El Salvador

El Salvador

Saturday, November 11, 2017

God's Power at Work

Baptism in the Pacific Ocean
Sue, Julie & Grace

Our week in El Salvador ended with a trip to the beach to enjoy a bit of down time before we head home.  But it wasn’t a typical beach day.  During this transformational week, 3 people on our team felt called by God to be baptized and so we had a baptism in the Pacific Ocean.  
Amidst crashing waves, Julie, Grace and Sue were baptized and committed themselves to following God and trusting in Him with their lives.  It was truly a special way to end the week!

At debrief tonight our team reflected on the many things that had impacted them this week.  The enormity of the poverty here can be overwhelming, but 18 families now have safety and protection from the elements.  The work of the local church to connect with these families and their commitment to sharing the gospel was so inspiring and the love of God was evident in many tangible ways.  The power of God to connect people at a deep level in such a short amount of time really blew us all away.
Families with keys and Bibles, consecrating their homes to God

We are going home changed because of what we have experienced this week.  We came to bless but in return were blessed so much more.

A Life-changing Week - by Julie Engel

The past six days in El Salvador have been indescribable. When the week started off, I was extremely nervous and didn’t know what to expect. As Sunday rolled around and I started to meet the team from El Salvador, I felt an instant connection that made me feel so comfortable being somewhere completely new to me. As the week went on I enjoyed contributing to the house builds and doing kids ministry. I made so many friends in the villages and other workers helping within the build.

Key Giving Ceremony
Today, Friday, was extremely special. I got to experience the culture here through the market, I got to go to the key giving ceremony and see many families I got to meet and interview throughout the week, and enjoy an amazing night with the team that feels like family to me after this week.
At the end of the night it was very special because the whole team got together on the bell tower and sung some of our favourite Christian songs. Everyone joined in and it was a beautiful time when half of us were singing in English and the other half in Spanish. After that we all went to the gas station Texaco and we got ice-cream, talked, and said some goodbyes.
It was extremely emotional tonight when we arrived back at the hotel to say goodbye. Ely and Donald prayed for our team and it was very powerful. After we prayed we had to say goodbye to our friends from the Shelter team in El Salvador, which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Throughout this week I have created a second family, not only with the Canadian group, but with the El Salvador team as well. The Godly spirit within these people is incredible and like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

It will be extremely difficult to go back to Canada after this life changing trip, but I am excited to share my story with everyone and have a new love for God that could only be created through a trip like this. Overall, I am extremely grateful for everyone I have met and the life long relationships I have built. I am grateful for helping 18 families create a home they will live in forever. Finally, I am grateful for my team that has become a second family to me. I am so excited to see what is in store for me next.
by Julie Engel

Friday, November 10, 2017

Compassion Day - by Shannon Engel

Driving to the Compassion Centre
This week continues to be one of transformation and today is a day I wish could start over.  We traveled by truck for almost an hour from San Vicente to Mercedes La Ceiba where Compassion Day was held.  

We were welcomed by the Compassion, leaders, teachers and their students. There was a parade and band that escorted us to the meeting centre where we were treated to the most heartfelt rendition of Hear I Am to Worship which was not only sung by voices of angels but also in English.  This is one of my favourite songs which I have sung hundreds of times and I have never felt its meaning in my heart as much as I did today.  

We toured the school and had to opportunity to see what wonderful lessons and skill sets these teachers are providing these children that have so little opportunity and have so many obstacles to overcome. We learned that what is unique in this region, is that the mothers often end up abandoning their husbands and children. In the classroom we visited of children ages 14 – 17 years, 80% did not have a mother.

Continuing with the tour, we learned all the wonderful ways God is working to support and grow these children through education, sport and learning life skills such as sewing, hairdressing, aesthetics and hairdressing.  We were told that our support brings them hope because it makes them feel like they matter and for some children, that’s the first time they’ve ever heard that.

Thank you all for your prayers and support – it means more to us then you know. 
by Shannon Engel

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Last Build Day - by Grace and Sue Johnson

One of 3 build teams at the end of the day - all finished!
Building in tight spaces

                Today has been truly amazing. The day has gone by so fast, and we have experienced so many things. Starting in the morning, we got to participate in our first house build because we have been running kids ministry Monday and Tuesday. Although we are both VERY inexperienced with tools and construction, our Bethany team and our Shelter workers were so patient with us and always included us in all parts of the process. We were very impressed with the encouraging atmosphere and how eager everyone was to build. The locals took such pride in their involvement in the project, and although we don’t understand the language, it was very special to connect with them through the build.

