El Salvador

El Salvador

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Difference Compassion Makes

It was a neighbourhood with the reputation for being dangerous. As a matter of fact it was known as the most dangerous neighbourhood in the San Salvador area, the capital of El Salvador. There were 3 to 4 murders every month here related to gang activity. But then a group of people started a church, and they started reaching out to children in the community. Soon a Compassion Centre was established and children were sponsored.  The children could come for a meal, Bible teaching, medical care and just a safe place to play. Children and siblings of gang members came to the centre too. And soon the community started to change. It came to the point where the media came to the neighbourhood to find out what was going on. The crime rate dropped so drastically that it drew attention.  The answer the community gave for this amazing change is, “It’s the church!”

This is the Compassion Centre we were privileged to visit today.  With 373 sponsored children in this centre they are doing an amazing job of teaching these children, providing for them, and loving them with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They have started a program for the graduated students with a business of sewing and selling backpacks. They have a
music program for children to learn instruments and become part of the worship teams at church. They are currently in process of initiating a program for special needs children which is a huge need in El Salvador.  What a blessing to see what God is doing at this Centre!

But the best part of this day for me, was meeting the two children that we sponsor through Compassion.  There’s nothing like seeing the smiles on their faces, playing with them and giving them big hugs.  We talked with their parents to find out the progress of our kids and how they are being cared for.  It’s always a highlight of going to El Salvador! These families have become family to us. We love them so much and feel blessed to be a part of their lives.  If you’ve never considered sponsoring a child, consider it today.  Compassion Canada is a great organization where not only children’s lives are changed but the impact reaches the family and beyond to the community as well!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

His resourses

We completed the houses today. 10 families now have homes. Locked doors, roofs that don't leak and cement floors instead of dirt. A blessing that the homeowners are so thankful for.

Yesterday Dennis and I interviewed a family that the team was building a home for. With tears in their eyes they shared how grateful they were to receive a home. She was raising some chickens so they could have chicken sandwiches for Christmas.  She wanted to give Dennis and I her largest chicken. Out of her poverty she wanted to give. Her family didn’t have the basic nessesities yet she was willing to give from nothing. Even if that meant she would have nothing. We in Canada have an overflowing abundance of money and posessions yet we still hoard what God has entrusted us with. Why do we do that? Why are the scales so unbalanced between those that have too much and those that have nothing?  We have more than enough and yet the majority of the world don't have enough for today!? As Christians we will have to answer to how we have used God's resourses. This life is a dress rehearsal for eternity. How did we use his money? Did we share it with those less fortunate or did we keep building bigger barrns? Did we use it for kingdom purposes or for our own purposes? We will be rewarded in eternity with how we used our resourses. We all have to stand before the judgement seat of Christ. Now is the time to use the resources he has entrusted us with for His glory and kingdom purposes. That way we can hear Jesus say "well done my good and faithful servant".

Monday, November 9, 2015

God Found a Way

How can you really describe a day like today in El Salvador.  So many emotions come into play throughout the day.  The people here are so warm, loving and welcoming, so generous with the little they have.  They have big smiles and even bigger hearts.  They worship with passion at the church service singing at the top of their lungs and with all of their hearts.  But then you see the conditions that they live in and the hardship that they face every day just to exist, just to get food on the table.  Houses made of sticks and plastic and scraps of steel pieced together to try and put a roof over their heads.

You can imagine the joy for a family with two girls when they heard the news that they would receive a new home.  They lived in a home with plastic walls and pieces of steel for a roof. No longer would the Mom have to pile all their blankets and sheets and even clothes on their girls in the middle of the night in a storm to try and keep them dry.  With the Dad’s work being three hours away, he was away at work 5 and sometimes 6 days a week, leaving the Mom and the girls at home. No longer would the Mom have to worry about leaving her girls home alone while she went to try and sell goods at the market, as they would have a home where the girls could stay home and lock the doors for safety.

But then the bad news came that they couldn’t use their land to build a house.  They had planned to tear down their house and build the new home directly where their house sat.  However, they were within 8 metres of a water system owned by a company that decided to enforce a new rule that didn’t allow building within that limit of the water system.  It didn’t matter that hundreds of homes already existed within that limit, brick homes and other homes that Shelter had build for people in need.  Their home was right within the limit and on the other side of their house was the steep slope dropping off to a valley that didn’t allow them to move their home any further away from the waterway. Now this family faced hopelessness again.

