Sunday, December 2, 2018

Wrapping Up Another Season

After almost 10 months of preparation our team has returned back to Sarnia. We are tired but thankful. We're also a little bit nervous and excited about how the Lord will use all that we've seen and heard over the last 9 days, in our lives. We've been challenged to say "yes" to God, a little at a time.

Our team will take some time to process what we're learning. However, we do have some initial thoughts that we'd love to share with you. Here's a list of our names and a one word capsule that you can ask us to elaborate upon:

Jason - humbling 
Julia - Community 
Brittany - Compassion 
Jim - turbidity 
Shailah- eye-opening
Taijah- Powerful
Karen - contentment 
Pat - Community
Kayli - impactful 
Erin - Family
Leisha- 2,700
Tyson- Donald
Quinn - patience 
Matt - premier
Ben - si
Lori - hot
Deve - relentless

Thank you to those of you who have prayed for us - please continue to do so, financially supported us, and who have followed our adventures (or misadventures) through this blog ( a special shoutout to those who have taken the time to post comments - they mean so much to us as we go through the week!). 

Be sure to check the blog again in a few days as we update the current stories with pictures and write some stories about the families who received homes. 

To those who think they would like to join one of our teams - talk to one of us about it, and begin to prepare yourself now, our next team recruiting will be starting in just a three months time. 


Each night after we get back from supper, we have a team “circle time” in an upper room. Last night Deve’s announcement that we could all sleep in tomorrow (which is today, as I write this) was met with a cheer from the group. Yep - breakfast would be moved forward to a nice lazy 8AM!  Since we would all be packed to hit the road already, we could sleep past 7 no doubt, and still arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed for the breakfast table.  Back at my room after last night’s meeting, “Hey”, I thought to myself, I could stay up late using the amazing 😉 WiFi and read the blog and download some podcasts and stuff.  Unable to do so, i have up and turned in early - around 11:15 or so.  I could still get over 7hrs of sleep and be up to use some of the amazing 😉 WiFi before everyone else is out of bed (except Pat, of course).  Why not, right? Well, there was at least one critical oversight in that idea, however: El Salvador 🇸🇻.... Did you ever get mud (a lot of wet sticky mud) stuck in your hiking shoes or heavy work boots 🥾 and then take them off and leave the mud to deal with later, after it all dries up?  Well...I can’t be sure, but I imagine that someone nearby (a nice old man with a leathery face and a sweet, wise, toothless smile) must have heard their rooster 🐓 crowing as usual at 4:40 AM and remembered that they have many  such boots with dried mud (left over from rainy season) which they have collected but never dealt with - and now would be the perfect day and time to finally stop kicking  that can down the road.  Beginning at about 4:45 AM, and about every 15 minutes (give or take)to about 6:15 AM, this person, I imagine, got a pair of big old mud-crusted boots from his house, walked over to our hotel on the other side of the street, and started banging the soles of a those boots as hard and loud as he could on our hotel wall - the one closest to my room - until the boots looked reasonably good. Then he walked back to the house, smiling at the accomplishment, perhaps had a sip of coffee, dusted them off with a cloth, and grab another pair of boots - and repeated. Good for him to finally get that big job out of the way! :)


Changing their life has Changed mine

Psalm 61:4 ~ “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”

‭‭God placed this verse on my heart when I opened my bible Monday am. Not knowing what to except as the early morning of new things was approaching I was so thankful for our safe arrival to El Salvador 🇸🇻, meeting the families we were building for, the long but beautiful three hour church service just the day before and the fact I did not eat those chicken sandwiches as some were already suffering from. God was already showing himself in the details of our experience. This trip I knew was going to be extra special to me because I was experiencing it with my oldest child. I was faithful that God would not only protect, walk with me and write my story for the week but knew he was doing that for Kayli also. 

So after our first bumpy ride back to those communities were we had met the 14 families we were building for it was time, time to bless them with their new homes, so I thought. But the reality was that we were blessed so much greater then I could imagine. We were blessed by their hard work along side of us, to watch their community come together and blessed to see how faithful they were in fact God was their provider. I watched Kayli jump out of her comfort zone and grab tools, put together walls, cut metal and bless the children with her smile and love. I wore my sunglasses most of the week to hide my tears from her because I couldn’t have been more proud! Now as I sit digesting the week and anticipating hugging my other two children I am more thankful then I have ever been.
I am thankful for another experience in El Salvador 🇸🇻 this time with Shelter knowing God is working out all the details for the future here. I am thankful to the Shelter team, the drivers who safely drove us through roads and traffic I will never drive, the builders for their patience and teachings, the translators who make it possible for us to communicate and especially the leadership team who with Gods help iron out all the details. This experience will forever change who I am and my walk with God. I kept thinking of this t-shirt a Compassion team member had on during my last trip here “Changing their life has changed mine”.

