Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Future

While we can never be so bold as to claim a certainty regarding the future. I would like to believe that the Lord can give us an indication about the direction he wants our attention to go. That's what Friday was like.
As team leaders, already with a love and a desire to serve the people of El Salvador, we were challenged to look beyond our own perspectives and see what God might be doing with us (our teams) next.
First, Pastor Jorge and Maritza shared their appreciation for the what the teams from Canada have brought to this area, and they also shared their personal struggle with: stamina to meet the demands of ministry (of which our teams are only a part), a desire to see their children walking with the Lord, and the endless needs around them. They asked us to continue to pray for their church, and the people who are calling it home and for their desire to plant churches and empower leaders in strategic areas who will care for others in those areas.
Next, we heard from Pastor Ricard and Adonai, both of whom gave us a clear picture of the immense poverty that exists in El Salvador. They also shared their strategy to meet those needs with the love of Jesus Christ. A "non-traditional" approach, is what they call it. Instead of planting a church first, they send a mission-minded family into a new area, who will be their contact people. Through this family and the contacts they make, they will pray about and seek to meet the real tangible needs of those in the community. Through the relationships that this fosters they will, lord-willing, establish a group of people who desire to know more about the generous, sacrificial nature of the love of Christ, and ultimately a "church family" will be established....love it!! The similarity of what we're called to do at the SEMC and these national leaders in El Salvador is amazing.
Third, we heard from two families, the Berstads and the McCallisters. I've referenced their blog on the right side of our blog. They each have 4 young children and have moved down to El Salvador for at least one year. They have sacrificed much, they have suffered loss despite what many would consider a "noble" cause and yet they have persevered to do what God is calling them to do, despite the difficulties they have faced or will face. Their desire is to build 12 houses during this year, with the hope of helping each family they build for in a more significant, tangible and personal manner than you can in a one week trip. They will also provide support for Pastor Jorge in assisting the teams as they come to El Salvador. There is so much I could share about them, but in the end my heart is too full to express it adequately. I just know that we can also help them, pray for them and support them in many ways.
Lastly, as team leaders, we took all of the info that we have shared in meetings over the course of two days, as well as our years of experience, and discussed and discerned what are the next steps, going forward.
We all agree, that there is still work the Lord has for us to do. We all agree that lives are being brought into the Kingdom of God as a result of what we've already done. However, going forward we want to be very intentional about providing a long lasting sustainable manner for the churches in El Salvador to have continuing ministry in the areas that we are working. We believe these new partnerships mentioned above will be a strategic part of what happens in the future. We also feel that we need to be careful not to deal people according to our relative abundance, but according to their need. Most of all we need to be careful to go forward prayerfully, discerning what the Lord desires for us to do among the people here.

Thank you for your continued prayer.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Different Kind of Day

After four days of constant activity, Thursday was certainly a different day. We stayed at our hotel and had meetings all day. As team leaders we were given presentations on "God's View of Mission" and the History of Missions in the EMCC (it is pretty amazing to understand how we fit into God's call to reach all people), we went through the "Training Manual" in hopes of revising it to contain the best information for people considering coming to El Salvador. There was a presentation and discussion: building houses, on holding Medical Clinics and I gave a presentation on the process of holding an Eye Glass Clinics. The goal of these sessions was to allow the other groups to see what everyone else was doing down here, and how God is using us all together to make a difference. From that perspective, the interaction was surprisingly very good all day. Our last presentation of the night was by the El Salvador Police, which basically reinforced our current practices of staying safe in the midst of an active drug and gang environment.

Would we have preferred to be outside building houses? Not today. By mid morning a violent wind rose up, the skies darkened and the rain (and hail) came pounding down on the metal roofs and water filled the streets. As we drove to supper later in the day, we noticed that some houses within this city were blown over...the need is endless...
The temperature likely dipped below 30 degrees. Don't worry, I'm willing to suffer. Thankfully I had a sweater that I could put on.
Friday promises to be an engaging day, as we contemplate the future in El Salvador. We would appreciate your prayer, as always.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Well, today was got off to an exciting start, as we travelled back up into the mountains to hold a medical clinic and an eye glass clinic. If you ever heard talk of the way we get transported, then you'll know that most often we are in the back of a pickup truck that has steel rails on either side, kind of like a small cattle truck (in fact they transport animals in these same trucks here). Anyway, confusion on the highway ( a truck two vehicles in front indicated that he was going left when instead he was actually stopping on the right shoulder). The ensuing domino effect left: long black skid marks...on the road, a pile up of people in the back of the pickup (fortunately there was only six of us) and gratitude for excellent brakes and no injuries...that's life in El Salvador.

