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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2014
Greetings from Ecuador! I am a lot behind in blogging this year. So far we have had a wonderful week. I have never experienced working with a better group of men. Each member of the construction team is a hard worker and I have been blessed and encouraged by them.

We have made great progress this week on the Church and have only 1 day left until completion. I can say I have truly seen God's hand in the building of this church. He has guided us each step of the way. He has proven yet again His faithfulness and mercy by keeping each one of us free from injury and harm.

I want to give special recognition to Danny Seaver, who has endured a grueling week of work with a smile on his face. Danny, is proof that age is not an obstacle in serving God as long as you have a willing heart. Not only has Danny endured to the end, but he has outworked some of us young bucks in the process. I am really thankful for his example and College Park should be proud to count him as one of our own.

Blessings, Pastor Josh
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Photo shared by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2014

If you've never been to Ecuador, it's hard to explain the poverty and hardshps. Here is a picture that I think sums up Ecuador. I saw this on the side of the street. This should break your heart.

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Photo shared by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2014

A few photos from yesterday. More to come.

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Photo shared by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2014

Mike and I had a surprise visit from our friend Jesus' Vargas yesterday and today. One of the blessings from coming every year is seeing the friends that you've made. There is no price to great that can replace that experience. Praise God for giving me the resources and time to make this a possibility. All that I have belongs to Him. I am only the steward.

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2014
Too tired to write. Extremely busy day. 848 prescriptions filled. 1 translator who gave his life to the Lord. Entire team saw about 25 saved today.
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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2014
Being Sunday, today was another off-day for most everyone on the mission trip . In the morning we broke into groups and spent time at a local church. Everyone from College Park visited a church in a small suburb of Guayaquil called Bellavista. Compared to most homes, businesses, and other churches, this particular church was very nice. The building was packed today with around 60 people. Many missionaries, including myself, only had standing room. While there may have been a language barrier between us and the church people, we shared a commonality in our love of Christ.

God placed a particular, teenage Ecuadorian in our path today. Despite living in the neighborhood, he had never visited the church in Bellavista. He probably never imagined he'd be visiting on a day when several other American missionaries were there too. One of the church members talked to this boy, and somehow we were given the opportunity to pray for him. We didn't know exactly if he had a need or even knew Christ, but we all laid hands on him and prayed.

I don't say all this to bring some sort of recognition to us missionaries. I bring it up because I find it very interesting that missionaries just so happen to find themselves at a church and then are praying for a guy who has never stepped foot inside. I don't think this was a coincidence. While we didn't pray him through salvation or anything, we all planted seeds like Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 3:6. We may be just planting seeds; others (possibly this church) are watering them. But "God is making it grow." Thanks to everyone who has made this trip possible--church members and family. You're helping College Park plant seeds of Christ's love in Ecuador.
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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2014
Our lay over time between Birmingham and Miami was just 1 hour. Unfortunately in Birmingham we boarded our plane 10 minutes late. On top of that, our flight was delayed 50 minutes due to control tower issues in Miami. So we sat in the plane, on the tarmac, for that whole time. Praise the Lord that all the flights in Miami were delayed for the same length of time. Immediately upon arriving in Florida, we ran to our next flight to find them boarding and about to leave. Miraculously, everyone was able to board the plane with no issues.

We're in Ecuador now in our hotel rooms. We had a great supper, and we're looking forward to a good night of resting. Tomorrow is our off-day. We'll be visiting local churches and enjoying some free time. Things are slightly different this year--new faces, new pastor, new places. We're on a tight schedule. I'm looking forward to a great week.
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Photo shared by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2014

Ecuador Mission trip team at the Birmingham airport. Welcome to the first timers! May God allow us to be a blessing!

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Video shared by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2013

We had a great week building the church in Mucho Lote.  A local crew was in charge of putting the roof on, and they didn't get done before we finished on Saturday, but it won't be long.

The video below is a photo every 30 minutes except for Monday afternoon when there was a camera issue.  The location of the camera had to change a couple of times to accommodate the construction, but hopefully you still can appreciate the progress.  You may want to view it a few times to see how different elements - the concrete columns and footers, block walls, and floor for instance - progress over the 6 days we worked.

Click here to view the link in YouTube.

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2013

It has been a little over 24 hours since I have returned home from Guayaquil, Ecuador. Since returning I have enjoyed being with my family, eating something other than PB & J, and catching up on some sleep. I guess you could say things are back to "normal".

In fact, there is nothing currently in my life that shows I was in the country that sits on the Equator. No crazy bus rides with the smell of diesel assaulting my nose. No Ecuadorian children running the streets hustling gum and candy for loose change. No neighborhoods consisting of ruins and shacks. There is only one reminder left in my life that reminds me I just spent 8 days building a church in a neighborhood named Mucho Lote. A reminder that most people may be familiar with. My luggage is officially M.I.A.

