Friday, December 30, 2016

What will the Lord teach us? How will the Lord work in us and through us? Today our team is on the way. We read John 7:37-39 - this our prayer for the week - that the Spirit of God would live vibrantly through us. Thanks for your prayer.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Hope or Hopeless

Today we built the last five homes of the season, bringing our total to an even 300. As we do with every build site, we take time to sit with the family and hear a little bit more of their story. Some inspire us and fill us with hope; others shake us and tempt us to considering it's hopeless. At least that's what the surface of people's lives can do to you.

Let me tell you quickly about two 15 year old boys:

- the first has been so delinquent that his parents feared that he would be killed; so they scraped together enough money to hire a "coyote" (someone who smuggles people across the US border) and sent him on the perilous journey up through Central America, Mexico and perhaps into the US. The father indicates a hopelessness in the boy; but he also shares his own hopelessness and his own plans to leave once he can raise some more money. He is hopeless about his family and himself. Listening to their story can leave one feeling hopeless.

- the second boy, is one of the most grateful, tender hearted young men we have met in El Salvador. He worked hard, took instruction and showed tremendous care as he participated in building his new home. When we asked about how we could be praying for him, his response was "Thank God for me and my friends. Two years ago they received houses and now my family has one!" His eyes filled with tears as he told us that the rainy season would soon be here and that he was thankful that he wouldn't have to be awakened at night by the rain coming through the roof or through the plastic sheeted walls. A young voice of hope! His parents, are committed to each other, faithful to each other, they pray every day and give thanks to God for his blessings (this was before finding out they were receiving a house). They are a sign of hope. Listening to their story can leave one filled with hope.

The truth is, our emotions get tossed back and forth as we enter into the lives of these people for a day or a week. However, deeper than our emotions and beyond our capacity to see, there is a Greater truth at work: that God in the midst of many consider a hopeless situation, is bringing deep abiding hope through the love of Jesus Christ. Our circumstances do not define our level of hope. Our hope comes from God, is centred in Christ, and flows through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks for praying with us.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

A great question

Last evening, following supper, someone asked me this question: "What would you consider it means to be a good Christian?" ...
Before I share my response let me also capture a little bit of a conversation that I had with Pastor Amilcar, the new pastor in San Vicente. He and I were doodling and sharing verses to bridge the language barrier about what the church (people of God) are to do and our responsibility as pastors. We shared verses like: Matt. 16:18; Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8. Though limited by language our excitement was evident as we recognized that God has given us a shared view of our roles: to equip and encourage people to "go" and share the grace and truth of Christ; and secondly allow Christ to build the church. Too often we reverse those eternal truths for our own convenience and sense of accomplishment. 

So back to my evening conversation, my reply was (not surprisingly), "why do you ask that question?" Then we were able to talk about past hurts he'd experienced and a view that many churches and church leaders are only interested in attendance figures and budgets, throw in a few baptisms and you have a good year and that's how you determine who the good Christians are. Like earlier in the day, we came to the realization that many churches have reversed Jesus' instructions to us. The road back is long and twisted because so much needs be unlearned and confessed but it is possible through a long term commitment according to the impulse of Jesus. 

By the way, my answer, " I wouldn't refer ti myself or others that way; I prefer the term 'follower of Jesus' because it reminds me that in my imperfection He is working in and through me and that my objective is to keep His example and truth as my own. There is no goodness apart from Him and there is no Christian without Christ."

Our conversation isn't done yet, I'd welcome your input, how would you respond?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Learning to Lead

Today was the first day of our AGM (Annual General Meeting). Most years we have a guest speaker to share in one or more of our sessions. This provides some necessary reminders, some equipping and usually a challenge that relates to the privilege of being called to lead these short-term teams. This year we invited Tyler Pelke to be our guest speaker.  As a fourteen year old he endured incredible suffering, which almost took his life and left him with 25% of his body covered in 3rd degree burns. The short version is he faced several choices over the next number of years, either to remain a victim of his past circumstances or courageously make choices in spite of those circumstances. He continually chooses the latter and that's part of the message he shares: know your purpose, be quick to forgive, adapt-ability. With the God as His helper Tyler provided an inspirational message that speaks encouragement into the often confusing world that we live in as leaders of these teams, as well as speaking hope into the lives of those among whom we serve in El Salvador. We don't have to remain a victim, we don't have to just survive, but by knowing our purpose we can actually thrive no matter what our circumstances may bring.

Every house has a story

Today we built six houses. The first family my build team built for was for a man named Gustavo, his wife, Rena, and their son. Both Gustavo and Rena had been abandoned at a young age by their parents. Their parents moved to the United States, keeping contact for the first few months but that soon stopped. Gustavo and Rena have heard through friends that Rena's parents have separated and have new families. During our interview with the family, one of the questions asked to them was, if they could go anywhere in the world where would it be? The response, they each want to go to the United States so they can tell their parents how much they love them. Crazy. 

The second family my team built for had a great grandma who was 92 years old, grandparents around 50 years old, and a 6 year old grandson. You could tell that this family was truly loving and caring, which is something so rare to find here. The little boy, Joseph, was so energetic and intelligent, another rare finding. When he found out the Canadians were coming, he made his grandma buy him a book in English so he could learn to speak it. He hopes to become a doctor one day due to an experience he had at the hospital where no one was available to help him. 

It was hot today, but nonetheless I love building and hearing the stories of families. 


Monday, April 11, 2016

Stronger Together

It's a strange feeling to be lifted off the ground inside a winged metallic cylinder. There we sit suspended in the air for a few hours, reading books and watching movies, until we gently descend back to the ground. It's not the same ground, for while we were suspended in the air, the earth rotated, rolled and reconfigured itself so that we exited our craft in El Salvador.  Just like that it seems the Lord has made the distance, language and culture shrink into manageable proportions. We leave home and we are welcomed as though we are home. This week (April 9-16, 2016) we, Aynsley and I, are again joining with almost 30 other people from Canada to celebrate and share about how the Lord is working through our Shelter teams. We will be building 11 homes this week, to bring this season's total to an even 300!!  That is something to celebrate...not the number of homes, but the number of lives impacted by a tangible expression of the love of Jesus...but don't stop your counting at 300 El Salvadorian Families. Please also consider the over 300 Canadians that have been down here this season and their families; and their church families, businesses or organizations. And then think about how each of their communities are impacted not just in supporting before, but in celebrating after each team returns. And don't forget to add in the people in the communities and the churches here in El Salvador.  How's your calculation coming?

Your prayer, financial support and encouragement for the work that we are part of in El Salvador gets stronger as we work together, following the rhythm that God establishes. I am thankful to be caught in that rhythm, learning to move according to His impulse among these aforementioned people which includes you!

Two things, from our church service today in San Vicente: first they have a new pastor (Amilcar) and he seems to be a refreshing answer to prayer as he shares our desire to disciple the people of the communities in which Shelter is working.

Secondly, these verses in 1 Peter 5:18-19 - they tell us that with the Lord as our strength we are stronger together and He is calling us to run to Him with great determination.

Thanks for praying for us this week.