Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Did we mention it rained....

You may have heard that our week in El Salvador was impacted by rain. It's possible to process that information through our own understanding of "rain". On Saturday night on our way to our Airport Hotel, we had to be re-routed because the Highway was closed due to mudslides and accidents. We drove past many mudslides along the circuitous (code for we got lost and had to be directed back) route to our destination. When we awoke in the morning, many streets and roads were closed because of the damage sustained through the night.

As it turns out, we received over 1 metre (3 feet) of rain during our time in El Salvador. Thousands of people in lower lying regions have been evacuated from their homes (again) and the loss of life continues to climb.

Yes, we are safe and back at home...but we are sobered by the reality that many people, for whom God has given us a love, do not have those options...what we do is so necessary...Have you ever stood inside a shack made of branches and mud, watched the water stream between your feet (remember you are inside)? Have you ever seen the walls disintegrate before your eyes or watched the rain leak onto the only bed you have for your family of 6. Have you ever stared out the window to clothes that hang on a line waiting...hoping...for the sun to come out and dry them? Have you ever watched the rain rushing down the rock riddled roads and wonder, where is it going, where will it collect and who will be at the bottom...?

So some may say we should be thankful for being removed and for being safe and dry and we are. But, the greater feeling is not a desire to revel in my comfortable surroundings and hear words of "well done" or "you're fortunate to be home". No, my greatest desire is to evaluate my gratitude knowing that a family of 3, 5 or 11 have a more resounding Spirit of Praise and Thanksgiving, making $40/month and living in a place that I find hard to just visit for a few days.

Am I deep-to-the-core-thankful for My God who loves me and saves me and gives me life or am I thankful for the comfort I live in? It's another reminder that I have so much yet to learn. Thanks to those who are willing learn along with me.


Here's what the news has to say about it:

The death toll from torrential rains in Central America over the past week has almost doubled since Saturday, with a further 25 lives lost in El Salvador.

A tropical depression that swept in from the Pacific on Wednesday caused mudslides and chaos on roads and forced thousands of people to abandon their homes in the chain of countries between Mexico and South America, killing 81 so far.

On Saturday, the death toll stood at 45 in the region, home to some of the poorest countries in the Americas. El Salvador, a nation of about 6 million people, was the worst affected overnight, with accidents pushing up the number of victims there to 32.

"The situation has got even worse. It's still raining heavily in various parts of the country," El Salvador's president, Mauricio Funes, said in an address late on Sunday.

Many of those killed in the country died in mudslides, an official from the local emergency services said.

The rainfall was so strong in the area around the municipality of Ciudad Arce, north-west of San Salvador, that rescue operations had to be suspended for a time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Internet service has been a bit spotty due to the extreme rain, so I haven´t posted as much as I had wanted. Despite being awoken by the pounding rain most of the night, I do realize that it is nothing, compared to what thousands of people face everyday in the poverty of this beautiful country. In the humidity nothing dries completely and the bed (floor) that you are sleeping on gets washed away in the mud. Wow! Perspective is an awesome gift. As others have mentioned, our day on Thursday visiting 2 Compassion projects was overwhelming, humbling, and precious. Fireworks, marching bands, balloons and El Salvador flag pins were only the beginning. The amount of love and passion that the workers shared for their ´kids´was truly awe inspiring. God´s love is clearly evident in all of their hearts.
We met my sponsored child, Bessy, during the first project visit. They had to drive her, her mother, and little sister almost 3 hours to meet us. They announced the meeting from the stage, so that everyone could see us meet for the first time. It was a little awkward, especially since I found out that Bessy had not received my last correspondence which included a picture of our family. So, she didn´t even know what I looked like! I can only imagine how she felt. It must have been very overwhelming for her. Bessy is from a small village and has never been to a ´city´before. I can´t begin to imagine the rollercoaster of emotions she was feeling that day.
When we went to visit the home of one of the project children, I couldn´t believe my eyes. I asked our interpreter what in the world we were doing in the middle of a car graveyard. He told me that this is where most of those kids lived. What!? While walking through the rows of discarded vehicles, I remembered what I drove back in Canada, then I saw a Ford. But there was a bigger story to be told and it wouldn´t come from the ghosts in the junkyard. Along each side of the public property that housed these relics, were created subdivisions littered with shacks where people have tried desperately to create ´homes´for their families. As I was seated on the porch of the first house, holding Bessy in my lap, I asked her what her casa was like. A few tears were shed while she described a very similar picture like the one we were seeing. But, her family only had 2 beds for the four of them, and she often slept on the floor.
At the 2nd project I had a chance to spend some one-on-one time with her and her family. Out came the gifts. Her 10th birthday is October 25th so I bought her a doll. I instantly knew, that the doll should have been the connection between us right from the start. Her smile lit the room like the dawning of the morning sun, as she realized that it was for her to keep. Her mom reservedly smiled at the hairbrush and accessories which she recieved. Then we had some photos taken so that we could cherish that moment for a lifetime.
Next time, she said, she wants me to bring my husband.
Lets pray for ¨next times¨.