I made it back safely from Ecuador, but unfortunately my suitcase has not. This bothers me greatly. It bothered me so badly that I spent about 2 and a half hours on the phone yesterday trying to locate it. 2 and a half hours on the phone with someone living in a country much farther away than Ecuador. I repeated myself, spelled words, explained that my suitcase was a rectangle (as well as what a rectangle is), and finally tried to convey what the color green looks like all in the hope that my suitcase and I would be reunited.

One might wonder why I am going to such lengths to recover a bag that is filled with a week's worth of of dirty laundry that I wore while working on a construction site. The articles of clothing are stinky and smelly. They are stained with blood and soaked with sweat. Concrete and dirt cover every inch of clothing. The most valuable thing in the case are my feet inserts and two Ecuadorian dresses I bought for my daughter. Most people would probably throw the items within away (especially if you have a nose that is functioning properly). In all honesty I get why people would look at the contents and see no value. However, these items belong to me and I want them to be returned to me simply because they are mine and I find value in them.

A funny thing happened to me in my frustration in trying to recover what was once mine. God placed something on my heart that will help me remember Ecuador. He needed to get my attention so that I would be awakened from my lull to "normal". You see, God has lost baggage too. I just spent 8 days with some of that baggage. God has been searching for this baggage for awhile and He is wanting someone besides Himself to see value in it. He wants someone who understands what He is saying. Someone who speaks the same language He does. God wants people who have just as much interest in seeing what is lost found as He does.

Unfortunately, I often forget this lesson. I routinely look and treat others as if they have no value. I get too busy and distracted with my life to help God look for those that are so precious to Him. I am a lot like the airline worker from India who attempted to aid me. I misunderstand what God is saying because I am not familiar with Him. I have a hard time understanding Him because we communicate too little. The whole point of this poorly written blog is to remind me and hopefully encourage you to remember that people are lost baggage and they need to be found. It does not matter if they are in Ecuador or if they live next door. God is asking for your help in locating these people. They are of great value to Him and therefore should be of great value to us. Familiarize yourself daily with our Heavenly Father through prayer, the reading of His Word, and the leading of His Spirit. So that the next time He calls, you will be able to help Him find His lost baggage.

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2013

Friday was SO busy. We visited 4 schools. Some were just elementary and others were K-10. One school was not scheduled, one we had performed at earlier in the week and couldn't stay for the afternoon students. We were praying and performing at another school, close enough for a teacher to hear our loud music down the road. He came down the road and found us, following the music, and asked if we could please come back so the afternoon students could receive prayer and see our presentation. He had a specific student in mind that needed help.

We revisited his school, hoping the principal would let us in (he did), and performed our dances, skits, and gave testimonies. At prayer time, that caring teacher brought a girl to Jennifer (missionary) asking for help. This girl was about 13-14 years old. Jennifer asked me to help her pray and grabbed a translator. We found out this girl, whose name in English sounded like "Mariana" (to the best I could make out), was cutting herself. She had red rows on her arm where she had sliced herself. We were allowed to talk with her much longer than we usually do. Jennifer told her about God's love & how we were created to be with Him but our sin separates from seeing His face. How we all sin and that's why He sent Jesus, His son, to die for our sins. And that if she accepted Christ as her savior, admitting she was a sinner and needed Him, her sins would be washed away and she would be a new person. Jennifer led her in the sinner's prayer. And then we talked more. I asked if she knew how to pray (no), so we explained that. Did she go to church ("sometimes"), and we talked about going to church to learn more about Jesus, that they would give her a Bible so she would have it at home with her (we had run out of handouts, the rest were at the church). I explained that when she accepted salvation, the Holy Spirit came to live in her, and that the Bible says our bodies are a temple. I pointed to her arm and told her God did not want this pain for her and whatever she used to cut herself needed to be thrown away because it was not part of her life anymore. I also explained that because the Holy Spirit is in every Christian, she was our sister in Christ and a part of the spiritual family of Christ. I also told her that sometimes people do things to us that were not our choice, and that we feel guilt and shame, but that was not her sin, it was was their sin. she looked like she was going to cry after I told her that. We prayed with her again, for her growth and strength and for God to send a woman to be her mentor (for discipleship). Then we introduced her to Gabriella and her family that was still with us. Mariana began beaming a big smile, not like the gloomy scowly faced girl we had been introduced to. It was like a weight was gone and she couldn't stop smiling and skipping instead of walking. Jennifer challenged her to tell someone that day about how Jesus saves us from our sin. Mariana said she would tell her mother. I hope Mariana is able to attend Ortiz's church. If she does, she will see the joy that she can have and she will have a youth group to support her. Their youth minister is a mother of 4 that could be a huge blessing to her. It is hard to leave her. I am very glad I am not here on my own and that we partnered with/serving the local Church of God which has been a part of our Community Team. I am praying her life has permanently changed.

