Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The story continues!

At our hotel the last day we (Brittany and I) were approached by a person asking what is Shelter Canada.  So we tried to explain yes we build houses but more importantly we build relationships.

As I try and catch up on my sleep and readjust to life in Canada I find myself thinking were the last 9 days just a dream?  The week was filled with a variety of activities, listening to testimonies, colouring, painting nails, talking to families, seeing businesses that have come about in the last few years, trying new food, climbing towers,  and yes we did build homes.  But as we have been reminded it isn't about the houses its about relationships.  So, as I come back and think there are many things I do but life isn't about what you do but the relationships you build and that is the area I am going to try and cultivate.

So at this time of year I want to encourage you not to look at the Christmas activities as much as the relationships in your life and focus on them.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Hard transition

I returned to work this morning a little tired from our journey and had a very busy and satisfing day in a job that God has given me here.  But as I reflect, even though I love the job the satisfaction cannot compare with each day we had in El Salvador where you get to work not only with our great team but with translators and builders whose lives have been changed by the love of God.  Surrounded by people who love God with almost every action having the purpose of spreading God's love always produces some of the most satisfing days I have experienced.

Some would say that going into this rugged environment is hard but the reality is that coming back to a daily environment that does not have the support of the team or the satisfaction of seeing lives changed daily is the harder transition for me make.  

Thank you for your prayers for our team!  Please don't stop just yet. 


Thank You

It's 5:12 AM Monday mornin' and like much of the team,  I am just getting to bed after a long flight and foggy drive home. Before I close my eyes, this is just a quick thanks to those of you who have been praying for us and who otherwise made this trip possible for us through your sacrifices.

Thank you, and God Bless.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Something to Celebrate

In many ways it seems like we've been here a long time. And in other ways time has passed too quickly. It has been a privilege to serve on this team with these 14 other people. The Lord has taught me much through them. When we started on this journey we read Luke 10:1-9, where Jesus sends out seventy two disciples and gives them instructions about how they are to interact as strangers in unfamiliar places.

Over the course of the last 9 days our team has been part of many challenging, exciting and faith-building experiences. Some of those stories are contained in the blogposts below, I hope you take time to read through them.

However, tonight as we debriefed for the last time, in El Salvador, we returned to Luke 10, this time in verses 17-20. We were reminded through the examples of these followers of Jesus, that though we get to participate in some incredible awe-inspiring, even miraculous, experiences - we should be cautious in trying to relive or replicate those moments. Jesus says "However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Our greatest sense of joy and our greatest capacity to retain some of the unique vitality that we have experienced on this trip will come from remembering that we follow the call and the example of Jesus until such a time as He returns and ushers in the fulfillment of His Kingdom!  That's where our motivation and purpose come from: being known by Our Heavenly Father, whether we're in El Salvador or as we soon resume our regular lives in and around Sarnia.

Thanks for praying along with us, because we all have something to celebrate.


Come to Me

Matthew 11: 28-30 reads, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I love this verse. In fact, I love it so much that I had it tattooed on my arm. It will never leave me. That offer is there for YOU. Whether you are a farmer in ElSalvador, or an executive in Canada, you can find rest. Jesus is faithful. Don't wait any longer.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Still Fun

Today we built our last two houses. It was a nice relaxed build, nice hot sunny day, we sat around and ate lunch together with those that had helped us all week feeling a sense of accomplishment and to top it off we played soccer with one of our first friends in El Salvador, Basilio. Definitely a good day😀

December 3

This week has been an eye opener for me for sure. Coming into the trip i was not expecting some of the conditions these people live through every day. People told me about how it was but nobody can truly explain how rough they   actually have it! For me personally I am the kind of guy that would give someone my things if they needed it more then I do but we were told not to and it took me a while to understand why, it would totally throw them out of whack to get a bunch of nice things or a hand full of pocket change. 

For me I really love playing with the kids! Its hard because of the language barrier but it is super cool that we can get past that and have tons of fun! I want to scoop them all up and take them home! 

