Monday, October 15, 2012

Others have said it so eloquently

I just read the most recent blogs from Tracey, Amanda and Coby and I cried the whole way through. I couldn't have said it better, although I thought I would sit down now that we're home and try to add something more. They have said it so eloquently that I can only say I ditto that ! Thank you for putting it into words so beautifully.

Perhaps I will add a few more "capsules" if I may.

I want it all to stick like the mud stuck to our shoes!

I haven't been able to get the image out of my mind of the building of houses 4 and 5. The mud was a foot deep in places and was actually more like quicksand or cement. I felt so bad for the people who were building those houses. The mud was so thick on their shoes and up and over their shoes. I really didn't think they would be able to put up a house at either of those sites, because it was also a very tight space. I say "they" because I spent most of my time sitting on the rocks around the site,  drawing with the children or playing frisbee with them, while the others sloshed through the mud in a very tight space, my heart shuddering all the while that someone would get hurt on that construction site.
Whenever I started feeling like I was too hot and dirty for my liking, I only had to look over at those doing the slugging work and feel like I had the easier job for sure. But also, I was so pleased and honoured to share in the dreams and hopes of these children to have a dry house in their very near and real future.

I hope that all of the trip sticks with me, and never fades. As I sit in the comfort of my own home on a comfy couch (which is nonexistent there), I hope their beautiful smiling faces will always remind me that a little love can change a life and that these "poor people" on the mountain are not necessarily as poor as those of us with much. I think about the Beatitudes, and Jesus' sermon on the mount is most apropos.

The Orphanage! All God's children.
Wow what a beautiful site. I hope this image also sticks with me as we had an opportunity of a lifetime to "visit the fatherless". They are not forlorn, depressed or feeling sorry for themselves, but rather their smiles and hugs and laughter were beyond description. They were like fountains bubbling over with happiness from the time we arrived to the time to the time we left. So happy to be visited by people trying to be like Jesus. I hope they saw Jesus in me, but the paradox still remains that they seem to give far more to me than I have given to them, As someone who grew up in Sarnia abandoned by a father, the children in El Salvador have shown me that God wraps his arms around the whole world and is a loving Father who does not forsake his children.

May all this and more stick with me forever, but may my heart continue to be broken so it moves my hands and feet, perhaps to return to the country of El Salvador, but also right where I am.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Roosters etc.

Hmmm we have some catching up to do. We've been too busy to get any blogging done! Will try to give little capsules that come to mind now in hindsight.

Roosters, bicycle bells, church bells, women chanting and diesel engines!

Waking up every morning in Victoria at 4am or so to roosters crowing, bicycle bells tooting from the boys selling buns, Catholic women chanting past the windows, church bells ringing and diesel engines starting up in the neighbourhood.

On top of the world!
We went to a spot where we could see the border between El Salvador and Honduras from the top of a mountain where we were building the houses. The Rio River (not sure of the spelling) could be seen way down in the valley below which divides the two countries. The view all around was out of this world spectacular in contrast to the shocking poverty of the people who live on the mountainsides. At one spot in particular we were surrounded 360 degrees by the scenery with no sign of civilization except for a cell phone tower. Beauty beyond description.

Oh, so you have a hangnail?
The people of the area where we were building houses are tough as nails! They can't even afford a Tylenol, and if they could  afford to buy one,they would have to walk an hour or so along the mountain terrain of rocks and steep inclines to get to a town where they could see a doctor. We saw a very elderly frail looking lady walking into town when we were coming to the work site in the morning and then we saw the same lady walking back home when we were finished up for the day. She had one small bag in her hand! After seeing these people, I think as Canadians, we could be a whole lot tougher.

Frisbee in the mud!
The children had so much fun when I brought out the frisbee, but we weren't playing catch in a nice wide open back yard or playground, it was in a tight mountain path on an incline with rocks, mud and garbage. But the children were so happy to have someone to play with and a fascinating toy.

Saying goodbye - that was tough.
We pulled away from the crowd of people who had gathered for the key ceremony ( getting the keys to their houses as well as the bags of food which we had prepared for the families of the community) and the children waved with big smiles as we pulled away. They are so beautiful and I felt a very strong tugging to return to them. One 13 year old boy in particular, named Juan Gabriel, will remain close to my heart and I hope to sponsor him to go to school. He was so smart and often sat beside me with the children and seemed to understand many words in English and interpreted for me even though he only had a Grade 6 education. I was told he cannot afford to go to school any further because he can't afford the bus ride into the school and the uniform. It broke my heart, he was so smart and kind, yet he may not get any further in life. So my dream is to sponsor him so he can finish school and possibly get out of the poverty he is in through no fault of his own. Any child who is reading this should be very very grateful for their freedom to go to school.

So much more to tell you all but . . .
Time to leave for the airport.
See you guys soon.
With much love.


I haven't written as much this year, sorry. It's not because everything is so familiar, that's for sure! Only the airport and the hotel gave me that sense of comfort that comes from familiarity. Now it's time to say goodbye.
Goodbye to Walter, who has been one of the most amazing translators that I have seen. A man who loves people and especially children with a passion that is almost enviable. Goodbye to Poblito's family (not sure on spelling), his wife Rosita, sons; Wilbur and Charlie. A family that has been through so much, yet they are able to hold on to the faithfulness of God as they strive to love and minister to a group of folks just outside of Victoria. Their task is daunting at best, but they keep pushing forward, knowing that their faithfulness will lead them where they need to go and to whom they need to bless. Goodbye to pastor Ricardo and his lovely family. It would be so easy to become overwhelmed with the need, yet they constantly praise God for his faithfulness and continue to trust Him for everything. It's humbling to see that their church has sent a family from among themselves to Canada, to be missionaries! That reality check hurts.
Goodbye to Maria, my new sister in Christ who decided that God is real and that He has a plan for her beautiful life.
Goodbye to Tancho who wore the look of hope and appreciation everyday that we had the pleasure to see him and work with him. His pride and resourcefulness was clearly evident as he showed us his garden and his fish pond. His son Gabriela will be just like his dad some day!
Goodbye to one of the most beautiful, yet at times, the most treacherous commutes to work I've ever had! Everyday it was different as the clouds formed on top of the mountains and broke apart to reveal the glorious blue sky!
Goodbye to the children at the orphanage who climbed into our laps just hoping for a few moments of love. Goodbye to skin conditions and coughs and fevers that have been caused by a direct correlation to the types of living conditions in which people live.
Goodbye to armed guards at grocery stores and gas stations.
Goodbye to crazy bus drivers who like to take curves at excessive speeds and think that missing a pedestrian or cyclist by mere centimetres is a testament to their skillfulness!
Goodbye to a most beautiful blue sky as we acted silly while chasing the waves most of the day.
Goodbye to another most amazing week of being given the opportunity to partner with God as He gave  us another glimpse of what is truly on His heart and showed us how we could play a small part in His vision for the people of El Salvador.
Hasta luego amigos,

Saturday, October 13, 2012

WOW.................once again!!!

