Honduras Day 5: Mercedes Fun Day

ADVENTURE-5

Click here to see Day 4’s home visits for Brayan, Valery, and Ludvi(I’ve been having issues with WordPress in my browser, which caused me to not be able to write for awhile. And then I started a new job and have things have been busy and stressful for awhile. So sorry for the HUGE delay in posts!!)

Because of when my trip started, the team who was there for Week 1 did home visits and a fun day for Quelacasque before I arrived. I had the option of coming 2 days earlier for these, but I wanted to arrive when others were, and everyone else coming for Week 2 was all arriving on Saturday. I preferred not to be alone coming into the airport, which turned out to be a good thing, considering how long it took us to find the Sowers people. Also, experiencing the at least 4 hour ride one way, I’m glad that no one had to make a special round trip just for me. I have one child in Quelacasque, Jenny, and even though I wouldn’t be able to visit her home, she was still going to be able to come along to one of the other fun days. That turned out to be the Mercedes day, and a couple other kids from Quelacasque who were newly sponsored by another team member came along, too!

I woke up very early in the morning of day 5 and realized just how swollen my sunburned wrist had become. It had been bothering me quite a bit the day before in terms of pain, and it seemed to be getting worse. Ouch!

I was very excited to meet Jenny for the first time, and the Quelacasque kids were at the pool waiting for us while the Mercedes kids hadn’t arrived yet, which allowed me to spend a little time with just her first. She was such a sweetheart from the start.

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Not too long after, the Mercedes children arrived. I met up with Ludvi and her brother, Valery and her mom, and Brayan and his sister and passed out swimsuits to everyone and blew up the pool toys again. Like the first fun day, I spent the day primarily being in the moment with the kids enjoying our time together. Every so often I’d get out and take pictures quickly, and then rejoin them again.

Valery had a great time, and so did her mom. Her mom was great and attentive with her the whole time, and I could see her enjoying herself too. I was glad when I saw her go down the large water slide near the end.

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One of her friends from school was also there, as she’s sponsored by another sponsor as part of our team, and they had fun playing together.

Brayan was still shy with me again, but he ADORED the water. So I had a blast just watching him play and have fun all day. This is the child that only received one smiling photo of in all the photo updates over the 2+ years I had been sponsoring him, so to see him smile so often, in person, was such a special and wonderful treat!!

His sister, Lourdes, was a great big sister looking out for him, but she also still got to have fun with some of her friends that were there!

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Ludvi reminded me of Maria on the previous fun day, as she was also the most unsure of the water, staying in the shallow area, and ended up changing back into her clothes before the day was done. Ludvi also comes from an area that is even more so in need and higher up in the mountains, like Maria, so it’s very understandable for a day like this to be overwhelming and tiring, especially if it’s a completely new experience. Her smile was undeniable, though!

I got some alone time with her too, when we took a walk down the bridge. She was fascinated by the fish in the water, and started saying how her father used to have fish ponds. I knew that she was being raised by her mother, but she shared with me that her father had passed away a few years ago, due to an accident at work. It sounds like the family moved to their current home in Ollada after he passed, probably because it was what they could afford. With one parent and 9 children living in rural Honduras, Ludvi’s needs are so great, to a point it can be hard for us living in countries like the US to comprehend. But to see her, and her brother, just be kids for the day, having a special day of fun and love with a big meal is something that I know was even extra special for them.

Here, Ludvi is wearing a top and a necklace I gave her the day before, along with her birthday Tiara. It was her birthday just days before I met her, as with Valery, so I gave both them a birthday card and a tiara along with their gifts. She wore that tiara all day after she changed back into her clothes like the princess she is ❤ Even though she’s not smiling in these photos, as smiling for pictures is not a part of growing up for Ludvi like it is for many of us, she was smiling a lot in person.

And then there was Jenny, the biggest fish in the water of the day! I was worried if Jenny would be shy not really knowing anyone, since she was coming along for the Mercedes fun day, but it turns out I didn’t have to worry at all. She has such a fun, curious, adventurous personality! The sweet girl is just full of life and an absolute joy to be around!