The turning of the tide

Allot has changed since we were here last year. Homes go up faster, cement floors are done at an almost professional level, a sence of community and trust is increasing and God's love is spreading. We are seeing opportunities for sustainment begin to happen with the sowing center and the goats. We see men not sitting around watching but wanting to be a part of what's going on.
There is still much to be done - the amount of rain here is unbelievable which makes living in a mud hut a little dicy to say the least. It was hard to buid in the rain and the mud. I was actually cold and soaked to the bone. Imagine that, cold in El Salvador.
We had a visit with Compassion on Thursday = they treated us like roylaty complete with marching bands, fireworks and confetti. it was a little hard to handle and very humbling but Compassion is a well oiled machine and very impressive. We had some house visits in the community while we were there which was hard to see. the poverty is unreal. At least in San Phillipe were we are building the country side is beautiful but where we were with Compassion it was worse - it's really another area we need to target and God willing it will happen.


Friday, October 14, 2011


Today I said goodbye to old and new friends. It was emotional. It is always emotional, but this time there was a greater sence of anticipation of what the Lord might do in the lives of the girls and woman we connected with. This week left me heartbroken for them. I saw first hand the difference between a woman in El Salvador with confidence and purpose and those who had none. Theresa is a single mother. Her life is hard. She needed a home built for her because she did not have one. Their is a light inside of Theresa that shines in her smile, her warm embraces and in her generosity. Theresa has purpose. Theresa has hope. Emily is a young girl maybe 8 years old. She is already a leader. All week she helped me, and stood with me as I spent time with the children. Pray for Emily. Pray she will become an empowered woman with an influence in her community. Gladia is another single mother who recieved a house. She lost her husband a year ago and in now alone with her 5 children. When I asked her how she can make a difference in her community she was at a lost. She is consumed with her day to day struggles and yet she is such a strong woman who has amazing potential.
Leisha and I had the opportunity to speak with our friends Stephanie and Rosa. We talked about purpose and their future and then prayed with them to accept the Lord as their Saviour. How awesome our God is. He blessed us with a wonderful translator with a heart for these girls. All the details had been worked out. We only needed to be here.

Joy and Joe

Tracks In The Mud

It is always a wonder when you see tracks in the mud isn´t it? Where are they going? Where did they come from? Who do they belong to? In all the rain that we´ve had, there have been many tracks left in the mud and I do hope they serve as a reminder that God has been and will be in this place.
However the tracks in the mud that I´m writing about right now are much more difficult to speak of. They are not so sweetly symbolic. They are actual tracks. Railroad tracks that lead to and come to rest along the saddest of shacks I have ever seen. As miserable as this rain has been I can´t imagine the life inside these shacks along the tracks in the mud. The water rapidly pours down the slopes and comes to rest within the shacks where a woman, her husband and 3 little boys live. No electricty and no clean water except for that that runs along the floors of her home. All their lifes belongings hang from the shabby ceiling in a hammock and they sleep in a small space not bigger than 5´x5´. They go to bed at 5pm because after that they cannot see. If it rains too hard thay can´t cook on the fire. Their children get a cup of coffee and small piece of bread for breakfast, beans for lunch, beans for supper and if there is money perhaps a tortilla with supper. A shack along the tracks in the mud. God knows where they are. God knows where they have come from and because of prayer and the Hope that rests in Jesus....God knows where the will be going. Pray for the direction of the tracks in the mud....that they would go in the direction of Jesus!


Is this really happening?

Maybe you've heard that our internet has been sketchy at best...so I'm typing fast!!!

So many times over the last several days, we've caught ourselves saying just that, Is this really happening?

It was certainly mentioned at the job site on Wednesday. As we slopped around in the mud and sunk into sink holes, we were wondering... As we put up that house in the pouring rain, while hearing about other parts of the country washing away, we wondered. But somehow, that house went up and a father that had been sleeping outside in this weather to protect his belongings had a roof over his head at last.

