El Salvador

El Salvador

Saturday, November 10, 2018

New Homes, New Hope by Mark Laundry

What a day and what a week.  As we gathered for breakfast there was lots of excitement in the air. Everyone knew today was the day that the families would receive the keys to the new homes.
I rode with the truck that was gathering up the gift baskets for each of the 36 families. It is my first trip to El Salvador with the team, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The baskets were full of food and cleaning supplies like brooms and soap. As we drove on towards the church where the families would be, I couldn’t help thinking how much these homes impact these families and the communities. More than shelter and security, it means a place to call home. They have never had anything like this and never had anyone give them something so big. It’s like someone at home giving a house you (mortgage free) and then giving 35 of your neighbours a house as well.

We arrived at the church with much anticipation to give the families the keys to their new home and a Bible and the gift baskets. As we walked into the church with 36 families gathered, we could see the smiling faces of the proud new owners. The church wasn’t big enough to fit everyone so many people stood. I think the church had never seen so many attendees. We had split into team colours during construction and so we were going to keep it the same way for the ceremony. Team Red went first. They gathered on one side at the front of the church, as their 6 families gathered on the other side. With 3-6 people per family there was a lot of people at the front. Each team member had the privilege, of giving the families their key and a Bible. All the team members had also chosen a verse that was read aloud in Spanish, to go with the families and their new lives.

As the families continued to receive their homes they were so grateful. All of them would hug the team members and say Gracias, many, many times. They had a representative from each of the six families come up and say a few words.  Many of them cried and said how life changing it was for them, their families and communities. One man talked about praying for 5 years for a home. Shelter Canada had been in the community 5 years ago and he had been praying since then, that they would return to build his family a house. They were so grateful. One gentleman, a wood worker went out of his way to build a giant key. He went on to explain that this is a key to our city and anytime you want to come you are welcome.

As they were taking their gift baskets, all I could see were the big smiles on their faces. They were so happy now to take these baskets to their new homes and start their new lives. These were much different faces I had seen earlier when I had interviewed a couple families. As they would tell some of their stories earlier, they would have a face of hopelessness. Now these faces were full of hope and love.

For many of the families God has entered their homes and entered their hearts to stay. There was one lady at the service who committed her life to Christ, but I know many hearts were stirred and God is working in them all. The love and gratitude that was shown by all the families can only come from God.
He is at work and we just pray the he continues to use us and the El Salvador teams as instruments of that love.

By Mark Laundry

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Compassion Day! by Rebecca Roessner

Today was an amazing day! It was Compassion day which means our team had the privilege to visit a Compassion site in El Salvador. This trip we went to the site in San Vicente which is also the site Richard's Compassion child attends. This site was the first one Richard ever visited and lead him to choosing to sponsor a child from this centre. Since then he has been able to meet his child twice before. This trip was extra special though because we were able to go see his child's home and spend time with him and his family. It was also special because it was the first time that I was going to meet his child and their family. Richard had promised them that next time he would bring his wife and they have been waiting over a year for today!
It was such a joy to be welcomed by silly string and confetti to the Compassion Centre only to have the children from the centre put on a presentation for us and then have a tour of the site accompanied by pupusas, fried bananas and rice and be able to purchase some of the beaded jewelry and accessories the children are learning to make. It was amazing to see how much the staff care about the children at Compassion! Then we went to the home visit!
The family lived about a 10 minute drive from the centre but due to short cuts through the villages it only takes his child 15 minutes to get to the centre. His mom was so excited to show us her home because just over 2 years ago they received a Shelter home! Before getting to his house we drove past beautiful soccer fields where they host tournaments! Soccer is huge in El Salvador and this family loves it, even the mom plays on a soccer team and helps organize the tournaments.
When we got to their house Richard's child immediately went and got us some of his tests and homework to show us! He is doing very well and is even learning English! He has been practicing his subtraction in English and had Richard quiz him with flash cards he had brought on a previous trip.
We were able to talk to both the Compassion child and his mom about their lives which was incredibly special. I love to see the hope that Compassion provides as the child wants to be either a doctor or an accountant due to his skills in math and passion of biology.
We were then given a tour of the house and also were able to see the old house which they now use for extra storage. They are so grateful and are good stewards of what they are given! We then had lunch together, of course had to play soccer together! It was awesome to watch mom and son go against each other and also get to play with them!
We then spent the afternoon at a water park which was not only great relief from the heat but a ton of fun to watch the family play in the water and have Richard's child put the swimming lessons his mom had been giving him to practice! We wrapped up the day with frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and rolled in various toppings, squeezed in some last conversation, said our good byes, and prayed for them. The mother told us that the next time we came to bring our baby with us which of course made us all laugh!
Compassion day is always such a special day and one of the many highlights of the trip! I encourage everyone to find out more about Compassion and how much of an impact they make on children, their families, and the community!

