Sunday, December 8, 2013


Well, we're boarding in under 5 minutes to go back to Canada…so I guess I should complete a blog post while we're still in El Salvador!

Feeling sad to leave, but happy to return to my family.  (Miss you)  I don't have any amazing parting thoughts, perhaps that's why I left my blog post till the last minute.  I just know that we got to see the power of God's love shine into both my life (and the team) as well as the El Salvadorians here.

I think the most emotional moment for me was leaving Basilio's house the other day.  The relationship that our team has built with him over the years has really translated into a love for one another, and God's plan for houses to be built and the sharing of Jesus to El Salvador.

Talk to me about the trip when I get home…too many words to try and put in a blog.  I promise to talk more than usual!


It's just one week

It has been just one week. That's all. 7 days out of a calendar year. A small measure. Some might even say insignificant in comparison to the passing of time.

Our team might have another view of what a difference 7 days can be.
Tonight we had our last team debrief, sharing answers to the question: "What is one thing you are hoping to take home from your experience here?"

There were some excellent responses to that question. Ask us sometime.

We ended where we began, by reading Philippians 2. It's a reminder of our attitude - to think like Jesus Christ, and our actions - to humbly serve others like Jesus Christ, because God's ultimate desire is that every person would worship Him.

Over these last seven days, we had the privilege of understanding those truths in new ways and in deeper ways.

Thanks to the many who have shown interest in our trip, supported it through prayer, donations, encouragement and finances.

Thanks especially to our church family, the SEMC, you're partnership and passion for engaging the world-wide mission of God, continues to be a significant strength to us.

These have been 7 extraordinary days!

Lord willing, we'll see you soon.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Not this year

No rain plus no antibiotics equals one huge blessing.
Thanks God!!


Where Did You See Jesus This Week?

That was the question that was asked at our team debrief tonight. For me it was a moment in time on Thursday when we visited some of the houses we had previously built.

In 2011, the year of never ending rain and inescapable mud, we met a few people. Some of their follow up stories have already been written, but here's where I saw Jesus:

We spoke to a woman, who had three young children. Two years ago, the youngest was just a baby. Her husband had recently left her, telling her that he wasn't coming back. She wasn't angry or resentful, she was determined, but hopeful…how much hope would you have?

I remember sitting at lunch one day, the rain had stopped long enough for the community to set up a table, bring out chairs and share a lunch with the locals. While some were eating others were turning a rope and taking turns jumping in and out. Into the despair and the drudgery that could easily take over, there was joy, laughter and communion.

I remember thinking of a verse: Psalm 23:5 "You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies." I remember thinking "does that even make sense?" The enemies of poverty, oppression, rejection, hopelessness and mistrust were so prevalent. How could God do invite us to spend time with Him there? Why would He want to? Why should we go?

Back to this Thursday, the day I saw Jesus so clearly: Here we are standing in front of this same woman, her children are dressed well, they are clean, her home (that we built) immaculate. However the most impressive thing was her resolve. Two years ago it was a glimmer, now it could light up a night sky. And in that moment, the Lord reminded me of that same verse, of the table that was prepared and how we all are invited to it.

And then He reminded me of the rest: "You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

We had gone to build a house, but instead were reminded that we belong to God's house where Jesus welcomes us to His table. By sharing time at the table with this community, in the tension of their cultural, economic and personal enemies, we had seen the truth of God come alive. By taking time to reestablish our relationship we were humbled that she remembered us, was thankful for us and longed to tell us of how her life had changed.

It was one just one of the moments where I saw Jesus.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Family ties

This is a posting from yesterday night that got lost and has now been found...

With all the homes built I knew today was going to be a different day but I was not expecting the great gift that God was about to bestow.  We were given the privilege to visit a few houses built by previous Sarnia teams.  While all the visits were rewarding and allowed us to see the wonder of God's work, two in particular stood out for me. 

Our very first visit of the day was to the first house built by a Sarnia team back in 2009.  We arrived at the home only to find it locked with no answer.  Initially this was disappointing until I realized that having a safe/secure home they can leave to work is one the blessing we are trying to provide.  As we turned to go a 15 year old girl appeared from the field, welcomed us, and opened their home for us.  This 15year old clearly remembered the great blessing God had given 5yrs ago and remembered the faces of several of the team members that were once again present.  We were no longer strangers in her home but part of family.

After visiting with several other homes we were able to have lunch at Basilio's home.  Over the week I had learned about Basilio's conversion a few years ago and also learned how he now provides most of the structural pieces for the homes employing 6 other people in the process at a cost that allows more houses to be built.  However it was not until this lunch as we watched him build a section of a house, watched him humbly thank us the great changes in his life, and as we watched him cry on our departure that God allowed me to truly see the heart of a man changed to be a servant of his with a passion for building better homes for these people.  Again I could clearly see that Sarnia is now considered a special part of the God's family for him.

As I consider the blessing God had bestowed in these lives from past visits I could not help but wonder what blessings would occur in the lives of the eight families we are able to serve this year.


