El Salvador

El Salvador

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Endless Lessons

We have arrived for our final night in El Salvador.  It has been an incredible couple of weeks serving the people of El Salvador. We have learned endless lessons here. God has revealed things to us that we need to change. The people here have taught us so much. Community, thankfulness, endurance through challenges, generousity in poverty, praying for God's provision, unabandaned worship. I pray that when we get home we won't forget all that God has allowed us to see. Praying that the endless lessons we have learned will not be forgotten.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Never an orphan

We travelled to the town of Guadalupe today to visit the local Compassion project there. We has gone last year to this project. It had only opened 4 months before we visited. Last year they had only 12 children sponsored and now, after only opening 16 months ago over 200 children are now sponsored. it was exciting to see the growth and that God is blessing the work.

The pastor of the church that the Compassion project partners with shared his story. He was an orphan at 10. He was alone and lived on the streets of El Salvador. He said he had no hope. Though he thought he was alone, he never was.  Our God is the Father of the fatherless. He was never an orphan because God was watching over him.  One day an older lady shared the Gospel message with him and he accepted Christ as his Savior.  His life has never been the same. He became a pastor and partnered with Compassion to reach children living in poverty with the gospel. His story reminded me that God looks after the orphans. He used an old lady to share that message with a 10 year old orphan who now is being used to reach over 250 children with the gospel. This tiny little church that he pastors has also planted 3 churches around the area with a 4th in the works. God continues to abundantly bless this man's vision.

Satan thought he won when this little boy was alone on the streets, but God had a different plan! I stand amazed at our God who used a little orphan to change the lives of hundreds of familes living in poverty.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On a rollercoaster ride!

The last three days have felt like we fit about 3 weeks into them! It's pretty much felt like a rollercoaster ride going between heart-wrenching stories and extreme poverty surrounding us to moments of joy playing with the children and seeing the gratitude and relief on the faces of those who we are building homes for. It's overwhelming to see how much need there is here and how there are virtually no opportunities for people to get ahead. They are concerned with how they will feed themselves for the day and how they will have enough to make it through the week.
 Their poverty often leads them to making poor choices - husbands and fathers abandoning their families, girls getting pregnant at very early ages and then left with no one to support them and no way to provide for themselves.
And yet we come here and they open their homes and their hearts to us. The community has come together to build these houses. And I'm not kidding. Our truck pulled up to the first building site and over 30 people from the community walked down the hill to meet us! They were ready to work! It's been amazing to see the transformation from a kind of shyness and awkwardness between the locals and our team, to working side by side and communicating as much as we can with pointing, hand gestures and the few words we know.
And of course, there's no awkwardness when it comes to the kids ministry! Pull out some sticker sheets, some suckers, or a frisbee and you've got some amigos! I will never forget the sight today at our first building site. It looked like it might be a slow start with just one little boy within sight. And then as I looked down the hill where the building was just getting underway, a group of between 30 to 40 kids came running up the hill towards us! That's when a few of us thought "what have I just sijgned up for!"  We had so much fun with these happy kids. One of the activites we had along was a sticker sheet of the Easter story. And as it happened that the pastor we are working with was there, he could share the Easter story with this group of kids!
We know we can't take away the hurt or put an end to poverty here, but we can build one house at a time. And we are seeing firsthand the difference that it makes and how it changes the lives of the families we are building for.
We have completed 8 houses in two days!! Yes, we are exhausted! But we know that we are bringing hope and bringing a message of eternal hope in Jesus Christ!
Posted by Rose Loewen - so that Valerie has a break :)

An Evangelical Pastor and the Leader of a Catholic Church

It sounds like the start of a funny story, you know the one about the... But in Rio Frio, it's a story about two men, one the Leader of a Catholic Church and the other the Pastor of an Evangelical Church.  These two men are passionate about the gospel or good news of Jesus and also helping the people in their community.  They put aside their religious differences and formed a committee to help those in need in their community.   The committee consists of members from both churches.  They looked for ways to help others.  The pastor of the evangelical church mentioned that his congregation prayed for help.  They prayed for over 5 years.  That's were God allowed us to be part of the story.  This week we have been able to help build houses with the community.  El Salvadorian people and us Canadians working together to build 8 houses so far and we should be able to complete 2 more tomorrow. We are a team of about 50, mostly El Salvadorians and 19 Canadians. It's an amazing story and I pray that it doesn't end any time soon!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Realities of Poverty

The stories that we hear in the village from the people who are living in poverty are heart wrenching. It is sometimes hard to process all that we see and hear. Men working from sun up to sun down in the fields for a few dollars a day. Widows washing clothes for 7 dollars a week to provide for their children. A father going to San Salvador to drive a truck to earn a living for his wife and family, only to be killed by gang members.  These are the realities of poverty. What can we do? How can we make a difference? It seems so overwhelming at times.