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I also got some nice alone time with Jenny as we walked along the bridge and into the greenhouse. She picked flowers for me, made a flower mosaic in the sand, told me which flowers she liked and which ones she didn’t, and even fearlessly walked right up to the geese! 🙂

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I had put the flowers she gave me for my hair in the outside pocket of my backpack. When flying home, I forgot to take them out, but somehow they made it fine through security, and I’m glad to still have them.

It also warmed my heart to see Ludvi and Jenny interacting together and making friends. They are right around the same age, but never would have met otherwise, as they don’t live near each other. I had brought pipe cleaners and beads in my backpack, a hit when I was in Guatemala last year, and I was very glad I had them. I brought them out after Ludvi had changed, for something for her to do, and she and Jenny really enjoyed it. One of the other sponsors also used some with her little girl who was injured and couldn’t play much. And what I didn’t expect was how much fun a few of the younger moms who joined us would have, too! Ludvi’s mom and another mom had a blast making bracelets and pipe cleaner flowers, which I showed them how to make. I loved seeing their joy with the crafting!!

In the second picture, both girls are standing next to each other, and you can see how much taller Jenny, who is actually a little over a year younger than Ludvi, is. Ludvi is especially tiny for a 10 year old, which typically goes hand-in-hand with nutrition in countries like Honduras.

I absolutely love this picture, taken by another sponsor. I could feel how Ludvi needed extra love and attention that day, and I tried to never leave her for long, while also giving  attention to all my kids. But this picture perfectly sums up the unspoken joy and bond that was created between us this day, and I look at it with a full heart, knowing God used me to make His daughter feel extra loved.

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At one point, we all went to see the animals.

Jenny, in per pipe cleaner creation that perfectly complemented her free-spirit, was curious as always.

Valery, her mom, and Ludvi preferred to watch from a distance.

And Brayan’s sister Lourdes kindly helped him reach.

Lunch was a huge treat for everyone who attended again! Ludvi brought along the purse that I had brought her gifts in the day before, and everything was handled with such care. I later saw the very carefully wrapped leftovers of hers and her brother’s, leaving nothing to waste, to bring back home to the rest of the family.

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At the end of the day, we got popsicles for all of the kids again!

Saying goodbye was the hardest part again, although by this point in the trip, I was convinced that I was going to do whatever I could to attend again next year. Valery’s mom told me how hard it was for her to say goodbye, and that she felt like she was saying goodbye to and leaving a family member. And Jenny’s goodbye’s were the hardest. She was the last to leave, since the small group from Quelacasque had to be transported back separately, and she said goodbye to me about 4 times before she actually left. Each time her hugs got tighter and longer, to the point where I was holding back tears by the last one, because it’s just amazing how quickly and strongly a bond between a sponsor and child can form, and how much love is felt on both ends ❤

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I left with another full heart and an armful of bracelets!

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Click here to see the previous posts:

Day 1: Arriving

Day 2: Maria’s Home Visit

Day 2: Yeyson and Greysi’s Home Visit

Day 2: Cristian’s Home Visit

Day 3: El Tablon Fun Day

Day 4: Brayan’s Home Visit

Day 4: Valery’s Home Visit

Day 4: Ludvi’s Home Visit

Click here to continue on to Day 6: Helen’s Home Visit

Honduras Day 4: Valery’s Home Visit

ADVENTURE-4

Click here to read the first part of Day 4: Brayan’s Home Visit.

The next home visit I went on was Valery’s. She and her mom were both excited and timid to meet me. I noticed how young her mom is, and later found out she is 24 years old. To rewind a little bit, back to the church, while we had time to sit together before home visits, I received some gifts from Valery’s mom that couldn’t be more thoughtful!

This is how the first gift was packaged, so adorably:

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It was a mug, which had a picture of Valery on one side, and on the other, a picture of my family that I had sent with a letter! On the other side, it says “Alisa y Valery Bendiciones”, meaning “Alisa and Valery, blessings”. Inside were chocolate coins and a cute little envelope with some pretty quilling and chocolate kisses in it!