Faith in the Face of Obstacles

   Where do I even begin to describe the experience this Mission trip has been and the work it has done in the hearts of all the team members and families both Canadian and El Salvadorian? 

   Well we have all been moved to tears by the stories of the people we have had the honor and privilege to build homes for and they have been moved to tears by Gods love for them. We have made forever friends here who feel like family even though we have only known them for 3 days.          That’s what going on a mission together does, what working for a purpose together does, it unites us and brings us together.  
   This week has been full of a lot of sweating, laughing, building and learning together and it has bonded us  and made us all realize that no matter where we are in the world we really are all the same.
Incredible, impossible things happen when a bunch of people who share Gods heart to ‘love as I have first loved you’ are obedient to ‘go’ and ‘follow’ the example of Jesus, loving and giving and laying down our lives for others. 

   Although I haven’t been able to speak much coherent Spanish without mucho laughing this week, actions have spoken louder than words where we have had none to say. 
  It has been so evidently visible this week that “love” is not a word or a feeling, it is action. And in these actions we have all seen an incredible outpouring of Gods love and  how it is powerful enough to transcends cultural differences and language barriers.   

  Building this week has not felt like building a house for a stranger it has felt like building a home for a family member. It has been providing hope with a roof that doesn’t leak, opportunity in a floor that isn’t dirt, safety in a door that shuts and locks, and most of all a sense of pride and hope in the hearts and futures of these families. 

 Today I met Jose Santos and his wife as we built their home. They told me their story of their struggle to get by and survive in the same breath as they praised the Lord for his goodness and blessings. Let me tell you one tiny peice of their story.....
   Jose Santos had his foot shattered in the civil war and waited years in pain for 8 surgeries. He still can not bear much weight in his foot, which leaves him unable to provide well for his family of 5 in this country. Jose and Maria have been praying for a house for 3 years faithfully, and rejoice in the Lord always. When they heard the were receiving a home they then had to remove a boulder the size of my Mazda 3 from the only land they had in order for our team to come and build the home. 
With the landscape here in El Salvador, removing seemingly impossible obstacles Was reoccurring theme this week. other families dug for 7 days or moved rocks everyday for 2 weeks to create a space for a home. 
What struck me in all this was how many obstacles these people have faced in their life yet they persevere and press on. These people face struggles many can’t even fathom in North America. They are starving at times, unable to have drinking water, no money for medicine or health care and no opportunity for education to name a few. 
These people don’t have a “future based” mentality like many North Americans who are busy collecting and dreaming about our goals, hopes and futures. These families, their goals and hopes for their future are much simpler -make the next dollar to buy more food to feed their families and survive the next day. 
It convicted me today of how many “mole hill” sized obstacles we often have in our path to Gods promises and how easily we give up when faced with struggle, hardship,  or most often in the grand scheme of true perspective -simple inconvenience. We so often do not persevere through to receive the promises that God has for us, we give up faith when the going gets tough, we cease to pray when we don’t get our way, often shaking or fists at god or turning our faces from him. On the other hand these people persevere through years of “mountain” sized obstacles we will never know, yet they stand firm in their faith that God is good despite circumstance, singing his praises always and being steadfast in prayer. When faced with the obstacles of weeks full of diffing rocks out of the dirt with your hands in the incredible
El Salvador heat, they do it but may of us would sit and sulk and tell God he had better do it for us. How many times can you think of in your life that you gave up too quickly, you didn’t put in the hard work, you backed away from Gods will for your life because it was more uncomfortable than the “American dream”? I have to humbly say my list is unfortunately longer than I care to admit. 

These families  tilled that rock hard ground to create space for Gods blessing, they did the hard work in the face of obstacles to see their harvest come.  in this case their harvest was in the shape of a home that they never would have been able to provide. 
countless time this week our team was called ‘angels’ and called ‘ impossible answers to prayer’, but Jesus specializes in doing the impossible when we have faith in him. Yes, we came but these people created the miracle by trusting in God in any and, they created their own miracle and we just got to be Gods delivery drivers. 
I am so thankful for this week here, these people have left me with so much eternal blessing and I can only hope that this experience has provided them the same. Its feels like I am walking away from this trip truly having received so much and given so little. So many fathers said his week “I have no words to describe the gift that you have given me and my family” and I feel I can say the exact same thing to them. I had the privilege to do this trip alongside my mother and I can say that we are walking away from this experience with the gift of more thankfulness, humility and inspiration, memories, testimonies and relationships that we will carry with us  and share with our family for the rest of our lives. 


