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.