Volcàn Izalco

On Thursday, June 22nd, the Love & Hope kids enjoyed a day off of school for “Teacher’s Day” here in El Salvador. Rather than stay home to lounge around, some of us decided to take on a challenge: hiking the Izalco Volcano in Parque Nacional los Volcanes (Volcanoes National Park) of El Salvador.

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Parque Nacional los Volcanes boasts two active volcanoes, Izalco and Santa Ana, separated by Cerro Verde, or “Green Hill.” From the top of the Santa Ana Volcano, one can even see a third volcano in the form of a volcanic caldera: Coatepeque Lake.

Last year, some of us hiked up to the top of the Santa Ana Volcano where we were rewarded with views of the Salvadoran landscape and the sulfurous, bubbling “lake” inside the crater of Santa Ana.

The Izalco Volcano is smaller than Santa Ana but looks drastically different and poses completely different challenges. Izalco’s nickname is “Lighthouse of the Pacific” for erupting continuously for over 150 years. Izalco’s last eruption was in the 1960’s and the steep slopes of the volcano remain covered in hardened lava rocks.

Before hiking up Izalco, we had to hike down Cerro Verde about 1,700 steps! Once we got to the bottom of the hill, the landscape changed completely from forest to lava. Scattered throughout the lava were beautiful red flowers. We took a short break before making our way up the volcano.

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Several of the kids charged ahead, seemingly unfazed by the steep climb and rocky terrain. It was a difficult climb, but the kids didn’t seem to notice. It was a cloudy day, so once at the top of Izalco there was not much of a view to enjoy. But we found something else that was quite exciting: hot steam coming out of cracks in the rock! At one point, it felt like we were standing in a sauna!

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As we rested at the top of the volcano we could also hear thunder. That meant we had to descend a little sooner than we would have liked. On the way down it began to rain. By the time we had re-climbed the 1,700 steps through the forest of Cerro Verde, we were soaked and exhausted.



All-in-all it was a great outing and we are so proud of the four kids who made the climb to the top of Izalco. They didn’t even complain about being very sore the next couple days (the adults did)! We love being able to provide these kinds of opportunities for our children, to enjoy the beauty and awesomeness of God’s creation!

Summer Reading

Several of the Love & Hope kids have finished school until August. Their schools follow an American schedule, as opposed to the Salvadoran schedule, in which the school year ends in November. They are so happy to have a break and relax on their “summer” vacation!


We decided to have the kids do a summer reading program over the next couple months. It’s easy: read a book in English for 20 minutes everyday. For every 20 minutes they read, they earn a link for their paper chain. Once they have 50 links, they win a grand prize! They can read as much as they want to earn the prize faster.


The reading program started this past Saturday and the kids are off to a great start. Look at their paper chains so far:


Love & Hope Children’s Home has a few “readers” who we find reading for fun often. But reading is a habit we want to form in all our kids. It’s difficult when there are so many other things vying for their attention (electronics!), but we hope that doing simple reading programs like this will help foster a lifelong love of reading.

Julio and Marisela

You’ve heard us talk about Tio Julio before. Julio has been working at Love & Hope for over six years as caregiver for the older boys. A couple years ago, he also took on the position of “Spiritual Director.” As Spiritual Director, Julio organizes devotions with the kids and the staff; he is also in charge of our annual Love & Hope family retreat/camping trip.




On Valentine’s Day 2016, Julio got married! He met his wife, Maricela, essentially because of working at Love & Hope Children’s Home. Maricela attended the same church as the Love & Hope kids when we lived in Los Planes de Renderos. Many of the kids and staff attended the wedding to celebrate with them.

Last year, Love & Hope Children’s Home found itself in need of a new caregiver for the “little” boys (they aren’t so little anymore!). The leadership had the idea to approach Julio and Maricela about the job. Would they be willing to work together as “parents” with the boys? Julio and Maricela took the decision very seriously and considered working together at Love & Hope Children’s Home much more a mission than a job. After much prayer and contemplation, Maricela accepted the position!



We think it is important for the Love & Hope kids to see Godly married couples around them. The cool thing is that we’ve watched Julio and Maricela get to know each other, fall in love, get married, and now, find mission and obey God together. We like to think we are giving them good practice for parenthood!

Please pray for Julio, Maricela, and the rest of our staff as they care for the Love & Hope kids.

Salvador’s Night Out

A couple of weeks ago, Salvador brought home a very special invitation. He was invited to the quinceañera of his friend from school! He was ecstatic and carried around the invitation (a little gold paper box) for a few days. When we saw that the invitation was for “Salvador and family,” we joked with him that EVERYONE was going to go with him, the entire Love and Hope family. He didn’t think that was a very good idea.


This past Saturday, the big day finally arrived! Salvador decided to take Linda, his sister, and Kirsten along with him to the party. Esau loaned Chamba a nice shirt and Tio Roberto helped him get ready, do his hair, and put on some cologne.


