El Salvador

El Salvador

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

Compassion

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

Oppression

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

Blessings

The internet has been down for a couple of days so we have been unable to post any news. The team has finished 8 houses in the last two days and we will complete the other three tomorrow. It has been such an amazing time working alongside the locals the last few days. We have shared laughs as we build, do pedicures, play with the children and eat lunch together. What incredible blessings we experience as we serve here. The people of El Salvador teach me so much in life. Things like trusting God with everything. Laughing in spite of living in horrific conditions and supporting one another  in their community. I think we are too self reliant in Canada. We think we can do life on our own. So much so that we don't feel we have to rely on God or each other. The people here seek God's face every day for their daily needs. They have too!

Tomorrow is another day.....another day to serve, learn and share all the blessings of God as we work together.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Desperate Need

What an emotional day as we visited the families who we will be building homes for this week. These families are all in desperate need of homes. Everyday these families have had to  suffer without proper shelter. All the families shared with us that they have been praying for God to provide them with homes. God has heard their cries and this week He is providing them with new homes. What a gift. I pray that the Bethany teams will continue to hear the cries of the people and be obedient to God's call on all of our lives to help the poor and the homeless.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Were here!

We are here safe and sound. It seems like yesterday when we met with the team members to start preparing for this trip and we have finally arrived. This is a team that has people who have been here before and some for the very first time. At the team debreifing tonight everyone shared how excited they were for the week that is before us. We are excited for all that God has for us this week. Tomorrow we go and meet the families that we will be building the 11 houses for. I am sure they are excited as well. Excited because soon they will have shelter for their families. Doors that they can lock. By the end of the week they can have cement floors and they will no longer have to sleep in the mud. God is good. He has provided these homes for these precious people. I pray that we will be open to be used for His glory and for His purpose. I don't know what we will encounter this week but we serve a God who will lead us and direct us.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Offering Help, Giving Hope.

It seems like we just started meeting yesterday to begin planning this missions trip but in fact we have been preparing for 5 months. We have been fundraising with everything from a bike marathon, BBQ to bake sales. The team raised funds to build 11 houses, we made 100 children's gift bags filled with lots of goodies and we have collected and sorted items to fill 25 hockey bags. We will also be visiting a Compassion project and having a baptism on the beach.
We feel like we are prepared but as I type this blog I know that we can never be prepared for all that God has in store for us the 8 days we are on the missions trip. We can plan and prepare but can never be prepared for what will be a life changing week. We will see families living in dirt and hear stories of everyday survival while enduring the hardships of poverty. We are open...open to all that God has planned for us. Open to be used by Him to be His hands and feet. Open to serve and offer some hope. May we be used to share God's amazing love and may we share the hope of God's grace and redemptive plan. Use us God and may we come back changed. May we be more passionate than ever to do what You have called all of us to do, to share the gospel to a lost and hurting world, to help the poor, the sick, the widows and the orphans.