                We also got the opportunity to interview the family who was receiving the house. This deepens the meaning of all the hard work we accomplished that morning, and it was such a blessing to be able to listen to their story. Ingrid and Gloria are such hard working women with full hearts, and hearing their life story was very emotional and touching. Ingrid has been helping at every single chance she gets on each house every day, and was so happy to finally see her new home.
Fun in Kids Ministry
                The afternoon was full of fun and giggles. I was able to end my last building day in kids ministry, where I made lots of new friends. Playing soccer was a lot of fun, but the big red balloons were a favorite. 3 year old Antony was always by my side, and we played with his brothers and friends all afternoon. After a fun time building in the morning, my mother Sue decided to help build the last house. She got to try using all different kinds of tools, and got to know the teammates who she hadn’t bonded with yet so far. The goodbyes were very hard as the always are, but we are looking forward to seeing some of our new friends at the key giving ceremony on Friday.

                Dinner was definitely a highlight …  we tried pupusas, El Salvador’s traditional dish. After dinner, we got the chance to gather with the local pastor, Amilcar, and his family. We were completely and utterly moved by his message tonight. I cannot fully explain how I felt and what I experienced this evening, but my heart has been changed. Seeing how passionate these people are about God and how deep their love is for him is so inspiring. Pastor Amilcar's testimony was a major eye opener, and it brought everyone in the room closer to the Lord. As a high school student, I find that I am at a very vulnerable spot in my life spiritually. After these past few days in El Salvador, I am very happy to say that I feel closer and closer to God each day, and am ready for anything that he may throw my way because I know that he is with me and he loves me. I have been spiritually moved tonight, and am so blessed to have been surrounded by these people. Today has been a day that I will never forget … a true blessing. 
By Grace & Sue Johnson

Monday, November 6, 2017

Working together – by Julia Loewen

Working together to build this family a home
First day on the jobsite and already 6 families have new homes! It was a tiring day but the excitement took over and kept us all working hard, with spirits high. While the concrete floors are not in the houses yet (concrete will be brought in later in the week) some of the families will already be sleeping in their new houses tonight, and it is so incredible to be a part of bringing that about. The rainy season has gone late in El Salvador this year so we have experienced a bit of rain in the past few days. It is nothing compared to the rain experienced during actual rainy season but it was another reminder of what these houses really mean to the families we are building for. A roof over their heads, a door that locks, an escape from the downpour of rain that usually flows through their houses and leaky roofs for a few months of the year.

It is amazing to see how the team and the people in the communities are able to work together, encouraging and empowering each other to raise up six houses in one day! One day! That’s a lot of houses. All kinds of people come from the community, and all kinds of people come from Canada, whether young or old, male or female, experienced builders or newbies who’ve never held a drill in their life. Yet these differences just bring us closer together, allowing for relationships to begin even if you only know a total of about 10 common words between broken Spanish and English. It will never cease to amaze me that a simple question like “how are you?” or “what is your name?” can make you a friend. You may never know anything else about them outside of the answer to those questions, but you will also never forget. I love how picking up a drill can empower another girl from the village to also pick up a drill and join in the work. And I love how a girl from the village carrying heavy pieces of sheet metal can empower me to go do the same. And when the house is up and the job is finished we both feel the same accomplishment, and the same pride for having done something to make that house stand.

I am so excited for the next 12 houses that will go up in the next two days, and I am even more excited for the relationships that will begin and grow as we build. I am so blessed to be a small part of such an incredible mission, and humbled again that God chooses to use me to help further the hope he is spreading in the country of El Salvador. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

18 – Not Just a Number Anymore

Praying for the 18 families
New hope and a new beginning are starting for 18 families.  We had the opportunity to meet the families that we will be building homes for this week.  And there are 18 of them! And what struck me was – there’s a lot of kids.  As kids always do, they bring a lot of life to an event.  And there was a lot of life while gathering and meeting, with close to 40 children in these families!  As one of our teammates, Sonya, said “As we were planning for this trip, 18 was just a number. And now it’s not just a number, they are people and families.”  We have the privilege to get to know these families and work alongside them this week.