What an amazing day we had yesterday!!  The day started with our last ride up the mountain.  I'm not afraid to admit that I (Coby) am happy to not have to do that again!!!!  We had the key ceremony at which we gave each of the new home owners the key to their home along with a bin filled with items just for their family as well as two milk mats for each of them.    It is just awesome to see the joy on their faces now that they have their own safe home, with a door that locks and away from the elements.  We also presented approximately 100 families with a bag of food.  It contained rice, sardines, spaghetti noodles, cooking oil, and sugar.  It is crazy to think that people would get so excited about this.  But many of them don't get enough to eat so this is an amazing gift to them and it will likely feed their family for one week!!     It was sad when the time came for us to leave to see everyone lined on the side of the road waving goodbye.  We had been with these people for the last 4 days and had definately grown to love them.

We left Victoria almost on schedule and were heading to the orphanage.  We were scheduled to arrive there at 1:00pm and got there a little before 5:30pm!!  That is what you call El Salvador time. :) :)   We detoured for lunch at "Pollo Campollo" (the El Salvador version of KFC), then went to the market and finally made our way to the Orphanage.

Pulling into their property was an awesome experience.  The children were lining the road and every one of us got a warm welcome.  The kids were so excited to see us and before we knew it there were frisbees being thrown all over the lawn and inside the pavilion there were loads of kids colouring, as well as girls getting their nails painted and then to have them paint ours.  They had been waiting for us and the air was just charged with energy.  They were not at all shy and loved hugs.  One of our team commented that this is what our welcome to heaven might look like, lots of excitement, laughter, and hugs.  Pastor Deve arrived with pizza and donuts, and after they were devoured it was time for us to leave.

The events of this day are actually very hard to put into words.  We have pictures in our heads and in our hearts that will never be erased.

Today (Saturday) we had a wonderful peaceful day at a beautiful beach.  It was so nice just to kick back and not do anything!!  We played in the waves, walked on the beach, laid in the hammocks and just hung around.

Thank you Lord for allowing us to be part of this amazing adventure.

Pim and Coby

Coming Down from the Mountain

Sometimes it's difficult to find the right words to artfully describe all the things we see, hear and smell here in El Salvador each day. The sights are awe-inspiring. The sounds are often other worldly. The smells are over-powering (to put it mildly). But I know that God has brought it all together in a perfect package that only He could create so beautifully.
The people here still surprise me in both lovely and haunting ways. To see villagers fighting (truly fighting) over a cardboard box this morning was heart breaking. To see unfettered joy on the faces of little children at the orphanage this evening was heart expanding.  Knowing we brought food to so many families this morning was so fulfilling but knowing we couldn't provide for all who were needy is unacceptable.
 I think it all came together for me this afternoon as I sat in a Wendy's/Pizza Hut parking lot in San Salvador. (Yes, they really have those here. I was even in a Wal-Mart today.)  I realized that I had come down off the mountain, quite literally. "Those people" were back there. And I was now back in the "real world".  It occurred to me that I had told a lovely man named Lazarus (father and husband of the family of house #2) that even though he had come there to hide with his family, God had not forgotten him there in the mountains of Victoria. Would I forget him?  I pray that I don't...

I lift my eyes up to the mountains,
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from Him,
Maker of heaven,
Creator of the Earth...


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stupid Clouds

We hiked up to a very special spot for a picnic lunch today, a spot that lets us see honduras across the panoramic mountain view.  Unfortunately, there was a great big cloud in the way, so were not able to see the best of the view. :(

Back from amazing medical clinic!

6:50PM.  We just got back from an incredible, amazing medical clinic and are washing up for a late supper.  More later! :) Thank you for all your prayers - they were felt!

back from the market

10:30 and we just got back from town and unloaded $1300 and about 1300 lbs of food from our trusty little Kia cattle truck. 

Lazy Day So Far!!

Compared to all the previous days, today has been sort of a layed back one.  It is almost difficult to not be doing more, but at the same time it is a welcome relief.  I am going to take advantage of the short time that this will last!

Seven members of our team have gone into Sansansepeue?? to buy food for us to package and distribute to the families on our building sites.  They won't be back for a while so I thought I'd just take a minute to fill you in a little more.

Joan, Karen, Tracy and myself sorted and packaged medications for the medical clinic that we hope to have this afternoon in the school.  A huge amount of medical supplies came with us, some purchased and others donated.  Items as simple as an Tylenol are hard to come by because people just can't afford them.  How blessed we are, and we take it so for granted.  

The four of us went for a walk around Victoria with Charlie, one of the sons of the family that we are staying with.  The rule is "NEVER GO OUT ALONE".  So we take Charlie!  Poor guy, the other day he went to the grocery store with us and he just didn't know what to do when two of us went down one aisle and two went down the next one.  He stood in the middle and just kept darting back and forth.  :) 

When the rest of the team comes back we are going to bag the corn, rice, beans (or whatever they come back with) into smaller plastic bags so that it can be made into family packs.  I can still remember the HUGE smile on peoples faces when they received these packs the last time I was here.  Another thing we take for granted!!!

We will also be visiting the goat farm this afternoon.  I'm looking forward to seeing how this operates.  This project is just one of the ways that the locals are being taught to be self sufficient.  I'm sure that this visit will be blogged about later.

The remainder of the team just arrived back from their shopping trip so it is time to get to work.  

So far all have us have stayed healthy and we have not had any major injuries.  Minor cuts which Dr. Joan and nurse Karen took care of immediately.  Thank you Lord for keeping us safe!!

Bye for now.


It is 7:40AM here.  We've had breakfast and are preparing for the day.

Some of us are staying here to prepare for the medical clinic (where we are expecting maybe 130 people), and making our PB and jelly sandwiches and stuff.  Some of us are going to the store(s) (maybe 10 km each way?) to purchase food to give out at the key-giving ceremonies at the homes we built (with the help of many others) tomorrow:

cooking oil

We are anticipating a great day of ministry and looking forward to God showing up today in special ways.   Please pray that we will be Jesus to these people (and to each other) today.

