El Salvador

El Salvador

Saturday, November 10, 2018

New Homes, New Hope by Mark Laundry

What a day and what a week.  As we gathered for breakfast there was lots of excitement in the air. Everyone knew today was the day that the families would receive the keys to the new homes.
I rode with the truck that was gathering up the gift baskets for each of the 36 families. It is my first trip to El Salvador with the team, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The baskets were full of food and cleaning supplies like brooms and soap. As we drove on towards the church where the families would be, I couldn’t help thinking how much these homes impact these families and the communities. More than shelter and security, it means a place to call home. They have never had anything like this and never had anyone give them something so big. It’s like someone at home giving a house you (mortgage free) and then giving 35 of your neighbours a house as well.

We arrived at the church with much anticipation to give the families the keys to their new home and a Bible and the gift baskets. As we walked into the church with 36 families gathered, we could see the smiling faces of the proud new owners. The church wasn’t big enough to fit everyone so many people stood. I think the church had never seen so many attendees. We had split into team colours during construction and so we were going to keep it the same way for the ceremony. Team Red went first. They gathered on one side at the front of the church, as their 6 families gathered on the other side. With 3-6 people per family there was a lot of people at the front. Each team member had the privilege, of giving the families their key and a Bible. All the team members had also chosen a verse that was read aloud in Spanish, to go with the families and their new lives.

As the families continued to receive their homes they were so grateful. All of them would hug the team members and say Gracias, many, many times. They had a representative from each of the six families come up and say a few words.  Many of them cried and said how life changing it was for them, their families and communities. One man talked about praying for 5 years for a home. Shelter Canada had been in the community 5 years ago and he had been praying since then, that they would return to build his family a house. They were so grateful. One gentleman, a wood worker went out of his way to build a giant key. He went on to explain that this is a key to our city and anytime you want to come you are welcome.

As they were taking their gift baskets, all I could see were the big smiles on their faces. They were so happy now to take these baskets to their new homes and start their new lives. These were much different faces I had seen earlier when I had interviewed a couple families. As they would tell some of their stories earlier, they would have a face of hopelessness. Now these faces were full of hope and love.

For many of the families God has entered their homes and entered their hearts to stay. There was one lady at the service who committed her life to Christ, but I know many hearts were stirred and God is working in them all. The love and gratitude that was shown by all the families can only come from God.
He is at work and we just pray the he continues to use us and the El Salvador teams as instruments of that love.

By Mark Laundry

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Compassion Day! by Rebecca Roessner

Today was an amazing day! It was Compassion day which means our team had the privilege to visit a Compassion site in El Salvador. This trip we went to the site in San Vicente which is also the site Richard's Compassion child attends. This site was the first one Richard ever visited and lead him to choosing to sponsor a child from this centre. Since then he has been able to meet his child twice before. This trip was extra special though because we were able to go see his child's home and spend time with him and his family. It was also special because it was the first time that I was going to meet his child and their family. Richard had promised them that next time he would bring his wife and they have been waiting over a year for today!
It was such a joy to be welcomed by silly string and confetti to the Compassion Centre only to have the children from the centre put on a presentation for us and then have a tour of the site accompanied by pupusas, fried bananas and rice and be able to purchase some of the beaded jewelry and accessories the children are learning to make. It was amazing to see how much the staff care about the children at Compassion! Then we went to the home visit!
The family lived about a 10 minute drive from the centre but due to short cuts through the villages it only takes his child 15 minutes to get to the centre. His mom was so excited to show us her home because just over 2 years ago they received a Shelter home! Before getting to his house we drove past beautiful soccer fields where they host tournaments! Soccer is huge in El Salvador and this family loves it, even the mom plays on a soccer team and helps organize the tournaments.
When we got to their house Richard's child immediately went and got us some of his tests and homework to show us! He is doing very well and is even learning English! He has been practicing his subtraction in English and had Richard quiz him with flash cards he had brought on a previous trip.
We were able to talk to both the Compassion child and his mom about their lives which was incredibly special. I love to see the hope that Compassion provides as the child wants to be either a doctor or an accountant due to his skills in math and passion of biology.
We were then given a tour of the house and also were able to see the old house which they now use for extra storage. They are so grateful and are good stewards of what they are given! We then had lunch together, of course had to play soccer together! It was awesome to watch mom and son go against each other and also get to play with them!
We then spent the afternoon at a water park which was not only great relief from the heat but a ton of fun to watch the family play in the water and have Richard's child put the swimming lessons his mom had been giving him to practice! We wrapped up the day with frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and rolled in various toppings, squeezed in some last conversation, said our good byes, and prayed for them. The mother told us that the next time we came to bring our baby with us which of course made us all laugh!
Compassion day is always such a special day and one of the many highlights of the trip! I encourage everyone to find out more about Compassion and how much of an impact they make on children, their families, and the community!

