El Salvador

El Salvador

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hope for the hopeless.

Last night our team went out to minister to the homeless. We met Pastor Oscar and his team from the church before hand so we could pray togeher. We prayed that we would be Christ hands and feet to those who are lost. Oscar prayed that satan would not hide them from us and we could find those who needed help.

The group from the church had food prepared to give out.  Rice, beans, cheese and bread. We drove through the streets of San Vicente looking. Searching for anyone who needed our help. A few blocks from the church we found a group of homeless men sleeping. Another man named Angel who was standing among them came right to us. He was weeping uncontrollably. He had just lost his 25 year old brother. He was killed the night before as Angel and he were walking on the highway not far from where we were building the homes. Angel had went to the hospital to see him but they would not let him in because he had been drinking. He was weeping because he never got a chance to say goodbye to his brother. We sat with Angel and listened to his story. We shared the promise of God's love and grace. Last night Angel accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. We gave him one of the Spanish bibles that we brought from home.

We also met a women named Maria. Maria has been living on the streets for 20 years as a prostitute selling her body to have enough money for her addictions. She does not know her worth and has never felt loved. The women prayed with Maria and shared God's unconditional love for her and how much God cared for her. We can only pray that someday she will know that she has been designed by a loving God and realize her true worth in Him.

Jesus hung out with sinners, and He was judged harshly for it from the Pharisees. The religious people of his time. He hung out with drunkards, prostitutes, tax collectors. The despised and rejected. It is not any different 2000 years later. Let's be honest. People like that make us uncomfortable. It is messy going to minister on the streets to the lost. The thing we cannot ignore though is Jesus has commanded us to do just that! To live like Him. Are we ready to be obedient? I can only speak for myself, it was one of the best nights of my life.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

God is in the details

Every year my mom and dad donate money for the Bethany teams to build a home. The homes they have given are in memory of my niece, their grandaughter who passed away after open heart surgery. Jennifer was born with a heart defect and struggled through 3 open heart surgeries and a pace maker. After emergency open heart surgery Jennifer suffered 3 strokes and was pronounced brain dead. She had just celebrated her 20th birthday. She was on life support until we could all gather to say our goodbye's. She went home to live with her Savior where she no longer has to suffer with a failing heart.

My parents have now built 5 homes for families living in poverty in memory of Jenni.  The make up of the families are all different but they all share one thing in common. They are all homeless. My parents wanted good to come out of Jenni's suffering and death. When we meet the families on Sunday I always ask God to help me choose the family who will receive Jenni's house. This year I felt lead to choose a family of 4. A married couple with a son and daughter. They had no home and were living in his brothers house. He is a welder and she stays at home and looks after her family.

Brian and I sat one hot afternoon to visit with them and to hear their story. They shared how they met, how they fell in love, what they do for a living, how they struggle in life living in poverty. This amazing family were so warm and open. I aske them if they wanted more children. They shared that they did but because their daughter suffers with health problems they cannot. A lot of their time is taken caring for her. I asked them if they would mind sharing what her health problems were so we could pray for them. She was born with a heart defect! I sat stunned for a minute until I could compose myself. With tears in my eyes I shared Jenni's story. That their new home was donated by my parents in memory of her. We were all crying and overwhelmed at how God had orchestrated this whole meeting. God loves us so much that he looks after all the details. He lead me to choose this special family who are struggling with the same issues as Jennifer suffered with.

I know Jenni would be thrilled to know that there is a little girl not very different from her who now has a home to shelter her from the rain. A safe place for her to come home to. I am so thankful for my parents who do not have a lot of earthly material things but are investing in lives. All in memory of my niece. What satan meant for evil God used it for His purpose and for His glory. This time for a little girl who lives in El Salvador.

Making a difference in the life of a child.

Today we visited a Compassion project in San Vicente. It is really incredible to witness how $41 a month can change the life of a child who is living in poverty. Last year we visited this Compassion centre and 8 team members sponsored children. Another team member sponsored a child before we left. Today we got to spend the day with our sponsored children and meet the families.

The children learn trades at the project, hear the gospel, have dental and dr visits, get a meal as well as having tutor's help them with their school. Most children who live on poverty feel they have no hope. Lives are being changed in Jesus name through the work of Compassion and it is giving children hope. Hope for a future. It doesn't get any better than that!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


It is hard to see poverty up close. It is even harder to explain it on a blog. I wish that everyone could serve people living in extreme poverty at least once in their life. It is life changing! Hunger, pain, living in dirt, inadequate shelter from the elements, not enough money for medicine when your child is sick. Children dying from fevers because they don't have money for tylenol. All things that we take for granted living in Canada.

The bible speaks of the poor and our reponsibility for them so much. Actually, poverty or poor is mentioned over 2000 times in the bible. God has a lot to say about the subject. If He speaks that many times about the poor shouldn't we also speak about it? Shouldn't we also be concerned for what concerns God? When we sit down to talk to the homeowners about what it means to receive a home they light up. To receive a home is life changing. It gives them hope. We built a home for a family at the team leaders meeting this past April. When I asked the women who was receiving the home what it meant to her she broke down. She said she had lost her father 6 months before and her brother 2 months after that. She said she stopped believing in God after losing family members. She said she realzed after we built her home that God had not forgotten her. I shared the gospel message with her and that day she came to know Christ as her Savior. These homes give families living in poverty hope. $2900 can change a families life. Sometimes for eternity.

View from my room!

Many thanks for all your prayers. God is faithful. I am truly blessed to have so many caring people both here and in Canada. I regret not being with the team building homes and working alongside the villagers. They teach us so much, but God has other plans for me. Presently struggling to do this blog on Valerie,s tablet. I am computer challenged. However, it is not about me but what God is doing in me and through me. I feel priviledged that I was part of the interview with the family for house 2. The fact that the 63 year old man knew God but not willing to accept His Grace. People are the same all over the world. There struggles are great! I think of Rosa who is 18 and comes out to help everytime Bethany teams are here. She has a real loving heart and is going to school, overcoming a seeing problem, to learn English and find a career for herself. She loves God and He is making a difference in her life. To see all the hurdles she has to overcome and where she started gives you the hope that God is working to change lives. Through
God,s caring people and prayers lives are changing, we are changing and being enriched because of them. Valerie is asking a villager to make a crutch for me so I will be able to get around better than hopping on one foot. They have no crutches here in the fairly large city of San Vicente. We can not comprehend that back home where all things are easily obtained. I feel humbled yet honoured that a villager who we are here to build for is extending his hand of kindness to me. The sharing of God,s gifts is amazing. The team should be nearing completion on the 8th and final home and soon will return to go to the lagoon. Just a final hello to family and friends outside of  Bethany who are reading this, all is well, see you soon. In
God,s loving care,  Chris


We are finishing the last two houses today. In the afternoon we are going swimming at Amapalapa. It is a natural lagoon with a waterfall. We have been so blesed to work in the village of San Antonio the last 3 days. Lives have been changed. Canadian lives that is! It is really hard to describe in a blog what you see and experience here. What I do know is after experiencing a missipns trip to El Salvador it changes you. May God use us in the village today to share His love and to be His hands and feet.

Tomorrow we visit a Compassion project. This Compassion project has 331 children. Last year 10 children were sponsored by the Bethany team members. We get to visit them in person tomorrow. We made up little care packages to give to all the children in the project.

Continue to pray for us as we to minister to people. May God be glorified in all that we do.