After I was totally blown away by this gift, she pulled out a second one: a basket she hand-made out of newspaper! It’s beautiful and very well-made! The bottom of the basket was a CD- such an innovative idea in using what she could find. On the front she put a picture of me that I had sent with a letter.

On the inside bottom was taped a picture of Valery. And the contents of the basket contained a picture from Valery’s coloring book she had painted for me (on both sides) and lots of pictures of Valery and the two of them!

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When I told her how much I will treasure these gifts, I truly mean it. It’s funny how you go excited to share joy by giving gifts, never expecting any in return. But receiving them, especially ones given with such care, thought, and love, is such an incredible feeling that it’s hard to properly describe.

After I got back to the church from Brayan’s home visit, they were ready to take me to their home. It wasn’t too far away, so we walked. I was amazed again to see that they had brought an umbrella for me so I could have shade from the sun while we were walking. Such a small thoughtful gesture that means everything!

Valery’s home is actually her great-grandmother’s- her father’s mother’s home. The front part of it is a small little store, and it’s nicer than some of the other homes I visited. It’s still very small and simple, but at least they had tile flooring and thick, sturdy walls. It makes me thankful that they have the opportunity to live here.

When we got there, her mom had a meal prepared for us of two sandwiches each. She said how she wasn’t sure what to make, since I’m from the US, which I thought was cute, and I would have been happy with any Honduran food she would have prepared. One of the first things Valery did was bring her bunny, Toto, to show us. I remembered reading about Toto in her letters 🙂 She carried that big bunny well with both hands!

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After looking through the gifts with her great grandmother in the bedroom as I could hear excited giggles coming through the curtain, she wanted to change from her pretty dress into one of the shirts I got her. She proudly paraded in in her new shirt. Soon after, she showed me her coloring book. I flipped through the pages with her, telling her what a good job she’s done. And it’s true. Valery had just turned 4 less than a week before I arrived in Honduras. I’m a pre-k teacher, and not many 3, 4, and even 5 year olds color as well as she does. She recently started painting too, and also does a great job with that. You can tell that her coloring book and art set are two of her most prized possessions.

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As she started coloring next to me, I loved watching how each time, she’d flip through and pick the perfect picture, then tap it a couple times before beginning. Valery does an excellent job at staying in the lines for a brand new 4 year old. They said how whenever she’s not in school, she’ll just color or paint all day long. I said that maybe she’ll be an artist as she gets older! I also know what to include plenty of in her backpack!

I asked about school, and thought it was funny when her mom said that the first day of school, Valery got in fights with the other kids, but after that, she was fine. Again, as a pre-k teacher, that sounds typical! I had a really great visit with them. I could tell by how many things that they had referenced from my letters, that they clearly studied them. By the end of the home visit, I had a feeling that we are going to be part of each other’s lives for very many years to come, and that’s awesome to think of. Meeting Valery’s mom was also so special. She’s so young, several years younger than me, but she does such a good job with Valery and was so incredibly kind and thoughtful in every part of my visit. I’m excited to get to offer her encouragement and continue to build the relationship with her, too, though our letters!

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Before leaving, she gave me a bag of plantain chips from their store to take with me, and the grandmother had cut up a mango in a bag to take, too. They got the umbrella back out as they walked with me back to the church ❤

Click here to continue on to Ludvi’s home visit.

Honduras Day 4: Brayan’s Home Visit

ADVENTURE-4

Click here to see yesterday’s post, Day 3: Tablon Fun Day

Seeing this view every morning never got old. In fact, I really wish I was back there now…

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This was the day I would be meeting my children from Mercedes! I got all my gifts sorted and packed for them the night before, and I was so excited to meet these special children.  Mercedes was the first church that Manna 4 Lempira started working with for their sponsorship program. It started out as one small church, which is now the main church, but it has grown so much, that they have been able to plant several more smaller churches around the community! Mercedes is further away than El Tablon and much more into the mountains. In fact, it’s the ride that everyone who had done it before warned us newbies about at the beginning of our week. “Just wait until the Mercedes ride!” they’d tell us. I have to say, I was intrigued. It did live up to the hype, with the bumpiness all the way up the mountains. We drove through water, around very narrow bends, and through parts where you couldn’t see if someone was coming the other way. To think that past that whole adventure of a journey lives this beautiful community of people is kind of incredible ❤

When we arrived at the church (the main church), I saw Brayan and Valery and their moms immediately waiting to greet me! We had some time while the staff figured out everyone’s home visit schedules, so I got to sit with them. They knew each other, because they attend the same school for kinder, although since Brayan is older, I’m not sure how much time they spend together. It was great getting to talk to them with the help of my always present translator! For the purposes of this post, I’ll focus on Brayan first.

