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 πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡».... Did you ever get mud (a lot of wet sticky mud) stuck in your hiking shoes or heavy work boots πŸ₯Ύ 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 πŸ“ 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 πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡», 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 πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡» 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.”