|El Salvador Cityscape|
by Elliott Song
Friday, March 17, 2017
|The colourful yellow bus|
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.
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
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.
|Our translator, Gustavo, introducing a family|
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
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!