Update on Chris

Chris went for xrays and to the Dr yesterday. Our prayers have been answered. The dr said the x rays show no break or dislocation. He feels it was dislocated and from the pressure of the boot it located in the night. This makes sense as she was in so much pain but was feeling better in the morning. Jurgen had prayed at our debrief that it would loccate itselfnin the night on its own, Praise God he answered our prayers!  Chris still has to wear the boot for 4 weeks. This was really hard for Chris to hear. Chris is very active and to have to wear the boot for support is discouraging. We are going to have a man in the village make a crutch for her today so she can brace herself on that and walk. Continue to pray for Chris.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Missions Possible

Mission Possible because with God all things are possible. I have to say that I thought I was coming here to help others. To build them safe secure homes to live in. But I have to say that maybe those that are really in need is Us.  We are living in decent conditions and are able to work and put food on our tables but I'm not sure we get it.  When we first went to the village to build I was embarssed because of  the amount of people that came out to help us build these homes and they didn`t have a home for themselves. Unselfish giving out of their  poverty and giving themelves to help their communtiy. Where back at home we barely have time to share a coffee or tea with our neighbors. Our closets are full of excessive stuff we haven`t used or needed in years (where is your MISSION POSSIBLE ).
We will do fund raising for situation that come up but what do we really give that costs us. Will we use all our savings to save someone? People know we care for them because we Carry Them!!  Tommy Vinson
Today was another amazing day!  While the team men and local men were building the houses and building relationships with each other the girls were doing the same building relationships!  We spent most of our day with each other painting fingernails, some times repainting fingernails doing crafts and put sparkles wherever we could and sharing Jesus!  It's so amazing how we are all the same wherever we are in the world.  We may have a different set of life circumstances but we all want and need the same things in life.  To have our basic needs met, to be valued, respected, loved, cherished and to know Jesus!!!  Nicole and Jasmine :-)

Monday, November 4, 2013


We had an incredible day at the work site. We completed 3 homes today with the whole community coming to help and be a part of it. We shared at the debief how we have lost community in Canada. We live in neighbourhoods where we don't know our neighbours. Today we seen everyone coming around to help us and the community get 3 houses built. Chris, Sid, Edith and I were able to share the gospel message with one of the homeowners. He was not ready to surrender his life to Christ but we continue to pray that the spirit will move on his heart.

We  need to ask for prayer. Late in the day Chris Frere fell off the curb and has done some damage to her ankle. She was taken to the local clinic and was checked by the dr. She is in a lot of pain. We will be taking her back to the clinic tomorrow as they need to take xrays before they can tell if it is dislocated or torn something. She has a boot on and is in bed with her leg elevated. She is on a lot of pain medication but she continues to be in a lot of pain. Please pray for her. Please pray that she gets rest tonight and that the Dr will have answers after he see's the xray.
We covet the prayers of our friends back home.


Today we start the building. When we visited with the families yesterday the sites looked like they would be easy to prepare. I guess we will find out today. They have been getting a lot of rain in October so the ground should be soft. Well....we are hoping for that. :-)

We are open to serve the community of San Antonio. Some want to build, others want to work with the children and minister to the local people. Whatever God has planned for us we want to be used. Used to be His hands and feet. Last night we prayed for team unity, for health and strength, and to be a light in the community.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


After preparing, fundraising, team meetings amd much prayer we were finally able to meet the families who will be receiving their new homes this week. The team is excited to start working tomorrow and getting to know their stories. Their hopes, dreams and their struggles.

One of the things the team shared at our debrief  tonight was how thankful each of these families are to God for His provision. Many have been praying for years for a house that would provide shelter for their families. They gave all glory to God. One of the men shared that they work hard and are able to get food for their families but they would never be able to afford a home. God heard the cry of their hearts and met this need.

We are humbled to be given the oppurtunity to work this week alongside these amazing people. I know we will learn many life lessons. Today we learned the lesson of thankfulness. May we return home realizing that everything we have has been provided by God. Everything! God is our great provider. Every good and perfect gift comes from above.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Voice Of Adventure

I was reading a devotion today by Max Lucado. The passage that he used was Psalm 27:1. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
Max writes the following "Jesus says the options are clear. On one side there is a voice of safety. You can build a fire in the hearth, stay inside, and stay warm and dry for what you don't try, right? You can't lose your balance if you never climb, right? So don't try it. Take the safe route.
Or you can hear the voice of adventure-God's adventure.  Instead of building a fire in the hearth, build a fire in your heart. Follow God's impulses. Adopt the child. Move overseas. Teach the class. Change careers. Make a difference.  Sure it isn't safe, but what is?

I feel each of the team members listened to the voice of God. Each said yes to getting out of their safe place. Making a difference! Making a difference by going to build homes so families no longer have to live in mud. We are ready for an adventure. An adventure designed and planned by God. An adventure to share the gospel message. I am thankful that when we do say yes to God's plans we do not need to fear. May He be glorified in all that we say and do this week.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ride For Refuge

Waking up on Saturday morning to a thunder and lightening storm was very discouraging. I was worried about us having to ride in the pouring rain and if the weather would deter people from coming to the Ride For Refuge fundraiser. We only had to wait a few hours and the skies cleared and it turned into a beautiful day for the ride.

The Bethany El Salvador team had 14 people who rode and we as a team were able to raise over $6100 in donations.

What a difference these funds will make to people who living in poverty. The money will go toward purchasing the material to build homes when we are in El Salvador. We will be there from March 1-9th building with team #1 and from March 8-16th with team #2.

We are excited to see how God will use the teams to share Christ love.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Update from Karen Hooper

Our final day in Rio Frio; emotions, heat and time were bearing down on us as we hurried to finish projects! (why does everyday seem hotter than the last??) As we talked in our devotions about being the women God created us to be, the question was asked:  what was the hardest thing for you this week?  For my ladies, it was not about the sewing projects (maybe they were not hard enough, Julie??;)   - instead, it was about saying good-bye, the companionship and the simple gathering of women that cared about each other and laughed together. Thanks to my intrepid translator extraordinaire, Patricia, we were able to do all the above as a group! (xoxo)

I  am so thankful that God had my eyes wide open to His hand in the details this week.  We  were going to hold the graduation ceremony and ribbon cutting at the unfinished sewing centre (aka. out in the hot sun).  But He sent rain just as we were going to head over - this resulted in us staying at the house we were set up in.  The ladies had the chairs set up on the porch in rows before you could say pronto, and we were ready to go ...with 2 pastors and 2 women (Carie and I) lined up to speak the potential for a long ceremony was apparent!

Encouragement, exhortations, and hope for the future were talked about.  For me, Philipians 1:6 was a verse that just encapsulated this week:  "that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus".  Our team fully believes that the work in Rio Frio has only just begun.  This is a community that exudes a spirit of unity and desire to move forward.  The people are hard working and have a hope for the future.

Each group leader then had the opportunity to present a sewing basket to their ladies that was filled with a Spanish Bible and all the "fixin's" to start a small business (pictures to follow). This was an opportunity to publicly share how proud we were of what the ladies had accomplished and how they had impacted our lives and hearts.

We all herded over to the sewing centre next door to have a ribbon cutting ceremony in which Pastor Pastor (no typo - that is his name!) offered a blessing on the women and the centre as the workmen were installing the metal roof!

Our afternoon groups doubled as the morning ladies didn't want to leave - even with more rain coming!  Good-byes and hugs and "mucho gracias"" was said again and again.  One of my morning ladies had waited all day to find a time to pull me aside with Patricia and share with us the turmoil in her private life and ask for prayers.  We prayed with her for God's guidance and wisdom as she makes some hard decisions.  A reminder to me that human relational struggles are similar all over the world.

I want to take this opportunity to share how meaningful the sponsorships were.  To have a lady in Canada take an interest and send a card and picture to "a name" in Rio Frio was really hard to grasp for some.  The baskets and the daily hot lunch were such a gift.  They happily had their pictures taken in response and dutifully and lovingly filled out cards for Bethany ladies in return.  Thank you for your generosity; it added a lovely element to the week.