Humble Pie


At the start of the week as we left our families and said good by to loved ones. I had no idea what God had in store for myself or the team. However, his plan became more and more evident each day we have been here.

I truly believe that God allowed me to be here in El Salvador to show me humility and patience. Take last night for example. As I was getting ready to head to the church for supper. I was looking for my Brazil soccer jersey. When I couldn't find it like always I jumped to conclusions. To my amazement God was about to put me in my place. The lady that did our laundry was frantically going around to each room cause she didn't want to get in trouble for loosing a shirt. As I was standing beside her with Deve, Amanda, and the cleaning lady Matt had found my jersey behind my suitcase. I truly ate a huge  piece of humble pie. I was truly apologetic to this lady and gave her a big Canadian hug.

As I'm writing this I realize that God was teaching me patience too.  If only I would have taken the time and slowed down I would have found my jersey.

On another note Yesterday I was truly blessed to be along side the team when we went to visit the very first SEMC house the team had ever built and the houses they built 2 years ago. This experience was truly a blessing. I mean when we arrived at a house built 2 years ago. The lady recognized Deve and the team right a way and welcomed us in with open arms. She had 3 children and I fell in love with one little girl. As we left to go to another house I put my arms out to her and she ran and jumped up into them. It was like we had been friends for years. She reminded me of my sweet little girls back home Hannah and Alexis.

Like I said in my Previous blog it truly isn't about the houses. It's about the friendships we create and they way God uses them and the families to touch each others lives.

As this week comes to a close. It was my honor and privilege to part of this experience.



For those of you who have participated in or kept up to date with our journeys to El Salvador, you will be quite familiar with the name Basilio. Five years ago, when our first team came, we were introduced to a man of small El Salvadorian stature with a gentle manner and a tireless work ethic. We were privileged to see him enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The Lord has kept us close ever since. 

During these years we have seen him develop into a proficient house builder, yet there was a difference. He was willing to teach others how to build houses as well. He developed a team, which we call the Fantastic Four. Together they have assisted the teams from Canada in their building projects. They have built houses with us in sunshine and rain (mostly rain, historic rain, legendary rain…until this year). Two years ago, they were able to continue building homes on their own during the rainy season, often quicker and more efficiently than our teams can. 

Then Shelter asked him to start fabricating some pieces for the homes. He did it, with excellence and an eye for innovation. He has been able to take a good thing and make it better. But again, he didn't keep it for himself. The fabricating of homes has expanded, and now he is able to provide work for another 6 people. 

A few years ago we started talking and praying about long term sustainable solutions that are birthed in the local context and are driven by local people. Basilio is one of the best examples of this. But more than anything, he is our friend, our partner in ministry. 

This week, when I asked for him to be part of our team, he came willingly and joyfully. For the three days that we worked together as he led our team. It was like picking up with an old friend, starting where we left off as though no time had elapsed. We are able to work through obstacles and find solutions together, all while enjoying the unique experience of blessing another family with a house. 

As we left today, our team surrounded Basilio, his wife Veronica and their son. Laying hands on them, we gave thanks to God for their lives and asked God to continue to provide and protect them. And then it was time to leave. The team had taken their places on the truck, which was parked inside his yard and he and I were standing at the back. I said "Are you going to open the gate?" and he said "If I open the gate, then you will leave, so I'm not going to the gate."  I looked at him, hugged him and exchanged some words of friendship that has only been possible through a relationship forged by God, held tightly by the Holy Spirit and which is united in it's desire to honour our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Some people ask, "why bother going to El Salavdor, why not just send money for the houses?"

Today was another day of confirmation that money is no substitute for relationship…you see, it's not about the houses. 

Thank you God for our friend Basilio…

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Strong and Brave

Two years ago we built in an area where we had the privilege of meeting some amazing families. Today was so emotional as we returned to see how those families are doing today.

Theresa is a single mom with 3 children. She is meticulous and even apologized that her house could not be more tidy and was so thankful for our visit. Her house was spotless and and her pride of ownership was so evident. We had the chance to hear how her life has changed since having a new home. Despite her husband leaving her, she said that she was " strong and brave" and was working hard to pay for the electricity on her own. Her house provided her with a means to protect and care for her family. She spoke through tears how she wishes she could help others to build houses so that they could feel blessed the way she has, but must stay home to care for her children. She still has the strong sense of community she displayed the first time we were here when she cooked for all the workers with the resources that were pooled from neighbours.

Reyna is another life worthy of the title "strong and brave". Returning to visit her answered so many of the questions I have had each time I come and go from ElSalvador. Two years ago we saw briefly that she was an amazing seamstress, I mean truly talented. However, she had nowhere to work without a house to sew in. Her dream was to be able to sew as a means to support her family. Today we visited her in the house we built long ago.  Inside was a table with material and a measuring tape. Against the wall there stood a sewing machine that she had worked hard to buy! Best of all, she showed us the things she had made, beautiful dresses to sell within her community. God gave her a house so she could live out her dream!

It was clear that the dresses were far more valuable than the amount she was getting for them in her own village and she was asked why she doesn't sell them for more. Her answer was clear and simple. Leaving her home to sell her dresses although for more money would mean sacrificing the time she knew was important in raising her children.