We definitely aren't just here to build houses and I definitely realize that now! 


More than hammers and screws

This is my first time on a missions trip and even my first time being south of Tennessee. About a year ago or so pastor Deve mentioned to me about this missions trip that he leads every year down to El Salvador to build houses. Instantly my ears perked up with the mention of building things. I thought, boy we are building houses and they are even made out of sheet metal. This is my forte, I should be going. 

As Deve and I met, again and again the missions trip kept coming into conversation and I felt a stronger and stronger need to go. I had no idea what to expect exactly. I figured a team of 8 tradesmen will go down for a week and hammer out as many houses as we can stand. But when we first started having preparation meetings I became very confused. When I looked around the room at the faces of my teammates and got to know them, none of them were tradesmen, some of them didn't even seem comfortable with an impact driver. What kind of team are we assembling if we are going to build houses and half the people can't use an impact? I thought well maybe the houses aren't that hard to put together and we will be okay. 

Within the first build day everything came to light. I quickly realized that even though not everyone was a builder we all had very strong gifts and skills to bring to make this team whole. By the end of the first day, we had needed the skills of a mechanic to change a flat on the truck, the skills of a nurse to patch up some cuts, and the compassion of mothers to communicate hope and love to the women of the community. I can plug a thousand screws into any building but I would have never been able to connect to theses families like my teammates can. 

I realized that God has given us a beautiful and dynamic tool box full of tools to do his work. It is evident that every person on this team has a role to play, that no one else on the team can do as well. This diversity makes our team so strong; and gives us the ability to spread so much love and hope that it is overwhelming. 

This is so much more than just building houses.


Welcome back Hosea

Two days ago as we made a brief stop to drop of tools at the community we were to build at the next day I saw a familiar face.  Hosea was a young man who's family had received a home last year and who had been a great worker on all the homes built last year.  When he saw us his great smile lit up his face.  I wondered if he would be helping us build this year but assumed that since he would be farming and his family was not receiving a home that he would likely not be available.  

But Yesterday even though not required he was there. We talked a little as we dug the holes but as soon as that was done he found a translator to say to me "I want a impact driver". Again the huge smile lit up his face as he took the tool and rushed to start building scaling the house like a monkey. He continue this pace right to the end even searching for extra work to do before reluctantly giving up the tool.  The impact we had on the man last year was clearly evident.  I imagine waiting an entire year for dreaming of when you can have the opportunity to use a skill that you believe is God given and that you enjoy. 

I hope I see Hosea again today even though we have moved to another community. 


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

'The Poor'

As I return to ElSalvador for the second time, I have once again come to the conclusion that I do not have a grasp on the concept of what the word 'poor' truly means. Yesterday I sat in the home of a 'poor man'. He truly owns almost nothing. However, as he spoke, it became clear to me that he has more than most men in North America will ever have. Sitting beside his wife of 53 years, he spoke about putting God in the centre of his life. Jesus spoke of His promise to give life abundantly. Can I call a man with a bride of 53 years, 11 children and a love for His Lord poor? I think he is actually rich....


The end of an era

Perhaps it had to happen. Some say it was inevitable. After 12 trips to El Salvador and having held me together as about 100 families have received new homes. After many hills and valleys walked. After holding dozens of pounds of trail mix in that dirt filled right pocket. After being inspired by an endless number of faith inspiring stories, then time has come...to say goodbye to my favourite pair of shorts. 
Early in the day yesterday, as I reached down into a post hole to remove a rock I heard the sound that broke my heart even as it ripped through the faded green material. 

Goodbye faded-green-el Salvador-house building-shorts. Thanks for always being there....until you weren't. Because of your faithfulness over many years I was not embarrassed to walk around the rest of the day knowing laughter was generated as I walked by. I will miss the comfort you bring. 