One of the families we met were Manuel and Maria with their two children, Hamilton (7 year old son), and Marjorie (2 month old daughter).  Manuel is a farmer who grows corn and beans, as most of the farmers from this community do, and Maria is home with the children.  I had a brief conversation with Maria, who was finding it difficult with a baby at home and a boy who needed to be active.  It’s a tough time for a family with young children, but how much more so with inadequate living conditions.  This week they will have a new home and a new start for their family!

It was amazing to hear the community leaders giving thanks to God that we would come to their community.  There was a spirit of unity amongst the community leaders and families that showed their desire to work together and help each other.  And it was also clear that they were eager to meet us and get to know us too.

Later in the afternoon, it was so great to worship at the local church.  Our hearts were lifted up by the passion in worship.  We heard a message of hope where we were reminded that all of us need to put our hope in God, and that He will never fail us.  The words of one of the worship songs (translated for us) were so fitting for this day: “God is fighting for us, pushing back the darkness, lighting up the Kingdom that cannot be shaken.”  May God’s light shine brightly this week as we work together.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The team is geared up and ready to go.  We’re heading to the airport now, and excited for a good week and what God has in store for us and the people of  El Salvador!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

When laying the groundwork is in the mud!

Bethany Community Church team to El Salvador
A few more team members :)

Hurricanes, tropical storms, flooding and more have wreaked havoc this season in the Caribbean and Central America.  We are so thankful that the worst of this extreme weather has bypassed El Salvador where we are going to build houses.  But during the rain season in El Salvador, a deluge of rain is something they deal with regularly and even more so these past months.

Here are a some pictures posted by Jenny, who works for Shelter in El Salvador as the Family Coordinator, preparing the way for the homes to be built.  Jenny meets with the families that receive homes before we even arrive.  She gets to know the families and asks them what their struggles are. She finds out if there are ways that the local church can help.  Jenny
makes connections and brings the hope of Jesus Christ before our team even sets foot in El Salvador.

Many people are laying the groundwork in El Salvador so that these homes can be built for families in desperate need.  Imagine experiencing a torrential downpour in a home where your roof is a patchwork of plastic and scrap metal pieces.  Where winds blow through the cracks in the walls and where rivers of water come washing through your home and your dirt floor becomes a muddy mess.  To build a home with a roof that doesn't leak and a concrete floor that keeps them out of the mud is giving a family life!  And isn't that what a blessing means - to bring life.

Jenny says, "I come with the purpose of being used by God, and that is stronger than anything.  I want to tell you that God is working in families.  This past week I visited several families in the community of Agua Caliente and there is a single mother who after receiving her house decided to go to a church and be baptized."

It is an incredible privilege to be a small part of this ministry where new life is given.  It is an honour that we can go and build these homes and bring the gospel message to the families receiving homes.  We have a team of 24 people going to build 18 homes from November 4th - 12th.  We ask that you would pray for our team and the families receiving homes.

Jenny's caption on her photos read: "Enjoying the job!! Because duty calls, and the rain will not be an excuse!"  And so we go, with anticipation of what God will do and with no excuses either!

Monday, September 18, 2017

El Salvador BBQ - $11,200 raised to build homes!

We sure had an awesome weekend for the BBQ fundraiser - God provided a gorgeous day.  We had no idea what to expect with the new earlier service times but who knew that people would love breakfast burgers!  A big thank you for all the support that was shown in many ways!

A total of $11,200 was raised to build homes in El Salvador! The homes we build cost $3,400 each so that's 3 1/4 new homes!

We are so excited that even more families will have a solid, safe and secure home this build season.  But even better is that more families will experience God's love and have the opportunity to get to know Him more intimately because of the generosity of the church community.  We are absolutely amazed at God's goodness and His provision.

Thank you for all your encouragement and support for the El Salvador teams!