I really feel that God used Reynas story to speak to our team and to me personally. He showed us just how big He is and how important we are to Him. He knows our hearts desires. He had a plan for Reynas life and as a team we were only a small part of it. God was there before we arrived two years ago and he was still there when we returned. I can only imagine what he has planned for these women because they are strong and brave and trusting in Him.

We were asked where we saw Jesus this week and how has it changed us. There is no question that I saw Jesus at work here today in the lives of these women and in this moment I really feel that God was affirming my life through Reynas. I'm forever questioning our decision to stay home to raise our children. Through Reynas story God has again reminded me that I am right where He wants me to be, not to be tempted by what the world has to offer, but to be patient in seeing His plan for our lives to unfold.



Hi everyone in good ole Sarnia--and elsewhere!

This is my first blog ever, so forgive me if I break any blogging etiquette.

It's hard to believe that we have only been here a few days-with all that we have done, all the great people that we have met and more importantly, all that God has been accomplishing in the local peoples' lives, as well as in our own.  --It's equally hard to believe that in a few days we will be back to the frigid north and plugging into preparations for Christmas.

But back to the present.  Today we visited some of the families who had received houses from 2-5 years ago.  It was great to see how the families were getting along--and in a case or two, that the structures were still standing and functional  (apparently due to special circumstances, there was some doubt).  Not only was all well. but the families were delighted to see the returning team members and happy to met the rest of us.  There are some great stories about how well they are doing etc, that we will tell you about when we get home. 

Then this aft, we went to a nursing home, where visitors are rare and shared a few hours with them.  Again, it was neat to attempt to follow Jesus' command to be His hands and feet.

Well, apparently, I'm hogging the computer, so I'll close for now.  Thanks to everyone who is praying and who supported and are supporting us in so many ways.  --God bless, Heathr  

Unexpected Surprises

Isn't it just like God to give us a big surprise when we least expect it? I knew we were going to tour around and see a few of the families we had built homes for in previous years. I was a little sceptical  of what our reception might be like at our very first house, from our very first trip here five years ago. Boy did we mess that house up. We were such rookies! But today, we were welcomed back by the now 15 year old daughter of the family with open arms and a fond rememberance.

And then we travelled to a spot we built in during the crazy rains of two years ago.  Again, we were welcomed with huge smiles, hugs and tears.  One dear lady saw us pulling up and recognized us (yes, little ol' us) right away. These friends had many stories of how our little houses and the church that sent the people to build them have been transformational in their families' lives.

I guess I had always thought that the families might remember that some people came from Canada and built them a house. I would never have imagined that they would remember us as people, as their friends. What a sweet surprise!


Not about the Houses or the Gloves

When I first arrived in San Vacinte. I was all about building houses. However, as the week went on I started to realize that God had a bigger purpose for me being here then just the houses. This became evident each day we built and hung out with the villagers we were building for and the community we were in.

Yesterday as we finished the last 2 houses I gave my Gloves to a young man named Gordo. I had to use or translator Gustavo to explain to him that I was very proud of his work ethic. I told him that God had a plan for his life. When I was talking to him I realized that it this was very much a God moment.

 Its not to often that I get a God moment. However, That wasn't the only God Moment I had. Yesterday as I stood up to  give my testimony I thought I was prepared to speak. I mean everything was written down even Deve read it. Turns out that was written down didn't come out of my mouth. Truly a God thing.

 At church after Deve, Albert, and I spoke Pastor Oscar got up and sang. It didn't matter that our team couldn't understand what they were singing. However, God was moving. The singing went on for a few minutes then we started to pray. Pastor Oscars church came over to us and each team member had someone from the church praying beside us with their hands on us. I could feel that God was moving. I can't speak for our team but WOW. 

This brings me to my title It's Not About the Houses or The Gloves. It's about the relationship we have created and way God has used each one of us as a tool for his works and Glory.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Size perfect

As we were packing to come here, there were only about 6 or 7 pairs of shoes and I just felt the need to make sure they made it into one of the bins. On Sunday as we were meeting the families and getting their stories Paula the woman that would be receiving the house said she had a cut on her foot that was making it difficult for her to walk. We didn't have any supplies with us so I told her to find me the next day and I would have a look at it. Monday came and I was able clean and dress her wound it looked much better after,but after walking in the dirt all day in a pair of ill fitting sandals it looked aweful again. I changed and cleaned it again before we left. We got back to the hotel and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I remembered packing the shoes, we found a pair of ladies sandals that would be better than the ones she had but not optimal and a pair of running shoes. Next day we went back and I was able to wash her foot and dress it. When I put the shoes on they fit perfect.
To my shame, I often brush God moments away to circumstance,but this was a moment only God could orchestrate. I was reminded again that God is so good he provides what we need not necessarily when we want it, but when we need it.

Go Diego Go!

It seems that at every site, there's at least one young man that has a certain spark.  Today there was a young man (17 years old), who was showing interest in what we were doing as Nick and I were doing some assembly work on a house-part. 

