El Salvador

El Salvador

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Divine Appointments

As I reflect on the week in El Salvador and all that took place, I am awestruck by the many God moments and divine appointments that occurred.  It was an incredible week of seeing God at work! You know, we plan for months in advance – booking flights, gathering supplies to bring, trying to prepare for what we are going to do when we get down there, and praying for the people we will meet and to whom we will minister.  And down in El Salvador, there are months of planning as well – the community leaders choosing the families who the next homes will be built for, organizing all the materials to be at the right place, arranging transportation and translators for our team.

And then God takes that and puts it together and uses it in ways that we could never have planned in advance – He sets up Divine Appointments and meets needs in such specific ways that we could never have known how we would be used.

Who knew that as we collected kids’ ministry supplies a month before leaving, and realizing that we had way more than expected, that on our first day in the village we would have 60 children from the nearby school come join us for some fun in the morning! And we had more than enough for everyone! We had a school of 26 children join us on the second day – we still had more than enough!  We had so much fun making bead necklaces and crafts, painting their smiling faces, blowing bubbles, playing soccer and so much more!

On speaking with the principal of the school of 60 children, we found out that they had virtually no books to teach from, and their writing books were completely worn from having been used for 8 years.  The writing books were used by the children with pencil and then all the pages erased at the end of every year so that they could be used again the next year.  Each of the 3 teachers had only one book to teach their whole class how to read.  One of our teammates had Spanish Bible story books and board games along and it was clear that these needed to go to this school.  A connection was made so that we could follow up and send more reading and writing books for the school to use.  We were able to give them Spanish Bibles that they will use to teach from, and a number of soccer balls to play in the yard.

Before we left, a team member was given a bag of little toy cars to bring down to hand out to the children.  As the cars were being handed out, one of the community leaders asked if she could take one for her neighbour’s boy - a 6 year old boy suffering from a brain tumour who was bed-ridden from his illness.  When she brought 3 of the toy cars to him, he said that he had been dreaming about having cars to play with, and now his dreams have come true.

One of the family interviews was a bit dis-heartening as our teammates had difficulty connecting with the family.  The family was reluctant to give much information about their lives and when asked if they had any questions for our teammates, they shared that they didn’t feel worthy to even ask any questions.  Our teammates tried to explain that we are not above them in any way, that we are equals, and that they aren’t any less than anyone coming from Canada.  It didn’t seem like this message came across.  However after spending 3 days working and laughing together, our teammates were able to share some verses with them at the Key-giving ceremony.  The verses were from Galatians 3 "there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  The family shared how much these verses meant to them.  Despite cultural and language differences a connection was made.

Who knew that when extra Spanish Bibles were packed in our bags that we would be in a new community that never had teams there before.  This community hungered for God’s word and they treasured the gift of the Bibles we could hand out, pouring over the pages.

This and so many more God moments happened throughout the week.  So often you don’t immediately see how God uses these connections and experiences, but we were blessed that God would show us how He was at work in our midst.  We go not just to bring temporal relief but to bring the hope of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ.   It’s truly humbling that God allows us to be part of His plan and that’s what it comes down to – it’s His plan.  We come back changed because of the experiences we have had and the people we have met. Our prayer is that God continues to use us to transform lives and bring hope to those living in the most desperate of conditions!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

God's Word

Psalm 119:114
You are my refuge and my shield: I have put my hope in your word.

The amazing people of El Salvador continue to teach me great lessons. Lessons that have been life changing for me. I pray that the lesson this week will never leave me because I think it is the greatest lesson of all.

Today we held the key giving ceremony. We have a big celebration where the home owners as well as the community gather together and we celebrate the completion nif the homes. We have worship, preaching, food and piñatas. It is a huge celebration. The families receive the keys to their homes but also a Spanish bible. After receiving the Bibles some people hugged them to their chests, one homeowner carefully wrapped it in a plastic bag to protect it, a number of men brought them to the back and were pouring over the scriptures. Do I hunger for the word of God? Do I realize the priceless treasure God has given me? The answer would be no. I take the word of God for granted. I have access to the bible at all times. I have overlooked this priceless gift that I have been given. Oh God may we hunger for your word and realize this irreplacable gift we have been given.