Eldon and Rose Loewen

Thursday, September 14, 2017

BBQ and Bake Sale Fundraiser

BBQ and Bake Sale for El Salvador Homes:
All are welcome!  Sun Sep 17 at Bethany Community Church in St. Catharines, after both morning services, in the Pavilion. (from about 10am to 12:30pm).  Enjoy hamburgers (gluten-free hamburgers available), and hot dogs, chips and pop as well as a bake sale, all by donation.

"Cityscape of El Salvador"
by Elliott Song
Silent Auction of the framed original “Cityscape of El Salvador” by Elliott Song will be taking place.  Elliott is a high school student who went on the March 2017 El Salvador trip.  He drew the picture while on the trip in March and it really captures so much of what we know and love of El Salvador.
Silent Auction closes at 12:30pm on Sun 17th. 
Prints can be ordered as well.  Two print sizes are available: 
10” inches x 18” inches for $60.00 or
5” inches x 9” inches for $30.00

If you can’t make it to the BBQ but would like to order a print please email me at  elsalvadormission@bethanycc.ca

Jewellery by Carolyn also available at the BBQ!  Here’s a sample of some of her beautiful pieces!

All proceeds go towards building homes 
for those living in extreme poverty in El Salvador.  
Hope to see you there!
Family in front of their new home!
March 2017 trip

Friday, April 28, 2017

Dessert Auction Breaks Record Again!

How incredible that the Dessert Auction raised $14,612!  Half of the funds raised are going towards supporting Nichola Henry, missionary with Operation Mobilization, and the other half towards building homes in El Salvador! That’s enough to build 2 more homes in El Salvador!  Thank you so much for supporting the El Salvador mission trips!  And what a fun night!  Who doesn’t love to see their Pastors get pie in the face?
Building Homes in El Salvador

Eldon and I have seen God at work in El Salvador!  Here’s the report that we gave at the Dessert Auction:
El Salvador is a beautiful country of mountainous landscape but inflicted with problems of poverty and gang violence.  If you read news of El Salvador, you will read a lot of bad news.  But we are here to bring you some good news and to tell you about open doors.

Bethany Community Church sent two mission teams working through the organization called Shelter Canada – a team of 24 people in November and 25 people in March.  Twelve homes were built each week which means there are 24 families made up of 97 family members whose lives have been changed!
November 2016 Team
We get to work alongside the families and other local volunteers in building these homes.  But more importantly we have the opportunity to build relationships, and bring hope in difficult places.  We asked “what are the most difficult challenges that your community faces?”  The answer – lack of job opportunities and violence.

Every member of our team gets to interview at least one of the families that we build for and here is one of the stories that we heard:
March 2017 Team
Del and Patricia have a one-year-old daughter named, Theresa.  They are a quiet and loving family who also take care of and live with Del’s 82-year-old mother who struggles with her health and memory.

Del considers himself a jack-of-all-trades as many of the Salvadorian men do – taking on any odd jobs to earn income.  At this time, Del was employed selling lottery tickets, which means he leaves the house at 6 am to meet his boss where they travel to different communities selling tickets.  Unfortunately this does not give a steady income, often earning less than $5 a day.
Del, Patricia and Theresa
 in front of their new home!

They had moved from place to place trying to find a reasonable home to rent.  They lived under enormous pressure trying to come up with the $50 rent per month that they had to pay.  They were so thankful and relieved to have this new home where their anxiety was alleviated and it now allows them to use the rent money for living and sustaining themselves.  They asked us, “Why would you come to build houses in El Salvador?”  We were able to share how God’s love for us compels us to help others and show His love; and they praised God with us as they were certain this was God’s gift to them.

These are hard-working people who want to provide for themselves and their families, who long for the opportunity to get ahead, who dream that their children will have a better future.  They are warm and loving people who embraced us and told us their stories.  And somehow by working, praying and laughing together we were all lifted up.

Change is made family by family and before you know it, whole communities have been changed.  In November the leaders of Rio Frio planned a community party to celebrate the 350 homes that were built by Shelter Canada over the past 4 years. (our Bethany teams have worked in Rio Frio on numerous trips)  We had the incredible privilege to host this party and participate by making hundreds of balloon animals and painting hundreds of faces!  Over 2,000 people were in attendance!
Rio Frio Celebration Day
Pastor Mendez of Rio Frio (we know him as Pastor Pastor) told us that he cried out to God to see his community have homes and he has seen that come true.  Communities that are becoming safer as they stand together against the gang violence.  Communities that are hearing the gospel as teams come in to share the good news as we build together.

