December 2016 El Salvador Update

This past December, Mike and I had the opportunity to go to El Salvador together on a week long development trip.  We went with a team of 8 others, all with varied skills to contribute to our trip goals which were varied.  We helped facilitate a weekend youth conference, we assisted in the leadership training of our cooperatives, performed further training for our youth interns, we continued our agricultural efforts with the youth, as well as helped facilitate another educators seminar.  The week was packed with ministry opportunities.  I left feeling so thankful and inspired to have the opportunity to work in El Salvador, because the people there are such a treasure.  

I am reminded of Jesus' words, as he explained what the Kingdom of Heaven is like by saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." (Matt. 13:44).  For more than half of my life I have been seeking after this treasure that I found, in people like my friends in El Salvador.  They are a gift.  I see so much potential in them.  It is my joy, to continue to find ways to develop my skills and even consider how I raise and spend money, so that I can "buy that field" - I am intentionally putting my efforts towards developing these precious people. 

Hopefully by reading Mike's and my reflection pieces below, based upon our recent trip, you'll get a better idea of truly how treasured these people are to us.  

http://www.godinternational.org/god-intl-blog/2017/1/against-the-odds#

http://www.godinternational.org/god-intl-blog/2016/12/bfhiq70rjwm807zgl79qt46s6v0xsm

 After a weekend of teaching 28 youth God's word and fellowshipping together, we ended our time with prayer.  We trust that God will continue to help these kids follow after him despite the many voices that are calling for their attention.  

After a weekend of teaching 28 youth God's word and fellowshipping together, we ended our time with prayer.  We trust that God will continue to help these kids follow after him despite the many voices that are calling for their attention.  

 Having times of table fellowship together are some of my most fondest memories.  This meal happened on the porch of one of our houses on our campus in El Salvador.  It is our hope that our campus will offer these kids rest and opportunity.  

Having times of table fellowship together are some of my most fondest memories.  This meal happened on the porch of one of our houses on our campus in El Salvador.  It is our hope that our campus will offer these kids rest and opportunity.  

 Here is my friend Mayra.  She's currently in university studying, away from her family.  She is really talented, and one of the few people that we know in El Salvador that speaks English.  She has charisma, and really desires to serve the Lord.  Pray for her if you think of it! 

Here is my friend Mayra.  She's currently in university studying, away from her family.  She is really talented, and one of the few people that we know in El Salvador that speaks English.  She has charisma, and really desires to serve the Lord.  Pray for her if you think of it! 

So much to be thankful for

Do you ever have those moments in the day, when your thoughts make you stop to think and evaluate your life?  How you're spending your time, who you're spending it with, and why you're doing what you're doing?  I had several moments like that today.  Thanksgiving is often a reflective day for me.  

Today, my thoughts were directed towards thanksgiving.  Not necessarily the holiday, but the actual act of giving thanks.  I had to take a moment to sit in the goodness of the Lord, remembering all that he has done for me, for my family, for my friends, and give thanks where thanks are due.  I was overcome with thankfulness as I took time to thank God for the things he is doing in my life.  The fact alone that I have a husband that loves the Lord and his family, and that we have 4 healthy children is enough to bring any mama to tears of thanks.

 

 Our crew.  So thankful they are mine, and for their good health.  Thank you Lord.

Our crew.  So thankful they are mine, and for their good health.  Thank you Lord.

As human beings we too quickly neglect to see and appreciate what is before us.  In our fast paced materialistic culture, we are often anticipating the next thing on our calendar (the next promotion, the next vacation, getting a bigger and better house - the list could go on).  We anticipate it so much that we miss everything in between.  I don't want to miss out on these moments.  I don't want to go throughout a day, failing to give thanks.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians  5:16-19 

I am thankful today, for a laundry list of reasons, one of which is the fact that Mike and I have the opportunity to go to El Salvador together in December on a week long trip.  We are going with a team of individuals from our Latin America regional team to facilitate a youth Bible conference. We try to facilitate at least 3 of those a year, offering opportunities to learn God's word, really challenging them to critically evaluate the world around them so that they could be positive agents of change in their local communities.  

 Top: In November, Mike, along with two other Latin America team members, embarked upon a 5 day trip with two main objectives: continue developing the youth (6 of which are pictured above!) by teaching the Bible and providing skills development, and to build a gazebo on our property which will provide another meeting venue for the various ministry programs we are involved in.  Mike's grin, as you can see, is indicative of the way he comes alive working alongside these youth, teaching them skills, laughing with them, and doing some good ole' farm boy hard work!   BR: Orlando is 17.  He grew up in rural El Salvador, and farms with his family.  He recently had a very serious abdominal surgery, that he is still recovering from.  We are thankful that God preserved his life.  The fact that he still shows up to learn God's work, and to learn new skills with construction, is a testament to what God is doing in his life! Please pray for him when you think of it.  

