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.