“Open doors” – that’s what it’s all about.  There are so many stories like the one just shared and these are made possible because of what God is doing through Shelter.  Ten years ago Shelter built 30 homes.  In this past year 376 homes were built through Shelter! A total of over 2,300 homes have been built since Shelter started.  That’s why communities are celebrating like we did in Rio Frio.  That’s a lot of families who now have a roof that doesn’t leak and they can actually lock their door!

But the homes aren’t even the best part.  Just think of all the people those 2,300 homes represent.  Thousands of people have experienced God’s love and have heard the gospel loud and clear.  How amazing is that!  As we go and show God’s love by building homes, this opens doors for the local church.

Pastor Amilcar, who heads up the main church we work with in El Salvador, puts it this way: “God uses some people to open doors and He uses other people to walk through them.”  Because we come and build homes, the church in El Salvador now has open doors that they can walk through.  They are now welcome in communities where they could never go before because of the gangs and the fear of violence.  But now they are welcome.  And they are ready!  God has been raising up leaders in El Salvador and workers to support this huge evangelical outreach.  People are now in place to facilitate, to train and to go and make disciples.  They are ready to walk through the open doors.
El Salvador Leadership Team for Shelter Canada
And we are ready to go and open even more doors!  We’ve barely scratched the surface in El Salvador.  Shelter has built 2,300 homes in 110 communities, but there are 12,000 communities and 400,000 families still in desperate need in El Salvador.  People ask us “Are you done yet?”  But we have just begun!

Our biggest challenge is raising funds for the houses and the Dessert Auction is a huge help in that! Thank you to so many who have supported the ministry in El Salvador!  None of this happens without people responding to what God places on their heart.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

El Salvador Cityscape - by Elliott Song

El Salvador Cityscape
by Elliott Song

Friday, March 17, 2017

Kids are the Best!

The colourful yellow bus
The hard work is over, the twelve houses are built, today it was time for a real treat.  About 9 a.m. this morning a full sized bus, with no roof, and lots of colours and balloons showed up at our hotel!  And...it was loaded with kids from the local Compassion Center, not just any kids, kids sponsored by members of our team.  There certainly was a lot of smiling going on, maybe some joyful crying as well.  Everyone piled on, some meeting their sponsored child for the first time, others greeting each other once again.

The bus sped through the streets dodging dogs, people, cars and motorcycles.  It seemed that everyone in town knew the big yellow bus, as everyone waved and smiled and laughed as we went by.

We arrived at the Compassion Center being greeted by line ups of kids throwing confetti and streamers, and holding big welcome signs.  The greetings and hugs continued as we got off and settled in for a short devotional led by members of the center and some of the children.

Following the devotional, we were taken on a tour of the facility.  This center services around 300 sponsored children from the area who attend once or twice per week and are exposed to things like computer training, sewing, jewellery making, and aestheticism(if that's the wrong word I mean manicures and pedicures, and don't worry, I didn't get colour).
Some very interested onlookers

Since the Compassion child I sponsor is from another country, I was able to be an observer today, which means I got to stay in the shade! It was amazing watching the kids warm up to their sponsor parents, or for those who had been here before, the kids dove in!  Old and young played soccer, hide and seek, tag, skipped, and who knows what else for over an hour in the hot sun, and not a complaint.

We got back on bus and headed to a farm house outside the city for lunch.  Many of the children's parents were able to attend as well, so it was an awesome time to share a meal and converse with the sponsored child and their family and get to know them well.  Then it was present time.  Sponsoring families brought toys, games, food, toiletries annnnd SOCCER BALLS!  It was so cool walking around watching all these different kids eyes lighting up.  What a day!

 At the debrief session tonight, most people's highlight of the day had to do with meeting and being with their child.  Although the sponsored child's parents tell us they are blessed, it is certainly we who are blessed.  But really, I think it is God's way of blessing both sides.  Everyone loves kids, kids are the best, and God knows that they will melt our hearts and bless us at the same time as melting the hearts of the El Salvadorean people with the care and compassion that is shown to their children and themselves.