In closing:  Philemon 4-7 (paraphrased) " I will always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I have witnessed your faith in The Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.  I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.  Your love has given me great joy and encouragement because you, sisters, have refreshed our hearts. "

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Update from Julie Tiessen #3

The last few days were every bit as intense as the first ones, and we wondered how they could possibly get any fuller.  For me, every day I was pressed to the limit physically and mentally, but somehow managed to get through with an abundance of good humour and energy from beyond the volcano which tours over this region.  By the end of the week the translators were congratulating me on my language-learning capacity, and I was feeling it was a shame to have mastered all this sewing vocabulary and not return!

The ladies were so eager to finish as many projects as possible in the week.  Some of mine even took them home to complete hand sewing and topstitching since a few had sewing machines, or their mothers or grandmothers did. Or they sheepishly brought their projects out during our devotionals to work on hand-sewing or stitch-ripping, and I nodded an okay since I wondered how else we'd ever get done at the rate they were going.

Our group got three projects done: 1) a jean pocket organizer to use up the hundreds of jean pockets leftover from the jeans they use at a quilting centre to make quilts, 2) a small zippered pouch which some of them are now using as a little purse for their money and cell phones (yes they market cheap pay-as-you-go knock-offs to the ends of the earth!), and 3) a purse tote with handles that loop through each other and a lining with pockets.  They all agreed that the small pouch was the hardest and we later had a good laugh about how they were so frustrated at certain points they wanted to tear it up or throw it across the room!  We all sympathized with Brenda, the pastor's 17-year-old daughter who is pregnant and therefore uber-emotional.  She was at the point of tears several times this week.  Others who were more confident raced ahead of the group and then had to do a lot of stitch-ripping when they got it wrong ... note to self: bring a truckload of stitch-rippers next time!

I commended them for their perseverance through our second and third projects, which they agreed were NOT beginners level (won't say told-you-so to our fearless leader but...) I also sincerely thanked them for helping with Cruz, one of the older women who appeared to have a learning disability, making my job much harder.  Some of the quick ones would start to just do it for her, but I explained that we needed to be patient and allow her to learn at her own pace.  We worked through it together and somehow managed to help her get all three projects done by closing time Friday ... okay, so at 4:45 when she got a call on her cell phone I quickly buzzed away to finish the handles she had pretty much botched!  I was pouring with sweat by the end but we all yelled hooray!!!  I was so flustered that I totally forgot about photos of their final project, but they each insisted on photos with me on their cellphones in the depths of my slimey-ness, but honestly I looked that way the whole week, compared to most of them who hardly broke a sweat even wearing jeans!  With very hard water my hair has turned to hay here, and there is absolutely nothing I can do with it (good luck to my hairdresser who will have to perform a miracle next week!). Diego, one of the hunky young translators, said he liked my hair and that they call it the "California look" here, but I think he was just being kind.  I couldn't wear contacts and see to thread the machines so I wore glasses that constantly slid off my nose along with the pouring sweat and grime, and clothing was a terrible inconvenience that got soaked through by our treck on foot each day to and from lunch ... up a gradual hill fraught with rocks, flowing rivers of raw sewage and mounds of animal poop.  Garbage was everywhere, as there is simply no place to put it ... so they seem to have foregone the 'don't be a litterbug' campaigns in the schools.

My girls thanked and thanked me.  I gave them food treats I'd brought as a little reward for their efforts, but I could not out-give them.  Throughout the week they brought me exotic fruits that we don't even have English words for, and treats like deep fried plantain filled with a sweet gelled milk and covered with sugar (which she had just purchased on the way and insisted I eat while it was warm)... I guess this is their version of Timmy's Boston cream!  A decade as a missionary in Russia eating what we called 'road-kill shish-kebab appears to have given me a stomach of iron as I have had no problems all week.  A couple of them made me colourful beaded 'blingy-bling' for my hands and wrists, probably taking pity on me for having none (as advised, I left all my rings at home).  They are so poor, yet they come out of what we would call 'forts' put together with sticks and tattered plastic sheets, corrugated metal ... garbage mostly.  And yet they look so lovely and give so sacrificially... it is very humbling.

I will let our leader Karen write about the 'graduation' ceremony, so will close this post saying a very sincere thank you for your prayers, which have amazingly sustained me.  My doctor was very against me coming, due to having Chronic Lyme Disease contracted from our guard dog as missionaries for a decade in Russia.  My natural killer cells (immune) are dangerously low, but I felt God had paved a way for me to come, and your prayers have made it possible ... with a little help from El Salvadorian coffee and the adrenaline that has been coursing through my veins all week, making sleep almost impossible... running on 4 hours per night and making it through brutally full days (footnote: don't call me before noon next week!)

One last project we somehow managed to accomplish on the final day in our morning and afternoon groups was making three extra jean pocket organizers for the three local families that went above and beyond to help us ... the family with an indoor pink flush toilet across the 'road' (again, a term I use loosely) from the makeshift sewing centre that has no bathroom; the family with the metal home built by an earlier team where all the cooking was done outdoors and we converged with 60-80 people each noon hour (including niños), and a local pastor who was our tireless smiling gopher all week!  We presented our creations to these three very appreciative families.

In conclusion, it has been an AMAZING week and it was hard to answer my ladies who asked when I could come back.  They want to stay connected on Facebook!  So I will keep posting photos in my albums (DougandJulie Tiessen).

Postscript: after one more subsequent gecko sighting, running from under my bed to under Karen's, the geckos seemed to have gotten the memo and have 'vamoosed' from our room and even from the restaurant here, so thanks for praying them away since crawly things are not my forte, to put it mildly ... my mom Marjorie knows this only too well and wrote that she could hear my screams from Stoney Creek!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Update from Rebecca

So yesterday didn't get a blog, well it did but it wasn't very good. It basically said there were two of us with all the kids and they fought and we didn't have enough attention to go around, it was exhausting. Dinner was fantastic though, we talked waaaay too late and Julie's gecko friend made another appearance. Today we had tons of help with the kids and only like 7 kids in the morning and maybe 15 in the afternoon, nowhere near the amount we had had before! I felt bad because the help ended up bored but it was nicer for Diana and I! Since there were less kids and the women are now all finishing their projects Julie and I switched for a bit and I got to teach her group how to make knot bags. It was cool to be on the teaching end but I don't think teaching is one of my strong points, I tend to summarize steps which doesn't help the women learning. We managed to avoid the rain on the drive home but hit crazy, weird traffic from construction being done. After dinner we hit the town! Stopped by a fresh popsicle place with fries which was fantastic and then walked up the clock tower. It was crazy high and I forgot that it rang and almost had a heart attack when it did because we were like 1 meter away from the bells. Now I think we have a bit more prep to do for the final day/fiesta. Also I learned that a siesta is a nap, I always thought it was just another type of party, like a fiesta but I was totally off. Apparently my 18th birthday party was a napfest....it was the best napfest ever minus the napping My ignorance of the Spanish language has caused a lot of good laughs this week.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sewing Day 2