A Change of Pace (almost entitled Stupid Mud)

All six houses are finished !! Praise the Lord! It rained. The sun shone. The mist descended. The mud deepened. The mud got stickier. And stickier.  My calves are still burning this morning from pulling each foot out of the suction. We were sooooo dirty. But through it all, the houses are done and each family seems truly pleased and blessed and amazed that they have received this gift from people they don't even know. Each family has expressed the idea that "they never even considered or dreamed that anything like this would happen to them".

And now today...We have preparations to make for the medical clinic this afternoon. Food to buy and prepare for tomorrow's distribution. And gift baskets to finish preparing for our key ceremony on Friday.  Hopefully, none of that will involve mud. But if it does, we are prepared to do what it takes to finish the tasks the Lord has brought us here to do.

This is an incredibly beautiful place. We are blessed to be here.  Now off to breakfast...deep sigh....not my favourite. At least I bought some Coffee-Mate, so that's something...


X's & O's

Today I got to have a welcome interlude in the physical work of this ministry (which I love).  I got to sit down and teach some very cute and eager little Salvadoran kids how to play X's and O's.  It was fun using pictures and pointing to describe the process to one little boy.  Joan had the brilliant idea that we could demonstrate a game to him and we did.  The boy caught on quite quickly and soon, at one point, he and maybe 6-8 other kids were all huddled around me playing X's and O's - with me and with each other.  (I counted at one point, and I think there were 16 kids total at this last house). It was colourful too, because we were using crayons and they experimented with using different colour combinations. After about 45 games in a row, I had to go, but they were still having a blast amongst themselves after I left.

They reminded me of my kids.... and I wondered if many of them have often (or ever) spent that kind of relaxed fun-time with their father or other male role model.  The boys particularly, seemed to crave my attention - that is, they seemed to prefer playing the game with me far more than any of the other kids.  I'm not sure why - could be lots of reasons, I guess.  I could be wrong,  but I got the sense that this type of experience was totally new to them.   Anyway, even as I write this, it hurt a little bit to have to have left them behind. 


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I love the children but still I don't love the roads!

Again so much has happened since I last wrote and I can only write a little before the battery dies. I can't express enough how much I love to be surrounded by these beautiful children and doing art with them. This is my first mission trip and people who have done this kind of thing before have told me over and over that you get way more back than you ever give. This is so true and it's one of those things that you have to experience yourself rather than have someone explain it. I know exactly why Jesus said,"Don't send the children away, but let them to come to me". So that's what I want to do too.
Most of them draw a picture and then they want me to have it, even though I tell them in my broken Spanish that they can keep it for themselves. Some even wrote at the top in Spanish, "Esto es para ti, Yohanna Demi Parati", which our translator said means, This is for you, Joanna, From my heart to yours. See what I mean about getting more than you give? The families are so generous as well, they have offered us their chairs to sit on and rest, their home for shelter when it starts to rain, their food from their garden and their tables and they are constantly smiling and trying to communicate their love to us in Spanish or broken English. It's unbelievable how little they have and yet they have all their extended family around and they laugh and play musical instruments and help each other with hard, hard work in the rain and mud, climbing over steep rocky mountain paths to get to each other's homes.
And then there's the roads! I'm getting braver each time and I make each trip knowing that it's the only way to get to the children! I love the children.
Ciara is well and we thank each of you for your prayers for our safety. Thanks Angela for your comments. I'm very proud of her as well.

The Angels are rejoicing!!!!!! Tuesday our translator was able to lead one of the local girls to the Lord.  It was amazing how God worked this all out.  The girl's aunt is a believer and she had been witnessing to her.    Ciara built the bridge and made a friend.  Some organization in the state made the colouring book she read. Tracey went and got the translator from the job site.

Words can't explain the joy to see a young girl so open and ready to ask Jesus into her life.  It was a joy to celebrate with her as a sisters in Christ.

Praise God

Milk Mats

For those of you part of the SEMC you might remember seeing an overflowing box that collects milk bags. It's located in the foyer on the small table. For the last two years a small group of Junior High Students have been meeting on Tuesday evenings. They have cut those bags into strips, then they tie the strips together into long strings of milk bag pieces and then they either weave or crotchet those those long strings into a milk bag mat. It takes hundreds of milk bags to make one mat!

As part of our trip this year that Tuesday evening group had about 20 mats for us to take to El Salvador. We left two or three behind, because we were out of luggage space, but the rest made the trip. The intention is that we would give the mats to the families we were building homes for. That way they could put them on their beds (if they had them) or on the floor (if they didn't). 

Also, this Spring, our IMPACT Youth group did a fundraiser where they received donations for spending a week sleeping on the milk mats. They raised over $2,000, which helps us do the things we are doing here. 

Turns out, we, our team, are very thankful for the milk mats. Our sleeping accommodations aren't quite the "small hotel" that we've enjoyed on our previous visits. We're all on bunk beds, which have thin metal rails beneath a thin mattress. Many of us have put the milk bag mats on our beds to provide added support and comfort. Our beds were also lacking pillows...but, no worries, turns out the milk bag mats also make a functional pillow! Who knew?!...oh yeah...God did!!  We'll give the mats away at the end of the week knowing that they do provide comfort!

Here's a picture of Karen Allen's bed which captures what I've been saying. My bunk is similar except that my pillow is made exclusively from the chocolate milk milk bags...interesting....

Have a great night! And thanks for your prayer, comments and care for our families at home in Sarnia. 


Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Well, another day is behind us and it has been a very full one again.  Up early, (perhaps all of us not quite awake) to breakfast and then back on the truck to go to the job site.  The ride there is not quite as scary as the first time,  and the fact that I am now driving in the cab with Basillio and his crew makes it even easier.

I can't believe how shy the children are here.  Our interpreter Walter, mentioned that it is because the children are not used to any love or attention being shown to them in their own homes!!  How sad is that!!  Joan has been amazing with the kids.   Sitting and colouring with them, drawing pictures for them, and just drawing them out of their shells.  They are starting to smile and are not quite as anxious to approach us now.  Besides, the little gifts that we are giving to them are certainly helping as well.  It is amazing how quickly a small gathering grows when "Canada" bracelets are being given away!!

I have not done a lot as far as helping to build the homes.  There are men and woman who are much better at that sort of stuff than I am.  BUT I have enjoyed just watching the local people interact with our team and today just having fun with the kids.

I am just amazed at how much the people here can get accomplished with the little that they have.  The "laser thingie" went missing and the crew managed to get the house level using a hose with water in it.  PLEASE don't ask me how they did that, but it worked.  I watched the men mix cement by hand and improvising by making a trowel out of wood.  I watched the ladies cooking outside in their "kitchens" and am amazed!!  I see the women hang clothes on the bushes to dry after they have washed them by hand. I am so spoiled with my washing machine and dishwasher!!