There's no question it was whispered under our breath over and over again on Thursday as we travelled to 2 Compassion projects. Oh my! NEver, and I mean never, in my life have I been a part of something like that. We were treated like royalty out in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. And as we wondered down railway tracks to visit children in their homes - and I use that word carefully - we said it right out loud. Thankfully, my anxiety meds kept me from totally losing it, but still, I was bawling like a baby and my beloved husband as well as many other team members - matched me tear for tear.

This morning, it is pouring again. Is this really happening? It would seem so. God brought us here and we're determined to finish well.

Love to all,

Thursday, October 13, 2011


dear El Salvador,
We've experienced the rain and then the rain and then the rain some more. It's been great but please leave now.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Three years ago when I first came to ElSalvador I met two young girls. Beautiful girls. Innocent girls. Full of life and smiles. Eager to communicate with the Canadians and to be a part of what we were doing in their village. Behind their smiles and deep brown eyes are stories...many of them sad, but they hid them well. They had a home built for them at one time and sadly their father slowly sold their home piece by piece for alcohol.
Here we are this week and those girls are back. But they look different. They are different. They carry a burden that is becoming too heavy for them. They are teetering on the fence of innocence. They are desperate to feel love and they are seeking to be loved. They are willing to give themselves away for what they believe is love. They are desperate for the love of a father and they don't see value in themselves or who God has fashioned them to be. They are insecure and and have no dreams. They are caught in a cycle that must be broken. It is heartbreaking and they are only 2 of many many beautiful girls.
As a team last night we prayed specifically in regard to this. That in someway, in the short time that we are here that we would be able to speak into the lives of these two girls in particular and that God would also provide opportunities for long term relationships to be established with these girls and others so that dramatic change could take place. That they might become empowered women who have a voice and can fulfill their dreams as God has planned for them. Praise God the He is so incredible that He answered one of those prayers. Here in ElSalvador it would not work to have a man as our interpreter with the girls and unfortunately as wonderful as our interpreter is....he is a man. Tonight we got news that we have found a female interpreter so that a couple of women on the team might be able to build on those relationships and be led by God to talk to and pour into the lives of these girls. This is so amazing. This is God right here...right now! If you are reading these, please pray specifically for Rosa and Estefani (Stephanie) and for all the young women of ElSalvador. God has brought them to our attention and we need to pray for them.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Muddy Feet and Happy Hearts

Mud, mud and more mud. Today was a wet day. Water mixed with dirt makes for a lot of mud. Mud mixed with dozens of feet makes for more mud. It is one thing getting dirty and cleaning up, but there is something a little bit awful about getting dirty, dirtier, and then finally filthy and staying that way for hours.
I have never been more aware of the poverty here as I am this year. Extreme water and mud is a big eye opener of what these people live in day in and day out.
One man, who is recieveing a house tomorrow, tore his old one down only to have to sleep in the torrential downpours of the last two nights under a tarp.Today he smiled as he spoke of the hope of a better future.
Joy and Joe

Monday, October 10, 2011

Keep on Trucking

I'm beginning to see that the truck ride, especially after having been at the job site all day, is one of my favourite parts to the day. Sure, I've often wondered how often the brakes get checked, and really, how many people that vehicle is supposed to hold, and Stan and I both know that they sure aren't using low sulphur diesel either! Yikes. After being drenched in sweat mixed in with creamy sunscreen, there's nothing better than having the red dirt cling to all the skin that is showing on your body.......then, standing in the back of the truck while the breeze flies through your hair, the odd stray branch clips your neck, or the pelting bugs on your face and sunglasses while the sweat and sunscreen on your body slowly dries the dirt that is resting there. Honestly though, that is my favourite part of the day; to enjoy that bird's eye view of everything beautiful that surrounds us. And even everything that isn't beautiful seems to capture your heart and imagination as you try and picture the story behind the story. The endless stray dogs, the endless bean/fruit/vegetable stands lining the roadway, the cows/goats tied to the fences while they graze away as cars and trucks zoom past them constantly. I especially enjoy staring at the mist in the mountains in the morning as we're climbing the steeps hills and love seeing the shadows on the mountains from cloud cover as we end our work day. It's even more vivid than being on the back of Nick's motorcycle. Although, the bike helmet would come in handy to keep me from being pelted with bugs and dirt.