Top: In November, Mike, along with two other Latin America team members, embarked upon a 5 day trip with two main objectives: continue developing the youth (6 of which are pictured above!) by teaching the Bible and providing skills development, and to build a gazebo on our property which will provide another meeting venue for the various ministry programs we are involved in.  Mike's grin, as you can see, is indicative of the way he comes alive working alongside these youth, teaching them skills, laughing with them, and doing some good ole' farm boy hard work! 

BR: Orlando is 17.  He grew up in rural El Salvador, and farms with his family.  He recently had a very serious abdominal surgery, that he is still recovering from.  We are thankful that God preserved his life.  The fact that he still shows up to learn God's work, and to learn new skills with construction, is a testament to what God is doing in his life! Please pray for him when you think of it.  

 

In addition to the youth conference, we will be continuing our efforts with empowering local teachers.  We will have the chance to evaluate past experiences together as well as brainstorm new ones.  We are trying our best to give these teachers hope, making sure that they know that we value them and that their roles in the development of young people are so important!  We hope to be able to gift all teachers in attendance a year's worth supply of school supplies.  If you would like to help meet that goal, please consider how you could help.  (Check out the link above in this paragraph).  Any size donation would help make this possible.  Please stay updated on our blog and on our organizational website as we will be updating our supporters as soon as we are able.  And please continue to pray for our efforts!  (If you would like any more info, please let me know!)

Thanks for reading.  I hope that you are finding yourself 'giving thanks' in new ways, after all, it is more blessed to give, than to receive.  

Educator Seminar Update

The first of what we hope to be several educator seminars with local Salvadoran teachers was a success!  Over the course of this next year our team will be working with these teachers in attempts to support and empower them, even in the most practical of ways.  We have created a Facebook page that we've shared with those teachers, where we will exchange videos, ideas and encouragement to one another, regardless of our physical location.  In addition, our team will continue to gather and send the most basic school supplies to these teachers and their students, in an effort to show our care for them.  If you'd like to help with this effort, please let me know! Actual school supplies or monetary donations can be given, just let me know which you prefer.  

Here is an article (Giving Teachers More Than Supplies) highlighting the first educator seminar, of which many of you helped support. Thank you for making the first of many seminars, possible. This group of teachers is dear to my heart, and I'm thankful to share just a part of their story, with you.

 

 The teacher on the far right, attended our seminar.  We were able to visit his school and assist him in his classes for a day.  We were also able to gift the rest of the staff who work there with school supplies.

The teacher on the far right, attended our seminar.  We were able to visit his school and assist him in his classes for a day.  We were also able to gift the rest of the staff who work there with school supplies.

 During our "How to Teach English" seminar, we had one session on creating engaging activities for students, implementing some of the concepts we discussed.  This teacher's group won the game their group created for introducing a new vocabulary unit to their students.  They were quite competitive! 

During our "How to Teach English" seminar, we had one session on creating engaging activities for students, implementing some of the concepts we discussed.  This teacher's group won the game their group created for introducing a new vocabulary unit to their students.  They were quite competitive! 

 The teacher on the far left also attended our seminar.  Lavy (front row, far right), another Latin America team member that assisted me with the seminar, and I visited and assisted this teacher with her English classes.  We demonstrated a lesson on introducing vocabulary using the Natural Approach.  These students are so dear to my heart!

The teacher on the far left also attended our seminar.  Lavy (front row, far right), another Latin America team member that assisted me with the seminar, and I visited and assisted this teacher with her English classes.  We demonstrated a lesson on introducing vocabulary using the Natural Approach.  These students are so dear to my heart!

 This is Christian.  He is the principal of another school we visited.  He only had one working pen.  I was so happy to gift him with a bag of school supplies that he quickly said he was eager to share with some of his teachers.  What a kind man.

This is Christian.  He is the principal of another school we visited.  He only had one working pen.  I was so happy to gift him with a bag of school supplies that he quickly said he was eager to share with some of his teachers.  What a kind man.

June 2016 Johnson Update: We are going to El Salvador!

Summer has taken off quickly!  We are all enjoying the change of pace, and the Nashville heat. :) 

It’s been awhile (too long), since we’ve sent out an update, and I’m thankful that we now have this blog space to keep our family and friends updated on our lives and ministry work.  Hopefully this post will give you a glimpse into our recent history, and our upcoming endeavors.  Please feel free to comment or give us a call, if we haven’t connected in a while.  We would love to hear from you!  Also, if you're ever traveling through Nashville, let us know!  We would love to host you, or at least feed you a meal.