I have been stretched beyond belief!!!  Hiking is not one of my strong points, but I have done my fair share of that this week.  Driving on roads that are barely wide enough for one vehicle and then being passed by a big truck have made even my short hair stand on end.  But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has BIG plans for the people of El Salvador, and I am very thankful to Him for allowing me to be a very, very small part of it.

Off to bed.

Needless to say today has been another challenge working in the heat and then the rain which brings the mud.  We did complete the third house and half of the fourth house.   I have to say that El Salvador is a very beautiful country and it is blessing to be here to help needy families.  The sense of community where we are building the homes is incredible.  The local men work very hard and help each other in preparing for the new homes as well as helping to build them.

God is good and I thank him for giving me and Coby the opportunity to be here.  But He can turn the taps off any time.



Unbelievably beautiful.  The smell of green moist soil.  The sun,  the rain.  The waterfalls that flow down the mountain in the pouring rain. The sounds, the winding mountain path, the clouds floating by at eye level between the rising mountains. The heat, the flat open space in the morning, a house in the afternoon. Working hard, being able to work hard. Being alive, health and life. Unbelievably beautiful!

The Big Guy

When you are the by far the tallest guy in the room, on the truck, or at the work site, you see things from a slightly different perspective.  Like, I'm always the first guy to get whacked in the face with a tree branch when we're careening down the mountain roads. Like I'm always the guy who has to stretch up and drill the roof without a ladder.  Like I'm the only one whose feet hang over the bunk bed mattress. Oh the inconveniences of a tall guy in a tiny country.


Thanks Amanda for making my post, now you are forcing me to make my own which I will attempt to do.

The real Pim
Tuesday morning arrives.........roosters crowing....4:30 town alarm (someone banging a pot)............ 5:15 bus to take people into the city arrives ......... 5:20 the clown horn goes all around town selling bread.  A new a different way to wake up....... but you can still see the mountain.  If you go up to the second floor or down to the end of the street there it is, standing beautifully.  This morning it is in the clouds.

The country side it beautiful.  This morning I watched people walk up the street.  They walk up doing switch backs (they also drive the truck up the hills like that).  That will tell you how steep the hills are.

God has created such a beautiful country.  Keep praying God will build relationships and help us to show His love to the people here.


A Walk in the Clouds

There is so much I'd like to share, but I'm just not sure where to begin or what should be said at this point. There's a video that I'm hoping you'll get to see. Golan took it from the back of our "cattle truck" ride into the worksite this morning.  The air was cool, the sun was shining as we made our way, carefully up and down the steep twisting rocky road to our work site. On the left side of our truck is the mountainside, with trees and bushes that necessitate the need to, from time to time, duck our heads down.  On the right side is one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. The mountain range between the El Salvador and Honduras border is a spectacular sight at the end of the rainy season. Everything is various shades of deep green. Yes, it's true that for the most part it is a 1.5 lane road that drops off dramatically, steeply, to our right. However, today on our ride in, the valley below us and the other valleys for as far as we could see were filled with clouds. Only the peaks of the mountain range were above the clouds. Awe-inspiring, majestic and humbled are all words that come to mind when we consider our Creator God who gave this unique glimpse of his handiwork...I love Him more!

On a completely different note, one of my favourite El Salvador moments ever happened as we were working on one of the houses. Our friends Basilio, Noe, Miguel, Roberto and Freddie drove up from San Felipe to meet us and to lead us in the building. It was an exciting way to start the day. At one point in the day, Noe and I  were trying to yell instructions to each other across the worksite. Earlier we had decided that he was going to teach me some more spanish and I was going to teach him some more english. Which works well as long as we're side by side.  At this one point we were separate and were trying to communicate with each other. He starts shouting out his instructions in english and I start questioning him in spanish. Neither of us could understand the other. I'm not sure what that says about our own individual capacity to handle our respective first languages, but it made for a very funny and memorable moment for both of us. We realized then how our relationship has developed over these four years, how easy it is to work with each other, and how much we enjoy the time we have together.

Another friendship that reminds me of the unique privilege the Lord has given to our church family over the years to connect with people who love Jesus and are willing to sacrificially and joyfully serve His purposes so that others may enjoy the New Life in Christ that we so treasure!


Monday, October 8, 2012


A great deal has happened since I first wrote and all I can say is "Wow" ! Talk about contrasts. We went from a 5 star hotel in San Salvador to a small village called Victoria where 11 of us stay in a room with 6 bunk beds. Then just when I thought that was roughing it, we took a nice little drive (not) along winding cliffside roads going literally at 45 degree angles full of massive potholes and rocks. I was a basket case as we took this drive and I had the "comfort" of sitting inside the cab of the truck, while Ciara stood up in the back of the cattle truck with the rest of the team while we bumped along. I discovered it's quite difficult for a surgeon to remain calm while imagining all the things I know could happen. But then . . . we arrived at the homes of the people for whom we were going to build the houses. The houses are built basically on the side of the mountain and the spectacular scenery only serves to contrast with the shocking poverty of these people with their single room, dirt floor tin homes held together with mud and branches. Inside the dark home are multiple hammocks hanging or cot-like beds in the same room as the open flame brick oven/stove and the chickens, all in a room as big as most of our bedrooms! In this house 11-15 people live. In the first house I saw a sick child lying in a hammock and it broke my heart to see him, but the children generally are smiling and they are so beautiful as they run around in their bare feet and muddy clothes from the rains. They run around on the slippery rocks and muddy ground like gazelles. I even saw a mother carrying her child in her arms asleep on her shoulder down a steep rocky path.
But today we started the actual building and that was another big "Wow". Two full houses were constructed today and these are made of steel and tin and will have cement floors and will be waterproof. We had the pleasure of testing that out as the rain started just as the last one was completed. Ciara and I did some of the physical labour but part of the time we were privileged to be able to draw and colour with the children who seemed to come from everywhere as soon as we sat down to colour for one or two of them. They warmed up with this activity and everyone wanted to colour their name. One girl hung her drawing in the center of her house.
Must go so others can use the computer!
Joan and Ciara.

Everyone is clean again!!