At the quinceañera, Salvador, as always, was a dance machine. He only stopped dancing to eat! It’s almost as if he literally can’t resist a good rhythm. The great thing about Salvador (also sometimes not such a great thing) is that he has no inhibitions. Dancing alone on the dance floor is no problem for him! Salvador also had a great time with his friends from school. They danced, played and talked the entire evening! Overall, the quinceañera was a great experience for Salvador!


Salvador also has a tendency to lose or ruin things. So, in an effort to teach him a little responsibility, his caregivers helped him save his allowance to buy a new air pump that he had broken and fork he had lost. When he got back from the mall on Tuesday this week, he was very proud that he had been able to replace the items with his own money!


We can not imagine Love & Hope Children’s Home without Salvador. He brings so much joy to the house and makes us laugh a lot. Sure, it’s not so nice when he wants to lay a refried-bean-kiss on our cheek at dinner time, but it’s the thought that counts. It is awesome to see how the other Love & Hope kids go out of their way to give him a little attention, or how they seek him out to play, knowing he will always be willing.

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Summer Vacation Fun

Here in El Salvador, the school year ends in mid-November every year. When the kids start up again in January, they begin a new grade with new teachers. Right now, the Love & Hope kids are enjoying their “summer” vacation. We wanted to share what we’ve been doing so far this “summer” break to bat away those summer blues and complaints of “I’m bored!”

Love & Hope Children’s Home has had an ongoing relationship with the United States Navy, which has a base here in El Salvador. The sailors come periodically to visit Love & Hope, have done projects here, and in December, they invited us to their base at the airport! This was our third time to visit their base, but every time has been just as exciting as the last and we learn a lot. The sailors gave us a tour of the base, explained their work in El Salvador, and allowed us to board one of their planes to look around (and play with the radios). Later, they hosted a pizza lunch and gave every one of the kids a Christmas present! We finished the morning by playing games: sack races, egg races and soccer. The Love & Hope kids had so much fun!

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Every year Love & Hope Children’s Home hosts a “family reunion” for the biological families of our children. This year, as in most years, we went to the beach! Many of the Love & Hope kid’s parents and siblings came along. We all played on the beach and in the pool, had a delicious lunch and the Love & Hope kids presented gifts to their parents. Each family also received a Christmas basket full of staple foods and treats, and a gift card to the grocery store.

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Christmas is always a flurry of activity at Love & Hope Children’s Home! On Christmas Eve, we did a coloring contest, had visitors come, went to a local community to hand-out gifts, made a craft and went to church. After church we had a huge dinner and desert and watched movies. At midnight, holding to tradition, we did fireworks! After opening gifts on Christmas morning, everyone relaxed for the rest of the day.


On New Year’s Eve, we had a party with finger foods. The kids even had an impromptu dance party in the dining room after dinner!

Around the house the kids have also been having fun and playing. Several of the kids worked on and finished a 500-piece puzzle. They also never seem to get tired of Perler beads. The older boys have gone on lots of long bike rides to a park in San Salvador and frequent trips are made to the little park by our house. For Christmas many of the kids received Nerf guns which has made for some good Nerf wars around Love & Hope. There is never a lack of playmates at Love & Hope Children’s Home and always someone and something to play with. We’ve even spotted several of the kids pass time by reading!

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In mid-January, it is back-to-school and early mornings. Please pray for the children and young adults as they prepare for a new school year! From Love & Hope Children’s Home, we wish you a Happy New Year!

Third Annual Family Retreat

A few weeks ago, we at Love & Hope Children’s Home embarked on our third annual family retreat. This year, we changed location from the mountains to the beach!


Tio Julio, who takes charge of the retreat, spent the last few months preparing. He divided out responsibilities among the adults at Love & Hope Children’s Home, planned devotions for the retreat, and had t-shirts made.

While in past years, we have camped in the mountains, this year, everyone stayed at La Tortuga Verde, located right on the Pacific Ocean on Intipuca beach. We had visited La Tortuga Verde before just for the day. Even though it is far, we love it for the shallow water and not-so-strong waves.


We left for the retreat early on Tuesday morning. Almost every child and staff member went: the whole family! Upon arriving at the beach, we found our accommodations for the night: two huge beach houses on the grounds of La Tortuga Verde with enough room for everyone. The kids and staff were divided up and everyone had a bed. There was even air-conditioning: a real treat!

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Next it was time for devotions. Tio Julio planned two devotions for the trip, based on the theme “Dios tiene el Control,” “God has the Control.” The corresponding Bible verse was Psalm 60:12. It says: “With God we will gain the victory and he will trample down our enemies.”