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Hand up or hand out? by Ken Hendriks

Today was our first build day. Three days six teams 36 houses!  My 15 year old son Sam and I are newbies.  This is our first time in El Salvador and our first build this morning with Shelter Canada.  A friend of mine at home who is a strong Christian questions whether going to a third world country to give a handout makes sense.  Today I will find out. 

The build starts awkwardly. Sam and I are like deer in headlights.  We don’t have a clue what to do.  Our team leader Dan and team members lead us through some simple tasks and all of a sudden we are in the mix.  We are helping build the house! The locals jump right in and start digging the foundation. We are all working on the house together, locals, the family, our team and Shelter but there is still a sense of people working independently.  There are road blocks.  Large rocks difficult to remove, some challenges with the doors, a misplaced hole.  The family receiving the home watches with a mix of excitement and reservation.  They have been waiting a long time for this home. The father is ill with kidney failure, they have a son who lost his sight at birth who also happens to have a healthy twin.  The house will hopefully help with his health and improve their overall situation.  It is both heartwarming and heart wrenching.  But there is HOPE !  We finally finish our first build. The father proudly places his Shelter number above his doorway and congratulations are given.  God is good!

We are an hour and a half behind schedule.  I am exhausted! And we have a second build this afternoon.
After a short break for lunch we are off to site number two.  The single mother Maria, who is receiving the home is ready for us and jumps right into the fray to work side by side with us.  The work goes faster.  Sam and I are now seasoned veterans😊   Everyone starts to work together as equals, side by side as a cohesive unit and things are going faster.  But it is very hot.  We lose a team member to the heat.  It just makes everyone more determined. And then our day completely changed.  Sam and I had the opportunity to interview Maria and her son which is customary with a Shelter project when someone is receiving a home.

Maria has been praying to God for a home for eight years.  The father is not in the picture.  Was in prison and died two years ago. He was not a good man.  Her son, Sahir is 14 and in grade 7.  Only a difference of one year from Sam sitting beside me.  I see Sam in his face. He has a great smile.  I wonder if we exchanged places would I have her faith in God?  We are a gift from God she says, and she is truly blessed by us and our team.  I am humbled and overwhelmed with emotion.  We all have tears in our eyes.  Maria tells me one more secret.  She has been praying to God to bring her a “good man”  I reassure Maria if God can bring us from Canada to build her a home than I am pretty sure he will bring a good man into her life😊 Maria has gotten away from going to church. My son reminds her God is everywhere, not just in church.  As long as you  believe in him and put your trust and faith in him he will be there for you.  Maria shares her dreams for the future.  With a new home she can lock and leave unattended she wants to start her own business selling local goods.  Maria has hope for the future for the first time in many years and so does her son. We close our interview with a prayer and I give Maria a big hug and don’t want to let go. God is good indeed!

We go back outside and the walls are going up.  Things are happening fast.  A local teenager eyes the drill in my hand.  I call him over and ask him if he wants to drill? He has been helping all day but not with power tools.  He smiles and happily takes the drill from me.  I hand him the screws and he drills them in.  We laugh as we fumble with the screws and change the bits clumsily, the blind leading the blind. Trying to communicate with single words and sign language.  We work for a half hour together putting on trim and by the time we are done there are three other locals working with me to get the job done.  Working side by side as equals.  We finish the job and shake hands and slap each others shoulders like old friends.  The house is complete.  We present Maria with her Shelter number to put on the house.  Her son climbs the ladder and carefully places it with pride.  We take our photos and Maria is so full of joy and hugging her son with a smile as wide as the ocean.  I give her another hug and don’t want to leave the site.  Maria requests a final prayer by our group inside her new home. I reluctantly leave knowing that tomorrow we have the privilege to do this all over again.

Hand out or hand up?  Today 12 families lives will be changed forever.  This week 36 families!  They now have HOPE! There are many many stories of people like this who were given a hand up and it changed their lives forever.  Not just their lives but the lives for future generations as well.  There is nothing wrong with giving someone in need a hand up. It can happen in El Salvador and it can happen in Niagara After all are we not ALL God’s children?
Indeed it was a very good day! 
by Ken Hendriks

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Meeting the Families!

Introductions - a few of the families

What a fantastic day of meeting the families that we will be building homes for this week!  All the planning and organizing of the months previous are in anticipation of this moment.  What a privilege to meet them, see their smiling faces and give them hugs in person.  And we met sooo many people!  Thirty-six families represents a lot of people!  So many families impacted and lives put on a new path!

For the first time, we received the names of the families a few weeks before we arrived along with a picture of the family and some information about their circumstances.  It was so great to see pictures of the families in advance and made it real that these are the people waiting for us to come.