Eleven cold, trickling showers later, everyone is clean again! Oh my, the rainy season seems to just love me and follows me into this beautiful country! My thinking is that I am the weakest link since I am the common  denominator on the team from last year. The red dirt gets caked on the shoes and the body quiet well. I am trying to remind myself that some women pay good money for a mud bath/masque, and I'm getting away with a free one! I should probably tread lightly or I my team might have me voted off the island or told to walk the plank. Thankfully, the rain didn't start until the holes had been dug on our third house. The rain has made the hike up to the worksite rather treacherous and very slippery. So far no twisted ankles, thankfully.
The children hear are extremely shy but they have warmed up to our love for them. Our translator told us that they don't experience that kind of love and compassion very often, so it takes them awhile to warm up to us. In the adults, their search for hope is clearly evident. It's very humbling to see what it takes to create hope in their lives--not much, really. We expect to have solid, warm and well-built houses in Canada, in El Salvador there is no expectation for such a dream.
Jared will be happy to know that during this trip I have constantly been thinking of the words of one of my favourite theologians......Toby Mac...........there is no greater honour than to:
"Speak life, speak life, into the deadest, darkest night; speak life, speak life when the sun won't shine and you don't know why......Look into the eyes of the broken-hearted--watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope, you speak love, you speak life!"

Tracy (also known as the rain-jinx)

Roofs, weather and reflections on cattle trucks

It has been a great day of building!  It is now 5PM (7PM Sarnia time).  I am sitting on the front porch of our our "room", with several other team members, using Deve's Macbook to post this.  

The rain came steadily most of the night but then stopped just in time for us to finally start rolling out of bed and open the door to blue skies with a pleasant smattering of clouds.  We got two houses built by 2:30PM.  My job for the last hour or so was assisting a fellow named Noe (pronounced "No Way") on the roof, measuring, aligning and fastening the roof assembly to the steel trusses.  Noe was great to work with, and very patient with me as we communicated (with the little english he knows) and worked together.  My screws missed the truss through the steel roof several times but I eventually got the gist of it. Noe preferred to use a "special" method of locating the truss under the metal.  Instead of using a chalk line (which, apparently we do have), he sort of "eyeballs" it and "feels" for it using his foot!  Haha! :)  Anyway, there was a tube of roofing calking/tar that I used to fill in the holes.  The thunder and rain came upon us instantly when I had filled in the last hole!  It was great to be able to huddle with everyone under the roof that I just made,and in the torrential rain, see that not a drop leaked anywhere!  Yay!

The drive in the cattle truck, I have to admit, has taken some getting used to.  After having gone to the site and back twice (4 trips), I am feeling much less terrified (yes I was very frightened) and more able to enjoy the jostles and impossibly steep climbs next to the beautiful (breathtaking) vista, several feet from what appears to be what may be a thousand foot drop.  I now know that I can trust the road to support the weight of the heavily laden truck and the drive is more routine.  I can trust the drivers who do seem to know the road quite well, and are highly skilled at doing what needs to be done to get us to and fro with nary a scratch.  God has also provided me a kind of peace (that passeth understanding) that he is taking care of us in a special way, as well.  

I am surprised that I have had to wrestle so much with my need to be in control and "in the know" and to have everything make sense to me.  I thought that after spending two years in Kenya, this would be easier for me that it was.  I am coming around now, and starting to "get it" again.

One observation:  I have yet to see a single cattle truck with a single cow in it - Do they ever actually get used for cattle?! :)


Stupid Rain

You have got to be kidding! It absolutely, positively, cannot be raining again while our team is here in El Salvador!! Deve informed me, in no uncertain terms, that there was no way it would rain again...that the weather reports were bogus...that taking my rain coat would only invite trouble. While I guess I invited some trouble by packing my handy-dandy raincoat because the rains have come to visit us again. Last night we got soaked...after drilling in the last screw on house #2 this afternoon, we got soaked. But through it all...two houses are built and two families will soon be moved in to their new "casas".  God is still good even when it rains (again) (like last year) (when the rainy season is supposed to be over).

Quick story from house #2 - Bernardo, the home owner told me that he was 54 years old and that he had lived in the house he had just torn down for all of those 54 years. Incredible! I asked him if he had ever thought of someone coming to help him and his family and he told me that he could never have even dreamed that something like that could happen! He knows the blessing was from God!! Yay.


New Work to be done

Philippians 1  "3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart..."

We're just waking up. 11 of us. It's just before six in the  morning. Most of us have been up, off and on throughout the night. The church bells started ringing at 4am, those assembling for Catholic mass began singing at 5:00am, the bread guy has been honking his horn since 5:30am. In between all of that are the roosters letting us know that they think morning is coming at some point soon (I think I'll be them a watch). 

There is so much already to say, but I will let the other fill you in on that as they have reflected on yesterday and will again report on today. Instead I would like to share with you, another "new" promise that God gives to us. It's a verse that reminds me that each day the Lord is at work within each of us who know Him as Lord and Saviour. Therefore today, is a new day in which God is working new things in my life, new things in the lives of each person in our team and new things in your lives as well. Our God is at work within us completing his wonderful, amazing, perfecting, good work in new ways everyday. 

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for this "new" reminder. 


Sunday, October 7, 2012

God is a great God.  This morning we worshiped with believers in San Salvador.  It was much like our worship services.  It was a humbling experience when we were introduced to the congregation.  Thanks to the many who are praying for us.  We have sensed your prays.  We may be here doing the work but without all your prayers our work is in vain.

p.s. Hello to all those a Sir John Moore.

We have just returned from seeing three of the sites where we will be building!  The ride on the back of the truck was very scary to say the least.  Because it is raining the ride was even more eventful.  Our driver Wilbur is an amazing young fellow.   He is the son of the pastor in whose home we are staying.  I prayed all the way there that the Lord would spare us and He is true to His promises.  He will guard us and send his angels to take charge over us!!!!  The "walk" up to the sites was VERY tricky!!

Not only was it steep and rocky, but the rain made it very slippery as well. Oh did I forget to mention that it was dark on the way down??  Plus the fact that I was wearing my flip flops did not help the situation any.  We have very able bodied men who helped us every step of the way.  Thank you Golan, Matt, Deve and Pim!!  We met the families and were so blessed to have had a time of prayer with them.  When we see what they were living in and the size of their families, it makes us realize just how blessed we are.

We met Pastor Ricardo last night and he made it so clear to us that teams of people are such a blessing to the people of El Salvador.  He told us that we are providing a blessing to the people which then points them in the direction of God. One old gentleman  said that after 21 years of hearing about Jesus, today he had actually seen Him!!!  We are labouring for the Lord we can't forget that.  It is hard to describe we have already all seen today.