We encouraged him to take hold of the power tin-snips we were using and give them a try but he shyly refused - but stayed to help us with holding materials that needed holding.  Later on, as it came time to put the roof together on the house, I found Diego and encouraged him (with the help of a translator) to take part with me up on the roof using an impact-drill to put the roof together.  With the help of our translator (Gustavo) up on the roof, Diego was soon in a rhythm and working away with confidence and pride in his work and I was able to step back and let him finish the job. It was great!

Nick and I made a point to find Diego again when we were done there today, and with Gustavo's help, we let him know that we appreciated his great help, are proud of the work he had done, and his willingness to try something new.  His Dad beamed with pride as he watched his son become one of our team like that. 

Please pray with us that the Lord will continue a work in Diego's life and draw him close to Himself and build him up into a Godly leader in his community. 

Go Diego Go! (I know, it's lame - but the song is playing in my head!)



Our houses are built but we have many things left to do.  Tomorrow we hope to go to a seniors home to do a christmas craft.  Speaking of christmas, a lot of house have artificial christmas trees inside.  It is hard to believe it is christmas when the temperature is so hot.  The park in the centre of town is also decorated with christmas light.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers they are felt down here.

Just a quick prayer request

Hello!  Just a quick note because we are heading out very soon:  We are heading out to a church service and Jay and Albert will be sharing some of their personal stories about the wonderful reality of Christ in their lives. 

I just know that God has a special plan in place for this and has just the right people (or person) gathered to hear just what is going to be said.  Even though I may never get to see the rest of the story unfold in lives here after we leave - I am excited!  Let's pray that Jay and Albert will be excited and at peace as we all commit this into God's hands. 


something in common

First of all I would like to thank all the people who have supported myself and the team. As I sit here this morning I have come to the realization that I have a lot in common with the villagers.

I was raised in a single home by a loving mother who also didn't have much money by North American standards. My family and I lived on welfare.  When I look back on my childhood I realize that my mom had done the best she could being a single parent.  This is just like the families here they are doing the best they can with what they have and are happy. To see this and realize that not only are we making a difference in their lives by giving them shelter. But they are making a difference in our lives.

Yesterday when we played soccer with the kids from the village. Of course loosing just like the men's national team does to El Salvador. Just to see that all the kids with priceless smiles as they were schooling us old guys made it all the worth it. 

Today looks to be the Last building day for us. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for us today.

God Bless


I had another day of not-so-much hands-on homebuilding.  We built 2 houses today (Tuesday).  I put in a few screws, dug some dirt, and moved some metal from place-to-place.  However, I spent the majority of my time with kids today - teaching them some hands-on drilling,  playing Frisbee and Soccer and crafts ... That reminds me,  I made a few Frisbee tosses back and forth also with a few interested civil-crew construction workers who were hand-digging and laying PVC pipe underground nearby today - and I thought it interesting that two of the three guys wore steel-toed boots and one of them was in bare feet as he worked, at least part of the time...It was a strange thing to see.  Like, can an you imagine seeing that in Sarnia!?  Anyway, I digress...

I see kids here that remind me of each of my kids and besides making me miss each of them (I miss you Ben, Rachel, Abby and Eden!), it makes me stop and think about what it would be like if they (or our whole family) were "born" in the circumstances that we see here....It's a striking thought.  During tonight's team debrief, at least one other of our team members mentioned experiencing this kind of thought too.  For me personally, it's complicated - part sadness, part...wonder,, part...compassion, part...thankfulness, part...guilt, part...anticipation (what's that about!?).    Anyway, I don't know really what it all is - it's all...messy!  Upon return home, even after having time to "process", words will always feel inadequate to express the experience here. I think I can say this: Something inside me will never be the same, and is changed (and is changing) - for the better and for God's glory - but I don't see or understand what that entails at this point.

Thank you for your continued prayers for all of us! 


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Candy Man

The crowd that forms when you bring out a handful (or more like 65 handfuls) of colourful elastic bands is amazing! It looks something like this...mostly barefoot, dirty little hands with sneaky little grins and giant big brown eyes and with lips that move a mile a minute for the shear excitement of making an elastic band bracelet, chaotic but oh so fun! The houses were going up so quickly that it made for lots of time to play with the kids.  No surprises, that's where I like to be the best.  I only had to teach a handful of kids before they were turning around to teach each other. I watched them huddled, big kids helping little kids, everyone being sure they all had enough to make one or two or three....bracelets.
If I could have frozen one moment for a little longer today it would be that of the guy we call the candy man. He does have a real name, but we call him the candy man because he sells candy to make money to provide for his little family. He is only about 24 years old with a wife and two small children and had a home built by the team. Today he scooped up his small son and asked for a picture to be taken...not a posed picture, but a picture of him tickling his son and hugging him with the deepest love and affection. He was so full of joy that it filled me up as well.


Another great day

Wow, where to start?  We were challenged today with hard ground but blessed with many more children enjoying crafts with us. The women being allowed to cook with them. Of course as only God can the tough ground turned to as blessing as we only pushed to finish two home leaving time for a soccer match where the language barrier disappeared and an exchange of friendship and love flowed.  Tired from the day but feeling very good from a day of sharing the love of God.