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Our Community Team routine has been going to schools and going door-to -door in the neighborhood that surrounds the new church. We would get on the bus, pick up the Pastor's wife, Gabriella, and go to whatever school she had arranged. We didn't know our schedule until she got on the bus.

On Wednesday a school surprised us with a homemade snack laid out for us in a cafeteria upstairs. The cook had made pineapple epenadas and tea cakes for us. They were very tasty. And we got Fresca to drink (like a Sprite, strawberry is the best). Thursday was a shorter day in the community as we went to a fundraising concert for one of the churches. The church has to pay a certain amount by a deadline coming up, or someone else gets the building. The first 2 acts were local Christian bands. One of them rapped and break danced, we all loved that! They did a really neat shadow skit about God creating Eve. Their Pastor sang for us and we caught her dancing to some of the music :). Then the Cary Church of God choir sang. Every song was in Spanish.

One of our team, Sherri, is recovering from a stroke. The concert was hot, she was dehydrated and hurting from hitting her head in bus. So Jared, Paul (Cary,NC), a local pastor named Mendoza, and Marie (nurse, Cary, NC) took her to a hospital. After some IV fluids & a lot of prayer, Sherri was better and didn't have to stay in the hospital. I couldn't believe the week was almost over.

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Thanks to Mike Rickles and our translator Pablo for taking the time to make this possible!!! They made it possible for us to sing our Lift Jesus Higher song in Spanish.  It was awesome for the Ecuadorians to join in with us and be able to sing our song.  

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2013

Just got back from the Friday night crusade in Mucho Lote, one block from the church that we are building. It was a night for reuniting in that I got to see families from the church we helped build two years ago and families from the church we helped build last year....all at the crusade tonight. It filled my heart to be here so far away and have people waving at me from across a field to come run and hug my neck. And the service was awesome. We estimate around 1,200 people were there and The pic below doesn't do justice to the overflowing altar of folks who responded to Pastor Dial's "Are You Born Again?" message. It was, as always, a special night that I am very thankful to have been part of.

 

 

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Our evangelism team had a fantastic day. We hit four different schools... That is a bunch. We spent less time at each school, but we saw multiple lives changed. God's love flowed, and souls were saved.

Kid's crusade in the morning. Expecting big things from God.

Jared

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2013

Today we went to another church in a small town called Santa Lucia. This was nothing like the Saint Lucia that most other people are familiar with. There wasn't much different today and not much worth noting except that we worked VERY hard and it was VERY hot. Here are some pictures that I took.

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2013

Good Evening from Ecuador! This has been an awesome week.  I left my family at home for week, I left the busiest time of the year with my job, I spent over $,2500, and flew 2,500 miles to catch up to the hand of God.  There's just something about digging ditches, moving dirt, pouring concrete, laying block, and all the other things involved in building a church, that brings me closer to God.  It's a solid week of focusing on HIM and spreading HIS word.  The guys we work with are a great bunch to be around.  There's never a dull moment and every guy we work with are the kind of guys you would want living next door to you.  

The neighborhood is much better than the one last year.  We actually have paved streets, two stores, and a bakery right next door.  The construction leader brings us fresh baked bread every morning at 10am.  We enjoy cutting up with the locals and learning there ways and language.  While some of us are skilled at building and constructing, it never ceases to amaze me at how much we are able to get done in a week.  It truly shows everyone that God is involved and helping us every step of the way.  We wouldn't be able to do it without Him.

Praise be to the God that I serve and I thank Him for giving me the opportunity to serve Him.  Some of us are eloquent with our words.  Some of us are musical and can sing a wonderful song.  Some of us are good in the trenches and like to help lay a foundation that will last.  God is allowing us to help build a foundation for His church here in Ecuador.  I'm excited to be a part of it.  I wish you all could be here.  You must experience it once.  It will change you.

Have a blessed evening!

Joshua Salmon

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2013

Tonight I officially became a multinational redneck. I am now in the exclusive club of bald, 6'2" rednecks seen standing in the back of a pickup in the middle of the night while riding down the highway - on two continents. If you are a redneck, you are one no matter where you go!

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I had the honor of sharing the morning devotion for our construction team this morning and thought I would share it with you guys as well.

What was on my heart is a little of an explanation about what has been going on with me for the last four or so years which involves the answer to the question above: why spend the money and time to go to Ecuador?