Here is some of what we learned about their conditions:
Anna & Jorge -  “The house in which we are living was “built” 8 and half years ago, but it is already deteriorated.  The room where the children sleep gets wet when it rains at night.  The sheet metal roof has holes in it, and the wood gets very wet.  The rest of the house is made of sticks and mud.”  Ana & Jorge have been together for 8 strong years.  Together they are trying to get ahead with their three children, ages 12,5 and 1.

Felicita -  “A wall that was a quarter of the house, has recently fallen.  When there are earthquakes, I am afraid that the walls will fall, and the house is on a hill that goes down into a ravine.”   Felicita is a single mother who, since her son was born 4 years ago, has had her mother to help her financially.  She is also a seamstress for schools.  The father emigrated to the US in January but he never took responsibility for his son.

Roxana & Santos -  They have been together for 5 years, living with Roxana’s mother, where 7 people live in one room.  He is a farmer and at other times a construction assistant.  This family survives by fishing.  They have two children ages 4 and 1.

All of these families live in desperate circumstances and are in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.  It’s difficult to wrap my head around the disparity in our lives, and yet how similar we are despite these differences.  Parents wanting what’s best for their kids, wanting to provide for their families.  These are amazing and resilient people who will work hard and do whatever they can to provide and sustain their families, and yet the opportunity to get ahead just is not available to them.

It is humbling to hear their stories and know that we get to be part of bringing something better into their lives.  To bring a home that brings safety, protection from the elements, a place to raise their children; these are the most basic of needs that every family should have.

Our team was truly impacted today by the gratefulness of the families, the community leaders and the Shelter Team here in El Salvador.  We felt so warmly welcomed and heard of the anticipation they had of us coming.  Again, it’s pretty humbling.

I’m excited for this week – to get to know these families and to hear more stories. Now we’ve met and it’s time to get to work together.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Prepared - Am I ready or not?

In the midst of my packing for my 5th trip to El Salvador, I mentally asked myself, "Are you prepared?".  I stopped what I was doing as I was taken aback by the impact of that question.  Maybe because we had just finished up a sermon series on Nehemiah and had spent a fair amount of time on the preparations Nehemiah took for the job God laid on his heart.  Maybe because we talk about how to prepare in our team meetings.  Maybe because I wasn't feeling prepared!  

Then I thought of Jesus - how did He prepare for things - and my first thought was to the fact that He didn't start His ministry till he was 30 years old.  What did He do all those years?  How was His time spent?  Were any of His disciples friends from the previous years?  30 years is a long time to prep for a ministry that only lasted 3 years.  

This is something I will study and meditate further - PREPAREDNESS.  Right now I do not feel prepared for what lies ahead.  Yes I have packed the proper clothes, gifts for my Compassion child, games, puzzles and books for the kids.  I've read some books, had the opportunity for some specific mission training, practiced some Spanish and gathered my prayer group, yet still feel inadequate for the tasks ahead.

But herein lies the great truth - I am not alone - a team in El Salvador is preparing for our arrival, we are a team of 36 Canadians who have prepared together to go, hundreds of others have contributed so that 36 homes could be built this week, the community will gather to work together, and the Creator, Sustainer and Giver of every good gift is the one who prepares our way - and He is faithful and perfect in His preparedness, and I rest in His grace.

Monday, October 29, 2018

God’s love poured out

Bethany El Salvador November 2018 Team
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”  Bob Goff

We’re not sure how this happened but our November team of 36 people will be building 36 homes next week in El Salvador.  Unbelievable!  Maybe I should be more concerned about how next week we will actually get 36 homes up!  But we have seen God at work in putting this team together and in how these funds have come in, and we trust in Him who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine!  So really I guess I do know how this happened!

Our team reached out to their family, friends, colleagues, fellow students and beyond - and got creative in fundraisers including rowing across Lake Ontario (from Jordan to Toronto!), hosting a neighbourhood pool party, sewing pie-iron bags (ask me if you don’t know what a pie-iron is, it will change your life! Lol), roofing a house, selling crates, selling Pampered Chef, there was a donation of a house given at a wedding in lieu of wedding favours, and incredible donations through people donating from their savings and investments.  Our team got out of their comfort zone, they sacrificed and did something that was of incredible value, something that mattered.  And God blessed these efforts and poured out His love.  And we haven’t even gotten to El Salvador yet.

We now have the amazing opportunity to go to El Salvador and bring God’s love to the families we are building homes for.  These families are living in desperate conditions and the homes literally lift them out of the mud, and give them a roof that doesn’t leak. We will hear their stories and we work alongside them, again we have to get out of our comfort zone.  Please pray for our team and the families in El Salvador receiving homes.  Pray that the families know that the homes they receive is God’s love being poured out on them.  And we are excited to see how God will use us and change us.