Whoot! Today was great! Last night we had an insane thunderstorm, it was so windy and pouring rain for over an hour, crazy stuff! This morning I was more coherant than yestarday which was good and our ride to Rio Frio was awesome and a mini worship session because Carlos (one of the guys) brought his guitar on the road. When we got.there we set up, rounded the kids up and one of translator's daughter, Diana, got a crash course in translating, since we were down one and she translated the story of feeding the 5000. It was a fun, totally new and interesting experience for both of us. After the kids did their colouring and I showed some square knot bracelets but it wasn't as well received as the beaded one but they still loved colouring, playing catch, frisbee, baseball (we used our hands instead of a bat), and just running around. By the time lunch came around Carlos didn't want kids, Gustavo seemed to have adopted 2 for the day and the Carly (I think that is her name) had done manicures and we were all ready for a break! Lunch was fantasic again, as usual! We had a good rest and went back to do it all over again. In the afternoon Carlos did the story, I am not totally sure what it was but I think it was about different cows and a pastor and one left and the pastor looked for it and brought it home. He had kids act it out and they loved it which was awesome! Then they coloured, some did knotted bracelets, Diana made one up herself and a bunch of them loved that one and a few sid the square knot one. I learned that boys tend to catch on quicker after you show them something once or twice whereas with the girl that I taught it took verbal instructions and demonstrations which made for a more interesting time. The kids were fantastic, we were basically completely cleaned up and packed away 15 minutes early which was fine because the women sewing are super efficient so they were ready to go resulting in perfect timing! We got a little breal before getting back in the truck! There was a storm heading in as we were leaving and I thought it would be great if it rained, like a pre-shower, but that isn't how things work in El Salvador. It was super windy (plus driving down a highway), then it spit a bit (felt like pellets because of the speed) and then it poured. And kept pouring. We were soaked through in about 5 minutes and cold for the rest of the ride. I thought it was fantastic about 15 minutes after being soaked because really there was nothing else to do but enjoy it. Us Canadians were more worried about being in a metal truck but the El Salvadorians were worried about getting sick. When we got back we had a few minutes before dinner to dry off, then we ate, did some prep for tomorrow and Carrie took us to the local ice cream place, amazing ice cream! Julie eats like a tank! We went to the grocery store after and we got sunglasses, Julie's from the other night were gone but we found other ones and much more. Upon arriving back we unpacked our one lost bag for material for tomorrow and was interupted by a friendly, curious gecko on Julie's bed. Julie started screaming for a shoe, she just kills things that get in her way, and after we determined it was only a small gecko, no larger than a pinky, she still screamed, while jumping up and down, "Can you get a shoe?!" Then Julie (Trussel) put it under a glass and possibly hurt its leg and Julie still screamed, "Can you get a shoe now?! You've already maimed it!" But we saved.the little guy and put him in the hall and we all just about peed ourselves laughing. "It's cause I didn't pray!" was Julie's reason, she hadn't prayed today that God would keep the geckos in the restaurant where we ate instead of the rooms. The gecko had pooped on the folder used to remove it from the room and Karen's question was "Do you have to declare gecko poo when coming back into the country?" and the rest of us were classified as tree huggers by Julie because we didn't want to kill the gecko. All in all it was a crazy, hysterical day and there are pictures to prove it!

Udate from Julie Tiessen #2

Okay, this blog will be short and sweet, as I must get to bed since 6am is now less than 5 hours away.  But it's actually the most important as it's about the MAIN reason we are here ... not just for the sewing, but to build into these women's lives through our daily devotionals with them.  These times have been SO blessed, and they tend to go way past their allotment, which is awesome!  Women's lives are being touched for eternity ... we are seeing it through tears and laughter, which transcend cultural and linguistic barriers as womens' hearts have a way of speaking to one another.  They are fully entering into this experience soaking it up like sponges.  What a privilege to bring God's words to these eager ladies!

Today we also told them about their sponsors from Bethany, the women from our church who chose one of their names from our list (which Carie had sent well ahead of time) and provided money to pay for their week with us at the sewing centre.  When we presented them each a card with the woman's photo on it, they were delighted and immediately started pouring over the Spanish translation (again, thanks to Rina!). Some of them will need help with reading them and also in filling out a similar card for us to take back to our women.  They were a little shy about writing and having their photos taken (just like OUR women!) but they seemed tickled by the idea and sincerely thankful for the opportunity these sponsors have given them to learn a skill that will help them support their families.  Our small team of five counts it a privilege to be the hands and feet of Christ, showing them his love in a practical way.

Nighttime prayer: God, please keep the geckos out of my bed and in the restaurant where they belong :)

Update from Julie Tiessen

Now it's later and my heart has slowed down to a rate where I can actually think again, so I will attempt to write my blog.  We have had two very full days of teaching sewing projects to the incredibly thankful and eager [read: bulls in a china shop] ladies.  It's been wild and wooly!  Most are quite young, 17 yrs and up, with few over 40 (although they look as old as our mothers due to their difficult lives).  Many are single moms as men tend to leave, especially since most can't afford the $3 marriage license and the trip to San Salvador (the capital city) to get one, so commitment is low.

Each day we get done with the first group by noon and hike 1/2 km up a muddy road (accompanied by chickens, pigs and patties) to the home where lunch is made by local women.  Our team distributes meals to the 60 women (morning and afternoon groups) plus all their many niños, our translators and Rebecca's childcare helpers, then we sit down on cinder blocks to inhale ours before the stray dogs come around.  We pray for the food energy to kick in as we hike back down the rocky road to the makeshift sewing centre, drenched from the wet sauna called El Salvador summer, but smiling and waving "Hola" to the afternoon ladies who are waiting for us (good thing we watched Dora!  Actually, a Guatemalan woman named Rina from Bethany graciously taught us Spanish as her ministry every Monday night starting in June).

On the first day, my group got their hanging jean pocket organizer completed and were SO proud of their accomplishment!  It was a learning process for all of us ... a steep learning curve for some of the women and also our translators ... especially the young guys learning sewing vocabulary and getting used to our English idioms (i.e. this next step is a piece of cake!)  By the afternoon group we are more prepared to team-teach the same project for the second time.  But by then it is unbearably hot and even the El Salvadorians are sopping up their dripping faces with cloths.  I am so thankful for the fan by the window and the screeching ceiling fan ... not to mention the lights to disperse the bats in the morning when we turn them on, since the roof doesn't sit snug on the cinder block walls (today's bat count: five).

Right from the first day sewing machines started breaking down, mainly due to the bulls (as per above). There are 2 industrial machines and 7 home machines.  The El Salvadorian sewing teacher is kept busy full time repairing and re-threading them.  Most of the ladies are scared of the industrial ones because they appear to have only one speed: Breakneck!  But they must learn, so I am making my women use them for basting, when a straight line isn't mandatory.  Line ups for machines inevitably form and sometimes tensions rise when a group feels like another group is hogging too many.  We are all learning patience and it's back to "Sharing 101."  But nothing can squelch the enthusiasm of these ladies, who get teary when they talk about how grateful they are that we came: "Nobody has ever come to us" they say.  They're probably right, since the 'town' of Rio Frio (I use that term loosely as it's more like a village minus the quaintness) might as well be Timbuktu.

Today, following the lead of Carie-the-missionary, I pulled in a sewing machine to my room, so at least we would have one machine for our group.  My project with the ladies was harder, so we didn't finish it in spite of mostly speedy-Gonzales types.  In addition to the machine backlog, in our afternoon group we have one 'older' woman (all of 42) who appears to be a bit learning disabled so she takes up a lot time on the machine.  By today another one of the 'older' ladies was helping her, as she has still not finished her first day's project and seemed almost entirely unable to comprehend today's.  Although my ladies were thrilled to learn how to sew in a zipper and make a cosmetic bag, they were frustrated that they did not get to finish it.  Still, they were undaunted and anxious to come back tomorrow to do so.

Tonight, our team leader Karen and I felt sheepish on the way home as we sat comfortably in the lorry cab with Carie the missionary/komakaze driver, while the rest of our team rode in the back standing (holding onto tall bars) along with about 15 El Salvadorians we let off along the way when they all whistled a stop.  In spite of Carie's best efforts to get us through hairpin-curved mountain roads back to the city of San Vicente, the dark clouds finally burst into the third tropical monsoon we have had since being here (the first one that happened during the day).  We arrived home with our three drowned rats!