It isn't only a question for me, but maybe you also. Some of my friends ask me this. And my family. And even a few at College Park. And their reasons for asking are all valid: yes, there are plenty of needy in the states. Yes, it is a lot of money. Yes, short term missions can sometimes do more harm than good. Yes, it's like trying to dip the ocean dry with a tablespoon. Yes....yes.....yes.....to all those valid points. It is easy to find reasons not to do something. It was easy for me to find those reasons also. So what changed for me? Well, I could cite a lot of scriptures that helped adjust my life goals, but a key one was the following:

"For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the most holy place by the high priest as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that He might sanctify the people by His own blood. Let us then go to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace. For we do not have an enduring city here; instead, we seek the one to come. Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices. (Hebrews 13:11-16 HCSB)

It had been some time since Christ's resurrection, and some of the believers were falling back into the legalism and cloistered world of Judaism. So here the author reminds them that Jesus lived his life as a temple outcast just like the leftovers from the sacrifices - spent, unworthy, and separated from "normal" society. He spent His life loving and ministering to those who had also been deemed unworthy of being "within the gates" - the lepers, prostitutes, criminals, physically infirm, adulterers, demon possessed, and other outcasts. Despite being born to a well respected theological man, having gainful employment, and basically being from a typical Jewish family, He cast all that aside to take love and the Gospel to those who He had been sent to reach.

So a few years ago I began asking myself, "Who have I been sent to reach?".

See, while the author of Hebrews remains a matter of debate, most believe that it was basically a Hebrew writing to Hebrews telling them to quit acting like Hebrews. When I sit back and read scriptures like these, I often leave them feeling like God would say the same thing to me today: you need to stop acting like what you think a Christian is and follow Me outside the gate. Cause we all stay inside the comfort, security, acceptance, and prosperity of our own "gates" a lot of the time, right? Our families that have to accept us anyway, our friends that think like us, our church that is full of folks who act and believe like we do, our coworkers that are focused on what we are, etc. So in all of that, what am I supposed to be doing for God? If I make sure that I am surrounded by familiarity and stability and equate blessing with lack of want, how am I ever going to be blessed with His true provision in my life?

And that is why these trips to Ecuador are important to me. Of course God uses all of us when we obey and put ourselves here: the pastor leading the church we are building has been praying for a church to be stood up in this neighborhood FOR TWENTY YEARS! If we hadn't obeyed to become part of the answer to his prayers, God would have used someone else and we would have missed the blessing of being a part of it. But even more important for me personally, these trips remind me how many people I am surrounded with every day at home that are "outside the gate" of my usual day that I should be sharing His love and the gospel with. I absolutely believe that God has a mission for me in every day if I will just be in relationship with Him enough to focus on being in the yoke with Him instead of all the other things in my life that society believes I should be focusing on.

It is often hard to remind myself of that in the midst of everyday, "normal" life. It is a lot easier when I spend a week way "outside my gate" only focusing on Him and how He would have me use my life. And THAT's the answer to, "Why A Short Term Mission Trip to Ecuador?".

 

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2013

Sorry to be behind on the blogging. After dinner & the evening service I'm really ready for bed. Tuesday we visited 1 school that went from kindergarten to 10th grade. We had testimonies from the youth, interpretive dance to Hispanic Christian songs, the "Everything" skit, and we had the band from Cary Church of God with us. When we were done, some more students began to arrive. We found out that the school educates students in 2 waves during the day. The first wave always gets to see missionaries when they visit. The second rarely gets to have special assemblies with missionaries. If Ecuador had a caste system, these students would be in a lower caste, as they don't get the same opportunities as the first wave students.

I wish I had a video of the EVerything skit. A girl is made by God and he creates a garden and trees for food for her. And she is happy. Then life happens and a boyfriend that wants to keep her from Jesus comes, as well as drinking buddies, a "money man" that has her desperately clinging to worldly wealth for happiness, and the perfectly skinny pretty girl that works to make our girl feel worthless. Then comes a spirit of despair. They all line up in front of Jesus and claw at her and hold her back. They cover her and surround her until Christ comes and knocks them to the ground so he can pull the repentant sinner away so she can have a life with him again. It's a very powerful skit that bridges the language barrier.

 

After the school visit, we went back to the location of the new church construction. Some in our group along with myself wanted to stay for that 2nd wave of kids, but I think a promise to the pastor was being fulfilled when we left to go to the new church construction. We did the door-to-door invitations and prayers again on a new street. One young woman I spoke with, Daniella, came to the discipleship discussion later that afternoon. One of our group leaders, Kim Miller, lead the discussion. Angie Rickles & myself spoke to them as well, about sharing the good news of salvation with friends and family and demonstrating God's love for them with how we live our lives. Afterwards, three of the women (including Daniella) spoke with the Pastor's wife and were crying. She said they told her they had felt touched by God and were needing hugs. So hugs all around!

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