El Salvador

El Salvador

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Not The End But The Beginning

We had an amazing day at the beach. A down day and a time to reflect on our week.

As we come to the end of our missions trip it really isn´t the end but the beginning. The beginning of a life changing experience for the team. For the people who have never been here before God has used this trip to open their eyes to what families living in poverty have to endure everyday. For people who returned God confirmed in our hearts that we must continue to make life changes to do what Jesus commanded us to do. Help the poor, the downtrodden, the widows and orphans. To go out and share the gospel of Jesus and be his hands and feet. May all that we have seen and experienced this week as a team begin in us a passion to make a difference. May we not go back to our comfortable North American lifestyle. May the images we have seen and the stories we heard continue to move us to action. May this not be the end but the beginning to God calling us to step out of the boat and use our resourses, our gifts and our talents to serve the poor.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Celebration!

Haven't posted the last day because the internet at the hotel was down.

We completed the houses yesterday and dispensed medicine to over 250 patients at the clinic. It is heart wrenching to see mom's waiting all day to get medicine for their children. I can't imagine what it would be like to wait all day in the heat to have your sick child see a Dr and then wait for hrs to get medicine. All without food and water. It is hard when I return after doing a medical clinic and having people complain about our health system. We are so blessed in Canada. I am reminded of the Israelites grumbling in the dessert because of their circumstances. God had provided food and all that they needed and yet they still grumbled against God.

Today was the key giving ceremony. What a blessing it is to hand the keys to the families for their new homes. What a celebration of God's provision. 1o familes now have homes to shelter them from the elements.

One of the women we built a home for had asked God to someday bless her with a home. She told us that the dirt floor that she kneels and prays on is very hard on her knees and legs and she has a hard time getting up. She had prayed that God would provide her with a home that has cement floors so she could kneel and pray in comfort. God had told her He was going to give her a new home. She was patient and God honored the desires of her heart.

We also visited the goat farm in San Antonio Camino. Goats to provide fresh milk to babies and children. The men their milked a goat and we were able to try fresh goats milk. Delicilous! I got lots of photos to show our Bethany youth who raised almost $3000 for the goat farm. What a life changing thing for a family to have fresh milk for their children. To be able to have proper nutrients is huge for children.

Tomorrow is market day and the beach. Please pray for the team as a lot of us are fighting a bad head cold.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hot!

Wow was it hot today. We had anticipated finishing the homes today but with the intense heat and the rocks that kept getting in the way of leveling the sites we are having to complete the homes tomorrow. I think it was over 40 today. HOT!!!! We are learning to always be FAT. Flexible, adaptable, and teachable.
This afternoon while the men were working at the job sites us women bagged up the rice, corn, beans and powdered milk. We will be giving the bags of food to the familes who come to the clinic.
Tonight was an amazing church service. Chelsey, Michelle and Erica shared their testimonies. Becky, Leah and Erica also sang 4 songs for the congregation. What a moving service. Throughout the testimonies it was apparant of God's incredible love for each of us. We can never hide from Him and He is always drawing us to Himself. What an incredible God we serve. It was also a goodbye service for Phil. He has had an amazing impact on the people of El Salvador. Lots of tears!
I am excited to see how God will use the team tomorrow as we hold the medical clinic and finish ten houses. May He receive the glory in all that we say and do.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Make An Impact

My son, Ryan, and I have been planning our trip to El Salvador for two years, so when the time finally arrived, it felt a little surreal.  We were excited and admittedly a little nervous about what this adventure might have in store. And rightly so. When we arrived in San Vicente on Saturday, we stopped at the home of Stuart and his young family, who are here working with the church.  We met him on the corner outside his home, a house like the rest of the houses sporting rolls of barbed wire all around and bars on the windows.  He mentioned that our current location has the highest per capita murder rate in the world, gave us a few safety tips, warned us not to go anywhere alone, and then brightened to say, ¨"Welcome to El Salvador!"

With the formalities behind us, however, we have found the people to be some of the warmest, most welcoming people in the world.  As we drove down one city street, 22 of us crammed into the box of a small Toyota pick-up, another truck just as full chased us down. They had recognized Valerie and the middle of the street was suddenly filled with hugs and laughter.