Earlier this evening five of our team were together in our room doing prep work for tomorrow's projects.  Only Rebecca had posted a blog, as most of the rest of us older gals are too computerly challenged to figure out how to do this.  When I volunteered to write one, Rebecca said she could send it to her sister to post for me.  I thought one of us should write from the perspective of the rest of us who are teaching the moms how to sew.

I was contemplating what to write when I thought I saw something move by my side as I sat on the bed.  I got up and looked around but couldn't see anything (okay, so I wasn't wearing my glasses).  Not long after I sat down and resumed my work, Stephanie, who had also thought to herself that she had seen something move on the bed, declared a little too enthusiastically, "there's a gecko on Julie's bed!  (It was almost the same colour as the bedspread so it had been hard to see).

The rest played out as stated in Rebecca's blog O.o  (editorial note: I'm sorry, but the young naive gecko should have stayed outside the room where he belonged. They are rather cute when seen from a distance scampering about the walls of the indoor/outdoor restaurant, less cute when they fall from the ceiling of the indoor/outdoor hallway narrowly missing Stephanie's head the first night, but if they come in my room let it be known they will face certain death.  Let's hope this one, whom the other Julie heroically saved from it's shoe-demise, will send out the memo to all his amigos). -Julie Tiessen

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sewing Day 1

We survived day one of the sewing centre! It was some crazy stuff!! After a late night prepping and then an early morning, I was not feeling my super best going into this. The horns of busses and trucks started blaring early, working the sounds into my dreams, resulting in a state of confusion and not a great hour of sleep. When the alarm went off I stayed in bed too long having me rush pack for todah but I got everything I needed. We had breakfast, met the rest of our translators and started the trek to Rio Frio. Riding in the back of the truck is basically the only part of the day where I feel cool and not sticky, I was almost so cool I wanted a sweater! When we arrived all the women and children were there and readh and we scrambled to finish setting everything up for them. In the morning I had about 12ish kids, probably more though, but thankfully I had awesome people helping, some teens from the local church and of course a translator! The morning kids were super outgoing and stuff which is awesome but difficult when trying to keep them entertained. I love playing with kids but keeping kids entertained is not my favourite thing to do. At one point one little boy looked so tired/faint so I picked him up and ended up playing frisbee with another group so I got my workout doing squats with a kid on my hip, I am so sore! I was so thankful....I stoppped writing mid sentence to help with prep stuff and am not totally sure exactlt where that was going but basically everything was awesome, I think I could have been going towards lunch though. Lunch was fantastic, we served all the ladies and kids and sat down to eat and I scarfed it down like I hadn't eaten in days, they have THE best rice here, I could eat it all the time! Eventually we had to do the morning all over in the afternoon, it honestly felt like living two days in one, it was crazy. I counted 18 kids in the afternoon but I am sure we gained one or two more and I lost most of my helpers because the actually have a life to attend to but the kids were a lot calmer which was fantastic! We read a Bible story, they all coloured (even the boys) and then they all made beaded jewelery (even the boys!), it was great! One kid was always crying/wimpering but thankfully it wasn't contagious and it wasn't to bad :) When the day was finally over we piled back into the truck, I was really hoping it would rain for a preshower, and had a nice cool ride back to where we are staying. Dinner was fantastic, I prayed so I could keep it short so we could eat, I was worried the other team members might pray too long :P After dinner we finished figuring out the cards and now has led to finishing a blog in my room but I am off to shower and sleep because I am tired! Here are some pictures from today, they should be pretty self-explanitory, if not ask a question or two :) -Rebecca Giesbrecht

Sunday in El Salvador

Day 2 complete! We are all clean and feeling so much better and less sticky from the weather! This morning a bunch of us were up super early because of the time change, I chose to not be effected and just kept rolling over and trying to sleep. After a leisurely breakfast Carie picked us up to head over to Rio Frio. On the way we picked up some of our translators and enjoyed a cozy ride up in a truck packed with people and supplies. We arrived at the community centre where the sewing centre is currently being built beside it. A mass of women and children and a few men greeted us along with the pastor of the local church and the pastor of the Catholic local church. We set up our projects, did an introduction, had the women sign up for their projects and the trip began. The turn out was great, I have a bunch of kids and others who I get to hang out with all week which should be a blast and very interesting, to say the least, but I am SO excited! We had lunch made by the pastors sister, which was amazing and then set up where we would be working for the week. I didn't really have anything to set up so I played with the missionary families kids and tried to stay as clean and dry and cool before church as possible, only one got wet, we all had to brush some dirt off and nobody was cool, but we tried! I love going to church in El Salvador because everybody is so incredibly passionate! We were late but everybody was so welcoming and helpful when a bathroom was needed and we needed to find seats. Stewart preached about how our God is a sending God and it was a great reminder of what we are doing here and an encouragement to the people here. After church we met the mayor, greeted a bunch of the locals and started back to San Vicente to have dinner at Polo Compero (an El Salvadorian KFC). Dinner was fun, I played x and o with Elis, one of the kids of the missionary family and just had a blast. We stopped by the local grocery store to pick up somr stuff on the way back and got stared at and surprisingly met a guy from Iowa who spoke perfect English, not something you find everyday in El Salvador. Since getting back we have been organizing sponsorship cards from Canada for the women here, so not as easy as we thought it was going to be, prepping name tags and I am off to pull together my stuff for tomorrow and go to bed. Early brealfast and heading off to Rio Frio by 7 tomorrow and it has been a long day! Oh and the only picture I took on my phone was of a crazy, scary spider outside my door this morning, enjoy! -Rebecca Giesbrecht

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Prep Success!

We finished putting together all of the baskets for the women! Other than the scissors, which we will use all week, we cut all the jersey and batting and there are girly things, like makeup and nail polish, a Spanish Bible, fat squares and a sewing kit we made before we came down. We had a delicious hen, rice and potato salad type thing for dinner and of course pop :) After dinner, mini debrief and figuring out what Sunday would be like we finished up the baskets and had a lovely visit from Patricia, one of our translators. We also attempted to take the zipper out of jeans that had been used for quilts but it was brutal. Many seam rippers were broken and I completed one, maybe, with help from my mom, it was pathetic. We are off to see the centre where we will be working this week and then go to church, should be tons of fun! Can't wait to tell you what today had in store for us! -Rebecca Giesbrecht

Arriving in El Salvador

Well we made it to El Salvador! This week 5 of us from Canada flew down to join a missionary family to teach women how to sew in Rio Frio at a new sewing centre. We left at 7:30 this morning with 11 overweight checking bags, overweight carry ons and made it through customs with no extra charge and every bag made it down (except one but that will be here tomorrow). Overall it was good plane ride down, longer than I remember but with 20ish less people on the team and none of them your best friends, it probably won't be as loud. Mrs. Hooper and Mrs. Tiessen did talk the whole way down though and not incredibly quietly :P Anywho we are off to prep for the week!! Hopefully another update soon! -Rebecca Giesbrecht

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

House #11

 Left to right- Romeo, Hector (translator), Jacob, Maira, Stephany

When interviewing our family, we had quite a few laughs. The Lopez's were such happy people, so grateful for all that God has provided for them. The family was so happy that they were getting a safe house.

After Romeo and Maira had known each other for a few years they moved in together. They couldn't afford to get married like most couples in El Salvador, and they both honestly stated that when they were married they weren't in love. Romeo confessed that Maira was 'a little pretty' and she said that he was 'handsome'. Over time their love grew for each other. The Lopez's enjoy walking to church together every week. It is one
of their favourite things to do.

When the first earthquake came, it destroyed their home, so they moved in with  Maira's mom. After the second earthquake, the house was very dangerous to live in, but they had no where else to go, so they stayed living there. The family tried to build their own home, but couldn't afford the resources needed.
Romeo and Maira's main concern was the safety of their two children. They wanted a safe house for their kids.

