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.