Yesterday Pastor Pastor ( yes that is his title and name) shared at church that we are fighting a spritual battle when we are fighting poverty.  Satan loves poverty. He loves that people are living without hope. Killing themselves because of the suffering that they have endured. Men leaving their families to find work to provide for them. The only answer to this battle is Jesus Christ. He shared we as team members are warriors in God's army fighting this battle as we build the homes for the people here.

I pray that these 10 homes this week will give these people hope and that God will be glorified by the work that is happening in the community. May we continue to fight this battel and not grow weary.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Remembrances of El Salvador



Since coming home from El Salvador, I have been trying to think what the most memorable experience I had there was.  As I reflect back, I can’t pick just one memorable experience ….there were so many.  

There was the first morning where Dave Morris taught Barb Donker and I how to measure and cut laminate steel for the house.  I was so hot, and it was exhausting trying to get low enough to measure and then cut without putting my knees on the hard rocky ground, or looking like the uncoordinated, old woman I felt like.  Then I felt the exhilaration of screwing the cut laminate to the trusses, and the accomplishment of actually being a part of the house building!

happy home owner
Then there was the huge, joyful smile on the face of the 65 year old man who along with his wife was finally getting his own home.  As we walked down the hill single file as a team to begin building his house, he gave each one of us a big hug!  Although we didn’t speak each other’s language, he easily made known his excitement and thankfulness to God and to the team.  On the day he was given the keys to his home he couldn’t stop saying (through the interpreter) how thankful he was to everyone, the village community leaders, the Canadians, his family, God, the community, the Canadians…again and again.  The joy on his face couldn’t help but radiate to everyone who saw it. 

There was the mother of the couple Barb and I interviewed, and to whom we gave the keys to their new house.  This mom had 14 children, 33 grandchildren with the 34th on the way, a number of Great Grandkids, and was the same age as me.  Even though many of her children and grandchildren still lived with her, she said each one was a blessing and she wouldn’t have it any other way.  I found we had a lot in common. 

There were the 3 elderly ladies that I had to convince to let me give them a pedicure.  The first brave lady was very embarrassed when I sat down on the cement and put her dirty, cracked and
2 of the 3 ladies I gave pedicures to
sore feet into the basin of cool water.  She was even more nervous as I started to wash and massage those worn feet which had seen many hard years of work and service to her family. All I could see was the life she must have lived…as I tenderly washed, massaged lotion, and finally painted her nails I prayed that God would continue to bless her in ways I couldn’t even understand…. that she would understand what a privilege it was for me to be able to give her some tender, loving, care.   I laughed when she then teased end encouraged her friends to have a pedicure also.  Like little girls, these women who looked to be in their late 70’s or early 80’s, laughed and giggled and pushed each other to finally submit to my clumsy attempts.  I was careful not to twist their legs, worrying about arthritis and the oldest one told me about the cramps in her calves at night that kept her awake and caused pain down her legs during the day.  Sonia was near me and I asked her to read from her Spanish bible the passage about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.  My lady listened intently to the story over the noise of laughing children and when Sonia was finished, my heart rejoiced when she asked for the Bible reference. 

There was the morning we were late for the work site because we took our driver Donald home.  His little 2 year old daughter was very sick and had been at the hospital the day before and would probably have to go back.  We stopped at the house and asked if we could pray for his daughter.  Donald’s wife took us upstairs to their room where the little girl was sleeping and wept as Valerie and the team laid hands on her and prayed for her health and healing.

There was the evening we were going out to provide hot meals to the street people but the rain, thunder and lightning changed our plans.  Instead we stayed inside the church hall and sang praise and worship songs in English and Spanish with our Salvadorian friends. We were all blessed sharing our love for our Lord together. 

