GUIdo Hajenius, california
el salvador team member - 2015, 2016 & 2017
"I have been on three trips so far to El Salvador with Jenni Ramsey as our team leader. I have taken my son on all three trips, and he was twelve on his first trip. We have both had a wonderful time serving the most vulnerable and victimized children in El Salvador during these trips. Our teams were involved in serving orphaned youth in government run centers, feeding the homeless at night, helping to build homes for families in need, and teaching and ministering in both boys' and girls' prisons. For me as a father to see my son serving people in the most needy areas of this country has inspired me immensely. My son has matured in many ways from these trips, and I have learned a lot about who he is as a person. I personally had the opportunity to teach in many of the youth prisons with gang members, and that has changed my life as well. I appreciate the time, energy, and planning that goes into making these trips successful from His Hands His Feet. Their trips are incredible since they are so well organized, and they are great for adults, youth, and families to experience together as they do justice work in El Salvador." - Guido Hajenius
LAUREN O'BRIEN, CALIFORNIA
EL SALVADOR TEAM MEMBER - 2015, 2016 & 2017
"Going into high school, mission trips were last on my list of things to worry about. Freshman year in a new city meant I was focusing on classes, friends, extracurriculars, and usual teenage issues. I wasn’t born into a missionary family, I didn’t speak another language, and I didn’t feel that I needed a “life-changing Jesus experience,” so I had never labelled myself as someone who was really obligated to go on a mission trip. I would later realize that God often laughs at our labels, because one day in the July of 2015, I was suddenly stepping onto a plane headed for El Salvador.
“He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” - Luke 2:10
Thanks to Jenni coming to Crean to talk about the work being done in El Salvador, I was called to be on the team that year. The training process began early in the year as our group started meeting at school and began reading David Platt’s "Counter Culture." The 5 month-long process left me feeling at peace and prepared for whatever may lie ahead of me. It helped me to arrive at a place where I was ready to surrender myself to God, to let him work in and through me. What was most important to me was that I was knowledgeable about the situation when on the trip. By the time I stepped foot in San Salvador I knew exactly what and what not to do, thanks to our thorough entry training. With some help from the awesome team of translators and full-time volunteers, I had no doubts about my safety.
One of my favorite parts of that trip was that I was fortunate enough to be able to experience it with my mom. It was a time when we bonded together as we served side by side at the orphanages and construction site. We learned a lot, and it is something that we will never forget. Additionally, I love that we all become so close with the translators. It is amazing how God can cultivate such wonderful relationships through service, and how on the last night before our departure we instantly understand how difficult it is to say goodbye to family. Even though we were all on the trip together with pretty much the same schedules, everyone in our group had a unique experience. Before going on a mission trip, it is essential to remember that God knows each and every team member, every translator, and every child and adult we meet in El Salvador personally. He knows our hopes and our fears; he knows what is best for those who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). He will challenge us and reward us accordingly. What is most important for us is that we ask the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts so that the Lord can work in us when we serve him. Once I was in El Salvador, I realized that—while I might be playing with the kids at the orphanages or praying over families in need—it was just as much of a privilege and a blessing for me to serve than for those who received my service. As Jenni often says, “I needed El Salvador more than El Salvador needed me.”
Although, at the end of each day, I was physically and emotionally exhausted, the hole left in my heart was always refilled by the fellowship I had with the team and the fire given to me by the Holy Spirit. Even after our return flight to LAX, after our re-entry training, after adjusting back to daily life, that hole never left me. I have a constant craving for service, for fellowship, and for God; but the Lord has used that hole to motivate me and produce fruit from me. God changed me in ways I never knew I needed to be changed. Thanks to that mission trip in the summer of 2015, I now run the Crean Missions Club with two friends, and will be joining the Crean team to El Salvador for a third consecutive year." - Lauren O'Brien
LEXI RAMOS, CALIFORNIA
El Salvador TEAM MEMBER - 2014, 2015 & 2016
"A piece of my heart will always be in El Salvador. I went for the first time when I was a sophomore in high school. While this was my first time serving overseas, I was never afraid. I felt prepared by the team meetings that we had leading up to the trip. This is where I felt like I was able to bond with my team and get to know them better through hearing their testimonies. Any questions my parents or I may have had were able to be answered. One of the things I found most beneficial was reading Radical as a team. This helped me understand why I was going on this trip and challenged me in my faith. I understood what I was going there to do but never imagined the impact it would have on my life.
