermanos”! The resort we attended, Hotel Pacific Paradise, was extremely beautiful. In the kid’s eyes, you could definitely see they were very excited. Although the language barrier has been something new for me to navigate this week, I’ve noticed it doesn’t bother the kids whatsoever. Many of them find it very amusing, us gringos trying to speak Spanish. It is also gives the other children a chance to practice English which they very much enjoy. Today I had the opportunity to collect shells and write in the sand with a group of young girls. Although the actions were things I had done many times before, they meant so much more today. Every time I write in the sand from now on, I’ll think of how Zenaida and I wrote “Jesus loves you” in the sand today. I know God really revealed a lot to me this week. Despite all the unfortunate circumstances here, God’s love is visible everywhere. Seeing the pure joy in the children’s faces when they get to play with us and do things they haven’t done before fills my heart so much it might as well burst. Starfish is really making a          difference in El Salvador. I know that I will forever be grateful that I got to be a part of it


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Sunday was a day full of hard work for the team along with countless acts of selflessness and service to others. Please enjoy the accounts from Josie and Leyla below...


-Josie Powers-



Although today was the longest, hardest day we have had yet, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Being able to build two houses for two beautiful families was an experience I will never forget. Every moment from putting the floor panels down to moving the furniture in to the final locking of the door, such joy was portrayed on every family members face. It’s amazing what God can do. With Gods grace and love we got to build two families not only a house but a home. A home where many memories will be made, many laughs laughed, and many hearts filled. When they told us that we would be building a house, I thought they were crazy.







Very few of us have ever done that kind of work before. Yet once again God worked a miracle, and gave us the strength and patience to complete the project.







His love and grace carried on to that evening, were I had the experience of feeding the homeless. This was something that no one could prepare me for. No matter how much they told me of what I would see, it wouldn’t prepare me for seeing more than a hundred homeless people lining the streets. Most people ranging from ages five years old to eighty. But once again, Gods love was shown. We had the blessing of being able to  feed some of the people. To many a sandwich, soda, and apple is not much of a meal, but to them it is a little glimpse of hope. Even if just one person was able to understand Gods love through a small act of his grace, it was worth it. His love never ceases to amaze me. 


-Leyla Young-
“This day was probably the hardest for me. As we got to the community we went to meet the first family, a couple with two younger girls. And they couldn’t be any sweeter. Moving on to the next family’s house that we built. This was the hardest part for me. I met a young boy Mario the day before at the festival and played with him. When I saw that we were building his house it broke my heart. I didn’t know that the sweet loving boy I met a day ago was in desperate need of a home, love, and hope. To hear his story and about his family was the toughest challenge I faced. I never thought how much a little boy could impact me in just a 24 hour time span. You truly don’t know what people have and don’t have.








         













After a long hard day of physical and emotional pain, I fed the homeless. I don’t think I was mentally prepared to what I was about to see. You see homeless people here and there but nothing to ever grab your attention. When you see kids 5,6,7 years old on the street and in shirts and panties for clothes it goes to show you how much people need help, they need love, lots of love. “







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Taylor Puckett

Today we had the opportunity to play and excite kids that will remember this day for days, months, or even years. I am over joyed that I get to make an impact on a child in such a big way. 


I painted many Mickey mouses and butterflies on beautiful faces and hands. The smiles and laughter made everything worth it.





After the festival, we were able to donate food items such as sugar, rice, beans, and spaghetti noodles. All of the recipients of the food were very gracious. They repeatedly thanked us and blessed us. We prayed over their family and the food given. The love of the Lord and his word shined through the whole day, especially the moment when we were able to hand them a bible of their very own. This day is one that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The opportunities to give love and happiness to people who are so thankful for the work we, McCracken County High School, got to do. May God always be with these wonderful people, and let his word lead them into their later years.





Lilly swanz 
At the beginning of the festival in Ahuachapan, I didn’t think much of the “work” we were doing. Playing sports and blowing bubbles with cute kids would be my dream job, so it didn’t feel like work. It wasn’t until we handed out donations and delivered food to the community that I realized how much of an impact we were making. The desperation in parents who would try to get more than one pair of flip-flops that may not even fit their children was heartbreaking. When this thought crossed my mind, I truly grasped the need in the community. For nine years, Starfish has been working towards meeting that need through this festival. The impact it has made was evident in the fact that each of the families remembered the festival in previous years. In one house when delivering food, the mother told us that her children look forward to the festival each year. She described it as a time of celebration for their community. The children who were playing in the community where we delivered food recognized us from the festival.

They ran up to us with smiles. Although they were shouting words I didn’t quite understand, I understood a young boy named Javier who called my name. He had remembered me specifically from the festival because we played with frisbees and bubbles. He showed me the toy car that he got from our donations. The pure joy on this boy’s face made clear the impact that we had made and that Starfish will continue to make in years to come.

















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