Later on Tuesday afternoon it was time for team games. This year the group was divided into two teams. They competed in not only physical games, but also thinking games like puzzles, word searches and Sudoku! On the beach, the teams went head-to-head in soccer and frisbee. In the end, the teams were tied and both won a dinner at Pizza Hut for the next week.


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On Wednesday morning, some early risers got up to see the sunrise and walk on the beach. They found so many shells!

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We spent a lot of time swimming in the pools and playing on the beach! La Tortuga Verde even had surf boards we used to play around in the waves. Tio Roberto, who is an avid surfer, tried to teach a couple of the kids to catch some waves during the retreat.

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Around 2:00 pm on Wednesday, we loaded the cars for the long ride home. Everyone was exhausted but happy. These annual retreats are a great time for our kids and staff to build stronger bonds and enjoy fun and spiritual growth together. Our donors and sponsors make events like these possible! Thank you!


Spiritual Development

Our vision statement says, “Love & Hope Children’s Home cares for orphaned, abused, abandoned, and neglected children by sharing the love of Jesus in a family setting,” and we do our best to provide our kids with opportunities to explore the Christian faith and grow spiritually. That means we work hard at creating an environment and atmosphere of faith, discipleship, and unity. It’s something that doesn’t happen by accident and takes quite a bit of planning and purposeful effort.


A couple of years ago, one of our caregivers, Julio, stepped into the position of “Spiritual Director.” In this position, he helps cultivate a culture of faith, minister to our staff and children, and also organizes devotionals and retreats.

For a few years now, our staff has enjoyed an annual retreat at the beach. Thanks to some volunteers who “babysit,” they are able to leave the kids behind for a day of fellowship, worship, prayer, and team building. It is a great way to foster unity and friendship among the staff, while also building their faith; in turn, our staff can guide the children and teens at Love & Hope.

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Love & Hope Children’s Home also plans a yearly family retreat which includes all of the kids and staff. For the past two years, the retreat has been held at a camp in the department of Chalatenango, in northern El Salvador. The staff pitches in to prepare meals, play games and lead devotionals. We also have some friendly competition; the kids form teams and compete in games together with a couple staff leaders. The campgrounds also include a high-ropes course, zip-line, and extreme swing that add an extra element of excitement and adrenaline to the weekend. The most important aspect of the retreat is maturing the kids’ relationships with God and strengthening Love & Hope family bonds which we feel has been achieved both years!

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In addition to our own staff, we also look for opportunities for others to share and minister with our children. Twice now, Julio has invited a former gang member from his church to give his testimony to the older children. El Salvador suffers from a major gang and violence problem, which makes the topic particularly relevant. This former gang member has been very gracious and very honest with the kids about his past, his struggles and his road to Christ. Our children were very engaged with his story, and asked a lot questions!

Last year, Love & Hope was visited by Reverend Park, a missionary to El Salvador from South Korea. He has been consistent in bringing us devotional booklets for each child and staff member every month. The books include a passage of scripture and a few questions for every day of the month. The Love & Hope kids read from the book each morning before school. They’re a great and simple way that our children can study the Word together.

On Saturday nights, Julio has arranged for our children to engage in devotions together. The teens gather together with our friend Steve, who leads the time. Steve is a missionary to El Salvador who graciously takes time out of his busy schedule to spend time at Love & Hope. He does a great job of making the devotions relevant and interesting to our teens. Meanwhile, the younger kids also meet together, their caregivers leading them in Bible study.

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Two of our girls have had the awesome opportunity to attend a mission trip to Belize! While there (on separate trips) they mainly ministered to children and did evangelism. Both girls returned to El Salvador with stories to tell and new experiences to share. Two of our staff members, Tio Julio and Suzana, also traveled with the teams to Belize. We are so proud of them for pushing themselves and trying something new; after all, Jesus never said our faith would be comfortable!

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Love & Hope was named so because our number one desire is that our children can know the love of Jesus and experience the hope we have in knowing Him as our personal Lord and savior. We love to see our children make their faith personal, taking ownership of their relationship with Jesus and experiencing true rebirth and hope in Him. Most of our children do not know their earthly, biological fathers, and we pray that they will come to see Jesus as their heavenly father, and themselves as His adopted children. Please pray for our children as they explore their faith, and pray for our staff as they lead our children!

Encouraging the Fine Arts

Love & Hope Children’s Home is blessed to be located in a community with a lot of culture. For example, during Holy Week, our city boasts a huge display of “alfombras” or rugs made out of salt and sawdust. The rugs cover the city streets in vivid color and depict Biblical scenes. There is also a special art and restaurant district in our city that features great food, a few shops and a hostel. On weekends, the streets in this area are closed to allow for foot traffic, street musicians, living statues, and many tents that serve traditional food and sell handicrafts.

Our city also has an awesome fine arts academy which several of our children attend. We now have living at Love & Hope (and soon to be famous), a painter, a guitarist, a pianist and an actress.