The next morning we set out to tour the sites where we would be building and to meet the "familias".   We encountered story after story of husbands and wives who were taking care of their children the best that they could.  But when working in the corn, bean and sugar cane fields pays $5 per day (that´s $700 a year), one can quickly see how the shackles of poverty keep them trapped.  To buy even the simple kind of housing we are helping to provide, on their own, is an impossible dream.  Nevertheless, story after story often concluded with sentiments such as Leyna´s:  "My husband and I work hard but there is very little wood that is good for building.  We have our eight children, and with each one, I do not regret a thing.  I am content.  We are happy.  Now, to receive a new house," she said with a grin, "I´m not complaining!  Thank you!"

So it was a real honour yesterday to come alongside these people with a strong work ethic (the only difference is we happen to have been born in Canada and they happen to have been born into poor families in El Salvador) and begin to build.  We completed three houses and began two more yesterday. And we were amazed at the progress.  Today was a little tougher, especially in the morning when we hit solid rock where we needed to to dig footings, and things were slowed a little longer due to a flat tire on our truck.  The upside was that this gave us more opportunity to connect with the people - like the family in whose laneway we parked to repair the tire.  And the teens, when they were not swinging a pick-axe, spent time with the children, painting their nails or making balloon animals.

This morning in our team devotional, Dave Morris challenged us to have an impact in One life today.  And by day´s end, at our team debriefing we discovered that that is exactly what happened for many of us.  Erica got to cook torillas with the women in one of the old mud-brick homes and to befriend them.  Dennis caught the look of joyful anticipation in a new homeowner´s eyes with each new stage as his house went up.  Del and I both were pleased with the friendship that we made with Eduardo and Pedro, who were surprised that we even remembered their names from yesterday.  And Katie was moved when the children and teens said Thank You for coming back again this year.  Ziggy found it was an honour to hold one woman´s arthritic hands while she painted her nails.  And she shared  God´s love with one of the wives we are building for.  She was particularly reserved, somewhat awkward.  So Ziggy struggled past the language barrier, took her by the hands and looked into her face. In a nutshell, she said, "You are beautiful and God loves you inside and out. He will never forsake you, and he will carry you through to the end."    Dick was working at site #7, where he noticed not just the usual onlookers of friends and family, but also a man with a bandage on his neck.  Dick went over to talk with him. "What happened?" he asked.  Velio responded by removing part of the bandage to show him, and said, "I have cancer and I am going to the hospital tomorrow."  Dick wanted to help in some way, when he remembered the Spanish Bibles we have with us.  He gave one to Velio to take with him to the hospital, and then he and Valerie prayed over him, for healing and that God would work in his life.  Ron was struck by another mother whose four children have aspirations to be a lawyer, a police officer, a teacher and an accountant.  Mom has faith and peace and the children have learned from her sweet spirit.  And she loves them and prays for them and wants them to be OK, just like WE love, pray and yearn for our children.

It struck me today that THIS is what Jesus calls us to do.  Not sit through some dry church service, shake a few hands and go home feeling righteous.  But to reach out, connect and share with people who are less fortunate - at least materially.  Our interactions with the people here make me wonder who should really be seen as the  "disadvantaged":  these poor people who find contentment in living one day at time, as Jesus recommended, or we in the "developed nations" who are stressed as never before in our pursuit to be more, get more, impress more?  

Tomorrow we will go out and do it all over again. Our goal is to finish the last three houses, so that we can do the medical clinic on Thursday, as well as visit another village to see how we can connect with and help the people there.  Dave, may we take your challenge not only today, but all week - and into our lives back home.   Jesus knows what he´s talking about.

Houses and Food

There were a few challenges with the worksites today. We ran into some BIG rocks at two of the sites this afternoon. We completes two homes in the morning and have about 1 hr left on the other two. Oh it was so hard to pack up the tools when we so wanted to finish the other two. God is teaching us that there is always tomorrow to finish the task that we started. Tomorrow we should get the other 3 houses built. In the afternoon we are dividing the team up. While some of the team continue to work on the remaining homes the rest of the team will divide up the food that we have purchased to hand out. Thursday we will be going to a new village named Rio Frio to hold the medical clinic. I have never been there before so I am excited to see it and meet some new people. We will hand out the food there.