Faith in the Face of Obstacles

   Where do I even begin to describe the experience this Mission trip has been and the work it has done in the hearts of all the team members and families both Canadian and El Salvadorian? 

   Well we have all been moved to tears by the stories of the people we have had the honor and privilege to build homes for and they have been moved to tears by Gods love for them. We have made forever friends here who feel like family even though we have only known them for 3 days.          That’s what going on a mission together does, what working for a purpose together does, it unites us and brings us together.  
   This week has been full of a lot of sweating, laughing, building and learning together and it has bonded us  and made us all realize that no matter where we are in the world we really are all the same.
Incredible, impossible things happen when a bunch of people who share Gods heart to ‘love as I have first loved you’ are obedient to ‘go’ and ‘follow’ the example of Jesus, loving and giving and laying down our lives for others. 

   Although I haven’t been able to speak much coherent Spanish without mucho laughing this week, actions have spoken louder than words where we have had none to say. 
  It has been so evidently visible this week that “love” is not a word or a feeling, it is action. And in these actions we have all seen an incredible outpouring of Gods love and  how it is powerful enough to transcends cultural differences and language barriers.   

  Building this week has not felt like building a house for a stranger it has felt like building a home for a family member. It has been providing hope with a roof that doesn’t leak, opportunity in a floor that isn’t dirt, safety in a door that shuts and locks, and most of all a sense of pride and hope in the hearts and futures of these families. 

 Today I met Jose Santos and his wife as we built their home. They told me their story of their struggle to get by and survive in the same breath as they praised the Lord for his goodness and blessings. Let me tell you one tiny peice of their story.....
   Jose Santos had his foot shattered in the civil war and waited years in pain for 8 surgeries. He still can not bear much weight in his foot, which leaves him unable to provide well for his family of 5 in this country. Jose and Maria have been praying for a house for 3 years faithfully, and rejoice in the Lord always. When they heard the were receiving a home they then had to remove a boulder the size of my Mazda 3 from the only land they had in order for our team to come and build the home. 
With the landscape here in El Salvador, removing seemingly impossible obstacles Was reoccurring theme this week. other families dug for 7 days or moved rocks everyday for 2 weeks to create a space for a home. 
What struck me in all this was how many obstacles these people have faced in their life yet they persevere and press on. These people face struggles many can’t even fathom in North America. They are starving at times, unable to have drinking water, no money for medicine or health care and no opportunity for education to name a few. 
These people don’t have a “future based” mentality like many North Americans who are busy collecting and dreaming about our goals, hopes and futures. These families, their goals and hopes for their future are much simpler -make the next dollar to buy more food to feed their families and survive the next day. 
It convicted me today of how many “mole hill” sized obstacles we often have in our path to Gods promises and how easily we give up when faced with struggle, hardship,  or most often in the grand scheme of true perspective -simple inconvenience. We so often do not persevere through to receive the promises that God has for us, we give up faith when the going gets tough, we cease to pray when we don’t get our way, often shaking or fists at god or turning our faces from him. On the other hand these people persevere through years of “mountain” sized obstacles we will never know, yet they stand firm in their faith that God is good despite circumstance, singing his praises always and being steadfast in prayer. When faced with the obstacles of weeks full of diffing rocks out of the dirt with your hands in the incredible
El Salvador heat, they do it but may of us would sit and sulk and tell God he had better do it for us. How many times can you think of in your life that you gave up too quickly, you didn’t put in the hard work, you backed away from Gods will for your life because it was more uncomfortable than the “American dream”? I have to humbly say my list is unfortunately longer than I care to admit. 

These families  tilled that rock hard ground to create space for Gods blessing, they did the hard work in the face of obstacles to see their harvest come.  in this case their harvest was in the shape of a home that they never would have been able to provide. 
countless time this week our team was called ‘angels’ and called ‘ impossible answers to prayer’, but Jesus specializes in doing the impossible when we have faith in him. Yes, we came but these people created the miracle by trusting in God in any and, they created their own miracle and we just got to be Gods delivery drivers. 
I am so thankful for this week here, these people have left me with so much eternal blessing and I can only hope that this experience has provided them the same. Its feels like I am walking away from this trip truly having received so much and given so little. So many fathers said his week “I have no words to describe the gift that you have given me and my family” and I feel I can say the exact same thing to them. I had the privilege to do this trip alongside my mother and I can say that we are walking away from this experience with the gift of more thankfulness, humility and inspiration, memories, testimonies and relationships that we will carry with us  and share with our family for the rest of our lives. 