Aunt Alejandra, Alejandra, myself at the Compassion project
There was the day we went to Santa Anna; to visit the compassion project and I got to meet my sponsor child Alejandra.  Although she was very shy at first, Alejandra (with prodding from her aunt and the translator Mario) began to talk and smile and show me a little of her spirited personality.  We visited Alejandra`s home and I was sickened and saddened at the conditions she had to live in.  Six people; her grandmother, aunt, 11 year old twin uncles, Alejandra and her mom shared the small dark, damp, dismal, cement walled basement room…which was separated into 4 rooms by furniture and hanging blankets. She couldn`t stop talking about her pets…2 cats and a dog, and loved the small Disney princess Ariel, I had brought for her.  I felt for her grandmother who did the best she could for her family and proudly showed me the pictures of her children on her wall.  When I asked if I could pray for the family the grandmother asked if I would pray for the absent men in the family. I determined in my heart that I would not go home and forget this family.  They will be in my prayers, heart, and letters, I hope, for the rest of my life. 

The people I met in El Salvador have taken a piece of my heart and hopefully I will never be the same again! 

New team, New week

The second team has arrived.  After a great nights sleep we are ready to meet the families who we will be building the 10 homes for this week. This week we are working in the village of Rio Frio. A priest, a minister and a politician came together because they seen the plight of the poor in their community and they wanted to help. They decided to put their differences aside and come together to help those in need. Bethany teams have held medical clinics there but this will be the first time we will be building. Excited to see what God has in store for us this week!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Houses Finished

Yesterday we were blessed to be able to give the keys to the families new homes. These homes will offfer them protection form the rains and a safe place for their belongings. It has been an incredible week for the team and I am so thankful that God provided these homes. The first team is leaving tomorrow. We have our last team debrief tonight and the second team is flying in as I write this. 18 familes will have homes after these 2 weeks. Praise God he has allowed us to share His love through the building of homes.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Light

Yesterday we travelled to Santa Anna to a Compassion Project. Compassion is a Christian organization that partners with a local church in communities where there is extreme poverty. People can sponsor a child who is at the Compassion project. This project is within walking distance of a village where the gangs are. Many of the children who attend the projects parents are part of this gang. We were able to visit 3 of the children's homes in the village. It is really heart wrenching to see the conditions that the children are living in and what they have to endure because they are living in poverty. As we were walking back to the Compassion project after the home visits I couldn't help but think of the light that is shining in these children's lives because only  a few blocks away from the sesspool that the children are living in is a sanctuary for them. A place where they can escape from the realities of poverty. They get a meal there, training, teaching, play time, medical and dental checkups and most importantly love. I am thankful for this light in this community who is helping children in Jesus name. I know that without this the village we visited would be an even darker reality for the children.

Thanks El Salvador

As I started this week out I didn't know what I was doing here or what I was in for. Well this week has been full of heart wrenching times, fun times,  good times and has left a lasting impression on me. I have made many new friends with the people of El Salvador. One thing that has been on my heart is how the people here live. Yes I live in a nice house and have more then what I need but yet there are times when I complain about this thing or that and after this week and see what the people here have yet they are happy and very thankful to God for it.  I know that El Salvador has changed me and I will never forget the great opportunity I have had this week. Thanks be to God for all he has done and is doing in the lives of these people and in me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Shelter

We finished building the last house today. I am so thankful to God for providing 8 more families with shelter.

As I sit here writing the rain is pounding down and it is cold. These are the conditions in El Salvador from April until October. The rains have come early this year. I think of the people who must suffer in these conditions because they have plastic and sticks for a home. It really isn't fair is it? Most of the world live in these conditions. Conditions that would be unacceptable in Canada for a family pet. God gave Dennis and I a great gift many years ago when he called us here to serve. He has allowed us to see the suffering of some of the poorest people in the world. I continue to pray that we will not forget all that he has shown us. All the stories we have heard. We must continue to share how people live here and pray that God calls more people to help the poor and the suffering. Today I am celebrating that 8 more families have shelter and 16 team members came to make a difference in the lives of the suffering.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What a team

What a team God has put together for this first week here in El Salvador.  We all come form different walks of life back in Canada but as we work along side each other strong friendships and memories that will last a lifetime are being made.  As I took pictures, made bracelets and played with the kids today it was wonderful to see how each and everyone of our team in their own way connected with each other and our new and old friends here. Even thought there is a language barrier the way we all worked and played together you would have never of know it.  God sent this team to build 8 houses but we are building a lot more then that we are building 8 homes and lasting memories and friendships

Who do you want to be with?