Friday, March 18, 2016

An Unforgettable Day of Compassion by Wendy Skirrow

WOW!!!  What an incredible day!!!  Today was the day of our Compassion Visit.
"As one of the world’s leading child development organizations, Compassion partners with the local church in 26 countries to end poverty in the lives of children and their families.Today, more than 1.6 million children are discovering lives full of promise and purpose as they develop in all the different aspects of their lives—their minds, bodies and relationships while discovering God’s love for them in the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
   Early this morning, our team drove to the Compassion Project here in San Vicente where the children were eagerly awaiting our arrival with balloons, a welcome sign and confetti.  Those on our team who have sponsored children here in El Salvador were looking forward to this day even more so because we were going to be spending the day with our sponsored children and their families.  According to statistics, less than 3% of all sponsored children actually meet their sponsor families and here we were meeting 11 children those on our team have personally sponsored plus other children in the project.

     Our day began with a skit to rap music put on by children in the school.  It personally affected our entire group as it depicted the struggle of gang violence experienced daily by children and families throughout El Salvador.  It was a sobering reminder of why we are here; to share the hope we experience in Christ to those who have no hope. We then spent the remainder of our morning playing with the children and having fun!!

     Our own family has sponsored a 7 year old girl for the past three years.  We had the pleasure of meeting Marjorie and her family two years ago and also spent time visiting them at their home.  We never thought we would have the opportunity to again travel to El Salvador and see her once more.  It was pure joy on her face when she saw us this morning (although she pulled out a picture of our family and pointed to Bethany wanting to know why she wasn't also here).  Marjorie has the most contagious laugh which we heard over and over today while she and Hannah played, chased one another through the yard and tickled one another.  I gave piggyback rides and then had a line up of others wanting to hop on my back.

      Keaton had up to 3 children at a time climbing on his back to be lifted high, Chelsea was snuggled up with a small boy reading to her and trying to teach her the Spanish names for different animals, Paige brought out her ribbon sticks and Julia was being chased around the yard by her two sponsor children.  One young girl even came up to Hannah and asked if she lived where there was snow because she was so white.   Looking around the school yard, we heard giggles and laughter galore as children  played soccer, Duck Duck Goose, What Time is it Mr Wolf, and just had fun!

     The afternoon was a surprise trip for the sponsor children, their families and our team to the Lagoon which is a local water park.  We enjoyed a meal and spent time hanging out with the children in the water and at the playground.  The day went by too quickly and a few tears were shed when the time came to share gifts brought for the children and families, to pray with our families and say adios, not knowing if or when we would be seeing our sponsor children next.  Each moment of laughter and hug will be remembered.  What a blessing God gave to us today, being able to give of ourselves and our time with others. This day will be in our hearts and minds forever!!

Posted by Wendy Skirrow

Thursday, March 17, 2016

It's All About Relationships

The community members of San Jacinto have been waiting many years for "the Canadians" to come and build homes for the poorest of the poor.  And we had the privilege of building the first homes in this community.  Today was our third and final day of building homes.  Twelve homes have been built and twelve families now have safe dry new homes.   We are very thankful for this as their previous homes were unsafe and during the rainy season their homes and belongings would get very wet.  This is no way to live and  that has now changed for them. 

Many people have mentioned to me that they think it would be better to send the money we spend on this trip to the people to build their homes instead of our team coming here.  But it isn't just about building houses.  It is about building relationships with people here.  Jesus says to go and make disciples of people.  He doesn't say to send money to people and remain apart from them.  Go.  And make disciples.  Go. 

It has been interesting to watch the relationships being built by the team members.  People working on the houses, from Canada and El Salvador,  who didn't know each other on Monday are now working together and laughing and joking like they are brothers and sisters.  The men are building relationships with other men while building homes.  They are laughing with each other and sharing about their lives.  My husband has been able to meet and get to know a man going through very difficult circumstances with his family.  They are almost like brothers.  I have been able to meet a number of women as have some of my friends.  At the beginning of the morning or afternoon work time we are strangers.  But they are so welcoming that by the end of our time together there they are like sisters to us.  The children form an almost instant connection with our team members and so much laughter has occurred.  And so many hugs.  It has also been interesting when I see someone this year that I met last year.  Even if I only spoke or even just smiled to that person a few times, when I see them this year it is like we are long lost family. 