Romeo was very distracted during the interview because all he wanted to do was go and help build his family their new home. Romeo and Maira are very much in love and are so happy to be given a safe home for their family.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

House #10

We had the honour of getting to know Pastor (36 years old), Flor de Carmen (27 years old) and their two boys Emerson (7 years old) and Josue (5 years old) and it was an experience I will never forget.

As we asked the family questions about what their life is like, the differences between our lives in Canada and their lives in El Salvador became even more real. We asked them what they do for holidays and they said they didn't have enough money to really celebrate, but at Christmas they make a nice meal and have beans. Pastor is a farmer and the boys go to school. They love God, but their church puts a lot of pressure on women and makes many rules for them, so they don’t go to church as often anymore. In any spare time they have, they like to go to the park as a family.

Pastor and Flor de Carmen are not married because they can’t afford it. They told us that almost no one gets married because of the cost. They would like to get married if they had the money.

When asked about how God has changed their lives, Pastor said something that really amazed me. He said, “I will tell you one thing, I may not have money, but I am the happiest man in the world because I have God, I love my family, and now I have a new home.”

The love the family has for each other was evident in everything they said and did. It was obvious that they are very close. The two boys sat on their fathers lap for the whole interview, and whenever a question was asked, the couple would just glance at each other and seem to know exactly what to say.

They dedicated their lives to God four years ago, and their faith has stayed strong ever since. We asked how we should pray for them,

and their reply was truly humbling. They asked that we pray that they become closer to God, and also that God will protect and provide for us back in Canada.

This family was such a blessing to us and I am truly honoured that I was able to sit and talk with them. Even through all their struggles of poverty, they are one of the most loving, joyful families I have ever met, and I am so glad I was able to be a part of building their new home.

Julia Loewen and Colleen Giesbrecht

Friday, May 31, 2013

House #9

It is with great pleasure I introduce you to the family whom we built House #11 for. This family holds a special place in my heart as we built this home in memory of my father, Louis Albert Merrick Sr, who passed away last April shortly after we returned from our 2nd trip to El Salvador.

Julio (42 yrs) and Adela (35 yrs) are the parents of 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls. Jose (17 yrs), Erica (16 yrs), Julio Jr. (13 yrs), Enrique (12 yrs), Raquel (7 yrs) and Dayona (4 yrs).

Julio and Adela met nearly 20 yrs ago when he was passing through San Felipe from San Pedro, shortly afterwards they became a couple and started a family together. Julio comes from a family of 5 brothers and 3 sisters. Adela comes from a family of 4 sisters and 3 brothers. Julio’s father has passed away and his mother now lives next door. Adela’s parents have both passed away.

To support his family Julio and his son Julio Jr. work as farmers on a parcel of land that they share with another family. There is about 2 acres of land that they use to grow corn, beans and squash depending on the time of year. The average work day starts with an hour walk to the farm and then they work the land from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. six days a week (Monday to Saturday). When they harvest their crops they save some for food and sell some for money.

Adela is a stay at home mom who takes care of her husband and 6 children. A typical day starts with Adela walking about ten minutes to gather water to start her daily chores of cooking for her family in the morning, and then spending the afternoon washing her family’s clothes.

Enrique and Raquel are the only 2 children that currently attend school. Jose stopped attending school in 7th grade and currently is not working. Erica stopped attending school in grade 6 but she has a job babysitting for a local pastor who has 2 children. Erica earns about $60 a month babysitting. All of the money she earns goes towards supporting her family. Julio Jr. does not attend school as he helps his father on the farm, and Dayona is only 4 years old and is too young to attend school yet.

Julio and Adela have raised their children in the Catholic faith attending church when they can. They have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and have shared their faith with their children. Julio explained that he accepted Christ about 4 years ago when his son Enrique was very sick and almost died. Julio promised God he would follow him forever if God would save his son. God answered Julio’s prayer and Julio has kept his promise to God.

God was present in the building of this home for this family long before I met them. I had prayed that God would bless us with a large family (hopefully 6 children) as I am from a family of 6 siblings and my father had built our family home. What a great way to honour my father’s memory then to build a home for another large family. We met Julio and Adela and started our interview believing there were only 5 children (large family though so I was happy). As we started to ask about each of the children we discovered one of the children’s names were missing from our list. There were actually 6 children in this family. I was so amazed how faithful God is even to the smallest of details.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

By Jean and Ron Roessner

Thursday, May 16, 2013

House #7

At house #7, we met a mother and her son (Adilia and Anderson). Adilia was born in San Salvador. At the age of 3, her parents divorced and Adilia's mother moved with her children to San Pedro.

Adilia has 5 children, 4 of whom are married and live in San Pedro. Anderson is the youngest at 6 years old and has a different father than the other children. Adilia never married, however, the father of her first 4 children left El Salvador to go to the United States so that he could work and make a better life for his family. Unfortunately, he met another woman in the States, abandoned his family in El Salvador, and has not been heard from in over 22 years.

When Adilia became pregnant with Anderson, she went to San Salvador to try and find work. She was unsuccessful and returned to San Pedro. At that time, Anderson's father also left and has not been heard from since.

Adilia was asked what the most joyous things in her life are, and she responded immediately that her greatest joys were accepting Christ as her Saviour 7 years ago and receiving a new house. We found it very strange that she did not mention her children as being among her greatest joys. While this may have been an oversight due to the excitement of the day, it was curious nonetheless.

Adilia was asked how her life has changed since accepting Jesus as her Saviour. She said that her life has changed for the good and she now prays continually. She was quick to add that she has been praying for a house for quite some time. She went to say that she came to Christ as the result of a serious illness that almost took her life. She continues to struggle with the illness and is asking God for healing.

Our conversation turned to Anderson as we wanted to know more about this little boy who sat quietly and listened to our conversation. Anderson is in grade 1 and has a love for math. During his spare time, he plays soccer. When we asked what else he likes to do, his response was "nothing, just soccer." It gave us great joy at the key giving ceremony to present Anderson with a new soccer ball. His eyes lit up when he saw it and we were able to break away from the ceremony for a few minutes to kick the ball around with him. He guarded that ball like it was gold – the truth is, that to him, it was worth more than gold. This was a special moment. Anderson told us that when he grows up, he wants to be a fireman.

Adilia was asked about her dreams for the future. Her response was to get to know God better and to have a greater knowledge of the bible. She indicated that she would like to be a missionary. As we spoke, we suggested that she can be an effective missionary within her own community and make an impact for God right where she lives.

As we continued to talk with Adilia, she was told that she was a very special person and that we were blessed to spend time with her. She began to cry and appeared overwhelmed by this statement as if she had never been told or considered that she could be a blessing to someone else. We asked her how we could pray for her and her family. She indicated that her disease is getting worse and she needs healing. She also asked for prayer for one of her sons who drinks excessively and for 2 family members who are not Christians.

In the midst of all that Adilia is dealing with in this poverty-stricken country, her prayers are very similar to the prayers of many that we come in contact with every day. This is a reminder to us that we are the same as people with similar struggles, needs and heartaches. It doesn't matter where we live. It doesn't matter what our income levels are. God is as present in the lives of these dear people as He is in our lives.

As we neared the end of our interview, we learned something very special. You see, this same day that Adilia was receiving a new house was also her 42nd birthday. We gathered around her and sang happy birthday to her. What a birthday present for her from God!