The clinics were amazing. At the medical clinic hundreds of people were seen by 2 local doctors and one nurse. They were given prescriptions and were able to receive free medication for their various ailments. Can you imagine waiting in line for 3-5 hours with no water or no food, to receive a free bottle of tylenol? Yet that's what dozens of people did, without complaining and in an orderly manner.

The eye glass clinic was also a tremendous success and a great blessing. Well over 200 hundred people came through, most of them we were able to help. So many happy faces. One of our guys, said that when they leave the clinic, it's like on "American Idol Auditions", where they leave the building and run to their friends and family to tell them they received help. A wave of joy was spilling out into the streets. By the afternoon, we had the leaders of the other teams helping people with their glasses, two line ups of people being seen. And to top it of, Felix (the man we built the house for) came and we were able to provide him with some replacement glasses. The Lord is so good!! None of the other teams had experienced this before so we it exciting to share this piece of the Sarnia contribution with them. Thanks especially to Dr. Gordon Warren, Amanda and Pim & Coby for preparing another batch of glasses before I came!!

Each person who came to the clinics had their names and addresses (or approximate geographical location) recorded and will be visited by the local church after we leave. Please pray for the continued work of God's Spirit among the people of this town Victoria in the region of Cabanas.

Thanks for your continued prayer and support. Tomorrow (Thursday) we have meetings to discuss and discern what the next steps will be for the EMCC's involvement in El Salvador. It should be a very interesting time as we now have a greater understanding of each other, the love the Lord has given our respective churches for this country and the needs of the people here.

Astaa luego,


Along The Road

Yesterday (Monday), on our winding, twisting, bumpy, sometimes scary, ride back to the village, we had offered to also take 3 teachers along with us in the back of the truck, plus all our equipment. That made for fairly tight quarters on this wild, slow, 20 minute ride. One question that we asked to the teachers: "How do you normally get back and forth to work at the school?"...their answer, "we walk". It takes them forty five minutes to walk this road, they do it twice a day, when it's hot like it is now, and when it's rainy like it will be in a few weeks. That's dedication and love for their community! I am humbled by their willingness, and the evident joy they possess for what they do.

Along the road of life you also pick up alot of "people" that affect you one way or another. Tonight in our debrief meeting, we all were asked to take a turn to share a significant moment from our day and a personal prayer request. Interesting...would we embrace this time or because of our unfamiliarity with each other would we let it slip by. Those were my thoughts, but I'm sure I wasn't alone.

I am learning to see El Salvador through the way God has worked in the lives of these leaders, but I'm also learning what these leaders are carrying along their road of life. So many deep hurts, burdens for close family members and disappointments. And yet God is continuing to call them and use them in their local communities and church families and in El Salvador. I was humbled by their willingness to serve, and the evident faithful joy in the Lord they possess for what they do...may it be so in my life too.


Monday, March 7, 2011

A New Beginning

Cabanas (pronounced Cab-an-yas) - that's what they call it, in english it means "cabins). 93 families, almost 1000 people, considered by the El Salvadorian government to be the poorest of the poor, tucked in a valley between two mountain peaks. One road in that hugs the mountain, barely, and gives way on the other side to a vertical drop of 700-1000ft. We inched along this trail to build the first house in this new location. We couldn't get near the site by truck and therefore had to carry all the building materials and tools in by hand, down a narrow, winding, rising and falling, rock laden path.

Is it worth it? I think we all asked ourselves that, as we drove the 1.5 hours to get the area, and then drove the mountain pass, and then carried everything in slowly by hand. Did I mention it was hot? Really hot? I even wore a hat!!