"As for me, I call to God, and The Lord saves me.
Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice."  Psalm 54:16-17

Today we stood on Holy ground. Today we stood in awe of Christ. Today we cried out to God to reveal himself to a small boy - Santos, just 11 years old. God knows his name, God knows his heart cry. God delivered a promise to Santos and we were there in his Holy presence, witness to the Lords awesome power and his love that reaches so far and so deep and so wide.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

We sat on a rock and prayed over a child fearing for his life. Not able to eat or sleep for fear of a gang that promised to return and take him, a gang that just months earlier murdered his 16 year old brother. How do you even wrap your head around that? You can't. I can't. We prayed and we cried out and we praised God because He can! Only God can offer that kind of promise, protection and peace.

" In this world you will have troubles, but take heart, I have overcome the world."   John 16:33

I urge you to pray for this child. God has shown him to us with purpose. We have looked into his eyes. The words from Gods mouth have become seeds in our hands. They have been sown in us and His works sprout through us. Pray for his protection. Pray that his faith would be greater than any fear that he faces. Pray that he would become a warrior for Christ and that as a result others would know of Gods love and gift of salvation.


God's presence

Today was a very emotional day.  Let me tell you one families story.  This family was not getting a house but their sister was.  We had just finished painting the girls nail and started talking to them about what life was like.  The mom shared that her husband was working in the U.S.  She also shared that one of here sons had been killed by the gangs in the last few months.  She went on to tell us the gang had approached  her younger son to work for them.  He had refused and they threatened to kill him.  The child had a lot of fear because of this .  Our team was able to share that God would honour this commitment and that God knows what is happening him. They were able to share Jeremiah 29:11.For I know the plans I have for you.  Plans  to prosper you and not harm you plans to give you hope and a future.  When he was afraid he could call out to God and he would hear him. It was amazing to see and feel God's presence as we prayed for God to protect this boy and his family.  Let's all lift up this family to God.  We serve a mighty God.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 1st

I've only been here for 4 days now and words cant even describe this experience. You wonder and ask yourself.. Why would these people go to these places? Why would they go to one of the most dangerous places in the world and leave their lives behind to build families homes. Well.. I can officially say I know. It takes a brave and courageous human being to do such a thing and I am lucky enough to have 14 right here beside me. Changing somebodies life is breathtaking and knowing what these people do day to day just to survive is absolutely astonishing. No matter what lies infront of you there is always an answer.  


Children of El Salvador

Today we were at a village building a home for a family of 5  A single mother and 4 children.   It was the oldest child probably 12 years old that touched my heart.  She asked her mother if when the people from Canada come will they build us a home and the mother said no they won't I have been too sinful but the little girl began to pray every night.  Then the mother said 2 weeks ago we were contacted and told we were going to receive a house. When asked the mother says she now believes. We told her once you believe in Jesus nothing you can do can make God love you more and nothing you can do can make God love you less God forgives your sins do you beleive this and she said yes she did.  Then the mother told us the little girl (Emily is her name) stayed up until midnight every night clearing off the land so that we could build the house.  A child of faith in that home a child of El Salvador such a precious little girl with the faith of a giant.  It was a rewarding day today thank you Father God for this opportunity .  

Monday, November 30, 2015

It's not all about me!

Today we head out to our first build sight, which was probably a 30-45 minute hike down the mountainside, after a two hour cattle truck ride from our hotel to the community.  And those of you who know me, probably know that given the choice, I will take the easy way out.  When we were getting ready to begin the hike, I was given the opportunity to ride a horse down the mountain side. Aside from being a really awesome experience, I did it because I didn't want to do the hike.  So we made our way down the mountain side, Tiffany and Julia along with me.  Finally we reached the build sight.  I was so grateful for these horses, and the young men who walked beside us, because we made it there without breaking a sweat or physical strain.