Please pray for Adilia as she sees the hand of God moving in her life. Let's reflect on the many blessings that God has provided to us and let's pour ourselves into those who are less fortunate than we are. God created us to serve Him and to be a blessing to others. Please keep Adilia and Anderson in your prayers as God continues to surround them with His love.

by Dave Morris & Del Arseneau

Friday, May 10, 2013

House #6

With excitement and anticipation we met and shared with a family of six on day two of building. The father, Jose Alvaro Escamilla Amaya, and mother, Mario de los Angeles Ruiz are not married, but have been together for seventeen years. They are both from the village of San Pedro and met at the corn milling machine in the town. They became friends and their relationship blossomed from there. Their oldest child, a son Jose Alvaro, is thirteen years old and helps on the family farming plot. The one acre plot is rented and shared with another farmer. Their parcel of land is about a twenty minute walk away from the family home; They plant and harvest beans and corn from the land. There are three daughters in the family who help their Mom with household chores. The oldest girl is eleven year old Fatima Yesenia. Next are eight year old Jasmin Esmeralda, and little six year old Lorena del Carmen. The baby boy, Jairo is 1 ½ years old.

The family was very shy and quite reserved upon our first meeting during the house building day. The mother nursed her youngest to keep him somewhat quiet during our short time together.

When asked how Jose Alvaro knew God, he shared that his grandfather and father were Christians and had taught him about God. The family attends church.

The children go to the local school which is about a fifteen minute walk each way. School is half days from January through November. The government assigns which students go in the morning and which attend in the afternoon. The oldest two in this family attended school in the afternoon, and the youngest daughters go in the morning. The oldest children enjoy math including adding and multiplication, while Kindergarten for Lorena is all about learning letters.

Joel was interested in what they did during their free time. Gathering extra wood and water is often the tasks they focus on when extra time is available. The distance to get water is about a 30 minute walk.

We asked how we might pray for their family and they responded that their prayers for a safe and dry home had been answered by God. With this new house they were receiving, they needed nothing more.

At Wednesday evening’s church service in St. Vicente, the father attended the service which included Stephanie’s testimony of moving from grief to joy. That evening’s message and testimony seemed to soften the relationship with this precious family. The following afternoon at the Thursday key giving ceremony, the family was more open and receptive. After the service started, they sat and waited patiently for their turn to receive the key to their new home, a Bible, a hamper of food, toiletries, cleaning supplies and clothes and footwear. We were able to share with them again that God was the giver of this safe and new earthly home. However, more importantly, Jesus was preparing an eternal home for them as well. We encouraged them to leave a legacy of faith in Jesus for their precious children, just as Hosea had received the same legacy from his father and grandfather. The family was overwhelmed with God’s goodness and providence in their lives. We prayed for God’s hand of protection over them and the light of Jesus to shine from their hearts and their home.

After the celebrations of piñatas, our family rode with us on the team truck back to their new house.  The two youngest girls were treated to riding with Stephanie and Dennis in the cab. They clung to her and didn’t want to let go, but farewells were necessary and sad. Their new, safe and secure house waited, to be made a home of memories to God’s glory. May they always proclaim, “. . . as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

by Ron, Stephanie and Joel Giesbrecht

Thursday, April 18, 2013

House #4

Javier Carrillo is 22 years old and Gloria Yamileth Romero is 17 years old and they met when Gloria was 14 years old. Gloria and her mother would go to the soccer fields in the evening and sell food to make a little bit of money. One day Gloria’s neighbour asked if Javier would play on his team. This is how Gloria and Javier met and began to fall in love. They have now been living together for 3 years and have a healthy 15 month old daughter named Katia Yamilth Carrillo Romero who was born in San Salvador. Javier and Gloria would love to get married some day; the only reason they have not already is because they cannot afford it. It cost roughly, with all expenses, about $100 to get married. But they love each other very much, and their family is very supportive of their relationship. Where the new house was built, Javier and Gloria will be surrounded by other family members on Javier’s side. They lived in the neighbourhood with Gloria’s family but did not like it as much because there were not as many people and they had to travel farther to get necessities.

Javier works as a farmer when there is a good harvest. If there is not a good crop, then Javier is one of the
workers that is first to go. Gloria stays home and cleans, cooks and takes care of Katia. They are very poor and often the first thing that they cut when they are struggling is food. Javier worries that in the future his daughter will need help when she is grown up and he will not have the resources to help her in the way he wants to.

Though they are extremely poor, this family loves living in El Salvador and love each other so very much. They love being together and just spending time with each other. All three sleep in the same bed and they love that closeness. They try very hard to not have any bad memories because life is too short and they would rather enjoy it. They love going to church together and they are both believers. They thank God for the house that was built for them and see it as a blessing from God.

Though this family was very quiet and not very talkative, Bethany and I both feel very blessed to get to talk to them and to learn about their lives. It was very obvious to us their love for each other, their daughter and for God….and also their love for Soccer!

by Rebecca Geense & Bethany Skirrow

Thursday, April 11, 2013

House #3

We had the opportunity to build a house for a woman whose house had been destroyed during the earthquakes. Although we didn't get the chance to see the destroyed house in person, we did get to see pictures and were blown away. She would not have made it through another winter in that house, and we were so blessed to have the opportunity to help build her a new safe home that will last for years to come.

Her name is Maria Antonia (aka Tanya) and she is 63 years old. She grew up right in San Felipe where we were building her new house. She had a hard life – growing  up in poverty in a poor household with 17 brothers and sisters. She spends her days cooking, cleaning and going to get food and water. She is watched over every day by an 8 year old neighbor boy. One of her favourite things to do is eat beans!

She came to know Christ after a long life of hardships including a random shooting that injured her, while she took care of her 3 kids. She became a Christian last September and attends church regularly in San Felipe. She has 3 children that are all grown up and living on their own. One of her boys died as a baby and she was led to believe that this was because a neighbor had visited a Wizard and had her baby killed to get back at her. It was when she became very ill that she prayed to God to be healed against the Wizards and since then has come to Christ.

She has been praying and waiting for this house for 2 years now. She never gave up hope for a safe home against the dangers of the village, not only for the weather but for the people and animals that live there also. One of the hardest things she has had to face in her life was a bad marriage to her first husband who was not a nice man. One of the best things in her life was when she met her second husband who died 12 years ago.

This was an incredible experience to get to know her and her story and we have been blessed to be part of this incredible blessing from God.

by Becky Morris & Erica Byleveld

Thursday, March 28, 2013

House #2

Some things in life are pretty important - like a roof over our head. This need is heightened in El Salvador by the fact that during the winter the rains come, and come, and come! We say "there's no place like home," but what if home is only pieces of scrap metal and garbage bags and sticks? What if every year you prayed that someone would change all that and make it possible to stay dry and warm? Of ultimate concern are protection for your family from the unforgiving, relentless beating rains, and the potential for not just discomfort but disease and illness. What a privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus at a time like that!

We met the Carmona family and were so happy to hear how grateful they were that God had answered their prayers. After praying for a better home for their family for several years, it was indeed a privilege to be part of it becoming a reality.

The father’s name is Santos Nicolas. He makes a few dollars each day working in the fields. His wife had left to go to America to find work. Josue, the teenage son, said his favourite activity was studying. To this his younger brother Jerson also chimed in with the same answer. The little girl Reyna agreed. We encouraged them to continue studying because it could give them hope for the future. The grandmother was there with them helping out as she could, but already had a place of her own. On several occasions they pointed heavenward with a smile and we know they were indeed grateful to God for this gift. We gave them some words of encouragement and rejoiced with them.

Yes, things like a roof over our head are so important, especially in a land with long periods of rain. But we learned something very important that day – that hope in a God who will take care of us goes a long, long way!

by Karl & Monika Giesbrecht

Thursday, March 21, 2013

House #1

House #1 was built for Santos Alicia Marie Reyes, who is 30 years old, her son Fredy Antonio Reyes who is 10 years old and in grade 3 and Maria’s mother, Santos Emilia Alvarado, who is 66 years old.