Thank you so much for all the support, encouragement and prayers!  Our team extends way beyond the 36 people, to everyone who has contributed in large or small ways towards this mission!

Ephesians 3:20
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Immeasurably More by Dave Kirkness

Key-giving Ceremony: Families receive a Bible and keys to their new home!
A week has passed since returning from El Salvador, and it has taken some time for me to absorb, process, and begin to articulate all that I saw and experienced.  
Although I had never personally been on the trip before, I have had family and friends go previously, so the experience and its objectives were quite familiar to me—or so I thought.

Through this adventure and experience, God had been teaching me about more. Now, in North America, the idea of more has not had the best effect on our society. The blind pursuit of consumerism has had detrimental effects on all facets of our culture, and exacerbated the idea of us vs. them.  But this is not the more that God has been showing me and pushing me to examine further.

This short-term trip is about building homes for families in El Salvador and, more importantly, building relationships with and showing God’s love for the marginalized. But, as God showed me over the time I was there, it is so much more than that.

All the visiting teams work in partnership with Shelter Canada and their local missionaries, Stuart and Carrie. Because of the success and impact of their ministry in the San Vincente area, they were able to assemble a local team in 2010 that includes drivers, translators, and construction labourers. That decision has allowed them to do even more impactful work. The growth has created over thirty full-time jobs, and all the materials for the homes are now locally produced in El Salvador. All the teams that go down to work with Shelter Canada in San Vicente stay at the same hotel; instead of twelve rooms, it now has over thirty.

Because of the increase of the local ministry, more homes are able to be built, which means more families are able to receive a new home before the next rainy season. A new home means better safety and health for a family, as they are now sleeping on a concrete floor instead of dirt, mud, and potentially raw sewage from overflowing outdoor toilets. Instead of forty homes a year being built, Shelter Canada now facilitates the building of over four hundred homes each year.

The Shelter Canada team works hard and shows an enthusiastic love for the people they serve.  What made perhaps the largest impact on me were the local people who showed up every day in the oppressive heat to help build. They worked.  And worked.  And worked.  Frankly, their work ethic left me both awed and embarrassed.  If I could consistently demonstrate even half the work ethic of the people I met there, how much more could I do?

On our last night in El Salvador, we shared our thoughts and takeaways from the week. One team member wondered aloud how much more we could do. As a team, we had just built a record thirty homes in less than three full days. Still, we wanted to do more.

Dave - ready to get to work
This idea of more is not about chasing it for the sake of achievement, but pursuing what God would have us do. That includes working alongside our brothers and sisters in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Peru; that includes working alongside our neighbours and co-workers at home.  It means actively investing in the places we are called. It is not about where we go, but what we choose to do with our time.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he writes:
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” - Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

As Pastor Andrew challenged us this past Sunday, we need to actively look for ways to be useful. God is capable of doing immeasurably more than anything we can imagine.

Here’s to the pursuit of all He has in store for us!
by Dave Kirkness

Monday, March 19, 2018

Real Love (by Kezia Wilson)

Naomi, Elias, Jefferson and Helen
receiving their home.

Wow. And just like that, it’s done.

This past week has been filled with so much joy, laughter, tears, unfortunately sickness, but most of all; love. There were so many real emotions, but unfortunately these words I’m about to write will not be able to justify them in the slightest, but I’ll do my best.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were extremely long, but rewarding days. After breakfast and morning devotionals, all 35 of us would hop on the back of the two trucks, and head out at 8am on an hour long drive into the communities that we would be building in. We had the team split into two groups, and then 2 subgroups which were our build teams. This was so we’d be able to set a new record, of 30 homes in two and a half days!! We were working from village to village that suffer from extreme poverty. Their previous homes were a small rectangle room, made of mud and sticks, without a floor. During rainy season, all of the sewage from the toilets (which are basically a pit in the ground) would all get brought to the surface. It would then get into peoples homes and into the dirt on the ground, which causes many diseases. 

To do the actual physical building of the homes was such an honor. To know that we are literally being the hands and feet of God in those moments was incredible. But what made my heart even more full, was the time spent in kids ministry. At times, it felt as though these children were ripping my heart out and stomping all over it, but in the most loving way possible. I probably played with around 200 kids over those three days and EVERY SINGLE ONE of them was so happy. And by happy I mean sooooooooo happy, and it wasn’t just because they were hanging out with white people. It was real joy. 

These children have gone through so much that they shouldn’t have gone through, but despite that, they are just filled with so much love and joy. At times it felt as though I couldn’t breath because I was being lavished in love (or maybe it was just because I was choking back tears), but whatever it was, it was because of God. 

This past week, I saw more genuine smiles from the locals in El Salvador, than I think I’ve honestly seen in the past 2 months. This is why my heart hurts so much. These people are FILLED with love, and they have absolutely nothing, except for each other and The Lord. At the key giving ceremony (Friday morning) the first thing that around 95% of the families said, was that they wanted to thank God for their new home.