Sponsoring families, sponsored children and their families and Compassion workers all gathered together. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017


          We visited a Compassion Centre today and got to meet our Compassion Foster Child.  What a thrill!  It was great to visit the centre and to see all the good work that they do with around 300 children in this community, but to meet little Alisson grabbed a hold of my heart.  We had been thinking and praying and preparing for this visit for a few months and were so excited when the day finally arrived.

          We got to visit with her and her mother through an interpreter and to find out about her life here in El Salvador.  We also got to play with her and to her sweet voice giggle and squeal with delight.  The presents we had brought for her were perfect and we could tell she loved them.  The groceries we purchased for her family completely overwhelmed her mother with emotion.  It was only a little for us, but does so much good in her young life.

          The day was all too soon over and when we said our goodbyes we hugged with tears, wondering when we might ever be with each other again.

     You can find information about getting your own compassion child by following this link Compassion Canada.  Share the love of God with those less fortunate, it is only a little for us, but means so much in their young lives.  God has richly blessed us, let's build a longer table, not a higher wall.  God will bless your generosity.

Building Done, Water Park and Ice Cream- Elliott Song

Today the team completed the construction at last. Though only two houses were built today, the intense heat and large rocks made it a very taxing few hours. Luckily everyone's efforts were rewarded with a trip to the local water park! Team members, community members and workers all were able to cool off and enjoy themselves together at Amapulapa water park. I personally enjoyed playing some soccer with the locals. It is something both our very different cultures are able to understand and connect through. 
Later, after an amazing pupusa dinner the team enjoyed various forms of Boston ice cream. Sundaes, milkshakes, fruit shakes and cones were some of the many treats. The day was finished with an extraordinary testimony by Donald and Ellie, workers at the shelter organization and members of the local church. They shared the amazing ways that their faith in God's plan for them helped them overcome life's most terrible obstacles. It was inspiring to all of us to hear about their great strength, integrity and perseverance in unimaginable situations. 

Overall it was a very eventful day as we celebrated the completion of the houses, continued building relationships, ate some awesome food and learned about an extremely inspiring example of God's power. I'm looking forward to what the rest of the week has to offer.

*Pupusa is a typical El Salvadoran food consisting of a tortilla stuffed with a variety of meats, vegetables and sauces. It's really good.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Your Prayers Are Being Answered

          I just got back to our room from our evening debriefing and I am so tired, but so is everyone else.  We have had a few minor (thank God) injuries; some of us are showing the effects of too much time in the sun.  Many of us have been struggling with the heat and have had to take a time out too cool down and drink some water, but even that has proven to be a good thing as it allowed us to connect with the people that live in the community.   You know what?  No one is complaining!  We have shared our struggles, but only to share how God has worked through those struggles to teach us important lessons and to help us connect with the local people.  God is blessing our work.

          Those receiving homes this trip having been sharing with us how thankful they are to God for providing them a new home, God is being glorified.

          A few days ago I asked you all to pray for us and we all can see your prayers being answered.  Thank you for your prayers and please continue to pray for us we are not even half way through the week.

          Thank you for helping us share the love of God in this country.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Relationships and Connections - by Dawn Merrick

Today was our first day of building houses and having Children and Women’s Ministry.  Relationships and connections were being made everywhere – at the various building sites, among the locals and the team members, among the team members and the children and women. 
Connections were made in all different ways.  There were those team members that made a point of learning the locals names at the work site, team members and locals helping each other even though there was a language barrier (which isn’t really a barrier), connection through faith and God and Jesus.  A couple team members would be talking with local children and having a “conversation” with each talking in their own language and not understanding the words but connecting anyway.
There are a couple specific connections I would like to share:
The first one is that of a young boy that came to Children’s Ministry who was somewhat shy and it took a bit of coaxing from team members to have him join in the activities.  Once we started kicking the soccer ball around he joined us with full enthusiasm.  Soon kids and team members were taking a break and a little while later this same boy made a point of going to Monika to play soccer.  What a great connection to witness!
The second connection was with Jean and myself finishing up “Spa Day” with a few of the local ladies.  Along with an interpreter we were having conversations with each other as if we knew each other all our lives.  What a connection to have with these ladies and making the afternoon into a “Girl’s Night Out”.