Maria is separated from her husband, who lives in San Felipe with 3 of their children, and works incredibly hard to provide for her mother and son. Each day she rises at 4 am and walks, because she can’t afford the bus, more than one hour to the market where she sells tamales, fruit and whatever else she can. On a good day, she makes about $2.00. Compare this to the $5.00/day the men earn as farm workers, and her poverty becomes clear. When the market is not open, she goes door to door selling what she can. Some days they do not eat at all.

Fredy is cared for by Santos Alvarado, his grandmother, while Maria works. He enjoys school, soccer and farm labour.

Maria has siblings but they have moved away and left their mother solely in her care, a task that can be overwhelming for Maria. Maria, her mother, and her son have actually been living in a house owned by Maria’s brother – if in fact we can call it a house.They have been praying fervently, waiting on the Lord to provide for them a house that is safe from storms, and safe from intruders. “Now He has answered our prayers.” Said Santos Alvarado.

During our interview, a young friend of Fredy’s came into the house asking for a drink. Maria directed him to three buckets sitting by the wall. He lifted a piece of plastic and said, “There is a rat swimming in here!” She said, “That’s OK  We still drink it.” (Some even eat rats here in their desperation. In fact, we met a couple who did this.)

Santos Alvarado then broke down crying, wishing she could just buy some food, wishing there were not days when she and her daughter and grandson went hungry. She is very thin and ill, and sometimes falls into depression in their poverty. But, she said, “God has promised us a house, and now we have it. God has promised us food, and we will have it. It is beyond our ability; it is nothing we could do. It is all God.”
Valerie and Patricia gathered her in their arms and comforted her with compassion and words of hope.

by Jeff Davison & Dick Craig

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Baptism at the beach and street ministry

Yesterday we had 5 young people baptised at the beach. It was incredible for these young people to publicly confess their faith in Jesus. It was inspiring hearing their testimonies of their struggles and how God was faithful to them through it all.

Friday night we went out to reach out to the homeless. The local church has started to go out every Friday night to give people living on the street a meal and share God's love. We seen and heard many heart breaking things on Friday. We met a man who was in his 70's who had lost his leg during the civil war. He had been out on the streets for 8 days.
We also met a young man who has been on the streets for 9 years. Dave hugged him Pastor Oscar prayed with him and after the man said he had not had a hug from anyone in 9 years.
We met a young man who had just gotten out of rehab and had fallen again into the cycle of addiction. There was a bridge a block away from where we talked to him and we found out his father was shot and killed their years earlier when he was a boy.
We came along a group of men who were all huddled together for the night. One of the youth of the church had brought his guitar and he started to play a worship song. All the men put their plates of food down and we all clapped and praised God together.

In Luke 14:12 Jesus said " when you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invote the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous". On Friday night we had a reception with the poor, the homeless, the crippled and it was one of the greatest nights of my life. I recieved my payment. The homeless blessed me beyond description and it was an honor to spend a Friday night with them.

Friday, March 15, 2013


We are visiting a Compassion project today. Compassion is an organization that partners with local churches to reach out to children living in poverty. The children go to the projects about 3 times a week to learn skills, have a meal and hear the message of God's love and salvation. There are currently 3 Compasion projects in San Vicente. We will also be going to 5 different homes to meet the families of children who need sponsorship. I love Compassion because they believe that the only answer to poverty is Jesus.
Tonight we are going out on the streets os San Vicente to reach out to the people who are living on the streets to feed them and share God's love. I pray that God will use this team mightly tonight!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I saw Jesus

It truly has been an amazing day. We have finished all 11homes. Tomorrow we will be getting the house warming gifts together and holding the key giving ceremony. Today I saw Jesus at the worksite. I saw Him when Brian and Chelsey were teaching the children skipping. I saw Jesus when Ryan was petting the dog hanging around the worksite. I saw Jesus when Ron and Jean were interviewing the family that we were building a house for. I saw Jesus when Rebecca was walking with a little girl along the dirt road holding her hand. I saw Jesus when Dave was working alongside Bethany teaching her to use the tools. I saw Jesus when Ron was giving his workgloves to a man from the village. Everywhere I looked I saw Jesus in our team members. What a blessing to see this in action. This is what serving Jesus is about. Jesus was about love and I seen it on full display today.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I thought I would give this blogging thing a try so here I go...

Today was a wonderful day on the worksites, we had lots kids to do childrens ministry with and lots of El Salvadorian workers to help out with the building. Not only did we complete four houses today...but we also gave lots of pedicures and manicures to the woman and children, completed lots of colouring pages, did a lot of facepainting...soccor playing...tattoo doing (no worries not the real ones)...and the list goes on ! :)

Today God brought to my attention the amount of oppression many of the women in El Salvador face. At the first work site, after doing a couple manicures and pedicures I asked two women  (the man´s mother of the house we were building and her daughter in law) if they would like a pedicure or manicure. At first they both said no, saying that they were embarassed and that their feet were too dirty. I said not to worry I had washed and given pedicures to lots of dirty womens feet but they still said no. Through talking a little more it came out that they were not embarassed about their feet but they were infact not allowed to have their nails painted. At the church they attend women are not allowed to cut their hair short, wear makeup, or wear nailpolish. So I asked if I could wash their feet instead. They said no, they are not allowed to have their feet washed. I asked what the men´s rules are at the church. And they said none. It completely broke my heart that I couldn´t even wash these hard working womens feet all because of the rules they must follow at their church. The message of the Gospel is completely lost in these man made rules that they have to follow, and the women are treated unfairly and often times objectified. Jesus came to die for our sins, not to make rules, or make women feel opressed or belittled. I would like to add that not all men make the women feel opressed or belittled, and significant progress has actually been made in the last three years. Valerie and I encouraged them to read the word and see what the Gospel is really about. I felt strongly urged to give both the women Spanish Bibles, so it is my prayer that they will read it and come to see the truth about Jesus and what he came for.

I can´t imagine some of the twisted views these women can possibly have about our Lord because of the way the church has raised man made rules above the Holy Bible.  It was a great reminder to me that we are greatly blessed in Canada as women to be free from much oppression, but also a sad reminder that we also have churches and people that view man made rules above the Bible probably in every area around the world, and don´t always have the understanding or knowledge to know that this is not the way that things were meant to be.

I invite you to join me in prayer for the women in El Salvador and for freedom from oppression for all women around the world, and that they may come to know the true love of Our Saviour, Jesus Christ. I pray that as churches around the world we will recognize the difference between man made rules, and the truth of the Bible.

I had intended on keeping this short, so I will sign off now...I´ve been invited to a girls night with all the young ladies on this trip :)

-Chelsey Arseneau

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Trials and Suffering

We had an amazing day yestrday where we completed 4 of the 11 homes. We had team members building, others holding children's ministry and a group of women doing manicures and pedicures. I am so thankful that God has supplied these families homes before the rains come. With all the activities and laughter that is happening as we are building and playing with the children we also see and hear the trials and the suffering that these families have to live with. We met Emelia today who started to cry as we were asking her daughter what size of clothes she wears as we like to put clothes in the house warming gifts. Her daughter was telling us she is thin and would take a size small. Patricia and I went over to Emelia to ask her why she was crying and if there was something we could do. Emelia shared through tears that they sometimes go days without food and that is why she is so small. Emelia shared that she was so tired of having to endure the hardships of poverty. Her daughter sells food at the market but it is difficult to make ends meet. Patricia and I held her and we all cried together. Cried for what this precious 66 year old women has to endure everyday and that she has to go hungry. Emelia shared that she prayed to God for a house and He told her He was going to give her a house and she was so thanlful for answered prayer. Emeilia also is praying that God will provide them with enough food and she is trusting him with this as well. It is really difficult to hear these stories of the suffering and trials that the people here have to go through. Why do we have more than we need