Three things that stand out for me today. The first, was hearing from a man named Adonai, who has worked with Campus Crusade for Christ for 35 years in El Salvador. Among the many things he shared with us, this stood out. They (CCC) have realized the importance of not only sharing the message of salvation, but also demonstrating the gospel message. They have recently begun work in this area and the EMCC is hoping to partner with them, and a local church to bring the message, verbally, literally, and physically to them. I was blown away by what the Lord is doing globally. Creating an awareness among Christians all over the world of the need to bring good works with the good news. The second highlight, therefore is all the more awe-inspiring, because with this message being shared, the first home owner of this area - Felix ( a man twice a widower, who is raising three children)- accepted Christ as His Saviour. They have lived in their "cabin" for years, they barely eat two meals a day, one meal consists of half a bowl of salt, with a jalapeno pepper and a tortilla. His daughter has had an ear problem, he has poor eye sight and old glasses that no longer have the arms, but he strings them around his head in the hopes that they will work. Is it worth it? You should ask Felix who also, in addition to receiving a new home (from the Lord), was also told that there was a medical clinic and an eye glass clinic happening in the town on Wednesday. Amazing!!

The third thing is that it turns out the typing for a living does not toughen your hands up, and forgetting your work gloves in Sarnia really makes that obvious. I have blisters on top of blisters and blisters on places on my hands that I didn't know it was possible to have blisters, and it turns out that carrying aluminum sheets that have been sitting in 40 degree sunshine without gloves is really painful on your blisters, and that all the contractor, builder guys that are on this team find that a source of amusement.

One more thing...I was asked this morning to preach at the Wednesday night church service. The Lord had impressed upon me last week, the passage in Genesis 21 about Hagar and Ishmael being sent away by Abraham. So hopefully between tomorrow and Wednesday, I can figure out why. Thanks for praying...The Lord is at work here and it's a privilege to be one small part of it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


After a very long journey to arrive at our hotel, it is good to be in El Salvador (especially since there is no snow!!).
When our team was last here, in October we spent part of our last day walking through a new area, San Antonio des Caminos. It was an area that was more dilapidated than any we had previously seen. The road was impassable by truck, therefore we walked slowly past shacks made of sticks and plastic, people with little or no food & water, evidence of sickness and the stench of feces rose up as the sun dried away the little water that had previously covered it over.
As a group we felt genuine sorrow which was further heightened by Pastor Jorge's obvious heart-breaking compassion. So we gathered and prayed, cried and prayed and then left.
Today, we drove where we could barely walk, there are 31 houses built in that area and plans for more to continue. There is joy in the eyes of the people and what is more, many of them have started to attend the church in San Vicente because of the kindness shown to them (Isa. 58).
What a powerful message God gave through people, in our church service tonight, people of San Felipe (where we have built houses) and San Antonio (where we prayed for houses), together with us english-speaking Canadians and the people of San Vicente. The church was filled to overflowing, people standing on the sidewalks around the building, singing and praising the "God of this City"!!

We have all contributed to what God is doing here.

Tomorrow (Monday) we are heading off to see a new area, visit with a new pastor, and meet new people - in the hopes of discerning another region of El Salvador that the Lord may be preparing for us to be involved.

Thanks for your prayer...I'm praying for you too.


Friday, March 4, 2011


I'm not sure if you can ever be ready to leave the comforts of home and the people you love. But when it's time to go you must go, no matter what. Here's one thing I realized yesterday: I have no clue how to manage myself day to day, on a mission trip. Yes I have been on 2 of them in the last 2 years. Yes, I have led the teams as a whole. I have organized and arranged details. I have handled finances and logistics. But actually knowing what to bring each day I'm gone is different. Amanda took care of all that. I just carried the backpack which she organized.

The other thing I realized is that it is not so much fun to leave without a group. I love the travel (right now I'm in a bus station in London, ON), including flying. But going with a group of people has been as awesome and fun experience - I miss our team, too.

With all that I miss, I do know this: the Lord has something for me to do, something for me learn, something for me to change and something for me to pursue. And maybe this time of solitude before meeting the members of this team will help me prepare to do be open to what He wants to do with my life. That's the way I'm praying...thanks for praying along with me.