The Church service this morning was amazing.  We had translators sit behind us who helped us to understand what the Pastor was preaching on.  We were also blessed to be able to have communion with fellow believers.  Wow, you would not believe the roller coaster ride we have been on today.  I am not ashamed to admit that I have been scared beyond belief, and I just have to keep reminding myself to "Do it afraid!!"  You'll appreciate that comment Ann B.
Until the next blog.


getting settled and ready for a visit

We have arrived safely at our place of abode for the next five nights!  The ride was in a nice mini coach -bus with air conditioning and the driver did a great job of avoiding the many potholes and other dangers on the road.  The road was surprisingly not busy, actually - not much traffic, for the most part.  We had Pizza-Hut Pizza pockets and bottled water and/or coke (and apples and little candies) in our to-go lunches.  The Pizza pockets were great!

We set up our room (maybe 30' x 15', or so) with all our stuff.  There are bunk beds for all - with mattresses! There are fans going too, to keep it comfortable.

We are now gathered around in the kitchen (an open area in the centre of the home) and our translator, who just arrived, is translating for our hosts who are introducing themselves now.  A very sad story about loss of some dear friends has just been related to us, and we are learning a bit about how they became established here, along with 4 churches that they started.  They originally did not have a good welcome here because of their faith in Christ. After 3 months of being here,  sent by the church, with no friends, in difficult conditions, his wife wanted to return home.   They are still here!  We are learning a bit about their grown children, and how they assist as well.  We are learning about some of their ministries, including guitar classes, crafts, and celebrating birthdays for about 100 children, and a women's group with about 80 to 100 women, and a meeting every Saturday for Men with testimonials, praying, and sharing together and having coffee and a talk for families.  Also a program for men and women ages 40-50 or so and they fix lunch for them and have bible classes with them.  They have a football/soccer program.  They teach about Jesus and about soccer.

With the help from Canada, they have experienced greater openness to the gospel here from the locals.  Because of our efforts, people have a different concept of evangelical Christians now.  A lady a while ago asked if they are the kind of Christians who like to fight or what are they?  We can share our testimonies with people or pray with people if we feel led to do so by the Lord.  The reason the Lord has brought us all here is to share the Love of Christ.  People see and respond to the love that we bring.

When the farming project was started, they asked for help from men from the Community and some help twice a week in exchange for a good lunch that is prepared for them.  Tough men have seen the love of Christ through us.  They would like to be like "real evangelicals".  We need to resemble Christ to them.

We are about to decide if we are going to go visit a worksite now - and it is lightly raining now, and darkness seems to be falling soon.  It is currently 4:30 and dinner will be at 6:00 PM.

Our pickup truck / cattle truck has just arrived to pick us up.  We do need to go to the grocery store (a couple blocks from here) but we want to meet families before we show up tomorrow, if possible.  The local shops, we have been advised, should not be trusted to sell us clean water (even if bottled), and we need to get some, and maybe some Gatorade.

We will go to the worksite and then the grocery store.  We will then go for diner at 7:00pm.  We can munch on our snacks in the meantime....and now we are ready to go! :)


Safe arrival in El Salvador.

We have safely arrived in El Salvador. The flight was smooth and we could see clearly from the airplane the lush green patchwork of fields and we even had a view of a beautiful rainbow from the top of the rainbow!!! We went through Customs and Immigration so smoothly although I had been prepared for difficulty. We got all our medical supplies and donations through without a hitch. The first thing I noticed was the heat and not being able to read the signs. Need to learn Spanish!
The first night we stayed in a nice hotel and I felt guilty because we
stayed in a beautiful hotel with a wonderful bed in preparation for our move to the remote hills of El Salvador today. I'm so excited because I just found out that we are going to be able to have a medical clinic in the village where the people are so poor they cannot even afford a Tylenol for pain and they cannot afford to travel to a doctor or a hospital. There was enough support raised to buy 2 medical kits with $2500.00 worth of medical supplies.
Everyone is packing up now to move to the town of Victoria after we attend a church service in San Salvador which is a city like Sarnia or London, and they are waiting on me so I must go.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Bring It On!

Well, here we are all safe and sound and tucked away for the evening at the airport hotel. It's (almost) beginning to feel a bit like home here... Everything and everyone made it safely through customs at the airport...even the medical kit was inspected and waved on through.Praise God for that!! We have had a swim in the pool and a lovely hot shower followed by a delicious buffet dinner. And we have had the pleasure of meeting Pastor Ricardo from a church in San Salvador. Wow! What passion and excitement for the Lord's work where we are headed in Victoria tomorrow. He has got a plan and he's so thrilled that our church wanted to send a team to help him with that dream.  It's just so like what our SEMC church is living out each day...get to know people where they are at and find ways to bless them right there. Our love for the Lord will help draw them into their own relationships with Him. So cool! I am ready.  Ready, to head out of here tomorrow and finally see what a room built to sleep 11 really looks like! I am ready to meet some fantastic new people! I am ready for what the Lord is going to teach me this week! I am ready to run in the other direction if we hold a medical clinic (hahahaha)!!


Friday, October 5, 2012

Everything Is New

How can everything be new if this is the fourth team that is going from the SEMC to El Salvador? The flight times they are the same. We have to leave tomorrow morning at the same sleepy hour (4:15am). I'll probably eat the same kind of breakfast and visit the same airport bookstore before I board the plane.
Despite this routine, there is so much that is new. The Lord has impressed that upon me and our team over these last several months. My prayer is that you will join us for the ride as we try to keep you updated on the "new" places and people we will be meeting, working with, learning from and serving. This year's team has 4 new people on it. This year's team has 4 people who have been previously, but did not go last year, so that's new. This year's team will be travelling to a new area, Victoria . This year's team will be partnering with new people in this new area. We will be sleeping in new (more rugged) accommodations than we have previously enjoyed. And there are always new surprises that await us (the 2011 team experienced a Tropical Storm and 4 feet of rain).

There definitely is a new excitement and anticipation about this trip. I believe that sense of "new"ness comes from the Lord. And despite our uncertainties and unfamiliarities He is with us. He has provided for us in amazing ways (and continues to do so).

Zephaniah 3:5 says of the Lord: "Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail..."

So I say, bring on the morning, even if it comes early. It's humbling and exciting to be part of all the new that awaits each day, both here in Sarnia and as we venture to El Salvador.  Let us be caught up in the wonderful "new" things He has to show us.