This family was not ready to give up though.  They came up with a plan of building a retaining wall and filling in an area large enough to have a plateau behind their existing house where they could build.  With over 1,000 tires filled with mud and rocks, they built up a wall over 4 metres high, filled in the area with rocks and dirt and managed to have enough new land to build their house.  With the Dad being away all week for work, the Mom did the majority of the work, getting old tires wherever she could for free or paying up to $0.60 per tire to get the materials and get the job done.

We were all shocked to hear this story and the determination to be able to have a home! When someone said to them “You needed this house and you found a way” and they response was “God found a way!”

Four houses were built today, four families have a roof over their heads to keep them dry, and doors that lock to keep them safe. What an incredible day!

God is the restorer

How can I put into words what is happening here in El Salvador? It is really difficult! We see poverty and brokeness everywhere. Single mom's who are raising children alone, people suffering with poor health because there is not enough money for medication, houses made from mud and sticks or plastic wrapped around sticks for shelter. Farmers working for $2 a day and a bag of beans cost $5. There is so much suffering.

Yet we see God doing a great work. People in the community working together with the teams to erect the homes. Children laughing with some of our teenagers as they play with water ballons, a team member helping a mom and daughter wash clothes the old fashioned way by scrubbing them on the rock. Team members sharing the Gospel and praying for familes during the interview. I see God at work. I see God restoring Salvadoran lives and Canadian lives through the work that is happening here. I can't put it into words except to say....it is powerful! It is God! What a blessing to witness it and be a part of it.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

It is because of Jesus

One of the blessing we have as team members is to sit with the families that we are building the homes for and listen to their journey. Each family has a story. Each story has a deep impact on the teams as we listen to them share the trials and struggles of living life in rural El Salvador and in extreme poverty.   

I had an opportunity last year to sit with a man, his wife and their teenage son. He asked us "Why do you do this"? "Why do you come and build homes for us"? The answer to me is easy! We come because of the One who lives in us. We come because of Jesus. Jesus loves us so much and because of His love we also go and share the good news with others. How do we do that? By building homes! Building homes is an opportunity for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to offer the good news of His love and salvation for mankind.

As we prepare to go and build 10 homes for families living in extreme poverty I pray that God will bless the work. Not so we look good...but so we can share God's love and grace to others. All for his purpose and for His glory!

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Today was the day we visited the Compassion Centre.  With me being on my first mission trip it was amazing and overwhelming seeing these children being so excited to see us.  Before the trucks even stopped to let us off the kids were yelling and running to the gates.  As we entered, they were hugging everyone of us as if we knew each other our whole lives.  I would compare the excitement to Christmas Day in Canada.  There was a small presentation the children put on for us.  They also had us interacting with the children by introducing ourselves followed by us making our favourite animal sound while the kids guessed what the animal was.  Some of the team members have sponsor children who they were able to visit with along with the child's family.  After the presentation we had the opportunity to try some of the quisine which was pretty good.  We then went on a tour of the centre where we learned that the workshops they have are pinata making, computers and sewing.  After the tour the team, along with the sponsored children and their families, made their way to the hostess' house where we had lunch and did some more interacting with the families.  They taught us a couple dances and some of the team members played soccer with the chldren.  It was an amazing experience watching these children, along with their families, visit with their sponsors and see the joy and hope in their eyes and smiles.  The Fiesta was a truly amazing experience with the paper flowers, balloons, music, food, and overall ambience.  Compassion is a wonderful thing to spread.  God Bless!

By Dawn Merrick


We finished the 12 houses yesterday. We sit down and interview familes so we can hear their stores and learn more about the family.

Yesterday I was blessed to be able to sit and listen to 2 families life stories as we built their homes. Helen is just 19. She has a 2 year old daughter named Delia. Her husband has a sentence of 20 years and is in jail in San Vicente. He is a farmer and he planted corn and beans. His crops were being stolen and so he purchased a gun so he could protect the crops that fed his family. One morning as he was walking to the field the police stopped him. He did not have a permit for the gun and so he was arrested. Because of their poverty the family did not have the money for a lawyer he recieved a 20 year sentence. He has served only 1 year. She is now alone raising her daughter and tries to sell used clothes to provide for her daughter. Some days she does not have enough to feed her daughter. She explained that the house was a great blessing for her and her daughter. She said she was so grateful for the team. She has family in San Salvador and when I asked her if she could go to them for help she shared that they turned their back on her when she left to marry Carlos. They did not want her to marry him as he was poor. When we first arrived at the job site I saw Helen caring for her severly disabled brother in law Juan. She was a beautiful women with a generous heart and sensitive spirit and it breaks my heart that she has to endure this life in poverty.