These relationships will have a lasting impact on each other for the rest of our lives and the lives of the people we work beside and play with.

Monday, March 13, 2017

This Is Amazing Grace

          We went to church last night and it was great.  The lesson was translated for us and not only did the translator translate the words but also the emotion and energy of the speaker.  The worship music was great as well, it was not translated but when they began even the first few notes of “This Is Amazing Grace” we all knew what song it was.  Turns out that they love that song in El Salvador as much as we love that song in Canada and nobody wanted the song to end.
          In a land of incredible poverty, the blessing of God’s amazing grace is still recognized.  I have been asking myself some hard questions since our arrival in El Salvador.  They all boil down to why me?  What have I done to deserve the blessing of being in born in such a rich land while others like our brothers and sisters in El Salvador struggle in poverty?  What have I done to deserve the blessing of living in a safe land where I do not fear to be out even in the middle of the night, while my new friends in El Salvador live in such a crime ridden land?  The answer, I haven’t done anything to deserve these blessings, neither have they done anything to deserve their hardships, in fact I am not sure that they see them as hardships.
          There is not a shortage of food in our world it is just poorly distributed.  We have so much that we are too often wasteful and so much never gets used, but is thrown away.  There is not a housing shortage in our world; we have too much while others have too little.  Before you say, “our houses are not too big we need all that space,” let me remind you that we need that space to store all of our things.  Please, do not take me wrong!  I am not saying that it is wrong to have a fridge full of food or a comfortable home.  I am asking that we recognize it as God blessing us and not our right because of the colour of our skin, the place we were born, or the language we speak.  Please do not say we have these things because we work hard and we deserve them.  I have some new friends in El Salvador that walk on hour or more to get to work, work all day in the blazing sun and then walk an hour to get home and get paid a wage so small that they find it almost impossible to survive.
          God in His Amazing grace has blessed us.  With great blessings comes great responsibility.  Please do not build a higher wall, build a longer table.  I am so thankful to come to El Salvador and see God’s grace in action and to share in such a wonderful ministry.

          To my wonderful Bethany family, thank you for this wonderful ministry.  Continue to pray for us we see your prayers answered here daily and please, please, please continue to be generous, Let us share God’s amazing grace with the people of El Salvador.

First Meetings

Our translator, Gustavo, introducing a family
We had the amazing privilege of meeting the 12 families that we will be building alongside this week, providing them a home and a new beginning.   In a community on the outskirts of San Vicente, it’s not a long drive for our team - but always fun on the back of the truck!  Although you may picture city living for these families, really it is in the foothills of the mountain and on rugged terrain.

The main source of income for this community is farming, where farmers walk over an hour to tend a rented plot of land.  Most of the farmers have a 50 x 50 metre piece of land on the mountainside that they farm entirely by hand, growing beans and corn.  With no irrigation options, they depend on the weather to provide the needed water for growth.   With the growing season from May to November, it is very difficult for the families to provide for themselves right now in the off-season.

 A single Dad, raising his two sons
with the help of his sister.

Others work on construction, there is a mechanic in the group and one of the single mom’s makes papusas for a living (a traditional El Salvadorian meal), which she said that she would be happy to make us papusas anytime!  Many of the families included extended family members, often having 3 generations in the home and most of the families have young children.

What they all showed in common today was the incredible gratitude for the help that they were receiving.  We were so warmly welcomed and included as part of the community!  Top off the day with an amazing church service, worshipping together with our El Salvadorian brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is truly a blessing to be part of a ministry where people of different languages and cultures can come together and have a unity and a bond that can come only through Jesus Christ!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Please Pray For Us