Life in El Salvador

Well I can say that after a few days in El Salvador I have been truly humbled, this is great because I believe this is something had been placing on my heart. The people in the village that we are building with have so much talent, the heat does not seem to faze them and they are able to work effectively at fast pace.

Seeing how people can maximize so much with so little is amazing. It is difficult seeing the poverty on that they live with, but the smiles on their faces and their sincerity of their actions has already had a profound impact on me. It was something that I needed to see to truly get an appreciation of how others in the world live and I know that I am blessed to be able to experience this.

I always knew that we are equal, we are all sinners that Jesus had died for. Now that I have met these wonderful people in El Salvador, I will always have these images and experiences to draw back on. My prayer, and I ask that others also pray for is that God continues to have a noticeable presence in this community, that the work that we are doing and the work that the permanent missionaries continue to do after we are gone allows many more people here to give their lives to Jesus.

I am still getting used to the food here, but if that is my biggest worry I can deal with that…...

Thanks for the prayers and this wonderful opportunity.


When I Look...

Do you remember that old chorus:

When I look into Your Holiness
When I gaze into your loveliness
When all things that surround become shadows in the light of You

When I've found the joy of reaching your heart
When my will becomes enthroned in your love
When all things that surround become shadows in the light of you

I worship you
I worship you
The reason I live is to worship you.

I have always loved the tune of this song, something about the chord structure. but it has been in my mind again this week as I share live with these folks in El Salvador. Oh that the things I see (or smell) would become mere shadows in the light of God's holiness and His great love for these families. He sees them as He sees me - someone worth dying for.

We are praying that our new friends will find their way to the heart of Jesus and worship Him along with us for all eternity.


It's Not About the Houses

"We" built four houses yesterday, with time to spare before dark - seems like an amazing feat! Wow!  I have been hearing from various sources that there was a team from Calgary here last week that built nearly 8 houses in one day - double wow!....Anyway, I think that if our team did not lift a single tool, the four houses could in fact still have been built by the very capable experts that are here. Hmmm...kind of begs the question then.. "Why are we here?"....and for me..."Why am I here?" I asked myself that question quite pointedly after I failed miserably at offering any substantial assistance putting together a roof yesterday...well I am still not sure exactly what the answer is, and may never be privy to the answer during my time on this Earth, but I know that it's not about the houses and that God has a wonderful and unique chosen purpose for each of us here - and that is so much more amazing than building any number of houses - and it gives me amazing peace, joy, and satisfaction...I am going to be late for breakfast so I have to run!  Thank you for your continued prayers!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Warm again- Ahhh

Another year, I find it so hard to leave my family at home. But when I am here I love being here. Leaving the cold behind is a huge blessing for me. I was colouring with a very cute little boy today and he talked to me continuously even though he knew my Spanish was pathetically limited. I made a resolution again to learn this language- hold me accountable when I get home. My pronunciation of the colours was quite amusing to him.
 I am looking forward to tomorrow, I may help (watch and learn) as the woman of the village cook for the men working with us on the houses. May need to pray extra hard tomorrow!:)

Both Full and Fulfilling

Today was exactly that....both full and fulfilling. Over the past few years of travelling to ElSalvador I think I have tried way to hard to know why God keeps calling me here in particular. Why do I keep coming back each year? The truth is, it is never the same. Yes we build shelters, but now I can really see that more importantly we are building relationships. The houses are simply our ticket into the lives of people so we can share the love of Jesus. More importantly, I don't need to know why I just need to be willing.
Today four houses were built...the number of relationships could not be measured. I constantly found myself wanting to slow down and absorb all that God was doing. The homes were being assembled while communities and the team were working alongside of each other. We ate together, played together and best of all crossed the barrier of language and culture and laughed while visiting together. Not as a team from another country doing work for them, instead, as women, wives, sisters, mothers, daughters and friends. Deep personal conversations, sharing our stories and sharing the love of Jesus.
This afternoon was awesome. I met four beautiful strong women. Paula was receiving a house. Last month on Nov. 10 her husband died. Her oldest son only 15, bore the weight of the responsibility to help provide for their small family. Her husband never got to see their dream of a safe and secure home. This new much needed house served as a relief to them and a reminder that God has not forgotten them and in her words, "given hope and peace". We laughed together and cried together today.
Seeing and playing with the kids really made me miss my own.  I think I may have frightened one poor boy named Mario. He reminds me so much of my Quinn that I have the urge to hug him and smooch his face....he keeps his distance from the crazy Canadian mom. If you see my kids this week...don't hold back, hug 'em and smooch 'em from me please!


A sense of community

We have finished an amazing day in a village just outside of San Vicente. Our team of 15 was split into two groups. We ended up building Four houses. The men all joined in to help, so we were able to teach them how to use the power tools and once shown and encouraged, it was great to see them standing taller full of pride.
    I experienced a special connection with a 54 year old man. It started simply handing him a shovel and a pick to a younger man and the two of them dug holes while I measured and supported there work. Afterward he asked to get his picture taken with me. Even though there is a language barrier I was able to express how God has used His love for us to bring us together in a special purpose to help build a better community.
   Building a community, not just houses was the special lesson we learned today.