Erin Norcross

Saturday, December 1, 2018


Did we mention that one of the benefits of spending a week 24/7 together, is laughter? There has been a lot of it. 
Last night at dinner we asked everyone to write down the answer to the following question (It can be a great place to start engaging us in conversation when we get back home): 

The funniest thing I did/saw this week? (names are not provided to conceal the identity of those involved :) )

  • During an interview I received a double middle finger from a young boy as he slide behind view from his father
  • Hearing that Quinn was in the washroom for 20 mins with no toilet paper and the locals laughed at him for waving toilet paper under the stall asking for some. No one from our team realized till we were about to leave. 
  • When we were walking through the market there was a guy who was walking behind us and pretending that he was a motorcycle while he passed us making loud honking sounds
  • When Omar was driving through a windy road and a chicken ran across the road. I yelled, Don’t hit the chicken!!. As we looked back there was no squished chicken. Omar said phew and wiped his forehead then went fast the next time he saw a chicken in the middle of the road. I said to not hit the chicken a lot while driving with him......he said “oops just saved $3”...
  • Matt and Ben applying sunscreen...this a story that needs to be told, acted out and made into a short movie.
  • I peed in the outhouse and it came out of a tube at Karen’s feet outside. 
  • Or maybe the dog peeing on Pats backpack. 
  • Wearing a goofy hat while a large room of people sang happy birthday in Spanish 

  • The failed fist bump high five between Pat and Brittany.

  • Kayli injuring herself on the rainbow loom (she got sliced)
  • Set my alarm at the wrong time, got in the shower in the middle of the night, woke up roommates

             Everyone is going to think the above alarm-time mistake is mine!It wasn’t me!

             I change mine to the above conversation 

  • Stuart saying the chicken salad sandwiches “should” be okay...They were not.

            Now that we have mostly recovered the above is now funny......maybe funny

           Nope, still not funny....

            ....if it’s not funny then why was everyone laughing when my insides exploded for the first time in ten years...

           Yup that’s funny
  • Jason’s funny hat

  • A child pooping at the side of a house and a chicken gobbling it up after

  • Teammates laughing at me for being overprotective of my body from ultraviolet light rays

Honourable mentions:

  • Shailah almost getting pulled in for not knowing what was in her luggage that wasn’t actually her luggage...customs guy: “what’s in the suitcase?”...Shailah “uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.....”

  • Matt’s bird sound recording playing while anyone was in the bano 

  • We check all the channels on the tv to see if there is anything to watch...when we get to the end we just turned the tv off. This is a reoccurring thing every night. 

  • Matt: “Ben, look at all the fluorescent lights along the road!!!”

            Ben:  “I....don’”

  • When Tyson found out about the blog

Lead, Follow and Bless

I’m so guilty of trying to map out my life. I get ahead of myself all the time in a sad attempt to prevent anything that could cause me to feel unprepared or anxious. I dreaded the thought of boarding that plane and the lack of control I would feel once in the air. It almost kept me from stepping out in obedience to the Lord. I asked a friend to pray for me and this is what she said, “When you feel like you are hanging on by a thread...make sure it’s His garment you are holding onto.” Talk about a powerful truth! I clung to those words and that image the entire flight and the peace that washed over me was incredible. 
In my devotion at the beginning of the week the verse I read was,

“You go before me and follow me. You place a hand of blessing on my head.”
Psalm 139:5 NLT

This has stuck with me all we as I think about how it pertains to what is happening in and around me here. Before I even got on that plane, God had already got gone before me and he was right there following me keeping me safe. And then He began to place a blessing on me that I felt continually unfold all week, blessing after blessing.

He used the ElSalvador Shelter team in many ways. They acted as our guides having gone into these communities before us and prepared the way by interviewing the families and determined  the best and safest routes. They interpreted for us, allowing relationships to be established. They presented our team to the communities in a way that allowed us to be welcomed in and best of all to be able to work side by side. And they blessed us when we had come to bless by sharing in laughter together, praying together and celebrating Gods goodness.