As we finished building the house, I was once again offered to ride the horse back up the mountain.  And knowing the struggle I had last year with the hike, I was very tempted to say yes.  But something inside me changed.  I don't know what, and I don't know why.  Perhaps it was watching all the young men and women working so hard building the house, after many had already been up and down the mountain 3 or 4 times, and went to work in their field at the crack of dawn. I opted to hike back up the mountain, about an hour hike maybe a little longer. I even turned down the offer to have my back pack be carried up for me.  If I was going to climb up the mountain, I was going to climb up the mountain on my own.  Even if it meant taking extra stops and water breaks along the way.

I am proud of myself for pushing through, despite how exhausted I was afterward.  It made the experience of building the houses so much richer.  Giving my all in helping these families who spend weeks and months giving their all preparing their land is a very humbling experience.

God wanted to show me something while I am here in El Salvador, and here's what it is...



Never say never (especially to God)

So today I walked down the mountain after swearing I would never ever do it again after last year. But God wIth His wonderful sense of humour brought me back. And then just to show He hears my prayers, provided this lovely horse to ride back up. I can now add horseback riding (mountain style) to my El Salvador experiences!


Lead by God

I believe that often as we go through life we do not really see how God is leading our paths and often do jot see the impact our choices have on both ourselves and others. Today was not one of those days for me as it became very clear to me how God has used us to impact this community and specifically one of his workers here.  
Last year a small team of 11 from SEMC were called for our El Salvador mission trip and lead that team to the remotest communities Shelter has been able to reach.  That trip was very demanding especially physically as there were long drives, steep hills, and long paths involved in most of the homes. This lead Pastor Deve to ask that 2014 team last January if we would consider returning to this same area again or should we will consider other alternatives (we have always changed location in the past). Again I believe that God lead that team to have the faith to say they would return.  Today God was glorified and hope grew throughout due to that God lead decision.  I am not sure that I can express the joy I felt from Pastor Pastor and the communities.  Unknown me was the concern that had entered this community that our 2014 trip had been too hard and that no one would ever want to return again.  The impact of our return was very tangible as I felt the joy in the Pastor and the community knowing they serve a God we're all things are possible and God was praised with the knowledge that only people lead by the Love of God would return. 

It thrilled me to see the joy this small act could bring and I believe God truly was leading our 2014 team back in Jan as we indicated our willingness to return. Now I am looking forward to seeing how he will use use throughout this week. 


Sunday, November 29, 2015

One day, one year ago

One day, one year ago I sat with a family and they shared their story with me, a stranger.  I felt a special connection with the youngest daughter in that family.  When our team decided to come back to build in the same area again this year I hoped that I would get to see that girl once more though I knew I may not.  However, after church this afternoon I happened to see her through the crowd and she recognized me instantly!  We hugged, she brought me to see her family and we got to chat for a little while.  Crazy that a relationship can be built in one afternoon and remembered for a year! That's why it's not about building houses. It's about building relationships and hearing people's stories.


We're Here

Just a quick note at 2:34am EST to say that we've arrived at our hotel. It was a long 22 hour day of travel, but all went well. We will appreciate your prayer throughout the week. 


Saturday, April 25, 2015


Unity - that was the theme of our Leader's week in El Salvador. It wasn't the theme that we had selected beforehand, however, it became apparent right from the start that this was the theme that God had selected for us.
On Sunday morning, at our first team devotion, Wayne Drudge from Listowel EMC shared from Psalm 133:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—
Life forevermore.

As we worked alongside each other, many of us meeting one another for the first time, unity would be crucial. With each of us being "leaders" learning how to be mutually submissive to each other through the building of houses and also in our meetings, is no easy task and yet there was unity among us. Not uniformity, because we are all different and have different strengths and talents and gifts, but there was unquestionable unity. 

Today (Friday) as we went back into the community called New Hope, for the key giving ceremony, Pastor Oscar gave a message on Psalm 133. He talked about the two fold promise: the first being the setting apart by God, in the way that Aaron was set apart to minister as High Priest. God blesses unity and works through unity to accomplish His purposes. Secondly, there is a unique inspirational refreshment, like the dew in the morning, which comes through unity. 