During my trip I saw the hurt and need in the world that only God is able to satisfy. I knew that this was not supposed to be a once in a lifetime kind of trip, but rather something I need to do if I am to call myself a follower of Christ. God broke my heart for the people of El Salvador, and for the first time in my life I understood the love God has for the world. I returned to El Salvador the following summer and the summer after that for the third time. One of my favorite parts of El Salvador is getting to see God work in the lives of the people we came to serve. When my team hosted a quinceanera for the special needs women and kids, we were able to witness the reunion of two sisters that had been separated for many years. We could have never planned that as a team, but God had the whole event under control. He used our team to bless these ladies and the joy on their faces made it clear why we came. After having so many life changing experiences it can be hard to come back home to family and friends that go on with life normally. That is why on the last day of every trip Jenni is intentional about preparing us for reentry and allows for us to prayerfully process through the week. Instead of feeling guilty about my life, I redirected those feelings to fuel my passion for spreading the Kingdom of God." - Lexi Ramos
CHRISTELLA HUDSON, KENTUCKY
EL SALVADOR TEAM MEMBER - 2012
"As we embarked upon God’s calling to participate in a mission trip for orphan aid, we prayed earnestly that He would change our hearts to see the world as He sees it. That is exactly what He did! He opened our eyes to the suffering in this world in ways we never imagined. We felt the very presence of Jesus in a more powerful way than we had ever experienced before. We felt the Holy Spirit sweep through a room as He brought the hardened hearts of abandoned and abused orphan teens to tears. Every time we felt called to do something out of our comfort zone, it was as if God supernaturally pushed us into those very situations. And every time, we were witness to the power of God. He showed us He can use anyone, even inadequate us, to do things we had not dreamed.
He changed our perspective on everything. Our first mission trip to El Salvador was the most profound life-changing event of our lives. We learned about caring for children with disabilities, which God used to encourage us to adopt special needs children of our own. We began seeing the excess all around us in the material possessions in our life, and the wasted time we were selfishly using for our own gain. We do not spend money the same way, we do not spend our time the same way, and we do not look at our fellow human beings the same way. We feel closer in our relationship with our Lord, and see ourselves moving toward serving Him as He desires, little-by-little, with love for mankind and servant’s hearts. Jenni was an excellent leader who obviously cared for every one of her team members. She helped guide the whole experience to personally impact our lives, so that it was not just an amazing trip, but a catalyst to change the way we live, give, and love in our own hometowns. God has truly gifted her with fantastic leadership skills. We brought our daughter at age 8, and Jenni and the whole El Salvador team were excellent at ensuring she was protected during moments that would be too mature for her. They were all so knowledgeable, letting my husband and I know what to expect at our different ministries so we could decide what was appropriate for her. Our daughter came away with a greater appreciation for how blessed her life is in America, and a greater desire to care for others." - Christella Hudson
AMANDA DEAL, CALIFORNIA
El Salvador TEAM MEMBER - 2011, 2012 & 2013
"I have had the privilege of serving the country of El Salvador for the past three summers. It is difficult to put in words all the emotions and experiences I have had during my time there; however, there is one word that comes to mind every time I visit this incredible place. This word is purpose.
My El Salvador memories are filled with color, smiles, laughter, tears, heartbreak, and hope. The last two trips were filled with “transformations.” The summer of the Quinceanera was an incredible experience. We had the privilege of bringing bags and bags of generous donations (dresses, shoes, makeup, nail polish, jewelry, hair pieces, and more) to the government orphanage. This is where we “transformed” 50 girls into young beautiful women. We had so much fun transforming them by doing their hair, nails and makeup; but the most rewarding transformation we witnessed was during the night of the Quinceanera. We saw 50 broken girls set free. We saw the power of what God’s love can do to transform and mend broken hearts.