I am so thankful that God is all three of these things and the Shelter team has modelled each of them. He leads us, He follows us and He places a hand of blessing upon us.


We're Not in Sarnia

We arrived in San Salvador on Sunday. As soon as we went outside, the first thing that hit me was the heat. It was dark and hot. We (the team) waited at the side of the road for the vans to come and take us to the hotel. As we waited, I took my jacket off, sat on my suitcase, and continued to observe my surroundings. There were kids standing in the backs of trucks zooming past us. Loud, non-American music played. Already I could see that the land was obviously rough. All these things were very not Sarnian.

When the vans had arrived and we started for the hotel, I was starting to actually feel like I was in Central America. It was the first time I'd been outside North America (or in a North American isthmus) in ten years. I marveled at Christmas lights, which, in my Canada-centric mind were out of place in the snowless town. My dad was marveling at the lights too. But not the Christmas ones. “Look,” he said. “Fluorescent lights.”


Friday, November 30, 2018

New Things

So many new things happened this week:

- I had to eat new food
- we were around people who spoke Spanish all the time
- I learned how to use two different kinds of drills
- I learned how to put the walls together for a house
- I tried to carry pieces of the house (but the locals came to take it from me)
- I learned how to interact with the children
- I learned how to interact with my teammates
- I ate pupusas for the first time (didn't love it)
- I rode in the back of the truck (it didn't make me feel to great)

This week has probably been a time where I experienced the most new and different things all at once, and I feel this experience has been bigger than I thought it would be. I feel like the sacrifice to pay my own way and help raise funds was worth it. I had planned to go last year, but it didn't work out. I wasn't upset by that. But now, having been here for this week, it has been so worthwhile to finally experience so many new things.


Number Two

This being my third trip to El Salvador, i'm always cautious of where and when I am going to use the bathroom, usually I just hold it until the hotel. I honestly don't think I have gone number two outside of the "comfort" of my hotel room... until this week.

Baño experience numero uno 
So picture this, we're sitting in Pollo Campero, the whole team, us Canadians, translators, and drivers.
We are about part way through our meal and it hits me... I gotta go! but I think to my self I'm not at the hotel can I hold it? If I choose to hold it how long will we be here? will I go in my pants?? anyway,  I see Matt move towards the bathroom and I decide "hey he's going i'll go too" so Matt and I have an awkward bathroom head nod (you know the usual thing guys do in the bathroom). Then I take my seat upon the thrown. I hear Matt exit the washroom. A minute or two passes and I come to the conclusion that I am finished in the baño. but to my not so great surprise, there is no toilet paper other than the single shred on the floor. Not having my phone being in El Salvador I was unsure of what to do. So I waited, and waited for  twenty minutes. Watching shoes as they came in hoping for someone to save me from my boredom and discomfort. I even resorted to saying "hola" and waving that single shred of toilet paper under the door to which I just received El Salvadorian giggles. At last as the team is getting into the vans to leave they notice I have yet to return from the baño and  I hear the voice of my father asking if I had fallen in. Of all places to use the baño and Pollo Campero doesn't have toilet paper.

Baño experience numero dos 
I brought my own toilet paper this time! See i'm learning. this bathroom trip consisted of me wanting to hold it but seeing Matt decide to go and then realizing it just be safe because he's going, Ben also tagged along to this trip. When we got to the baño Matt went first and Ben and I noticed we could see his head through the top. I went last and got to enjoy Matts thunderstorm and birdsong to help make the bathroom outdoors as comfortable as possible. My problem with this baño was not the lack of toilet paper but the lacking of a certain commodity we take for granted... a toilet seat. The toilet was just a cement bowl causing the users to squat.

Two Things I Learned:
#1. Always bring toilet paper to the baño. No matter where it is.
#2. Toilet seats are just a suggestion.


Key Giving Ceremony

Today was the key giving ceremony. On Sunday we met 14 families, and today all 14 families recieved the keys to a home that they can now call their own. It was so exciting to see all of them together. I think for most, it was so hard to believe that this was actually happening for them. 

During the ceremony, Pastor Pastor said a few words that really helped me relate to how these families were feeling. He said, "It's a feeling of being overwhelmed because it's always been a thought that it would never happen to you. You feel it and you touch it and you still can't believe that it's true."

They thank God for these houses, but they kept thanking us too. And I kept thinking that it was God who provided the funds for these houses, and it was God who worked through us to build these houses, and He should be be getting ALL the glory. We were just the hands who did the work, and in the end ALL the praise needs to be turned back to Him. 