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Our artist has created many original paintings. He really has a talent for drawing and painting and is very creative. Apart from his formal art class, he doodles on everything. Many visitors to Love & Hope Children’s Home have taken home his original artwork. To teach him a bit about being an entrepreneur, we made a deal with him that he can sell his paintings to visitors, but he has to buy his own supplies!

Love & Hope’s resident guitarist has been learning for over a year now, after a very kind couple recognized her interest and sent her a beautiful Fender guitar. Even though her progress is slow, she loves going to lessons and practicing at home!

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We’ve all been very impressed at how fast our pianist has learned. He already had his first recital and a few months ago even performed for the mayor of our town at the inauguration of the Academy of Fine Arts! After seeing how dedicated he was to learning the piano, we bought him a small keyboard to practice on at home. He has also tried to compose his own songs…a master in the making. Click here to see a video: video-1472497519.

One of our girls recently began a theater class. For a girl that loves to talk, it was the perfect fit! Sometimes, she breaks out in her warm-up enunciation exercises at home. She and her classmates are currently deciding which play to practice and perform. We can’t wait to see what they come up with!

We love that several of our kids have embraced the fine arts. All four are very motivated and very talented and we can’t wait to see where their newly acquired skills take them!


Sibling relationships are very special; anyone with a brother or sister knows this. Brothers and sisters are your first playmates and first best friends. Sure, siblings fight and bicker, but when it comes down to it, they also take care of and defend each other; they laugh and learn together.


The majority of the children and young adults at Love & Hope Children’s Home have biological siblings also living in our home. Many also have biological siblings who do not live with us. Either way, they all share a very special bond with their family members. We love to watch them take care of each other.


During “sleepovers” in our dining room on special occasions, many of the siblings choose to sleep next to each other, arranging their mattresses so that they are as close as possible to their brother or sister.

A couple of the older girls sometimes ask how their younger siblings are doing in school. After we receive grades for their little brothers, they want to know how they did, concerned as we are for their success at school!


Our kids constantly share food with their brothers and sisters. If one of them gets to go out to lunch or dinner, they sometimes save just a little bit to take home and give to their waiting sibling. When someone has a bag of chips, the first person they seek out to share with is their sibling. Often when they have extra money to spend, they first think of their brother or sister while buying a snack at the tienda or pupusas for dinner.


One very special relationship that we have had the pleasure to observe for a long time, is the relationship that our twins share. Besides the different schools they attend (and that was a BIG change), the twins are ALWAYS together, inseparable. They don’t fall asleep on each others’ shoulders or walk arm-in-arm as much as they used to, but they do dress similarly, like the same things, and share the same sense of humor; they make us laugh a lot.


Many of our kids also have siblings that live with their biological families. They see these brothers and sisters from time-to-time at family visits and you would never know that they live apart. They seem to start the visit right where they left off on the last visit: talking, laughing, playing. Younger brothers and sisters that live with their biological families are always excited to see their older siblings. It is wonderful!


We at Love & Hope Children’s Home also do what we can to strengthen relationships between the sibling groups that live at our home. Every Sunday, a group goes out to lunch after church together. Rachel and Justin have also had family dinners during the week, inviting one group of siblings at a time to eat at their house. Occasionally, some kids even go home to visit their biological families for a night or two.


Our hope is that our children would also accept their Love & Hope family as their family. Many of them do, especially as they have gotten older. Our older girls, for example, are very close. They have overcome many obstacles together, shared happy moments, shared sad moments, fought, made-up, played, encouraged and loved each other. Rachel has a frame in her house with the quote: “The bond that links your true family is not blood but of respect and joy in each other’s life.” We certainly feel that our children and teens are learning to do this. Our kids have grown-up together and they live life together. That’s what siblings are, right?

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Fun at the Courtyard Marriott

This past Wednesday, Love & Hope Children’s Home received a special invitation from the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in San Salvador! We were told to be there at 3:00 pm, ready to swim, but other than that we didn’t know what to expect.

We were so excited and surprised to find that the employees of the hotel had set up a carnival in the garden of the hotel. They had several games and lots of prizes for our kids. Better yet, the employees were welcoming and encouraging, calling the kids over to play, cheering them on and greeting them by name.

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Later, the kids were allowed to get in the pool. They loved it and played for a long time. Some of the prizes they won doubled as pool toys.

The hotel also served a “snack.” They gave everyone a hot dog, homemade potato chips and cake! It was delicious.

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Last, everyone got a shirt and we took a picture. Before leaving the hotel, the employees passed out a special gift to each one of the kids: a new shirt from a local department store. Chamba was so excited and went to put his on right away.

All-in-all, it was a great afternoon. We felt so very loved and encouraged by the time and thought put into the party. It was obvious that all of our kids and teens enjoyed the afternoon. Thank you, Courtyard Marriott!