Brayan was my second child with Manna 4 Lempira, but since I sponsored him less than a week after my first, you could really argue that they were both my first. It was 2 years in May that I’ve been sponsoring him, the longest out of any of the kids I had met so far. In those over two years, I’ve received lots of photos of him, and he was one that I was quite sure was going to be shy. I was right, as he cuddled closely in his mom’s lap in the church 😉 As a former shy child myself, I probably would’ve done the same thing!

We were told we’d be going to his home first, and we piled in the back of an already full truck. I let my translator and Brayan and his mom get in first, but then I remember looking at it and thinking, how am I going to get in now? I found room in a corner, though, where all I could do is squat down and put my arms along the sides of the truck bed for support. Luckily, it was a short ride, and you gotta love Honduran adventures!

I had a really lovely visit with Brayan’s family. His parents were so kind and some of the best conversationalists I met all week! They had lots of questions for me, too, and told me some more about life there, and we never lacked for conversation. Brayan is the youngest in the family with several older siblings, who are all (or at least most?) part of the program as well. I noticed some photos from sponsors up on their wall. I also noticed a Christmas bunting on one wall and realized that they must keep it up year round for decoration and as something to brighten their home up. The family is very involved in the church, and they have been for many years.

After I had mentioned to Brayan’s mom about how serious he is the photos I receive, she later showed me some pictures of him that she had on her phone where he was being silly 🙂 Brayan first spent time in the bedroom, closed off by a curtain, as was the standard in the homes we visited, looking at the gifts I brought him, and came out to join us later on. The family has so many animals, but amazingly they don’t seem to bother each other. The dog was coexisting peacefully right next to the chickens while we were outside. His father even offered to give me a live chicken, which just speaks to the generosity of these families and how big their hearts are!

I met two of Brayan’s siblings, a brother and a sister who were there when we were there, but they didn’t end up coming in our photo, nor did his dad, for some reason. His oldest sister got home from school just before I had to leave, and she did make it in the photo though. Later on, back at the church, I was asked if I minded her coming along to the pool day the next day. She had walked over there to ask if she could come with. I said of course not, and we could run it by Russell, but I knew by then what his answer would be!

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Click here to continue on to Valery’s home visit.

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Bringing Gifts to my Sponsored Children

I leave for Honduras tomorrow!!

Long before I was ready to pack for this trip, the thought of it just stressed me out. I can tell you now, actually having been going through it, that the act of packing is no less stressful. It’s funny to me now that I was worried about packing all of the gifts for one child and for centers when I went to Guatemala. This time I had to pack gifts for 13 children, plus small family gifts for each of their families!

I did have a blast shopping for all of them, though. There are some things that are consistent for every child. Each one is getting two shirts, a bathing suit, and a stuffed animal (I figure any age loves a stuffed animal to hug, right?) I went through and assembled each bag, took pictures of its contents, and then disassembled everything to pack it as tight as possible. The pictures will help me to reassemble everything when I get to Honduras! Here is what I packed for each child, starting with the boys:

Brayan, age 5:

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a purple shirt (his favorite color), a striped shirt, a pair of swimming trunks, a toy train, a blue superhero cape, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a stuffed goat, a fidget spinner, and a paw print bag (these are the same ones my students got at our school picnic, which I figure the kids will get a kick out of)

Diego, age 6:

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a dinosaur shirt (he’s a dinosaur fan), a Chicago Bears shirt, swimming trunks, a large toy car, a blue superhero cape, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a stuffed dinosaur that makes noise, a fidget spinner, and a paw print bag

Yeyson, age 9:

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a blue shirt (his favorite color), a Rainforest Cafe from Downtown Disney shirt, swimming trunks, a stuffed dog, a harmonica, an Angry Birds kite, a fidget spinner, a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a paw print bag

Junior, age 10:

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a Rainforest Cafe from Downtown Disney shirt, a future rocket scientist shirt, swimming trunks, dominoes, a harmonica, a stuffed horse, a fidget spinner, a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a paw print bag

Cristian, age 12:

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a Rainforest Cafe from Downtown Disney shirt, an Old Navy shirt, swimming trunks, a stuffed dog, glow in the dark stars with removable putty, a bag of marbles, a fidget spinner, a Jesus loves me bracelet, dominoes, and a paw print bag

And now onto the girls… Angie, age 3 (and the youngest of all my children):

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a pink bathing suit, a kitten shirt, a yellow floral shirt, a stuffed cow, a mermaid doll, two ponies, a reversible sequin bracelet, a Shimmer and Shine doll with a locket keychain, and a summer tote bag

Greysi, age 3:

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a pink bathing suit, a red and white striped shirt, a rainbow shirt, a stuffed deer, a Shimmer and Shine doll and locket keychain, two ponies and hair accessories, a barbie, a reversible sequin bracelet, a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a summer tote bag

Valery, will be 4 by the time I meet her:

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A stars bathing suit, a blue and white daisy shirt, a planets and sun shirt, a stuffed rainbow tiger, a reversible sequin bracelet, a barbie, a Shimmer and Shine doll and locket keychain, a mermaid doll and some little fish friends (when she mentioned in her latest letter that the animal she wanted to see in person was a mermaid, I had to find something related to give her), a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a paisley tote bag

Helen, age 8:

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a rainbow bathing suit, a Frozen shirt, a chambray and lace shirt, a stuffed pegasus, a Minion journal with a lock and keys and extra stickers (more on the back, too) and a pen (I loved these sets from Walmart!), a turquoise choker, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a barbie, a flamingo tote bag

Jenny, age 8:

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a pink bathing suit, a white tribal shirt, an Olaf Frozen shirt, a stuffed horse (she has a real horse at home), a Frozen journal with a lock and keys and a pen and extra stickers, a turquoise choker, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a barbie, and a flamingo tote bag

Ludvi, age 10 (as of yesterday!):

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a tropical bathing suit, a chambray and lace shirt, a blue floral shirt, a journal set of 3 notebooks of different sizes, a turquoise choker, a set of 5 rolls of washi tape, a barbie, a stuffed unicorn, a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a pink striped purse

Heidy, age 12:

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a mermaid bathing suit, a black shirt with an attached necklace, a tribal fringe shirt, a stuffed dog, a brown choker, a set of 5 rolls of washi tape, a set of 3 pouches/cosmetic bags of different sizes, a journal set of 3 notebooks of different sizes, a Jesus loves me bracelet, embroidery floss to make friendship bracelets with instructions, a black Old Navy purse

Maria, age 13 (my oldest Manna child):

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a pink tie-dye bathing suit, a polka dot chambray shirt, a coral draped tank top, a pineapple “pura vida” journal, a set of 3 pouches/cosmetic bags of different sizes, a stuffed penguin, a brown choker, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a set of 5 rolls of washi tape, a thirty-one bag (really excited about that find)

Then there were the family gifts, which I needed 12 of, because Yeyson and Greysi are the same family, so they only need one family gift between them. I’m giving each family a set of 4 plastic cups, a bamboo wooden spoon or spatula, and a dish towel.

I’ll be assembling them once I get in Honduras, and they’ll look something like this:

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I also made tags for each child’s bag, but I forgot to attach them before I packed the bags, oops! So they’re packed, along with more ribbon, to attach in Honduras:

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When you look at each of the individual pictures, it doesn’t seem like much, but when you put it all together, it really is!! This is a glimpse at what only part of my suitcase looks like:

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Yeah, yikes! Here’s hoping my bag doesn’t weigh over the weight limit… I can’t wait to give these gifts to my beloved children and most importantly spend time with them!

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Letters from Valery (with Photos!)