Thank you for all your prayers from home, they are such an important part of this trip.  We couldn't do this without you.


Compassion Day

Yesterday was the first time we have ever spend the whole day at the hotel. It was a nice break from riding in the truck and long hot days on the work sites. I for one was very grateful. 

We hosted the compassion children here for the day, and it was so amazing to be a part of. I personally didn't have a sponsor child here, so I wasn't really sure how involved I could be. But to my surprise, even those of us without sponsor children seemed to have found our place, making conversation with the kid's parents and grandparents. My dad and I sat at a table with Deve and Amanda and their 3 sponsor children. It was really interesting to meet the grandmother. She was really something. She knew we couldn't speak or understand Spanish, but she just talked and talked and talked some more. Even without any understanding we could tell that she is such a kind hearted, loving, caring person, and she has a solid faith in Jesus Christ. 

My favourite part of the visit though, had to be at the very beginning when the kids were being introduced, and re-introduced to their sponsors. One by one they called their names as their sponsor was walking up the stairs to meet them. Those of us without children got to go up first to take pictures, and in doing that we were able to see every reaction. Big smiles, tears of joy, high fives, and the most heartfelt hugs and embraces. I was in tears. I didn't even have a child there and I was in tears. If seeing these reunions had this much of an effect on me, I can only imagine what the children and sponsors were feeling. 

I decided to sponsor a child that day. Her name is Samary, and she is 4 years old. It is something I have been praying about for some time now. And seeing first hand how each sponsor has impacted their child's life just confirmed it for me. This is something that makes a difference. This is something that I need to be a part of.  



Well it’s 530 in the morning and I am once again sitting at my normal perch watching the daylight break revealing God’s handywork which in this case includes the SAN Vicente Volcano. My mind and heart are full as I ponder the many events of the week and realize today will be the last day to be with these families and many of the Shelter workers.

Every year there is something different and this is no exception. This year I was able to re-experience some of the first time awe through the eyes of Lori and Jason helping to realize how much of an impact we are making. Also with Lori being here I have never felt so Loved and taken care of as she forced me to drink water, brought me cold (wet) towels for around my neck and tried to get me to take some breaks. Several builders noticed the care and immediately asked “your wife?”.
I was also teasing one of the builders here “Levi” about singing while we work (something Tim Allen tried to get started two years ago). And he surprised me by breaking into a verse of “Open the eyes of my Heart” in English, which I then had to join into. I later found out that he plays guitar for his church and they are learning a few Songs in English.

Finally we were able to visit our compassion children yesterday which is an overwhelming experience itself. Being able to see the children grow and be happy in the tough circumstances of there lives is incredible. Knowing that our small contribution helps so much is a great testimony of what God can do through the good people working with compassion.

There is so much more I cannot express but it’s time to get ready to go celebrate with and say goodbye to the 14 families we were able to bless with houses this year.


Thursday, November 29, 2018


For the past 9 years I have been patiently waiting to go to El Salvador. All the amazing stories that were brought back home from each trip made me more excited to come. This year I am finally old enough to be a part of this team. Over the past 5 days I have been able to be a part of the build team and I was able to make many relationships with the kids. I quickly realized that the kids laugh at anything I do, whether it’s being really bad at frisbee or just saying things in English. 

Seeing the kids so happy and smiling all the time just made me feel so blessed to be able to come on this mission trip. Hearing the unique stories from the families receiving homes along with the kids smiles and laughter has helped me realize that God is at work everywhere. 
Shailah Allen

Empty or Full

There are promises that God makes, in the book of Isaiah, chapter 58, that at first seem hard to believe. They are hard to believe for a long list of reasons, but does it always need to be that way?

A number of years ago our family started sponsoring Compassion children who live in El Salvador. One became two, and then a couple of years ago we added a third. Does sponsorship make a difference? Does it make a difference in Jesus name?  The answer is no...kind of...Giving a monthly amount doesn't make a difference. Just about any of us can do that. 

Becoming a sponsor is a much greater honour and privilege. It's a relationship. And relationships require that you make room in your life, that you exchange thoughts, hopes and disappointments. My amazing wife, Amanda, is the one most responsible for maintaining these relationships. And the cost of time, creative energy, and finances, is very much an investment, not an expense.