Not every family that received a home were believers, but the ones that were had such a strong faith and trust in The Lord, something that astonished me, and I absolutely admired it all week.

One big happy team
I’m sure that many of you haven’t been able to fully immerse and experience poverty at its finest, so I think that not many of you realize that it could have been reversed. We could have been born in a developing country and these families we built homes for, could have been born in St.Catharines.  This is also very hard for me, and many others on the team to understand. We don’t deserve the life that The Lord has blessed us with, and over the past week this has been a struggle for many of us. We have experienced frustration, and anger because of it. But if we stay in the state of anger over this situation, it's then Satan that wins. 

It is up to us to help our brothers and sisters in Christ, and those who do not know The Lord yet. This week, I have realized how important missions are, and how important it is to give glory to God for blessing us.

I have heard so many incredible testimonies and have so many stories from this week. Although I won’t be writing them on this blog (because it’s already almost a novel, and I feel like I have so much more to say) I would love to share them. If you’re interested please ask me. Please please please. 

Lastly, I would like to share that I was able to interview two families before getting their homes, and explained what I have done to raise the money for their homes.    [Kezia made and sold bracelets as a fundraiser called "Highs and Lows Bracelets" – raising enough for a whole house!]    At the key giving ceremony I gave them each their own bracelet, and the smiles on their faces were huge. Once again, thank you everyone who supported these families in giving them a home.

Coming home and getting back to the North American reality is not going to be easy for me. I can’t ignore that my heart hurts. But I praise Jesus for giving us the opportunity to meet these families that have taught us so much, in such a short time. 

I will be back to El Salvador soon. 

Stay tuned for more updates on Highs & Lows:

"We proclaim how great you are, and tell of the wonderful things you have done." Psalm 75:1
xo Kezia Wilson

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Key Giving Celebration Day! By Ron Giesbrecht

Today is Friday and it is ‘Key Giving’ celebration day!  It was the last ride into the countryside to the community where the 30 homes had been built and to share with the families we’d come to know and love by working side by side with them.  Yesterday evening during debrief someone described the Compassion visit as Christmas Day with the opportunity to bless and share gifts, groceries and supplies with the sponsored children, their families and the Compassion Centres.  If yesterday was Christmas, today, the Key Giving Celebration was Easter!  What a celebration of God’s goodness, blessing and faithfulness!  The celebration began under several large tents set up on a soccer pitch with the Mayor of the community sharing greetings and Stuart McAllister of Shelter opening with an exhortation from 2 Chronicles.  Jenny the Shelter community liaison led everyone in several Spanish songs of praise with enthusiastic clapping!  El Salvadorians know how to celebrate!

There was an opportunity for each group of Bethany team members to share a specially selected Bible verse and a short few words of encouragement for the family they interviewed before presenting them with a key and Spanish Bible.  What a meaningful time!  The family often took the opportunity to thank God, their Canadian sisters and brothers, the community leaders and Shelter for their new house.  After the ceremony a time of prayer for the new home owners and the Canadian team was lead by Pastor Mendez.  The pastor then used the ‘Bucket of Blessing’ provided to each family as a picture of what they’d received.  He explained that the keys they received were not just physical keys to a house, rather an image of spiritual keys.  God offers us keys, the keys to his Kingdom present and eternal.  The pastor encouraged us all to open the door to God and heaven and receive the blessings he’s promised.
The broom in the Blessing Basket represented the things we all need to sweep out.  There are things in our lives we need to sweep and get rid of the dust and garbage that so easily piles up.  Things like anger, fighting, jealousy, wrong thinking.  God wants to help cleanse us spiritually because our body is a temple.  The pastor invited us to clean our physical and spiritual houses.

The Blessing Basket as a whole represented the blessings and provisions of God for each of the 30 families.  God desires to fill our mouths with good things.  God doesn’t just give a house.  He gives life.  He has control.  His greatest provision for us was his son Jesus, and the gift of salvation. 
Lastly, Pastor Mendez closed by focusing on the Spanish Bible each family received.  The Bible he emphasized was a most precious treasure.  We were encouraged to learn from the Bible because it’s a guide for life, marriage, parenting, and business.  “Your word is lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”  (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word, our Lamp is meant to guide us and keep us safe.  The pastor asked the crowd how light keeps us safe.  One lady responded, light keeps her safe from snakes.  He agreed, sin is like a snake.  It bites, and kills, but the Word of God, lights our path and helps us steer clear of sin.  What a clear and penetrating message for all of us to hear!