This past summer, we were blessed to participate in the transformation of the Hernandez family’s wooden house. We spent two full days constructing a concrete home for a family of six. This family showed us what love, faith, and humility really looks like. Not only did we transform a wooden house into a concrete home, but we witnessed the transformation of a family; a family that got to see the work of God through our hands. This was such an incredible experience!
It is always difficult to get on the plane that brings me back to “reality.” Each week I’ve spent in El Salvador is filled with nothing but serving, sharing Jesus, and showing these people that God loves them and has not forgotten them. I believe that these weeks are more purposeful than my whole 22 years combined. Going down to El Salvador reminds me that life is not about how successful you are in school or sports; how much money you make in your career; or how many possessions you own. Life is about how much of God’s blessing you return to others. I will be honest, when you travel to a third world country, you give a lot! You give your time, you give your comfort, you give everything you have for 7 days straight; however, these moments of emptiness are the moments of most purpose and fulfillment. Jesus calls us as Christians to leave everything behind and follow him. This means emptying yourself and following God’s call to serve and to love like Jesus did. This is what we as Christians are called to do. This is why I feel most purposeful when I go to El Salvador." - Amanda Deal
Jill Imperato, Maine
El Salvador team member - 2012
"In 2012 our family had the privilege of traveling to El Salvador with Jenni and her team. It was such a blessing to serve with our children and a team of people who became fast friends. There were many memorable moments and so much I learned, but the most special time for me was at the government-run center called CIPI. I was helping out in the toddler room with my daughter and we noticed a little girl about four years old sitting by herself in the corner. Her head had been shaved and she had a large scar across the side of her head, a result of abuse in her home. She was shy and hesitant at first, but quickly warmed up to us. We had a blast playing together for the afternoon. The time passed quickly and we needed to leave. This little girl clung to my legs with tears streaming down her face and begged me not to go. It broke my heart to get on the bus and leave her there, but I know that God has her in His hands and I thank HIm for the brief chance I had to be His hands and His feet. Adoption is near and dear to my family's heart, and I believe God used this trip to further our desire to serve orphans, perhaps in a missionary setting. The journey is still unfolding and after two adoptions and two missions trips, we are headed to Bolivia this winter to see if this is where God may be calling us next." - Jill Imperato
Nicole Spining, Tennessee
Guatemala team member - 2013
"Brendan and I had a great time serving with you and the team! It was a great experience and the people were so beautiful and loving! I was so humbled by their thankfulness of the little bit we were able to do! It was such a privilege to serve!! I believe they blessed me much more than I could ever bless them! They are such an inspiration of truly living on their faith! I cant stop thinking of the precious children and women we met. I look at my kids and think about how devastating it would be to not be able to get them out of the cold or feed them when their bellies are starving!! Then I also think about the children at the clinic that seem to be on their own or taking care of their siblings when they themselves are so little and should be enjoying their childhood not merely surviving! I want to come away from this forever changed in how we serve and give! My husband and I are already talking about how we can make giving a greater priority! I believe in Art and Lisa's ministry and Anita's clinic! I am also in awe of them giving up their lives in the states to be in Guatemala. We would love to go on another mission trip with you. You are a great leader and I loved your prayers!" - Nicole Spining
Amy May, Tennessee
Guatemala team member - 2011 & 2013
"I have been blessed to serve on two missions teams with Jenni in Guatemala. The first was in 2011, with about 10 people (and 3 children) and the second was in 2013, with 15 people (and 8 children!). We went back to Guatemala the second time, because the first trip was so amazing. On the second trip, I went with my two sons and felt completely comfortable with that. Jenni has been “around the world”, so to speak. We never encountered a situation where we felt unsafe. She is so fluent in Spanish and translates effortlessly. We were able to connect with the people through Jenni as our conduit of language. The trips were LIFE-CHANGING! We came back with different hearts. I now see things I purchase in $50 increments as a “bed for a family sleeping on the dirt”. Do I REALLY need that item? Probably not. The people in Guatemala are precious – their hearts are so full of love and faith. It is humbling and challenging to see people who have so few material things, but are so blessed spiritually. A mission trip is an amazing way to bond with your Savior, your children, the people you serve and the people you serve WITH. It is hard to get out of your comfort zone, but once you do, you will be SO glad! Because of our trips, we have made lasting relationships both in Guatemala and at home. " - Amy May