    A special thanks to all our loved ones in Sarnia who are praying for us.    Nico

What an awesome God

Let me just say wow!!! How Great is Our God. This trip is my first Missions trip ever. I have been humbled and amazed. To see the families just be happy with a new house. When we as North Americans are always wanting the next big thing.

Today it was a blessing to work along side of the villagers and hanging out with them.  I know that sometimes I found myself wanting to do all  the work. However, watching and teaching some of the guys how to use a impact gun or just seeing their faces when they accomplish a task. Made it all the worth while to be here.

Jason Thompson

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Just a Quick One

We're here and settled into the whirlwind of this week. Just a couple of quick, mostly personal thoughts. First, it doesn't seem to matter how many times I try, I just cannot like an El Salvadorian breakfast. Second, fireworks that go off all night with no opportunity to let me (or many others) sleep,  are really not that festive. Third, God finds new ways to touch my heart every time I am here. He is just so amazing that way.


Travel Day

Just a quick note to say thanks to the very many of you who have been praying for us on this travel day. 3 hours driving, 3 hours in the airport, 5 hours flying, 1 hour in the airport, 1 hour driving and we're here!

It's exciting to be part of a team that has 7 new people. The multi-generational mix is awesome. Another reminder of the amazing work God is doing with our church family!

Tonight we rest, tomorrow, we begin our discovery of what the Lord has to teach us, as individuals, as a team and as a church.

Our devotion tonight was from Philippians 2; a reminder about the need to carry a correct attitude and the need to empty our preconceptions and North American-scheduled minds while listening, looking and learning for the people God will use to teach us about Himself and His great love. That's a voyage, we've been preparing for, so here we go….thanks for joining us…


Sunday, April 7, 2013


Things I love about being here with Dad:
~ his love for the people here
~ how he has a special relationship with the team that lives here (pastor jorge, hector, noe, etc.) it's hard to describe but there is just something about it that is so cool
~ he didn't forget me anywhere
~ his hardwork building houses
~ he lets me eat candy
~ the time he took to show and explain everything to me
~ the way he answers my questions so that I will understand
~ being silly with him
~ his passion to show other's the love of God
~ he lets me use his iPhone

Things I love about being here with Aynsley: 
~ how she was willing to be part of everything we did
~ her connection with the children...everywhere we went
~ she didn't get left behind
~ her willingness to try new things like building houses, riding in the back of trucks
~ her ability to be part of our team of leaders
~ she made me give her candy
~ her tenderness for those who have less than we do
~ she was a great listener
~ she never complained about having to drink pop everyday
~ sharing a world that she has sacrificed 4 years to let her mom and I grow attached to; and loving it just like we do
~ she steals my iPhone when I am in meetings

Things that God has shown us:
~ you don't have to speak the same language to communicate genuine love
~ true poverty is real and it sinks deep into your heart
~ the answer to poverty isn't "stuff" it's Jesus
~ we shouldn't feel sorry or saddened but should join them in their desire to glorify God even in these circumstances
~ working with a team of broken people who are passionate about God is one of the greatest experiences anyone can ever have...and it makes a wonderful birthday gift
~ someone needs to help the doggies (this isn't necessarily unanimous)
~ we want to continue to be part of what God is doing to help those in need

Thanks for praying for us this week!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Around the Circle

Every night while we're on this trip, much like we do with our team, we take time to share our thoughts, feelings, observations, etc.  There is so much that we take in during a week like this, sometimes it is hard to process and then be able to express it to others. Particularly after a day when we celebrate with a community: handing over keys, giving gifts, hanging on to embraces and treasuring smiles.

Tonight as we went around the circle for what is likely the last time, each one was asked to give their highlight of the week. If they wanted they could also give their "low"light and a prayer request.
You always have a choice in these matters, keep it at the surface or be vulnerable, honest and authentic with what the Lord is challenging you with. What I have come to love about this group of leaders is that they choose the latter.
(It's important to remember that no one is paid to be here, we all choose to be here; some of us don't even know why other than it seems to be the place God has called us...and He has called us together. It's also significant to note that many of us do not see each other except for this one time each year.)
This choice to be vulnerable is used of God to be a great strength for the new organization, we call "Shelter: Building Hope".
Tonight, as we went around the circle many shared their own hurts and struggles and their need for specific prayer. Together with these revelations was also the recognition that the Lord was at work and because of that awareness we could mutually encourage one another to persevere through the difficulty and uncertainty that some are facing.
There is strength available to us through the Holy Spirit when we can walk with one another through seasons of struggle and yet stay connected to the Kingdom work of God. That's the beauty and the power of what we experience.
You may never get to meet them, but I invite you to pray for this team of servant leaders. In praying give thanks for them, for the Lord has used them to refresh my spirit and energize my desire to serve Him, whether it be with my family, our church family, our community in Sarnia, our community in El Salvador or elsewhere...

Thanks for praying.

It's OK with me.