The 2nd family we interviewed was a family of 3. Manuel and Marin have been married for 25 years and they love the Lord. They have 3 children but only their son Juan will be the only one living in their new home as their daughters are married. They are farmers and Juan is 22 and still in school. He wants to finish high school. He takes time off from school to farm with his dad. Manuel loves his family and the Lord. He shared that they are very poor but that they are happy. He said that material things cannot buy happiness. They don't look to tomorrow but are content if they have enough for today.

We in Canada can learn so much from this family. This is not how we live life in Canada. We are constantly being told by advertisers that we need the big house, new cars, the latest i phone. Yet, we see that this is not bringing happiness to the masses. Rates of suicides are shocking, divorce rates are at 50 %. Canadians have now out passed Americans in debt load. We need to learn to be content with what we have and not get caught up in the things of the world. Jesus taught us not to invest in things that moth and rust can destroy and thieves can steal but to invest in things that cannot be destroyed. Investing in people and using God's resources to help the poor is one of the greatest blessing. We can learn a lot from Manuel, you see he has found the secret. We just have to listen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I'm always amazed at how God is in the smallest details of our lives. If you just take the time to look, you will find Him. Two years ago, my husband Ron and I came to El Salvador with the Bethany team to build a house in memory of my father, Louis Albert Merrick. My father had built our family home along with my mother, and there they raised their 6 children.  I was hoping the family we would build a house for in memory of my dad would have 6 children too. I, however, never mentioned this to Valerie, only asking for a large family.  When we went to interview the family for my father's home, we were told there were 5 children. A large family, I was happy! However, when we started interviewing the family, we discovered one of the children's names was missing from our list. There were 6 children as well as a mother and father who would live in this house! I was amazed God had heard my silent prayer and had provided a large family just like mine to live in the house built in memory of my father! God is in the smallest of details!

Today, once again God amazed me and was found in the smallest of details. My husband, Ron and I as well as our son Richard travelled to El Salvador with the Bethany team, to build a house in memory of my mother, Mildred (Betty) Merrick, who passed away 5 months ago. Valerie once 
again was hoping to find a large family for us to build for. I, however, mentioned that any family would be perfect. I had been praying for months for the family who would receive the house in memory of my mom. I was hoping to build a house close to my father's house.  Since we do not always build in the same village, this could be next to impossible.  I did, however discover there would be a possibility this time as we would be building in San Pedro, where my father's house is.  Today my silent prayer was answered! Valerie gave us our house assignment; we would be building a house for a widow Felipa in San Pedro. I thought this was perfect; building a home in the same village as my father's house! I, however, was shocked and amazed as we followed Felipa to her parcel of land where we would build her house, I discovered not only would we be building my mother's house in the same village, we would be building her house six feet away from my father's house! God is in the smallest of details! I am truly amazed! 

What a Blessing it was to walk my niece Kailey and my sister-in-law Dawn down to see the houses built in memory of my parents. Both of them joined us on this trip and I was able to show them the plaque in my father's house, proudly displayed in the centre of the home. God cares about us and wants only the best for us, if we only would accept him as our Lord and Saviour...."Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." Mathew 6:33

Monday, March 16, 2015


As we sat and shared at our teams debrief  I was really inspired to hear of all the relationships that have been built today. The stories of shared laughter digging holes, women bonding making tortillas together, children squeeling with delight over balloons the team members brought, Salvadorians sharing their fruit from the papaya trees scattered throughout the village. You see, this was what our hearts desired when we came down here 8 years ago. We desired not just the building of homes but more importantly the building of relationships. Relationships are what last. Relationships are what goes into eternity.

God created and loves relationship. He created humans to have a relationship with Him and through his son Jesus we can have a deep personal relationship with the creator of the universe. He created Adam and Eve to live life together and become one. We are designed for relationship with others. That is what makes life so rich. The joy of living life together and sharing the journey. Living in community together. Praying with others, laughing together, supporting one another. I seen all this today and my heart was really blessed. 4 homes were completed today but countless relationships built. To God be the glory! 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Servants heart

As I sit here for a 7 hour stopover in the airport in Panama I am reflecting on what our week will hold for the team. I know it will be full of incredible God moments. It has been a really trying week for many of the team members. We were going to be a team of 25 but because of health issues 2 had to cancel last minute. I know it will be filled with God moments because of the battle that some team members experienced this past week.

Whatever this week holds I pray that as a team we will go with a servants heart. As believers we have the greatest example of serving humanity in the life of Jesus. He served all of humanity by living a sinless life and dying on the cross for us. We deserved the nails for our sins but because of His great love for us he took our place. May we go and serve with the thoughts of the price that was paid at Calvary. May we carry a heart like Christ where ever we go this week. May God be glorified as we serve.