In the first three days of our trip we have been spent, physically, with all the building involved under the hot Salvadoran sun. Today we were spent emotionally. We had the privilege, once again to meet and enjoy time with our sponsored children. They met us at our hotel, where we played games, shared a meal, showed photos, and got caught up on their educational progress.  In the exchange, it is just incredibly humbling to see and hear that they have treasured every piece of information that we share in the letters. They ask questions based on what they have learned through those letters and they have treasured the pictures we have sent to them by post or by email. Becoming a sponsor has allowed us to be spent emotionally (and there is a financial expense as well),..but those long hard hugs at the end of a visit, refill our emotional tanks to overflowing...God doesn't have to do that, but He is faithful to his promise. 

And then this afternoon, we had the unique privilege of sharing with the Salvadoran Shelter team about the differences that the Lord has been making in our church family over our 10 years of sending teams. Over 60 different people have made their way here, at their own expense, at the sacrifice of salary, time away from family and familiarity. Our desire in this meeting was to bless them by giving testimony to how we as individuals, as families, as a church family and as a community are being transformed in Canada, because of the strengthening of mutuality in our partnership here. Tyson summed it up well, "I don't how it happens, but we went in there to bless them, but now we're sitting here overwhelmed by what the Lord is doing with all of us."

So as I sit here tonight, so blessed to be part of a family, a church family, a mission family and sponsorship families, I am spent yet I am full...even to overflowing. 


Random Thoughts from Jason

Having spoken with Pat at great length about his experiences I felt like I was coming into this somewhat prepared.  Now having experienced the build and the emotions of helping families I realize that I was not at all prepared for how I would feel and I’m still not sure how this will impact me when it’s over.

It’s amazing to see an entire community come out and help, whether they are getting a house or not.  In a world that can seem at times a bit self centred and isolated it’s very inspiring to see neighbours rally for each other and believe that a few families getting this blessing will improve the whole community.

A roof that leaks constantly or a house that we cannot lock and feel secure in - how might our Canadian lives be if we had to be concerned about those thing? What if you helped someone get those basics? What else might they then be able to do for their families and communities? 

I was thinking before and during this trip why not just make an online donation to Shelter, go back to watching Netflix and let Salvadorenos build the houses, wouldn’t that create jobs, wouldn’t that be better? Matt, one of my roommates had the opportunity to speak to one of our great Salvadoran translators about just that topic and it turns out that it does mean a lot to the Salvadorenos that we do take the time to come down here and do this, it’s a very memorable experience for them and as a result, the experience of getting a house means that much more.

My own room, ice cold beverages, a hot shower with good water pressure, seat belts, etc - pretty much most of that is not happening here. Believing that we are here to make a difference and appreciating how the people we are helping live their lives (without most of what we take as given) gives me the perspective to live without (for now).

Pupusas are my new favourite food.

Glad Karen did not make me yelp when putting antiseptic on my cut. Thanks Karen!


Why Come Here?

This year we are the first team to build in these new villages ( which I have yet to get the names for). We were told the children had never seen white people before. It was interesting to feel and see the apprehension and excitement turn into comfortable conversations and camaraderie. I still love coming here and have been pondering why because there are many uncomfortable aspects to this trip. But I love being a small part of a bigger story and watching that story develop first hand. I really like building things and working with people. I am not a great conversationalist so the language barrier in some respects takes the pressure off and I can just work alongside them and observe the different personalities and cultural differences. 

I love seeing the familiar faces of the shelter team and seeing them develop a growing confidence in their positions. In some cases watching their roles expand. I love watching my kids here and experience the trip through their eyes. I love meeting the families in the villages and getting to know them. I love seeing the kids in the different communities and seeing the universal similarities. The shy kid, the boisterous kid, the incredibly cute troublemaker, the leader , the followers.... No matter how different we appear culturally, we all bleed red (and need a nurse😊) I love getting away from the familiarity of my life and letting myself be shaped and moulded. Sometimes not in the moment though. I love getting away from my busyness and focusing on God and his work completely. I love riding in the back of the truck observing a 360 degree view of this beautiful country. I truly love being in the sun! Some of these thoughts got me through my many trips to the bano this year and the extremely itchy ant bites...and the week is only just half over.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Micah 6:8

The theme verses for Shelter are found in the Old Testament book of Micah 6:8: “He has showed you, mortal, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Over the last four days we have been working together with some wonderful people in two different remote communities in El Salvador (El Zaite and San Jose Los Almendros).  Together we have built homes for 14 families, over these three days! It has been two years since the leaders of this community first connected with Shelter. In that time they have been working at preparing their community to receive a team of well meaning Canadians, who come with a great measure of enthusiasm that outweighs their expertise. 

