change in church schedule
Beginning next week, Sunday, March 12, we will resume our normal service time at 10:00am. There will be no 8:30 service.
The 15th Annual Seaside School Half Marathon & 5k Run is this Sunday, March 5!
Please be aware of the following road closures:
- Both lanes of 30-A will be closed from CR 395 at Seagrove to CR 393 at Gulf Place from 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
- The eastbound lane of 30-A from CR 393 at Gulf Place to Seaside will be closed from 6:00 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.
- The westbound lane of 30-A will re-open at 9:30 a.m. from Grayton Beach State Park to CR393 at Gulf Place. The westbound lane from CR395 at Seagrove to Grayton Beach State Park will re-open at 10:30. Please plan accordingly.
El Salvador – Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Young Men’s Prison
As I sat with Judy in a small barred room in the prison, I was not only able to look at the 27 young men facing me but I had a view through the bars down the long wide hallway that was lined with cells. Hands and faces were hanging out of those cells trying to see and hear what was being said in our room. All of the men were listening, hardly moving. The prison officials only allowed for 27 men to be with us in our room.
I listened to Raul speak the Word of God into these young men’s hearts. Raul was speaking with conviction, however, he was not preaching. He was teaching and leading, not condemning or judging. Most of the men in the room were leaning forward – as if beginning a race. It struck me then as if a brick had winged past, grazing my face…These men, in a tough age to be in any corner of the world (aged 18-25) were soaking in the Good News! The Message! The Truth! Jesus was being lifted up. I sat in awe as I watched these men, who have been termed criminals, liars, extortionists, schemers, murderers, killers, sit totally focused while under the loving teaching of Raul. Raul exuded Paul of the Bible. With a continuous smile on his face and a joyful spirit, he taught, gently chided, hugged, and loved. These young men with names; Carlos, Juan, Moises, Roberto, were covered in tattoos. Some had full face tattoos displaying the number 18 somewhere (for we were with one of the 2 main gangs, “18th Street Gang” or “Barrio 18” ). Several had tear drop tattoos under their eyes to honor their victims. The other main gang, their rival is “MS-13” or “Mara Salvatrucha” and they, too, had tear drops as well. I found out later that one of the warmer, more open men was one of the main “18” gang leaders and on his forehead were the numbers 666. This young man could just say a word even from his prison cell and have someone either protected or killed.
I watched faces as they read verses, bibles opened on their laps. I listened and joined in their clapping as they sang loud and clear praise songs to our Father. I heard them recite memory verses and answer questions. Some shyly looked over at me when they were finished and I was blessed to give them a motherly approval with a smile or soft clap of encouragement. When being in a gang was all they knew, I saw and sensed Hope on their faces.
They were all quiet and respectfully listened when I stood before them and struggled to speak some broken Spanish. They even clapped heartily when I was finished…and my ending was about how much God loves them and that He has given each of them a gift to use for His purpose if they follow Him.
We were given prayer requests on little strips of paper. As Judy and I poured over these requests that night, I was once again amazed, for these prayers were not only for their freedom and for their family, but were prayers for their heart – their hearts to be changed, to be brought closer to the living God.
When saying our goodbyes they offered their hands to shake, but Judy and I gave them each gentle hugs. Many wanted to talk. One of them told me that he wanted to have the faith his grandmother had. They all said, “Gracias”. Judy and I were given gifts; an intricate rose made from a piece of paper, bracelets with “Dios es Amor” (God is love) or a Bible verse, that were made out of plastic trash bags that had been cut into strips and stretched and twisted until it becomes like twine. Several were gifted artists and brought in beautifully detailed pencil drawings of angels along with verses in perfect calligraphy. One young man gave me a cap with “LC 1:37” on it. Lucas 1:37 “Porque para Dios no hay nada.”
A song kept repeating in my head as I was on the plane and in the days following. I heard it sung the last two Sundays while I was in El Salvador at a solely Spanish speaking church:
Haz llover, Haz llover,
Abre las puertas del cielo.
It really shouldn’t have surprised me that this would be the first song I heard on the first Sunday church service when I was back home:
Let it rain, Let it rain,
Open the floodgates of heaven…
I will be forever changed, for my heart is broken once again for what breaks our Father’s heart. As I cried out to Him that night, I knew deep in my soul that my cries were not in vain. He has heard and continues to hear our prayers. Our God heals, redeems, restores, forgives, and sets free. The Word of God is powerful. Hearts are being changed in a prison far away. The cap given to me? Luke 1:37, “For no Word from God will ever fail.”
Written for His Glory alone,
Judy, Raul and Jen
CBSI “Community Bible Study International” was brought to El Salvador by “ Calebs”: John and Judy Skinner of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida in January of 2016. They first met with 50 El Salvadorian pastors to present this study. Many were moved in that this was something that they had been praying for for their country. After many prayers, Raul Orellana was appointed National Teaching Director for El Salvador. He along with his wife Kenia teach and lead CBS classes throughout all of El Salvador as well as train new leaders. They go into the government schools, orphanages, and prisons to teach and share their love and knowledge of Jesus Christ. There are well over 500 that now attend CBS classes in El Salvador and many have been baptized into a living faith.
“It’s happening in the streets, in the communities still controlled by gangs, and in the segregated prisons. It’s a phenomenon which, despite being hard to believe at first, has been recognized by prison authorities: Hundreds of gang members are abandoning and outright rejecting their gangs, opting instead for the teachings of Jesus. In Gotera prison, close to 500 members of the Barrio 18 have retired from gang life and are now saying that they have no relations with the group.” insightcrime.org
“The Traveling Twenties”
(AKA Random Acts of Kindness)
It started one day with an eye-opening realization. Not everyone had enough to eat or a friend or smile or heat or even a place to lay their head at night. Everyone was different. Everyone was in need and some were in need more than others. Twenties found their way into some very interesting adventures when they were put into the hands of those who cared but were unable to do. Those people then put twenties into the hands of those who saw but didn’t have twenties to give. When hearts say help and God says move, adventures are soon to follow!!!
Traveling Twenties Adventure #6:
The sign said “Airborne Vet needs help.” He was on the side of a highway turning lane. He had a pole to lean on and a Chihuahua in arms. We were afraid he would stumble and fall down the small embankment. We said “don’t fall,” as he clutched the puppy and the cardboard sign to his chest in a tight grip. His legs didn’t seem to work smoothly as he took three jerky steps that we were sure would result in a horrible spill. He replied to my words of caution. “I am all tore up. Thank you, missus” were his next words as the twenty moved to his hand. The smile did not reach his eyes probably because pain had taken permanent residence there. Or maybe it was the pain of being a veteran and having to ask for help on the side of a road.