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Hand up or hand out? by Ken Hendriks

Today was our first build day. Three days six teams 36 houses!  My 15 year old son Sam and I are newbies.  This is our first time in El Salvador and our first build this morning with Shelter Canada.  A friend of mine at home who is a strong Christian questions whether going to a third world country to give a handout makes sense.  Today I will find out. 

The build starts awkwardly. Sam and I are like deer in headlights.  We don’t have a clue what to do.  Our team leader Dan and team members lead us through some simple tasks and all of a sudden we are in the mix.  We are helping build the house! The locals jump right in and start digging the foundation. We are all working on the house together, locals, the family, our team and Shelter but there is still a sense of people working independently.  There are road blocks.  Large rocks difficult to remove, some challenges with the doors, a misplaced hole.  The family receiving the home watches with a mix of excitement and reservation.  They have been waiting a long time for this home. The father is ill with kidney failure, they have a son who lost his sight at birth who also happens to have a healthy twin.  The house will hopefully help with his health and improve their overall situation.  It is both heartwarming and heart wrenching.  But there is HOPE !  We finally finish our first build. The father proudly places his Shelter number above his doorway and congratulations are given.  God is good!

We are an hour and a half behind schedule.  I am exhausted! And we have a second build this afternoon.
After a short break for lunch we are off to site number two.  The single mother Maria, who is receiving the home is ready for us and jumps right into the fray to work side by side with us.  The work goes faster.  Sam and I are now seasoned veterans😊   Everyone starts to work together as equals, side by side as a cohesive unit and things are going faster.  But it is very hot.  We lose a team member to the heat.  It just makes everyone more determined. And then our day completely changed.  Sam and I had the opportunity to interview Maria and her son which is customary with a Shelter project when someone is receiving a home.

Maria has been praying to God for a home for eight years.  The father is not in the picture.  Was in prison and died two years ago. He was not a good man.  Her son, Sahir is 14 and in grade 7.  Only a difference of one year from Sam sitting beside me.  I see Sam in his face. He has a great smile.  I wonder if we exchanged places would I have her faith in God?  We are a gift from God she says, and she is truly blessed by us and our team.  I am humbled and overwhelmed with emotion.  We all have tears in our eyes.  Maria tells me one more secret.  She has been praying to God to bring her a “good man”  I reassure Maria if God can bring us from Canada to build her a home than I am pretty sure he will bring a good man into her life😊 Maria has gotten away from going to church. My son reminds her God is everywhere, not just in church.  As long as you  believe in him and put your trust and faith in him he will be there for you.  Maria shares her dreams for the future.  With a new home she can lock and leave unattended she wants to start her own business selling local goods.  Maria has hope for the future for the first time in many years and so does her son. We close our interview with a prayer and I give Maria a big hug and don’t want to let go. God is good indeed!

We go back outside and the walls are going up.  Things are happening fast.  A local teenager eyes the drill in my hand.  I call him over and ask him if he wants to drill? He has been helping all day but not with power tools.  He smiles and happily takes the drill from me.  I hand him the screws and he drills them in.  We laugh as we fumble with the screws and change the bits clumsily, the blind leading the blind. Trying to communicate with single words and sign language.  We work for a half hour together putting on trim and by the time we are done there are three other locals working with me to get the job done.  Working side by side as equals.  We finish the job and shake hands and slap each others shoulders like old friends.  The house is complete.  We present Maria with her Shelter number to put on the house.  Her son climbs the ladder and carefully places it with pride.  We take our photos and Maria is so full of joy and hugging her son with a smile as wide as the ocean.  I give her another hug and don’t want to leave the site.  Maria requests a final prayer by our group inside her new home. I reluctantly leave knowing that tomorrow we have the privilege to do this all over again.

Hand out or hand up?  Today 12 families lives will be changed forever.  This week 36 families!  They now have HOPE! There are many many stories of people like this who were given a hand up and it changed their lives forever.  Not just their lives but the lives for future generations as well.  There is nothing wrong with giving someone in need a hand up. It can happen in El Salvador and it can happen in Niagara After all are we not ALL God’s children?
Indeed it was a very good day! 
by Ken Hendriks

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Meeting the Families!

Introductions - a few of the families

What a fantastic day of meeting the families that we will be building homes for this week!  All the planning and organizing of the months previous are in anticipation of this moment.  What a privilege to meet them, see their smiling faces and give them hugs in person.  And we met sooo many people!  Thirty-six families represents a lot of people!  So many families impacted and lives put on a new path!

For the first time, we received the names of the families a few weeks before we arrived along with a picture of the family and some information about their circumstances.  It was so great to see pictures of the families in advance and made it real that these are the people waiting for us to come.