There is a Baptist group from the U.S staying at the hotel where we are staying. Yesterday as we returned from the work site we bumped into one of the team members as we were returning to our room. He proceeded to tell us about his day. He was boasting and said how important his day was because he had met with the governor,  the mayor, a general and the prison warden. As I walked to my room I was so thankful to God for our teams day. You see, we too met with some important people. We met men who dug holes all day with us to help build their neighbours home, women who watched each other's babies and cooked a meal for the men who were working so hard. We were with children who made sure their friend got a candy from a team member and not just them. We were with some important people. Maybe not to the "worlds" standard. These people do not have any official titles. They are the poor, the forgotten. I think of Jesus. Who did he want to be with? He hung out with the marginalized people. We see that all throughout His ministry. Who do I want to be with? The amazing people we meet everyday in the villages where we build the homes. It truly is one of God's greatest gifts.


Footprints

We have completed 7 of the 8 houses we are building. We built today in a section of San Felipe where we were in November 2012. We had built 3 homes there and on this trip we built 2 more houses. I realized today that we are leaving lasting footprints. We have left our footprints on the hearts of the familes that we built for almost 2 years ago. The people that we built for almost 2 years ago greeted us with such love. They were asking for previous team members who they had spent time with and built relationships with. One women came to me and shared that our teams had built 4 of her children homes and how grateful she was that we would do this. I am so thankful to God that we are leaving lasting footprints on people's hearts. This is what we are here for. We are here to share God's love and to be His hands and feet. Long after the houses are gone this is what will be left. I pray that when these precious people look back that they will see the footprints of Jesus where we once were.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Community

We can learn so much from the people of El Salvador. it is incredible how a community
comes to together here. It reminds me of stories I used to hear of communities who would gather to raise a barn. I think in Canada we have lost community. We are going at such a fast pace in life we no longer gather to help each other. Men got up early and fished to get food for lunch, women made tortillas together and fried the fish. Men came to work on the houses that were constructed. Children played together. Mom's passed around babies and shared stories.

We as a team all found places to share in this gathering of community. Whether it was building, making tortillas, holding babies or sharing a laugh. We are excited to begin all over again tomorrow. Excited to be His hand and feet. What a blessing God has given us.




Sunday, March 2, 2014

God is in control

I awoke last night to my bed shaking and the glass panels in our window rattling.  We had a earthquake here as we lay sleeping. El Salvador has many eathquakes. The reason that the work started here 13 years ago was El Salvadpr had back to back earthquakes which left over a million people homeless. Teams were sent to begin rebuilding homes and the Canadian teams have been working here since. Last night as I lay in bed I am thankful that I do not have to fear the earthquake or any disaster. I do not fear because I know the God who created the universe is in control. Nothing can happen to us that he does not ordane. As children of God we can rest in that promise. Though the earth tremble God is on the throne and He is in control.

Today we are going to meet the familes in San Felipe that we will be building the homes for. Excited to finally see their faces and here their stories. I am so thankful that the team members said yes to come and serve some of the poorest in our world. May we be open to being used and be His witness here!

We are here

Six months of planning, one hour of driving to Toronto, 3hour wait there, 5 hour plane ride, and a 45 min drive to our hotel and we are finally here. Yet it doesn't seem real yet. I am not sure what God has in store for Brandy and I on this trip but I know it is his will that we are here.  As I sit in our room getting ready to settle for the night I stop and Thank God for the things he has given us. The safe travel, the nice hot weather when we got here, and mostly for the wonderful man who sat beside us on the plane who was amazed that we would come to country like El Salvador to do what we are doing. We all talked most of the flight and he wanted to thank us for doing what we doing and said that we were a blessing.  It is all by the grace of God that we get to do this. I look forward to what else he has in store for me and all of the team this week.


Dianna Fulton