Pastor Jorge & pb&j sandwiches

As many of you will know, pastor Jorge was involved in a life-threatening accident earlier this year. While much of his recovery has been miraculous, he still has a long road to travel to regain full health & strength. In fact, he just had another operation in the last few weeks, to take bone from his hip and insert it into his damaged thigh. (Yuck. I can't believe I'm writing this!) The recovery from this particular procedure is expected to take up to 3 months. The emotional toll on both himself and his wife, Maritza has also been overwhelming. While he rests and heals, he has stepped down from ministry while still living in his private family quarters behind the church. Even though he is not in the service, the sound of voices raised in song still reaches his bed whenever a service is taking place. I trust that is uplifting for him. Immediately upon arriving in San Vicente, Deve & I were asked to visit with Pastor Jorge. Gulp! Definite deep breath on my part, as I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of blood or medical machinery, etc. Deve took a little peak under the covers, but not me...no way!! Otherwise, I managed and I'm very thankful for that!!
And as for pb&j sandwiches, they are still a miserable sight at noon every day. All damp and smushed together from the heat. Ugh! Why, oh why, do they have to be so mushy? It's a trial, I admit it. On this Thanksgiving Day, I count my many, many blessings. The sandwiches? I'm still working up to full thankfulness for those!!

The first day is always the hardest day. It is so hot. Hotter than you can even anticipate. We are not building so their is little physical effort, but it is challenging. A lot of times I found myself wondering how I got here. Riding on the back of the truck, careening down the streets teeming with activity, I at once feel completely at home and somewhat in shock of my surroundings. We visited the people we will build for today. That is always a treat. I try to make immediate contact. A touch on the arm, a smile, a hug. It is never unwelcome. The moment I lay my hand on their arm they grasp at mine. We share something. They know they are valuable and I know they are valuable. I see them. Do we not all long to be seen? To be known? To at least feel someone else cares?
One house we are building will be for a mother and her 5 children. When asked where her husband was she was overcome with emotion telling us that he passed away a year ago. Her pain became our pain as we listened and tried to convey our sypathy. A hug did not seem to suffice. The extra squeeze on her arm did not appease my desire to talk with her, weep with her. It was hard. I trust that the holy spirit whispered our prayers into her heart and offered a measure of comfort.
We had the honor to pray with a family whose daughter is in the hospital with severe, life threatening burns. To be able to share prayers, and tears with this family was a gift from the Lord. Our hearts were joined in sorrow and hope, and though there was little else to do it was enough.
Oh how mighty is our Lord. His heart is all consuming.
Joy and Joe


Today, as well as being able to see our building locations for this year, we got to revisit some of the houses that our team has built in the past. One of the families told us how they had to pray and trust God to even get the little corner of a field to build on which was an incredible blessing that they're still very happy about. It shows me how we forget the good stuff so quickly and focus mostly our dissapointments and don't appreciate the blessings God has given us. Another place we visited with a few houses our team built last year had really taken good care of their place; planting beautiful gardens and had a hanging plant made from wire lined with a garbage bag and a pet bird in a cage made from chicken wire. Then just up the road was another house with a few people there. As we got there they were talking to us and Carlos, our translator, wasn't quite there yet so we weren't quite sure what they were saying but it didn't seem to make sense and concerned us with the knife one of them was holding. We soon realized it was because the armadillo that was sitting out was caught last night and is supper tonight for them. So we were treated with a lesson in how to gut and prepare an armadillo for cooking. Surprisingly I found it rather fascinating and exciting to watch.
ps his little tongue was sticking out :P

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Red Light---Green Light

Sunday night, when asked my initial thoughts on our journey thus far, I was at a loss for words. Not because of having nothing to say, but more the not knowing how I should express in words what I see with my eyes and and feel in my heart. For some reason, from the moment I stepped off the plane, to this very moment, I have felt a very real sense of familiarity with my surroundings. Is it because I've seen lots of pictures in the past couple years from the other teams, or is it the similarities I see in the landscape and in the peoples' faces that I saw in Bolivia a few years ago, or is it just that sense of recalling a passion for missions that I had experienced in Bible college? Perhaps, it is a little bit everything and maybe it's something that just hasn't happened yet. That's what keeps me on edge.
Reversing roles at the customs/immigration counter was enlightening. Knowing only 2 or 3 words in Spanish, the young man filled in all the blanks for me as I kept smiling and nodding my head at his questions. Then, when the interview was done, he said, "Welcome to El Salvador". How many people had I had the patience for over the past 15 years, and told them "Welcome to Canada"? Not many. Humbling experience number one. The red light green light experience is alive and well in El Salvador just like I had heard about Mexico from my friends and family! I got the green light! While waiting for our transportation to arrive at the airport, an armoured vehicle slowly drives by, with a young soldier perched on top in full camo at "the ready"! I assumed he wasn't looking for bear or deer; and I sure hoped he wasn't looking for any 'gringos' either! Humbling experience #2; meeting single moms who have multiple children to care for and number one on their list is trying to make sure that they are fed. Wow! Just thinking of all that money spent on travel hockey for Jared almost seemed like insanity. Through IJM I've already begun to realize that the number one job of most marginalized persons in developing countries is just to survive. Could I not work, and provide a home for my kid(s)? Would my family be there to help me? Would I still trust in God for everything, if I had nothing? It's pretty easy sitting in a padded pew telling the the Lord and others how much I care, while being surrounded by all the comforts that the North American lifestyle tells me I should have and which I deserve. However, it is very heartening listening to the stories of these folks that we will be building houses for. They are very good teachers.