At the end of May, we finished our third year at the Academy for G.O.D. Starting and running a school has kept me pretty busy to say the least!  This past year we extended our program from a k-8 school to a k-12 school.  In mid February we were able to move into our new building, which we primarily renovated on our own as an organization.  A lot of hard work and time was spent making it a suitable learning environment for children.  Many of you have even supported that building effort, which we greatly appreciate.

On our last day of school, teachers and students found it to be a bittersweet day.  Though the summer is something to look forward to, we all realized in our morning assembly that teachers and students were going to miss one another.  Our planned ‘Field Day’ turned into a surprise bowling tournament day due to the rainy weather and we all had a blast celebrating the year together.  There was a nice end of the year photo story posted on our website as well that you’ll want to check out.  It’s such a privilege to be a part of it.

During the summer months, Mike and I have a lot of opportunities to serve, and do ministry in ways that we often can’t throughout other seasons of the year.  For example, as an organization, we host a kids camp throughout June and July, of which Samuel and Reyah attend.  This first session, Mike has been away from his desk, working with 6-10 year old kids in his “Fix It” sessions.  Last week campers had to work together to attempt to reassemble box fans together.  This week, Mike was able to get several donated bikes that they will be trying to reassemble, because he disassembled them for the kids to fix.

Working with kids during the summer like this is nostalgic for us, because the summer we met we facilitated summer camp for youth together in Mexico.  10 years later, we are still serving youth together in the summer!  I volunteer once a week at this camp, on water day.  Last week we set up the epic slip and slide down our hillside, which dumped campers into an inflatable pool.  Watching all of the neighborhood kids have the time of their lives and see pure joy on their faces, knowing that most of them might not have anything productive to participate in during the summer months otherwise, is priceless.

In addition to camp, Mike and I are both going to El Salvador this summer!  Mike will be going for approximately 3 weeks - he leaves on June 25.  He is helping to facilitate an internship experience for a Latin America intern we have this summer.  He is also on a facilitation team for a SLAM (Students Living a Mission) week in which a youth group from the states is coming to El Salvador to serve for a week with us.  During this trip, Mike will lead the service/work projects.  This summer we are focusing on all of the gray water issues existent in the communities we serve.  They will be looking to mitigate standing water exposure - where mosquitos reside and spread disease - to allow it to properly drain into the soil.  

I will be joining Mike the last week he is there from July 7-14th.  I will be conducting a teacher’s seminar for any interested teachers in the area, on July 9th.  (Please click on the link to read more about this trip!)  Per their request, they really want help knowing how to teach English.  Teachers in rural El Salvador where we serve, are not set up well to teach.  They are responsible for 35-50 students each and they are given minimal resources and supplies to assist them in their efforts.  They often have a sincere desire to teach but come into conflict when trying to actualize effective instruction.  We hope to empower them with more techniques and creative ideas for implementation.  In addition to that, we are going to bless and gift each teacher in attendance with a teacher supply bag filled with all of the basic teaching necessities that they need!  These bags will include pens, paper, scissors, staplers, and other basic teaching supplies.  

These supply bags are $50 a piece.  We are anticipating approximately 40 teachers to be in attendance for this first seminar (we plan to facilitate at least 3 educator seminars this upcoming year).  We really need supporter help to be able to send these teachers to this seminar.  This seminar is free of charge for them.  It’s hard to put a price on education, particularly in rural El Salvador where most families live off of subsistence farming.  It is our hope that by empowering and training these teachers throughout this next year, that it will have a positive impact on their students, and that it will bring about greater enthusiasm for their work.

In total, it will cost approximately $70/teacher to attend this seminar.  They will all receive a supply bag, seminar resources, and lunch.  If you would like to send 1 or more teachers to this seminar, please visit our "Train a Teacher" page.   We are believing that all of these teachers will be able to attend based upon the generosity of others, like yourselves! 

Would you be willing to assist us in training these teachers by making it possible for them to attend?  If you’re able, follow the instructions on the "Train a Teacher" page towards this need!  This type of gift and generosity towards these teachers will be a sign to them that we deeply care for them and that we believe in what they are capable of.  

Please be in prayer for Mike and I, and our team, as we continue our work in Nashville and in El Salvador.  We are blessed to have so many friends and family members that have continued to support us over the last decade.  We couldn't do this without you!

If you have any questions or comments, please note them below.  We'd love to hear from you! God bless.