I just love spunky little Valery, and in one of her latest letters, her mom even sent 6 extra photos, which was such an amazing treat! I think she’s going to be a little diva 🙂 I’ll be just missing her birthday, too. I’ll be in Honduras by then, it’s on Sunday, but I’ll be at the El Tablon church that day. By the time I meet Valery, she’ll be 4.

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“God bless you! My name is Valery. I am 3 years old. I really like to play with the other children. I really like to sing Christian hymns. I also like to pray to God when I rise up and when I like down. I always sing a Bible text that says, “in peace I lie down as when I go to sleep because only You, Jehovah, make me to live in trust”. I pray to God, and I ask Him to find a wonderful person to sponsor me. The year 2017 is about to end. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. Blessings!”

“Hello! I hope that you are well. I wish you success in your daily labors. I am grateful and happy for the gift you sent me. I am very happy because I am going to begin my classes. The supplies you have given me will be a great help in my studies. I am happy because I am going to color a lot of drawings. I wish you many abundant blessings. May God bless your life today and forever. With love, Valery”

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“My favorite animal is the rabbit. I like it because it is small and cleaner than other animals. I also like dogs, cats, and birds. I would like to see a mermaid in person. I have a dog, a cat, a hen, and a rabbit at home. God bless you! I hope that you are well. I am very happy that you are my sponsor. I am grateful to God for allowing you to sponsor me. I wish you much success in your daily labors. I think of you every day. I pray for the lives of you and your family. You are very special to me. I appreciate you, and I love you very much. Psalm 31:3”

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“Dear Alisa, I am very happy to receive your letter. I am thrilled to know that you are well. I am always praying for you and your family. I want to tell you that I have a favorite pet that is a bunny named Toto. I really like to play with him. For fun I like to walk down the street. I love to go for a walk with my mama. I love you very much. Blessings!”

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So many letters and so much love!! Valery is an only child and she is clearly very loved. The photos are wonderful. I love how they used some of the letter stickers I sent at the bottom of one of the letters. And of course I’m including a mermaid item or two in her gifts I’m bringing after that comment 😉

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Photo Friday: New Photos of My Manna Mercedes Children

We recently received new photos of our Manna 4 Lempira children receiving the letters we sent them and new Bibles. I’m going to break them down by church, starting with Mercedes. It’s hard to believe that in just 29 days, I’ll be arriving in Honduras and seeing these children very soon! I still have some more shopping and lots of packing to do, but I’m so excited to meet them and spend time with them in person!

Brayan, 5, usually always has the same serious face in all of his photos (except one). But this time he attempted a smile! 🙂 He’s also wearing a shirt I sent him, which is very big, but at least he’ll grow into it.

Ludvi, 9, seems to be wise beyond her years and I love the peaceful look on her face with the natural background outside.

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Velery, 3, has her hair is blowing across her face, but she has the most adorable curly hair. I have a feeling she’s going to be a big personality.

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Angie, 3, is my newest Manna child. The Mercedes fun day is definitely going to be my busiest day with 3 little ones!

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New Photos of Brayan, Ludvi, and Velery!

Last month, the Manna 4 Lempira team visited Honduras to distribute backpacks, shoes, and letters to the children. All of the photos are now posted, and it’s such a joy to see these children with the items I lovingly picked out and packed for them!! I’m going to post the pictures by center, so first up is my children who attend the Mercedes feeding center.

Here is Brayan, who is still sticking with the grumpy photo face… It’s his signature! 🙂

Brayan just turned 5 this month, and I will have sponsored him for 2 years this spring!

Next is Ludvi, who I started sponsoring over the summer when my previous child, Deilin, left the program. She is 9 years old.

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I just love how she’s beaming with the gift of her backpack!! Ludvi lives with her unemployed mother and 9 siblings, so she has very little. I was so excited to treat her and give her special things to call her own!

And finally is little Velery, who is one of my more recently sponsored Manna children. I fell in love with her spunk in her photos and video, and she’s still letting it shine through!

Velery is 3 and she just couldn’t be any cuter! Those curls are precious, and I love the dress. She seems to be happy with her baby doll!