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!