The Lord, over time, has been helping us to better understand the importance of mutuality in this amazing development work of which we are simply, one part. It’s when all the parts come together that it becomes something almost indescribable in which to be caught up. 

We rise early (6:00am), at least for me. Breakfast at 6:30. Trucks and vans come for us at 7:30 and we’re off on our 1:15 commute along the highway, then into San Felipe, and then along some dusty, rocky, winding roads in the mountains. We are met by an enthusiastic posse from the community and then we split into two teams to build the houses, under the hot sun and soaring temperatures. A brief stop for lunch and then more building. Our build day ends close to 4, and then we make the commute back; a quick shower and change; and we’re off to a well prepared dinner that awaits our arrival.  After dinner we might make a quick stop for a little treat, and then it’s back to the hotel for a debrief time. Finally, it’s off to bed to get ready to do it again. 

It can be intense and tiring. There’s a sensory overload that takes place but it’s all the conversations that take place during the long day that makes each trip worthwhile. Conversations, with limited words, but warm smiles and good natured laughter as attempt to forge a common understanding between strangers with different languages. Conversations and laughter with our teammates. Conversations and laughter with our Shelter team here in El Salvador. Through all those relationships the Lord is at work, rekindling hope, reigniting faith, and restoring brokenness, in us and in them. Justice brings hope, mercy inspires faith and brokenness is mended in humility. It’s hard to describe what happens when you get caught up into the reality of these virtues coming to life. All I know is that you’re never the same when you allow the Lord to lead you into the middle of it. 

May God continue to do his good work with us, among us, through us and toward us. 


My First Trip

This is my very first time going on a trip like this. Honestly, it’s a life changing experience. Throughout the week I’ve been cutting metal, drilling in holes, and screwing in metal. But today my stomach was sore. So I got the opportunity to play with the kids. 

 The first day we were building and there were about 2 or 3 kids. They were scared of us because they’ve never really seen white people before. I motioned them to play frisbee with me. At first they were unsure of the whole thing.

Fast forward to today, they brought all their friends to come play with us. Still not being able to communicate but laughing, smiling, clapping, and giving each other hugs began to develop a relationship. We would also colour. We started saying the colours in English and spanish. For some reason most of them found the word blue very funny. 

Playing with the kids and working with the adults is something so amazing I can’t even describe it. Even though we both had no idea what the other person was saying. We shared one thing in common, we both served the same God. 

The things I’ve learned from this trip are that I’m unbelievably grateful for how God has blessed me and I’m actually really bad at charades.

-Taijah Allen

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Warm water

I love ice cold water. We have completed our second day of building homes. It is an experience that is difficult to put into words. We are in a remote area and the need is great. All of the people I have talked to receiving homes are so greatful and appreciate us coming to see them. They have never seen white people before. So this is a good experience for them and their community which are all helping with the builds. Even people not getting homes. 

It is so hot here, hi 30s and little shade. I have drank more water than ever and most of it is warm. I can now appreciate warm water.


Cultural Differences

Once again I am reminded of the great country we live in. Over the past couple of days I have had the privilege of interviewing some of the new home owners.  When we ask how receiving this house will change their lives, the answers varied.  Although they have all been thankful to God for their new home, some have a hard time thinking this way because they only live one day at a time. 

 Those that have some income are able to see into their future, however others are only concerned about where their next meal will come from. One family shared that this home would give safety for the daughter, because right now they rent a home on a busy road and she likes to run around.  This new home is away from the road and will have a safe space around it for her to play. 

This week is reminding me we are all Gods children and he has a plan for each one of us.


Monday, November 26, 2018

There's a blog???

Apparently there’s a blog. 

Deve just informed me that our teams have had a blog for 10 years, who knew.  Not me 🤔

Well after ten years and almost as many trips I’ve realized that the teachers have become the students. Ten years ago our team did all the teaching (and made all the mistakes, haha). 

Now fast forward to today and the Shelter builders and community are showing us a thing or two, or many. Then, the realization that they don’t need us to actually build the house becomes evident very quickly. This is the LORD at work! Us Canadians have more freedom and opportunity to build relationships, inspire and be inspired. Many times we hear how encouraging it is that we travel so far and leave our family and busy lives. So are we needed here? Absolutely. Sending money to build houses isn’t enough. Sharing our love for the LORD and building relationships with his people is what it is about. We encourage and we are encouraged. We become partners, working together, side by side. 