God is doing amazing things! Using the people of Bethany to impact people for His kingdom and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each team member has 2 Spanish bibles to give to people they meet who do not own bibles. Today I had the blessing of being able to give the word of God to a teenager in the village. I also had a Max Lucado book titled He Chose The Nails that I gave her. I pray that God's amazing love letter to us will draw her to himself and change her life through salvation. God is working in the village of San Felipe and we are incredibley blessed to witness and be a part of what He is doing in peoples lives. May His name be glorified.

Plese continue to pray for us. There are a few team members that are sick with colds. May God give us the strength to complete the tasks that He has set before us to do.

Good Night!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Building Homes~Building Relationships

Today was a day for building. Building homes but most importantly building relationships. We completed 3 homes and started digging the sites for houses 4 & 5. As we worked in the intense heat alongside the people in the village we were building relationships. Whether it is digging holes, cutting metal or holding each other's ladders we are building strong bonds with the people here. It doesn't get any better than this. Being Christ hand extended to the people of El Salvador. It truly is a blessing that is hard to put into words. It is life changing!

This morning I gave the midwife in the village some baby hats that Jayne Duldner had knit. Later I was blessed to be invited into the midwife's home as she cared for one of the pregnant women in the village. The women's baby is the wrong way.The midwife explained that she needed to turn the baby before she gives birth. She gently massaged and manipulated the baby to turn. It was an amazing experience to see. As I watched I thought of all the children and teenagers that this amazing women has helped to enter into this world and what a blessing she is to the women in the village. They and there unborn children are in experienced hands and I am so thankful that she is there to care for them. I read of so many women who die in childbirth because they do not have proper help.

As I sit typing at the computer I can hear the teens playing a card game and laughing. Not only are we building strong relationships with the people of El Salvador but also with each other. I am so thankful that the young people at Bethany have obedient hearts and listen to the call that God has on their lives to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. It really isn't about building houses but building relationships. After all that is what goes with us into eternity. Our relationship with God and with others.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Happy & Content

I am always learning when I come on missions trips. The people of El Salvador teach me so much. I realize after living in Canada that I have much to learn. As we visited the families today that we will be building the houses for Carlos (our translator) would ask them how they are. They all replied the same.....happy and content. That is hard for us Canadians to grasp. Happy and content? Happy and content while living on dirt floors? Happy and content as they struggle to have food for the day? Happy and content when there is over 70% unemployment rate and they cannot find work? Yes happy and content! They are happy and content despite their circumstances. That is what they teach me! Everytime I come here they teach me this great lesson. A message we as Canadians don't get. Paul also gave us this message when he wrote in Philippians 4:11-13
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
May I never forget the message that has been given by Paul and the people who's homes we are going to build this week. May I be happy and content despite my circumstances. God help me to live this out in my everyday life.

Jesus Friend Of Sinners

Daniel and Joanna had given me the new Casting Crowns cd for Christmas. One of the songs is Jesus Friend of Sinners. My favourite on the cd. The words are so powerful and have been on my heart the last 2 weeks as I prepared to come to El Salvador.

Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth's become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they're tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I'm so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours.

This week may I see the people through Jesus eyes. When I look at childrens swolen bellies because of malnutrition, people living in mud huts, moms who have no food to prepare for their familes. May I have Christ heart. A heart that is filled with mercy. May my heart break for this as it is breaking Jesus heart. May I never grow so comfortable in my abundance that I harden my heart to plight of the poor and needy. This week may my heart break!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Smooth Trip

We are here! We are so thankful that God has given us an uneventful trip. We are at the hotel in San Vicente. We will be heading to dinner in about 20 minutes. It is hot here as always but amazing! This is my second home and I am so blessed to be here serving the people of El Salvador. May God receive the glory this week and may we be forever changed! May we become more like Him and spread the gospel to whomever God puts in our path this week. Adios for now!