          Winter has returned to St Catharines as we make our final preparations to leave for El Salvador.  We will be going from a wind chill of -17 C to 30 C later today.  We will be travelling from a country that has so much, to a people who struggle with a poverty we cannot even comprehend.  What gives us the arrogance to even imagine that we can do anything to positively impact their lives?  God’s promises are sure, when we reach out in love, He will bless our efforts.  I am confident that God will work through us to shine a bright light in El Salvador this week. 
          We need you to pray for us.  We will be thanking our Heavenly Father each day that we are a part of a church family that makes a trip like this possible.  Thank you Bethany family for being there for us and thank you for praying for us.
          Pray that God will protect us and grant us safe travel this week.
        Pray that God will open the hearts and minds of those we will come in contact with this week so that they may learn of His love and grace.
          Pray that God will help us not trip over ourselves and that we will not in all our good intentions get in the way of the message.
          Pray that God will allow His message of love to shine brightly through all that we do this week.
          This venture succeeds not by what we do but by God’s blessings.  So I ask you please pray for us!  Pray for us in the morning while you enjoy that first cup of coffee.  Pray for us in the evening before you lay your head down to sleep.  Pray for us in the few quiet moments you have during the day, while traveling to appointments etc.…

          Bethany we carry you in our hearts knowing that you will remember us in your prayers.   Our only regret is that miss two glorious Sundays at Bethany, but we know that God will fill our hearts with His love so that it might spill over into the lives of others.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

High Wind Warning

Trees knocked over, branches coming down, shingles being ripped off roofs, even a transport truck tipped on the Burlington Skyway – this was Southern Ontario yesterday as winds over 100 km blew through our area.  Anything that wasn’t properly secured was blowing down the street - which made driving rather challenging!  For most of us, the high winds weren’t much more than an inconvenience.  Our garbage can might be a kilometer down the road or maybe we had to take a different way home because the road was closed or blocked by tree branches.

But in a couple of days we have a team travelling to El Salvador where high winds aren’t just an inconvenience.   Families that struggle to find employment and can barely earn enough to sustain themselves, live in homes patched together with cardboard, plastic and scrap metal.  They have five months of rain season where storms of driving rain and high winds pull their homes apart.

Our team has the opportunity to build 12 homes for families living in these desperate conditions, giving them the chance to live without worrying about their house blowing away.  Giving them a roof that doesn’t leak and a concrete floor that keeps them out of the mud.  But more than that, we have the opportunity to bring the love of God and to tell them that they have not been forgotten.

1 Corinthians 3:11  “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  Our prayer is that the message of God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ changes the lives of those families, and gives them a firm foundation that carries them through every storm of life.  Please pray with us for these families and pray that our team would come away changed!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Principles My Mother Taught Me

          In preparation for our March mission trip to El Salvador at our last meeting Eldon was sharing about the cultural values of the people and what we needed to do to keep from offending them.  He encouraged us to eat all that we put on our plates or try to get someone else to eat it, because they are a poor people and cannot understand waste like we would see daily in Canada.  He encouraged us to be open   minded and willing to try new foods, but also cautioned us from accepting food when we were unsure of its source or preparation.  When eating meals that had been prepared for us, he encouraged us to simply receive with gratitude what was offered and again, be willing to try new things.
          I think Eldon, knew my mother, perhaps he was in her Sunday School Class years ago.  Isn’t that what our mothers tried to teach us years ago?  To clean up our plates (at my home it was no dessert unless you cleaned up your plate) to take only what we will eat so as not to waste anything.   To receive what was offered to us gratefully.  
My mother’s theory for food that we didn’t like was to try a little and that we would learn to like it, as a kid I thought she had lost it.  How could one ever learn to like something that they didn’t like?  Brian, try some turnip and you’ll learn to like it.  Brian, try some of those beautiful sliced tomatoes and you’ll learn to like them.  Don’t you hate it when your mother is proven right?  Today I love turnip, especially with roast beef and I just love tomatoes.  I smile when I think of how small the list of foods I like would be if I hadn’t followed my mother’s advice and tried things.  Who knew that food could grow on a person?
My mother’s training so many years ago wasn’t just preparing me for a short term mission trip; she was preparing me for life.  Do you receive your meals with gratitude, or do you wish you had something better to eat?  I believe that how we receive our meals is an indication of how we view life.  Are we thankful for life’s little blessings or are we always wishing for something more?  Are we thankful for the wife and/or husband God has blessed us with or are we looking around?  Are we thankful for our home or do we cruise the nicer neighbourhoods in town, thinking that one day we will be happy when we are in one of those?  Are we thankful for the clothes in our closet or do we walk the malls spending more than we can afford on the latest new styles?
Today I am thanking God for my mother; she not only prepared me for going to El Salvador she prepared me for life.  Thanks Mum!

--Brian Cox