Then it was off to the courtyard for Piñatas.  One for the girls and one for the boys.  With great gusto the candy filled piñatas provided a great wrap up to the celebration of 30 houses for families to make into homes that would glorify God.  After a delicious lunch provided by the home owners it was a bittersweet ride out of the village back to the hotel by mid afternoon.

After a quick stop at the hotel, it was off to Amapulapa Waterpark to refresh before a tour of the market in San Vicente and dinner at the McAllister’s home.  Friday evening included a trip to the famous San Vicente clock tower and climbing over 190 steps to the top for an amazing view of the surrounding city and country.  No trip is complete without a Texaco stop for snacks with the Shelter workers and their families and tearful good byes to our dear friends and coworkers.  Debrief ends our evening trying to process and unpack the God moments and experiences of this special day and the days already experienced, anticipating with some hesitation, how to share this life changing time with those in Canada.

Ron Giesbrecht

Friday, March 16, 2018

Compassion Day by Rachel Boyd & Renee Smith

Today was an impactful day. We were able to meet personally and share memories with our compassion children. The day started off with breakfast. We had cornflakes, ham and cheese, egg salad sandwiches. We were then introduced to the translators that would be helping us throughout the day. They were very friendly and full of joy. We then had a beautiful 40 minute truck ride to the compassion center, we were greeted with open arms from our compassion children, with signs, streamers, a band, and a HUGE welcome sign. It was cool to see the smiling faces of the children lined up to parade into the compassion center.

Everyone found their seat with their children and waited for the program to begin. The children from the center sang songs in English, and we listened to a short sermon spoken by their principal. We were then split into groups then they gave us a tour of a cosmetology classroom, a normal classroom, a sewing classroom, and the principals office. After that we were given the opportunity to spend time with our children and play games with them. We then set up tables and had a chicken lunch with flan for dessert. We then gave the presents to the children, and their reactions were priceless and we cannot explain it in words. We were then sat down and shown their file which contained medical documents, report cards, compassion letters, birth certificate, and spiritual activities. After this we gave heart wrenching goodbyes to our child, their families, and everyone else who came with them.

All in all, today was a very eventful day, filled with laughter, and tears. We changed their lives just as much they changed ours. We all have plans on coming back to visit them again. As well as changing the way we view different opportunities, the difference in between a want and a need, and how we interact with people. Good day, great day, had a good time.
-Rachel and Renee   

Thursday, March 15, 2018

1, 2, 3... THIRTY! by Nicole Goodwin & Cindy Crosbie

Well, we finally made it – we built 30 houses in 2.5 days! Can you believe it? Only through God’s will was this done. We have been so blessed with incredible leadership – Canadians and El Salvadorians – that also made this all possible.

So many things to share with you about today, that a blog could not possibly describe it all. The day started with our usual trek by and oversized pick up truck – packed in like cattle – in fact we even passed a truck that had exactly that being transported! When we say we are packed in – we mean with tools (shovels, pick axes, ladders), 3 huge jugs of water, 2 large coolers, lunch container, 6 large tool boxes, back packs, huge kids ministry bag, oh, and us humans (18 of us on each truck!).  We also had the usual heated conditions (35 degrees Celsius) but something was different today. There was a great energy amongst our teams.

The first build we did was in a bit of a precarious location. They were trying to tell us we needed to walk 1km with all of our tools etc. to the site – there was no way to drive in. Well, if you know how El Salvadorians talk, you would guess that 1km may actually mean 3 km! So I(Nicole!) begged to get a little closer with the truck. Little did we know that we would be going down the narrowest of narrow, bumpiest of bumpy ‘trails’ with the truck. Thanks to Omar and his excellent driving skills we made it to a respectable distance. We had to get a hose lifted, and use someone’s driveway to turnaround, but we did it!

This couple had been living in a very small house with 14 others for the last few years. Today, they got their own home. This man was so particular about his home, he wiped the dirt off the windows and doors – he was so proud to have his own home.
The hit of the whole trip was Cindy’s polaroid camera. She pulled it out at every site to give the families pictures of their homes. The kids loved seeing themselves in print and kept returning for more. She also tried to share some candy, black licorice, she is always trying to share snacks. Let’s just say next time, she will bring the red licorice!

One story that stuck out to me today was that of a young single mother of a two year old boy – Reynaldo. I got to meet him and was responsible for this young boy while his mother was interviewing. I thought, no problem, I’m a mom, a teacher, I can handle this. Well, he had A LOT of energy! It brought back memories of when my kids were young – chasing after them – don’t touch this, don’t touch that. But watching a 2 year old in El Salvador is a whole different story – don’t lean on that fence(it’s made of sheet metal and will cut you badly), don’t go over there (you’ll fall 15ft down) – a lot more to think about! And this little guy did NOT want to sit still! Can you imagine? She is 24 years old, on her own with her boy (who also has some serious health issues) – she is exhausted! Despite her 24/7 role as mom, she also single handedly cleared her land (mind you it took her an entire month!) for us to be able to build on. I was so happy that I could provide her with 30 minutes of time to talk to 2 ladies from our team to share her story with them.

