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...