And so this is what our time in El Salvador is all about.  Relationships.  People here tell me how important and how meaningful it is to them that we would leave our homes in Canada to come all the way down here to serve them.  To build homes alongside them and to become friends with them. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Photos from Sunday by Melodie Giesbrecht

Banner presented by the Community Leaders
to the Bethany Team

This dog joined us at the meeting of the families.
There are a lot of stray dogs everywhere.
These two girls are receiving a new home and are watching
two small babies

This special needs boy was loved so tenderly by
 his family.  And us!
Having an amazing experience here in El Salvador.  :-D
~ Posted by Melodie Giesbrecht

Building Day Numero Uno

Today was a wonderful first building day. As a team, we were able to work alongside the kind, hardworking and welcoming community and finish 4 homes. It was amazing to create relationships with the locals, and show Gods love through children's ministry. My family and I were also given the chance to interview a local family, which opened our eyes to the struggles they face, and allowed for God to work through my Mother.

The family we interviewed received one of the first houses we built today. They were a joyful family even upon facing tough times this year. The previous farming season yielded a very small and pour crop. As the family lives off of the money and food they gain from farming corn, rice, and beans, the small crop translates to an inability to pay for the rented farmland and a limited amount of food. They are unsure of how they will be able to provide food for themselves in the coming months.

God really worked through my mother today. The mom of the family we interviewed had been in a bus accident years ago and fractured her femur. She received surgery to fix it, and has been in great pain ever since. As my mom is a physiotherapist, she was able to provide exercises to strengthen the leg and hip, which will hopefully reduce pain in years to come.

Children's ministry was a huge success! There were around 60 children who came for a nearby school. They enjoyed coloring and making crafts with us, and were very happy. Their principle had a huge connection with the them and was a big proponent for his community. One of our translators Patricia, a community leader, and a few of us took some time to help clean and wash two of the children, one with special needs. It was amazing to see the community leader and Patricia be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Tomorrow is another building day and we are excited to build four more homes! Stay tuned for upcoming blog updates. Please keep our team in your prayers.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Ground Prepared in San Jacinto

We were warmly welcomed in El Salvador in more ways than one!  This week we will be building in the community of San Jacinto, which is just past the community of San Felipe where many Bethany teams have built before.  But when I say just past, it means we travel down winding roads through mountainous terrain, up and down steep hills, on roads filled with rocks and holes.  You clearly get the impression that not much traffic comes through San Jacinto.  As a matter of fact, by the time you get there you feel like you’re pretty much at the end of the road.

This was a community waiting on the sidelines and wondering if help would come to them. But this is a community where one of the leaders fought hard to be noticed for their needs.  She, herself, lives in a beautiful home and doesn’t have the same need as her neighbours, but she was the voice that spoke up for them.  As a result, San Jacinto was chosen as the place where we will build this week.  This is the first time a team has come and built homes in San Jacinto.

Today we were able to meet the twelve families for whom we are building these homes.  Although we were only introduced and weren’t able to hear all of their stories yet, the extent of their need and their heartfelt gratefulness was evident.  
Community Leaders from neighbouring
San Felipe are helping and mentoring
the leaders in San Jacinto.
What impacted me most was seeing how the community works together for the good of all their people.  They sacrifice for each other and give even out of their poverty when they see a need that must be met.  

A number of these families had already torn down what they had of a house to make room for the new home to come.  In faith they removed what little they had to allow for God to bless them in this way.  Tonight they sleep covered in blankets and with no roof over their heads.  But hoping for what is to come.

And so the ground is prepared, the building sites are ready, and twelve families will receive a new home and a fresh start this week.  Our prayer is that their hearts are equally as prepared to received God’s love and salvation.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

El Salvador Bound

The excitement is mounting, the bags are almost packed!  Bags of Kids and Ladies ministry supplies, gifts for Compassion children, games for kids at the New Dawn ministry!  And oh ya, I need my stuff too!  We as a team of 25 people are about to embark on an adventure.  We are going to a country I love, even though I have only been there twice.  El Salvador has captivated my heart.  I have family there – not family by blood but family by love – bound by the love of God and love for each other.

Our goal is to build 12 homes for people living in extreme poverty.  Families that could never have a home with a roof that doesn’t leak and doors that lock, without the help of someone stepping in and giving aid.  And so many are part of supporting this mission week to help those families have a home!  Thank you to everyone who has contributed, prayed, donated supplies and given encouragement for this calling to become a reality.  We go as a team of 25, but in reality we represent so many who have a passion to lift people out of poverty and see the love of God poured into their lives.  And so we go with anticipation of what God will do this week, in and through us - ready to be changed by the experiences, the people, the country.   Ready to work and minister and bring our gifts and talents.  But knowing we will come away with much more than we could ever bring!

Updates will be posted throughout the week to let you know how things are going.  So check back here if you are interested!