Today we presented the keys and some gifts to the families that received houses this week. Before the ceremony started I was standing talking to one of our team member when Lupita came running up to me and hugged me. She had noticed me from far away and was so excited to see me. After the ceremony, I went to say good bye to my new friend. I gave her the candy I had gotten from my birthday piñata, and also hair elastics I had gotten too. I gave her one last hug, and then it was time to go. She waved and waved until I could no longer see her. I will really miss Lupita, but I know that God has great things in store for her and her family. Maybe one day I will be able to see her again.

There is another sweet little girl I want to tell you about. Her name is Rosemary, her mom helps Pastor Jorge's wife Maritza with the meals, so I see her everyday at breakfast and supper. There's not much I am able to say to her other than "hola" but everytime I see her I smile at her, and she smiles back. This morning at breakfast, Chris made her a balloon animal and I went over and gave it to her. As we were leaving for the day, she ran outside and gave me one of her rings. It's a simple plastic ring like most little girls have but it's something I will keep forever.

The past two afternoons has been all meetings, and although today I started to get really bored I am really thankful that my dad brought me with him. I've learned so many things this trip, and I am also thankful for the team. Most of them only see each other once a year, and they all have their own troubles going on in their lives but they all have the same goal which is to bring glory to God. That's pretty cool.

I'm only 14, but I've realized that God has used me this week even if it was only in small ways, and that is ok with me, it's all for Him anyway.


p.s. Thanks for all the prayers, it means so much to me :)

Friday, April 5, 2013

So much to celebrate!

So much to say at the end of a long day...I'll try to be brief (but will probably be unsuccessful).

We had a little bit of everything today: market visit, building another house, visiting a bakery-school project and meetings. Include the "regular" daily happenings of building relationships with leaders from  across the country and you have a pretty full day...oh, and it was my daughter's 14th birthday too!

Why do we stay involved in El Salvador? That's a question that we get asked often enough and is always worth considering. Today was a good reminder of many reasons. 

When we first started here our desire was to be involved in a global mission field with a view to developing a long term relationship for the purpose of mutual learning and the capacity to contribute to long term sustainability.

More than building homes, we have seen the establishment of a goat farm, sewing centre and now a tshirt printing business and a bakery-school. All of these endeavours flow from the gifts, talents and dreams of local people who are being equipped and mentored in order to develop skills and provide for themselves. 

We visited a small bakery that started out of a desire of some to learn to bake and then to teach others. Through this "school" ladies are being brought into relationships that equip them with skills that can benefit their homes and enable them to make some money. More importantly the leaders of the bakery meet together and pray for the ladies who attend. Their desire at some point is to have this operation get bigger so that some will bake and others will sell, all while investing time in developing relationships. 

Today we heard stories from two ladies (Pimpa and Wendy) who work at the sewing centre; about how the skills, employment and the community they are part of have helped bring significant change to their lives. Both have learned the value of commitment, hard work and learning to save. In fact one of them was able to save some money from her job, then her husband sold his motorcycle and they bought a small house! More importantly they realize that the Lord has made all this possible. 

Last year when we were here, we visited a town called Rio Frio. At that time we had the opportunity to connect with the two ministers (Pastor and Cesar) in the community, one from the evangelical church and one from the catholic church. Both men, demonstrate humility, and have formed a partnership that is united in their common affection for Jesus and a mutual concern for their community. Over the course of this past year there have been 75 homes built in Rio Frio. The results have been significant. In summary, they said they have learned that God desires for them to show love in Jesus name; what they see now in their community is people showing love towards each other, despite religious or political differences; and more importantly they are wanting to learn more about this "kind of love": Jesus. The Kingdom of God is being opened up to people and there they are responding to the love of Jesus Christ!

Why do we come here? Because God has called us to learn together, not just as canadians, but together with the people here, that Jesus is the solution for the needs of people. It's exciting to see, hear and smell the evidence of God's Kingdom as it grows!

Thanks for praying,


A Birthday in a Different Country

I had the most incredible day today. I got to experience my birthday in a different country, and although I didn't think we would make a big deal of it the team surprised me with cake, a silly hat, and a piñata. I don't know everyone on the team that well, so it was really cool that they would do this for me. Although these things were extremely fun and memorable, they weren't my favourite part of the day.

This morning, a group of us went off to the market. After we were done, my dad, a guy on our team named Chris and I were standing on the street corner. On one side of us, there was a girl and boy and on the other side was another little girl. Chris pull out three balloons from his backpack and I helped him make the kids balloon animals. No words were spoken, we just laughed and had fun with the kids. For two minutes, we were able to take them away from the pain that they most likely know and just have fun with them. As I was leaving on the truck, the kids smiled and waved goodbye to me tightly holding their balloons.