Thanks to you, our families, our church family and community for your encouragement, support and partnership!  Please pray for us to courageously discover the NEW!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

greetings from el salvador,

we have just completed our leaders team meetings down here and are preparing for a return home to canada... it will likely be a very busy next couple weeks as well as a tough couple weeks saying good-bye. i just wanted to update you on a couple people to keep you in the loop on the things we are up to. if it all interests you, read it all. if only parts interest you, skip the rest. all good with me ;-)

first, carlos. he is doing really well these days! i had the honor of baptizing him in a river near san antonio. i also had the honor of dunking steve & april campos! it was a great day. there must have been over 100 people there on the river bank watching and cheering... it was a pretty cool day. they shared their faith stories at the key ceremony before we all headed out to the river. we know the road is never easy, but it feels like carlos has made some significant leaps and bounds in the last little while. during the leaders meetings we chatted about and decided to build a house for carlos here around san vicente. we are hoping that it works out to build right beside the goat farm in san antonio, but we will sit down with the land owner and make sure it will be okay. we told him last night at supper and he was pumped! overwhelmed and speechless. thanks to all those who have given so much towards this house. it means the world to him as it does to so many others...

julio. also known as 'coolio'. he's a guy all four of us have spent time chatting with on the street corner. he's usually intoxicated, but we all see a good heart deep in there somewhere. carlos has also chatted with him a fair bit and we have encouraged him to go to rehab... he spent years in the states and has a family there, but got deported some time ago... he is so sad and so frustrated with his life's events. a few weeks back, we told him that whenever he was ready, we were here to take him in to rehab in san salvador and one night around 8pm he showed up at the door with a gunny sack of belongings and was ready to go. stu, steve campos and myself drove him in along with carlos that night. we had carlos check in with him and he was doing really well. he stayed for about a week and then we saw him back on the street here in san vicente. a couple days after that his mom passed away. stu and i came walking by one morning and he told us about his mom. we went to the funeral home with him to see his mothers casket and encourage him a bit. it was good to just be there with him for a short while. we continue to talk and he knows we care and want the best for him. he knows God loves him dearly and has a much better plan in mind for him. he know we are willing to truly help him at a moments notice. i know he will be restored one day.

got goat? the farm is operational!! we have had goats for just over a week now and the group is loving it! they are so excited and see the potential. they have been selling upwards of $15 per day worth of milk. we will be having a meeting with armando tomorrow afternoon along with the members in the co op to discuss and lay out the business plan going forward. thus far, they have been banking all the income. they are anxious to share in a bit of the profits, but are remaining patient. we will also lay out the plans to bless others through this operation by way of giving milk to the community, giving offspring to other co op's, and a portion of the income to help others in need. we want to give the first fruits to the one who provides everything we have...

sewing center. things are hopping! we had 13 quilt orders from the final team that was here. we have an order for 100 quilts from a generous home builder in canada (stepper homes). they are all set to start producing their own t-shirts with graphics. there are 9 ladies and one grandpa working at the center. some are single moms, some from the village, and all seem to really be enjoying their jobs. kerrie-lynn and carie have done an exceptional job with all of this... the other day, three of the ladies worked from 4am to 10pm on their own accord to finish the last of the quilt order so the canadians could take them home with them at the end of the week. they love to do their best and it's fun to watch.

adrial. tomasita's boy is doing great! kerrie-lynn and carie took her in to san salvador for his appointment and the doc gave him a clean bill of health! he said his heart is okay!! wow. what an overwhelming answer to the prayers of so many. tomasita couldn't believe it!! we need things like this to help our faith become what it is for so many living here in poverty - deep & strong.

kerrie-lynn's friend esmeralda has had quite a journey over her 20 years of life. many of you know her story. for those of you who don't, her parents are both gone and she, along with her husband, are raising her 4 younger brothers and her own son! an orphan who became the mom of other orphans. we love her dearly and have had the opportunity to help with some simple things like school and food, but the last while kerrie-lynn has been taking her in once a week to san salvador for some counselling at a church we partner with here. it has been great and the conversations that kerrie-lynn is able to have with her, due in part to the things stirred up by the counselling process, are amazing! i don't know how she does it, but my wife without even trying, becomes a mom to young women here in el salvador. it is a gift that very few have. they have a pretty special friendship...

shelter (refugio in spanish). we are starting the slow process of branching off from emcc to focus more on the work of short term teams in el salvador. the name will be shelter and i'll post a logo that we are thinking about using for now. a good friend of ours, neil has created a number of logo options for us for. he does a great job! we like this one as it looks like a roof, points up to the one who gives us all we have, is a bit off kilter which reminds us all that this work is not easy, safe or simple. the word 'shelter' has a wonderful double meaning. first, we believe the kingdom of heaven, that we have been given the charge to bring to earth, would be a place where families live in safe, clean, secure, dry homes. thus, we provide them. second, it points us to our place with God. that he is our shelter and our refuge. that He is the one who holds us in His hands. psalms 91...

1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.2 This I declare about the LORD:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.9 If you make the LORD your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.

that seems like a quick hodgepodge of some of the important things we have been up to. when i look at my day timer, it only scratches the surface as we journey with so many down here... walking, building, talking, laughing, joking, praying, discussing and crying. the other day, one of the goat guys in the co-op asked me out of the blue. "why are some people prone to get angry and other not" we chatted for a bit and he said, "i think more often than not, the rich people with lots of stuff and money have so much to worry about that their stress is high, thus it bursts out in anger..." he went on to say, "for me, i completely content to be poor if that's what wealth would bring me... i don't want all that trouble for me and my family" well, we only have another 20 years here to be completely healed of our north american problems!! we are learning every day and little by little, we are changing because of our friends here in and around san vicente. thank goodness we have them as friends!

so we thank you again for your thoughts, calls, notes, encouragements, prayers, and support. we would not be here if it were not for you our friends. believe me when i say this, our family needs support on every single level and we would fall flat on our faces if we didn't have you holding us up. thank you so much.

from the berstads

Friday, March 23, 2012

What a Difference One Year Makes

Well today was our first full day of meetings. Not the most stimulating thing to do when the sun is shining brightly and the plus 40 degree weather is calling you to get out and do something. However, the meetings are necessary, and were actually productive. It looks like we're on getting things together to build upon the growth of opportunities that the Lord is showing us.

Last year at these meetings, I met one of the leaders from out west, Jake Fluker. Among the many things that I have appreciated about him, is his heart of mercy for children. He and his wife adopted two children from the New Orleans area following the devastating floods. They have also sponsored a Compassion child here in El Salvador.

During our trip last year, Jack told me of his visit to meet his Compassion child, Wilmer. His emotional description of that encounter inspired me to think about including a trip for our SEMC team this past October. Through the connections of Steve Metcalfe, our own resident Compassion Advocate and the Canadian office, we were able to get everything arranged. It was truly a day that we won't soon forget and it was captured beautifully on a previous blog by Tracy Robinson-Van Dyl .