From Lori

This is my first blog, and I am not much of a blogger, but I know how much I enjoyed reading them in past years.
Yesterday we met the families, and went to a church service in a new community, they were celebrating their 21 anniversary of being a church. It was a enjoyable service, but could have been a little shorter. I will put it this way I will never complain again if our service goes a few minutes over, as this service was 3 hours long. 

Today we went for my first ever build. I was very apprehensive about coming and how much could I do. But I felt very useful, Julia helped a to show me some of the things that were a little less physical, but still very necessary.
I was also unsure of the back of the truck ride, but found it quite enjoyable, and wonderful to experience this aspect with the team.

When Paster Deve says the houses will still get built, it is true, but to see the family we built a house for this afternoon, and how very very happy they were, is amazing. The father lifted his little 2 year old daughter up to put the numbers on their new house, and counted out each number to her. It was such a precious moment.
I am so thankful, that God has allowed me to be a part of this team.

Now to go to see what kind of experience supper will be😁.

Lori Halls

Year 10 Begins

Just a quick post to say that our travels from Sarnia to El Salvador went very smoothly, once everyone found their way to the Park N Ride :) Toronto. 

Sunday was a full day - it is about 1.5 hours to get to the remote mountain village. This morning we met the 14 families who will be receiving homes this week. It's always humbling to realize not just their need, but their belief that God would provide and the small glimmers of hope that may yet be fanned into flame. 

We then drove into Santiago De Maria, a potential new nucleus site for Shelter. We attended an energetic church service. It included a inspiring message (See Brittany's post), but also some great and loud music, picture Pitbull leading worship and you'll be close...We then drove back to San Vicente for a very late supper and late turn into bed. 

We've got an early start and a long hot day ahead of us on Monday. 

Thanks so much for your prayer and encouragement!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

God Has A Plan

This evening at church, we sat through what must've been the longest service ever. And while normally I would have dosed off or lost interest part way through, there was something that caught my attention and held my interest the entire time.

During the service, the Pastor brought up his son to share his testimony. When he was only 1 year old, they learned that he could not hear. He was born deaf. His parents grieved for him because he would never be able to hear, which meant he would never be able to speak either. They faced trials, they gave up hope, and they started to lose their faith.

Fast forward 7 years, their son was accepted into a school for people who are deaf. There he learned how to sign, and eventually he learned how to talk. Praise the Lord! This tragedy was now a triumph.

But, God didn't stop there. A few more years, and he started to hear. He got 90% of his hearing back! It was a miracle! It still is a miracle!

Again, God didn't stop there. He now is able to use his gift of hearing, his gift of speaking, and his gift of signing, to bring the word of God into the deaf comunity! And since signing is universal, he can speak with and translate to not only people who speak Spanish, but to people who speak English!

Sometimes when we're going through difficult times, we start to lose hope, and we start to lose faith. But in the midst of every trial and tragedy, God has a plan. Just like God used the struggles of this young boy, He will use our struggles to bring Glory and to share His good news. As hard as it may be, we just have to be patient and pray. Gods plan may not be apparent now, or anytime soon, but in His good timing it will.


Saturday, April 14, 2018


Sometimes it's important to change the angle you look at something, or change the approach that you take to deal with a problem. Maybe it's not so much what you want to say, but the words that you choose to say it. Gracefully God gives us time and forgives our mis-steps in order to move us from our limited perspective His sovereign perspective.

Here's the very first blogpost written before our first trip to El Salvador.

There's so much excitement and anticipation in these words. As we set out on this first trip, we knew we wanted to make a long term commitment, but how would it work, what more would we need to learn when it seemed like we were so ready for that first time.

Time...Time also gives us perspective, particularly when it comes to evaluating our efforts: the progress and the mistakes.

One of the biggest changes we've made is that we no longer take anything with us to El Salvador for the purpose of giving away: no soccer balls, no jerseys, no school supplies, no shoes, no candy...nothing...

Over time we have gained perspective by evaluating the effectiveness of a trip, not based on our emotional high of doing a momentary act of generosity (in our own opinion), rather by considering the long term effects those actions have on a person and a community.

We've been learning that there are times, such as in emergency relief situations, where giving is necessary and vital. However, to continue to give prevents those who receive from discovering their own God-given strengths and abilities. It also dulls their capacity to discover and trust God's provision for them in their own community.