We hoped to go to Ama Pulapa Waterpark today with the community but our priority was to get all of the homes built and couldn’t quite make it in time as 30 homes in 2.5 sets a new Shelter Canada and Bethany Church record!

After getting showered up we went off to the supermarket to get some groceries for tomorrow’s Compassion Centre visit. Looking forward to what it is store!
Love ya!
Cros and Nicole

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Day 2

Tuesday March 13
The task was accomplished of building 12 homes and changing 11 families yesterday but for me and my family, our hearts have been impacted deeply by the love and kindness shown to us by these lovely people.  When I saw Naomi who we built a home for the following day I called her name across a busy work site and the smile she gave me warmed my heart. As she ran to hug me so tightly I felt a bond from her as she is my sister in the Lord and a mother of a son and daughter as I am. We share a lot but so little.   The people here have touched me more that I could have imagined as I have travelled a lot but never been into homes of people who have so little in material but so much love for life and loyalty to family.  The kids want to learn English and my husband set up an English class. It warmed my heart to see Kezia and Fred laughing with the kids of all ages.  Praise God!  Hoping you can pray for our remaining days here for our team.  

Build Day 2 - by Jeff & Brenda Suggett

Team Bethany has just finished our 2nd Build Day. Like yesterday, we managed to build 12 houses, making the total for the two days 24 houses! It’s amazing to think about the lives that we have impacted so far – when you consider the number of people that will be living in each house and the room that they have left in the houses that they left behind. We estimate that we have touched the lives of over 200 people so far.

Today was much smoother than yesterday as we all learned our roles as a team and really connected with the El Salvadoran Build Team and the local people who were helping us on the job site. We were awestruck as to how the local people really wanted to help out with tasks, particularly the hard ones like digging holes in the rocky soil that were required for the frame to go into. Some of the local people were tireless in their efforts – working in the hot sun throughout the day.

One of the highlights that Brenda, Carson, Emily and I had was interviewing a couple, Franklin and Anna Margarita with their daughter Mikela. Franklin and Anna Margarita currently live with his parents in a very small home that is very crowded. Franklin is 20 years old and Anna Margarita is 16 years old. Their daughter is 1 ½ years old. We were struck at how young they were to be starting their life together. Franklin works on a farm that is 1 ½ hours away by horse. There he grows beans and corn. Franklin told us that he makes 3$ a day and they would never be able to purchase or buy the materials to build a home like the one we built for them. We shared with them that we did this because we wanted to show the love of Jesus to them and wanted to have our hearts open to learning about the people of El Salvador and being able to participate in this project. They thanked God for the wonderful gift of a home. As we took their picture in front of their newly built home, they were so happy!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Build day of firsts

It was a day of firsts for the Bethany team!  Half of the team just got back to the hotel after the longest build day ever and it’s 8pm.  The other truck with half of our team are still on the road as I write this and we haven’t even had supper yet.  We had 6 different build teams working on houses today, with each team building 2 homes  (some in communities that had never had homes built before).   That’s a first! And in total that makes 12 homes completed in one day!  How incredible is that?

Although it’s late and we are in serious need of showers, we’re hungry and pretty much exhausted.  But when you hear the stories we heard today you will know why it is so absolutely worth it.  One of the families that received a home this afternoon was Andreas (age 70) and his wife Paula (age 55).  Their grandson, Jose (age 18), will also be living with them.  Andreas became a Christian 16 years ago when he accepted Jesus Christ into his heart.  He said his life changed completely after he knew Jesus as his Saviour.  Before that he was an alcoholic for many years and his wife and children suffered greatly because of it.  He became a changed man, and when Paula saw the difference in Andreas life, she accepted Jesus in her heart as well. 

Andreas said that there was no way he could ever afford a house, like the one we were building for him.  As a farmer all of his life, he could barely provide for his family. He knew this was God’s blessing in their lives and he couldn’t be more thankful!  Paula said that in the morning she went to another build site and saw one of the houses we were building.  She couldn’t believe how beautiful the house was!  She came home and cried that she would receive such a beautiful house this afternoon.  She had never seen a Shelter house before.

Their old house was ready to fall down, they told us.  They were worried that it would actually cave in on them.  In the rain season, they had to put buckets out for all the rain that came in their roof.  Now they couldn’t believe they would have a roof that doesn’t leak.  What incredible joy to see their happiness and thankfulness.  We praise God for what He can accomplish through us as we give of our lives for His service.