Jake also happened to be in El Salvador during that time, and after seeing our team return from our Compassion visit. He followed up with the Canadian office and arranged for his team to visit a Compassion project when they returned in November.

In the meantime, on October 31, the SEMC hosted the CEO of Compassion Canada. During his visit another 12 children were sponsored in El Salvador. During the visit of Jake's team in El Salvador another 9 children were sponsored.

And now, Compassion Canada is working with the two families who are here in El Salvador about being Advocates so that they can have portfolios of children available to be sponsored, to show to the teams when they come.

Which then brings us to today. Again following our growing connection with Compassion we were able to arrange to have the Regional Director of Compassion in El Salvador attend our meeting and share some of the key principles they have used in the process of providing long term sustainable relief in this country. He spoke right from the heart of God and into our present circumstance. All of us team leaders would later agree that the principles that the Lord has taught to Compassion would be valuable for us to learn from (i.e. discipline in purpose, handling of money, teaching life skills, etc.).

It was pretty powerful to think back to how the Lord has developed all of this in the course of just one year and how he's changed the lives of dozens of children and their families here in El Salvador and at home in Canada.

It's amazing to walk in the great wide of open of God's Kingdom.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sobering Reality

Last October, when the SEMC team was here, we built houses despite the fact that the area was trapped under a tropical storm that brought 4 feet of rain over 11 days. I remember standing on the cobble-stoned roadway, at the top of one of many mountainside rises. I remember watching the water stream between our legs, under our vehicles and down the hill. I remember saying, "I wonder where all this water ends up, it's got to stop somewhere."

Today, we found one of the places that the rain accumulates. In rainy season it can be manageable, but in a relentless torrent of rain, like the one last October (by the way it hasn't rained since) there is no escape. The river that flows through this small community of 727 people, fills up to overflowing, washing away fields, homes, livestock and crops. But that's just the water from below. From above, higher in the mountain range the Hydro company releases water from it's dam during storms in order to control it's production. Sometimes they warn the village sometimes they forget. The flooding from below and from above create further instability in an already fragile community. (The picture on the left, shows the inside of the home on the adjacent property, the bright dots are holes in the wall; the family sleeps on empty rice bags which are laid on a frame of old wood and rope.)

Therefore, to be able to build the first new, stable house in this community meant a time of rejoicing for many, a time of gratitude from a family, a time of blessing for our team, and a time of sober realization for me: awestruck by the thought that maybe God heard my question that day six months ago and today showed me that we could be part of the answer.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Did we mention it was HOT!

The bottom right hand corner of this picture says it all.
Our thermometers topped out at 50, they aren't capable of providing hotter temperatures, and we were just getting into the hot part of the day!!!

Lots of water, some shade, and a whole community helping to build another house, makes it all worthwhile.


I thought I was going to write about goats

I was really excited today, because it was Goat Farm Day!!
Our team was taken to see a newly established goat farm that will mean provision, income and long term sustainability for a community. It will also mean healthy nutrients for infants and a long list of other things...that story will have to wait for another day.

Last October a lady in the village of San Antonio, had given birth to a little boy. The story of the child-birth was somewhat amazing and the details I don't necessarily recall at this point. But she, Tomasita, did share her story in church while the SEMC team was there. Then they called me up to pray for the child, to dedicate him to the Lord. Together we all prayed. It's one of the perks of carrying the title of "pastor" and I love it!!

But it was more than a dedication, it was also a prayer for healing...the boy, Adrial, was born with an enlarged heart and the doctors weren't optimistic on his long term health or life. It would be wrong to say that our prayer on that night brought healing...just two weeks ago, Tomasita returned excitedly from the doctors with the news that Adrial's heart was normal! There was no medical explanation for was, they say, a miracle!!

We don't always get to hear how the Lord answers our prayer. We don't always see the results that we might timidly pray as we summon a kernel of faith to speak words that seem impossible. Today, I am reminded that God is bigger than my capacity to verbalize a prayer. He is greater than medical expertise and He is gracious enough to allow me the privilege of holding a real live miracle - twice.

This is now my fourth trip here in two years. We first came to build houses, but over time and consistency we have developed relationships. These trips are not about houses, but about people growing in their understanding of the Kingdom of God at work among them. Today we saw that in the unmistakeable smile of a six month old boy.

So I share this with our team who was here in October of 2011. I share this with those who have developed relationships over the last four years. I share with a church family that encourages me to see and experience what is going on in the global context of God's Kingdom work.

Thanks for blessing this community with your support, generosity and prayer.


Monday, March 19, 2012

A New Window

There's already so much that I can/want to share. However I will restrict myself to two new windows. A window provides a new perspective from which to view God's Kingdom at work. A window is also channel through which the light of God's truth and grace enter into lives. That's how windows function.

The first window, is more like a stained glass portrait. That's what happens when you meet up with over twenty different team leaders from across Canada. Suddenly our one week trips, which are so meaningful for all of us, are placed together to reveal something of deep beauty and incredible power. Such craftsmanship can only be attributed to our amazing Creator and wonderful Potter. My hope throughout this week is to be able to hear the stories that each one of these people bring, how the Lord has impacted and changed their lives, and how the work in El Salvador continues to be an important part of the expression of their love for our Wonderful Saviour.

The second window, is by comparison an antique and ordinary window, one that has been newly discovered in an underused part of our home. This morning we attended a church in the city of San Savlador. For most of us, it was our first visit. We had met the Associate Pastor last March. Together we went into one of the poorest (yes more poverty than we have seen previously) areas of El Salvador. It is called Victoria and it is located among the mountains along the border of Honduras. It is remote, it is isolated and it is great need. The Senior Pastor, Herman, preached a message this morning about being a church on mission to the world. That world, he said, needs to start right here in our own country and among those who Jesus would serve and then he talked about how some of the people of Victoria had so little that they ate field mice on a regular basis.
He also talked about how they had sent a family to Canada, to be messengers of the Gospel, as they accepted a job transfer. How they were getting ready to send someone else to India. And how God was sending Canadians to them...all part of His Kingdom work, raising labourers for the harvest and sending them out.

It reminded me of the Spring season, when we open our windows and we again look outside at the transformational changes of creation. Yet at the same time, the inside of our homes are refreshed as the Spring air rushes in.

I'm reminded that what the Lord is doing with us at our home church, He is doing with other church families as well. I'm reminded that we don't come to bring the Kingdom of God to the people of El Salvador. I'm reminded that we come as one part of the Kingdom of God at work in our world, whether it's from Sarnia, Calgary or San Salvador. I'm reminded that we are instruments of truth and grace, mercy and compassion, hope and life, to all we meet.

Thanks for your prayer and your partnership...