Lastly, this afternoon, we gathered all the volunteers and workers from all the communities that we have worked in over the course of this last season. There were about 140 people in total. I had the privilege of sharing from Romans 16, a message the Lord had given me to write two weeks ago - the theme - you guessed it - unity!  A unity forged through our common faith in Jesus Christ. A unity fuelled by the power of the Holy Spirit. A unity that uses diverse kinds of people. A unity, through which God desires to reach the nations, including Canada and El Salvador, as people make God honouring choices to resist evil and obey the truth. 

The lasting impression of the stories we've encountered (sorry, we've had poor internet connectivity this week which have limited our ability to share) and our experiences have fuelled our desire to serve the Lord in the upcoming year because of the way in which we've seen Him work through all of us, Canadians and El Salvadorians, through the unity that He continues to work within us. 

The 140 people gathered in an upper room in San Vicente, had an unmistakeable feeling that God is using each and everyone of us, and through us to our various communities, team members and partner churches and organizations to bringing healing and redemption to the lives of both Canadians and El Salvadorians. 

Thank you for sharing in this ministry, we serve an amazing God who in these days, has brought Psalm 133 and Romans 16 to life before our eyes. 

"Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages  but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen." (Romans 16:25-27)


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why We Come

There so many stories that need to be told. Some cause us to be inspired. Others can stir anger within us. Many should cause us to reflect on our own lives and how we ought to live in such a way as to reflect the love of Jesus to others. I could write my own reflection on how this looks, but a friend of mine, another team leader, has written it much better than I ever could. Together we helped build this lady's home. Let me invite you to listen and reflect with my friend, Matt Duxbury:

"I am again so fortunate to be in El Salvador. I am here on the Leaders week. 
Today my team built a house for a woman who has had quite a life. She has four children from 15 to 2yrs old. She is a single mom who has been through two men. The first one who gave her the two older kids left her for a different life. The second man gave her the next two kids and a beating for almost every day she was with him. He also beat his then 1 year old daughter. Unfortunately this is all too common in this country. She finally kicked him out. She works at the market selling candy. Some days she makes $3-5. Some days she makes nothing.
She broke down crying saying thank you from the bottom of my heart over and over.
This is why I come to El Salvador. To be the hands and feet. To start a new path. To begin to generate a different journey for those who cannot generate it for themselves. To wrestle with the thoughts of how a man could beat his wife and 1yr old daughter. Instead of dismissing the thought in disgust and acting towards the afflicted in warm hast to alleviate the tension in my heart I ask what are all the factors that take a man to this place. This type of evil is rarely sudden but more often compounded by environment and many other factors. I come to learn from those in the communities how to be a better father and husband. If they can do it here amidst what confronts them I can do it at home.
I come to give hope to those that need it. I come to receive hope in some of the most unlikely ways. If I am open and can see behind the obvious it is there and can have immeasurable inspiration. As much as the woman today was in a desperate place she has a strength that most do not.
Look for the inspiration behind the obvious. It exists everywhere. Maybe I am more aware of it here because I come to El Salvador looking for it. I treasure my times here because it moves me to a posture I long to possess more often than one or two weeks a year. Thank you people of El Salvador once again for your steady hand on the inner aspects of my life. You are a gift in the hand of God and you have made impact that will affect my family and their children as well."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Being here for the third time I've found that although everything is still unexpected, I know what to expect. The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes are all familiar to me. When we go to build the houses, I know what to do and how I can help. I feel like I am contributing rather than having to be taught how to do everything separately. It feels good to be helping as part of the team. One thing that will always stick out from all the rest is the stories of the families we build houses for. While these stories all share a common theme of struggle and hardship,  they now can share a theme of hope. 