Today, we were reminded of this in  simple way: Each family that is to receive a house is required to provide $100 (approx. 3 months income for some) as their commitment. They are also required to take down their old house and clear their land in order for their new home to be built. One single grandmother, was the lone adult looking after several children, some of whom had disabilities. She was the only source of income. She is blind and begs for money on the street. How could she afford to pay $100? Also their property, or patch of land, was too small to accommodate a Shelter house.

If anyone should be given an exemption, a handout, then surely she would be it.

Instead, our ES Shelter Team talked to the community leaders, who in turn talked to the community as a whole. The policy didn't change for this family. Together, over a period of months, the community contributed funds to help pay for the house. Together, over a period of weeks, the community helped arrange a bigger plot of land, and cleared and levelled it for this family. The result is that, together...they all recognized God's presence and provision as coming from within their community.  God does provide!

If this were 9 years ago, we may have done all of that work for them. We may have given them clothes, and flipped them some cash. We would have felt an emotional high, taken pictures and told the story of how we changed someone's life...for a day. Because then we would leave, and that family would think that God's solutions lie somewhere beyond their community and their country and with others.

This series of six videos "Helping Without Hurting" are among the many resources that have helped change our perspective. 

As we begin to prepare our 10th Anniversary team, getting some perspective is an important thing to do.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Will it Last?

We often think in moments, in events, in experiences. We function, often, in short bursts but expect high capacity and return, yet struggle with why we aren't more deeply fulfilled. Unfortunately that is sometimes how short term trips get categorized.

One of the challenges that our teams have undertaken, has been to look past the subjective value that we assess to our trip. We've been improving on that over the years, or as Tyson says it: "8 years ago we were a problem, one year ago, hopefully we are less of a problem."  What he means is that we are still learning, and we have made mistakes, and we are continuing to evaluate ourselves, through the filter of God's Word, God's Mission and the example that Jesus gives to us.

We're only half way through our week, and we are receiving some excellent teaching/challenge from our two guest instructors: Mark Crocker ( and Jonathan Martin (author of Giving Wisely).

The question of long term sustainability is our big question this week. It poses a challenge to consider and refine all that we do: how we relate to nationals, how we work, how we train our teams, where we work, who leads us, succession of leaders, discovering resources within communities and most importantly viewing people, not as needy, but as those in whom there is God-given capacity. Sustainability requires to consider the question: "Will it last beyond me, my experience?"

Too often we look for solutions, quick fixes, and photo ops. However, as our teams have been discovering, as we slow our natural tendencies down, we can learn to imitate the humble, self-sacrificing example of Jesus. For it is He who relinquishes his privilege, his power and his position in order to draw closer to people, to allow them to recognize their capacity and to encourage, challenge and assist them to use that capacity with the resources that God has provided within their community.

We also think we need to give: money, food, though they are going to address the deep and multi-layered problems that exist beyond our perception. This may be necessary in an emergency relief situation, but in the work of rehabilitation and/or development they only do more damage. The hero syndrome that we all want to feel actually keeps those we think we are helping in a position of being perpetual victims, waiting for the next hero to appear.

As we learn to relinquish the aspects of our lives and character that separate us from others, we are more prepared to enter into mutually beneficial relationships, listening, learning, sharing stories and sharing experiences. These stories and experiences may happen in a moment, but they feed into the development of a sustainable future that will last.

We're putting together another team to come to El Salvador, what do you need to relinquish in order to step into the unfolding of God's Kingdom?  Why not join our team and discover this together with us?


Monday, April 9, 2018

Leaders Meeting 2018

It's always good to be back in El Salvador. For the first time in 6 years, for the leader's meeting, my travelling companion is not Aynsley. She is greatly missed by the Canadian leaders and our Salvadoran friends. Instead Tyson Jennings has joined me. He's been part of 8 teams that the SEMC has sent to this country, and he has a great God-given desire to see the work of the Lord continue to grow at home and in El Salvador.

Our travels went well, and we have been joined by 35 other leaders from across Canada. Today we took some time to meet the 10 families that we will work alongside with as we complete the building of their new homes.

We also had a church service this evening. It was held at the OEF hotel and we were joined by our Salvadoran team: Donald and Ely, the translators, the drivers and the building crew. Some of them even brought their families.

After dinner at the newly renovated Pollo Compero, we had a brief meeting where we took some time to understand an overview of all the steps involved in providing one house to one family. Here's a glimpse:

Thanks for praying for us. We have a lot of meetings to go through as we look to the Lord to lead us into the next phase of Shelter's development.