My most favourite part of the day happened at the worksite. My dad and I were only there for about an hour or so because we were at the market but we still were able to help out. I went over to Lupita (not sure how to spell her name) a 10 year old girl whose family was receiving the house. I got someone to ask her what her name was and they lady that asked her also told Lupita that it was my birthday. She grinned and gave me tight hug while wishing me happy birthday in spanish. I think that was my favourite present. After that, we played together for the rest of the morning. At first, I wasn't sure how it  would work because of the language barrier but I quickly learned that language doesn't matter. I gave her and her little sister sparkly tattoos and we blew bubbles. Later, when we were interviewing the family I learned that Lupita was having trouble in school and as a team, we were able to pray for her. That morning, Lupita and the rest of her family accepted Jesus into their hearts. Tomorrow I will get to see Lupita again at the key giving ceremony and I am trying not the think about the fact that I will have to say good bye to my sweet new friend.

Buenos noches!
P.s. thanks for all the birthday wishes! :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Under the Hot Sun

Today, I helped build one of the houses. Our team split into two, and went off to two different worksites. Our worksite had no shade, and there was no cloud cover. It was extremely hot and I am thankful for the water that we had there. Two of the men on our team took the time to show me how to and help me drill siding onto frames, cut the metal flashing and drill in one of the windows. They were great teachers, and it was an amazing feeling to be the hands and feet of Jesus despite the heat. 

When we were giving the old man his keys, we asked him what this house would mean for him and his wife. He was speechless and started crying. All he could say was "gracias" over and over. I'm learning this week that these people have stronger faiths than I've ever seen even though they have much less than what we have in Canada. They know that God will provide for them no matter what. 

I enjoy the rides in the back of the trucks a lot. It's bumpy and crowded at times but it is still a real cool experience and perspective. I love the bright colours of the buildings in the city, so different from Canada. I'm also enjoying the food too. I try everything even if it looks different from what I'm used to. The only thing I haven't like so far is plantain, which is kind of like a banana but sweeter. 

Now it's time for bed... goodnight!:)


P.s. my heart breaks every time a see one of the poor dogs on the street 

p.p.s. the kids are really cute and I want to take them all home

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Through a Window

Everytime you look through a window there is so much to see, so much to learn. Windows provide an opportunity for us to observe something that is external to our present situation. Windows invite us into worlds that we are currently separated from, but often can choose to be connected with.

That's what happened when we looked through this window today.

In Santa Anna, a new region we are prayerfully considering to work in, there is a school/community centre. Here the leaders, provide care, love and 3 meals to children age 2 to 5, often because the parents of the children are unable to provide these things. They teach children and tenderly hold them when needed. They prepare them for the time when they will enter school. Most of all they communicate the love of Jesus Christ.

The workers here do not receive a salary. The resources here are not supplied by a budget. The food here does not come from well stocked pantries or fridges. Yet they always have what they need, when they need it.

God is their Provider!

They trust His faithful provision and therefore are free to serve these children with a deep rooted love for Jesus Christ.

Though we look through a window, it is an invitation to enter in...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

And We're Off!

Well it took a little while to get going but we did arrive. After receiving an email at 2:30am to tell us that our flight was cancelled, we managed to get onto a direct flight that had us arrive in El Salvador just 2 hours later than we had intended...we can live with that! I had prepped my young travelling companion the night before we left that one of the important characteristics of international travel was patience, as things often don't go quite as you except. She did great and endured a long day with grace (note the picture...yes she's sleeping on the airport floor; she was there for almost an hour...).

As soon as we reached the hotel the rest of the leaders had just started their first round of meetings. I was just on time to lead the devotion. While these kind of meetings are not my favourite thing to do, it is always a privilege to connect with leaders from across our country who share a deep passion for the Lord and for the needy people of El Salvador. One thing you realize quickly with this group, is that their involvement in El Salvador is an extension of what the Lord has been doing for many years in their lives. What a blessing to glean from their experience and their commitment to serve the Lord.

Throughout our flight down I read an excellent book called "Friendship at the Margins". I'll likely share a few quotes from it, in this space over this week and probably beyond. Here's the first:

"We've discovered that commitment to community building requires fidelity over time...the work is slow, small and often takes years to build the kind of relationships that result in transformation."

This quote reminds me that it is so important to identify the "agents of change" that the Lord has established who are committed to serving a local community over a long period of time; once they are identified it is then crucial for us to listen and learn from them so that anything we add is in the context of their perspective and benefits to the whole community over a long period of time.

That's why I keep coming back here and that's why it's a privilege to be part of this group of people! Thanks for your prayer.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Great Hope!

As a church family we've just finished one of the most inspiring periods of time that I can easily remember! Today we finished the Lenten theme of "Be Great" with a focus on "Our Great Saviour", Jesus Christ. It's been energizing to see the Lord bring New Life to some, challenge some and grab the attention of others....sometimes it is hard to leave!...This evening I sit in my hotel room getting ready to leave for El Salvador. I realize now, that the more I personally recognize the extent of Jesus' love for us, the more I need to be part of communities of people where His love is being shown to others. I am thankful for how the Lord is changing lives in like manner at home. I am also thankful for the growing number of communities that I have the privilege to serve among. There is so much to learn and so many to love. May God, who gives us victory through Jesus Christ, indeed be our Strength, our Wisdom and our Love as we serve Him this week, whether at home in Sarnia or in El Salvador.  Thanks for praying for us and journeying with us!