A Great Welcome

As we often do at our leader's meetings, we went to a new area to build homes. Upon our arrival to this community called, New Hope (Nueva Esperanza), there were people waiting to greet us. They held two signs, one in spanish and one in english. This community is one that you would walk through and you would likely say without too much effort that they were poor - but only if you measured poverty in terms of material possessions. They were rich in hospitality - not just in welcoming but in caring for our team as we worked. It was hot today - real hot, and we definitely had people struggle with the heat. The ground was so hard for our two houses (we built six total), which somehow makes the sun seem even hotter. Just as we finally finished digging the holes and getting the walls of the house up, our hosts came to our worksite. This time they were carrying cans of Coca-Cola covered in ice and they had a bag of chips for each of us. None of us had ever experienced this before! Even though we might consider them materially poor; they sacrificially provided this extremely welcome refreshing snack at just the right time - it was a richness of generosity that I have rarely seen.

There are several stories from today that will be important to share. They come from the people that we met, spent time with and listened to. If time allows over the next couple of days, I may share them in this space. If not, please feel free to ask me about the little girl with down-syndrome or the man with kidney failure.

We serve a God who continually welcomes us into His Kingdom work, sometimes in the most unlikely places...I am so thankful for that.

Good night,


Monday, April 20, 2015

Picture It

A typical first Sunday in El Salvador means that we meet the families that will be receiving new homes. Today we met the 8 families. Some of them had a married couple, some of them had single moms, some of them had inspiring stories of hard work, some of them had tragic stories of illness, abandonment or worse, loss of hope. What purpose does this serve? Is it worth it? Those are always good questions to ask.

In the late afternoon we attended church in San Vincente. It had actually been a two or three years since I have had the opportunity to join together with these brothers and sisters on a Sunday. The message was on Numbers 6: 26-27 (I think), the benediction or blessing. Pastor Oscar gave an excellent and inspirational message - encouraged me all the more to keep up our use of benedictions.
He then transitioned into a time of giving thanks and blessing to the team leaders, 30 of us. He spoke of the importance of long term relationships and how the presence of the team leaders and the teams throughout the year give encouragement and inspiration to their church family. How it has compelled them to be more intentional in their own mission endeavours, in fact they have changed their name, from Templo Christiano, to Templo Missionaro. They want to be about mission, all the time.

The best part is the music we sing here at this church. They make a point of singing two or three songs, that Canadians know, and doing them at very high enthusiastic volume. It's actually incredibly powerful to sing songs of worship to our Lord in one Spirit, though in different languages. Today songs like: God of Wonders, Agnus Dei, Free to Live - all very powerful and all a reminder that one day we will sing these songs together in Eternity. But for now, we're given a little glimpse of what it could be like. Can you picture it?

Thanks for praying.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Always New

It shouldn't surprise yet somehow it always does.  As familiar as our trips to ask Salvador should be the Lord has something new for us to discover.  Today it was a conversation with the person beside me on the airplane (not Aynsley, the other side). I had just put the book I was reading in the magazine rack in front of me. Entitled, "When God Talks Back", it obviously caught his attention because he took it out and started to look at it and then proceeded to ask me questions about it.  Turns out that my new friend 's name is Jerome and he heads a mission team that also works in El Salvador.  Our discussion about how we've seen God reveal himself over the years was quite interesting and encouraging. Then he decided that I should talk to one his team members so they switched seats and I had the chance to share a little bit with Nancy. In the course of conversation she mentioned another team member Doug who, if I'm talking to God, could I talk to God about Doug. Doug's adult son died tragically about a year ago and Doug has struggled since that time. A couple months ago while on Vacation he had enough and shouted to God that he didn't want to go on like that anymore and wanted his life to count for something. That's when some friends connected him with Jerome and got him involved with this mission team.  Over the next 12 days would you pray for Doug, that he would find healing in Jesus and come to a place where he enters into relationship with Him. That was my promise to this team that we would pray. 

Well it's been a long day of travel and my little traveling buddy is gone to sleep. Tomorrow is a new day of meeting the families for whom we will be building houses. Thanks for your prayer and partnership.