We spent the day visiting families we are building homes for. The first two families lived in a very cramped and confined space. As you would expect you the homes were so bad you wouldn't let your dog sleep in there. I found these two locations especially difficult. In the two times i've been here we've seen some pretty lowly homes but these two were pure squallar - the worst i've seen and the worst i've smelled.
I couldn't help but thank God for the life he has blessed me with. Why I live were I live and not in some garbage heap is beyond me. Ultimately it doesn't matter. What matters is what I do with that. I'm thankful that i have this opportunity to give back and to share my blessings with others who are much less fortunate. I'm thankful that we get to share in the joy that these families will experience when they walk through their thressholds for the first time...I'm thankful that these families will share their lives with us. Finally i'm thankful that God has chosen this time for us to be here, to be His hands and His feet. What a priveledge.


Hmm....what to write so that it paints a picture of what I experienced today and takes you on the journey with us....
Those sweet big brown eyes and beautiful smiles of all the children always flood my heart with joy...they are definately some of God´s best work! Returning to villages where houses have been previously built and seeing the families thriving and still greatful for God´s blessings is so fulfilling. Karen....Adonai is doing well...Took a recent picture and thought of you as soon as I saw him.
As wonderful as so many of the experiences are here...some are so heart wrenching and hard to bear. Thankful that we can hand them all over to God . This afternoon we met two families who are experiencing such an enormous burden. They are related, an eight year old carrying a ten month old and the baby pulled a pot of boiling water onto the both of them. Although the eight year old is healing well, the 10 month old is still in hospital requiring possible skin graph. Please pray for God´s power of healing. For the children and for the families.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Collecting Memories

When the plane landed, and I once again walked in this beautiful country, my heart was full of anticipation. I was ready for the smells, the sights, and the delightful smiles so readily given. I was not disapointed. The year is different, the team is different, yet our purpose remains the same. We honour the Lord with our willing hearts to be used, and in turn are blessed to be a part of something so much bigger than ourselves.
The first smile to old friends, the warm embraces, and shared laughter is imprinted upon my heart in my collection of memories. I want to savour each moment. I know how fast the week unfolds. I watch, I listen, I hug as many people as I can.
I love the Lord that brought me here.
I´ll sleep tonight thinking of loved ones back home as much as anticipating another day.
Joy...and Joe

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I know this is a bit early for our Canadian friends and family, but really, how can we not be thankful. My heart has been humbled, yet again, by the way in which the Lord has prepared this team for what lies ahead over the next 10 days.
He has provided the funds. He has provided the team. He has provided a tremendously encouraging, generous and compassionate church family. He has provided clothing, vitamins, and all kinds of supplies for the children of El Salvador. He has provided a new partnership with Compassion International (Thursday). He has provided new local partners (Shoppers Drug Mart - who have donated over 200 pairs of new eyeglasses, Al's Vacuum & Sewing Centre - who have provided 5 sewing machines and a wealth of knowledge for setting up a sewing ministry, the Milk Bag Club from P.E. McGibbon School - who made 13 mats, Emma's Place - for holding an ice cream fundraiser). He has maintained and strengthened existing partnerships (Dr. Gordon Warren, Empower Ministries).
So I am thankful...not just because we're going somewhere else in the world to tangibly express the love of Jesus Christ. I am thankful that going somewhere else in the world is merely one part of all that the Lord has us doing as we invite others into the Kingdom of God. Going elsewhere is an extension of who we are and what we do here. The things that we love to do in El Salvador are one part of all that God is doing with us as a church family.
So I am thankful...for the many kind words, commitments of prayer, encouragements to go, the willing sacrifice of those close to us that free us to go.

Most of all, I am thankful for the inexhaustible love of Jesus Christ that continues to teach me, uphold me and fuel me to love, serve, encourage and rescue others.