Here is some of what we learned about their conditions:
Anna & Jorge -  “The house in which we are living was “built” 8 and half years ago, but it is already deteriorated.  The room where the children sleep gets wet when it rains at night.  The sheet metal roof has holes in it, and the wood gets very wet.  The rest of the house is made of sticks and mud.”  Ana & Jorge have been together for 8 strong years.  Together they are trying to get ahead with their three children, ages 12,5 and 1.

Felicita -  “A wall that was a quarter of the house, has recently fallen.  When there are earthquakes, I am afraid that the walls will fall, and the house is on a hill that goes down into a ravine.”   Felicita is a single mother who, since her son was born 4 years ago, has had her mother to help her financially.  She is also a seamstress for schools.  The father emigrated to the US in January but he never took responsibility for his son.

Roxana & Santos -  They have been together for 5 years, living with Roxana’s mother, where 7 people live in one room.  He is a farmer and at other times a construction assistant.  This family survives by fishing.  They have two children ages 4 and 1.

All of these families live in desperate circumstances and are in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.  It’s difficult to wrap my head around the disparity in our lives, and yet how similar we are despite these differences.  Parents wanting what’s best for their kids, wanting to provide for their families.  These are amazing and resilient people who will work hard and do whatever they can to provide and sustain their families, and yet the opportunity to get ahead just is not available to them.

It is humbling to hear their stories and know that we get to be part of bringing something better into their lives.  To bring a home that brings safety, protection from the elements, a place to raise their children; these are the most basic of needs that every family should have.

Our team was truly impacted today by the gratefulness of the families, the community leaders and the Shelter Team here in El Salvador.  We felt so warmly welcomed and heard of the anticipation they had of us coming.  Again, it’s pretty humbling.

I’m excited for this week – to get to know these families and to hear more stories. Now we’ve met and it’s time to get to work together.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Prepared - Am I ready or not?

In the midst of my packing for my 5th trip to El Salvador, I mentally asked myself, "Are you prepared?".  I stopped what I was doing as I was taken aback by the impact of that question.  Maybe because we had just finished up a sermon series on Nehemiah and had spent a fair amount of time on the preparations Nehemiah took for the job God laid on his heart.  Maybe because we talk about how to prepare in our team meetings.  Maybe because I wasn't feeling prepared!  

Then I thought of Jesus - how did He prepare for things - and my first thought was to the fact that He didn't start His ministry till he was 30 years old.  What did He do all those years?  How was His time spent?  Were any of His disciples friends from the previous years?  30 years is a long time to prep for a ministry that only lasted 3 years.  

This is something I will study and meditate further - PREPAREDNESS.  Right now I do not feel prepared for what lies ahead.  Yes I have packed the proper clothes, gifts for my Compassion child, games, puzzles and books for the kids.  I've read some books, had the opportunity for some specific mission training, practiced some Spanish and gathered my prayer group, yet still feel inadequate for the tasks ahead.

But herein lies the great truth - I am not alone - a team in El Salvador is preparing for our arrival, we are a team of 36 Canadians who have prepared together to go, hundreds of others have contributed so that 36 homes could be built this week, the community will gather to work together, and the Creator, Sustainer and Giver of every good gift is the one who prepares our way - and He is faithful and perfect in His preparedness, and I rest in His grace.

Monday, October 29, 2018

God’s love poured out

Bethany El Salvador November 2018 Team
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”  Bob Goff

We’re not sure how this happened but our November team of 36 people will be building 36 homes next week in El Salvador.  Unbelievable!  Maybe I should be more concerned about how next week we will actually get 36 homes up!  But we have seen God at work in putting this team together and in how these funds have come in, and we trust in Him who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine!  So really I guess I do know how this happened!

Our team reached out to their family, friends, colleagues, fellow students and beyond - and got creative in fundraisers including rowing across Lake Ontario (from Jordan to Toronto!), hosting a neighbourhood pool party, sewing pie-iron bags (ask me if you don’t know what a pie-iron is, it will change your life! Lol), roofing a house, selling crates, selling Pampered Chef, there was a donation of a house given at a wedding in lieu of wedding favours, and incredible donations through people donating from their savings and investments.  Our team got out of their comfort zone, they sacrificed and did something that was of incredible value, something that mattered.  And God blessed these efforts and poured out His love.  And we haven’t even gotten to El Salvador yet.

We now have the amazing opportunity to go to El Salvador and bring God’s love to the families we are building homes for.  These families are living in desperate conditions and the homes literally lift them out of the mud, and give them a roof that doesn’t leak. We will hear their stories and we work alongside them, again we have to get out of our comfort zone.  Please pray for our team and the families in El Salvador receiving homes.  Pray that the families know that the homes they receive is God’s love being poured out on them.  And we are excited to see how God will use us and change us.

Thank you so much for all the support, encouragement and prayers!  Our team extends way beyond the 36 people, to everyone who has contributed in large or small ways towards this mission!

Ephesians 3:20
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.