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.