Friday, June 17, 2011

the construction process

how's that for joy on Noe's face.

over the last 10 years teams have been coming down to el salvador to build homes for families in great need. one of our hopes was to have a team of local guys down here running a crew building homes for their countrymen... now we don't have to wait for canadians to come to keep building homes for families in need.

here is a quick video that shows what a normal day on the job site looks like down here. 4 guys are employed to build the home, while the rest of the community rallies behind them and makes it all happen - lunch for everyone too! please click on the link below...


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

king of the castle

i don't like it when the riders don't win the grey cup.
i don't like it when the favorite wins.
i really like it when the underdog wins.
i don't like being on the bottom.
for that matter, i don't really like anyone being on the bottom - but i especially don't like the people who are always on the bottom being on the bottom.

i have a couple brief stories to share. they speak of guys hitting the bottom. of coming back up. of seeing a glimmer of hope in a really dark world down here.

after a few months we are realizing the depth of the depravity of this culture. hope & redemption & love are needed more than we even imagined.

story 1
jose is a guy stu wrote about on the blog a while back. he has been living on the street spending his days drinking on the sidewalk a block away from our house. we would see him most days as we walked by. one of our first days after we arrived in san vicente, we talked for about an hour on the street corner in the shade of tree.

he shared his pain.

his story.

his hurt.

we listened and told him he was valuable.

that he mattered.

that we respected him...

bad things happen to guys sleeping drunk on the street -- we haven't seen him for a month.

every single day, we walk by 'his corner' and wonder where he has gone. this morning, stu ran to the bank machine and heard someone shout 'hey!'. he turned to see jose, dressed well, hair combed, lookin classy! real classy ;-) he said he was in town for the day with a couple leaders from the rehab center he had joined in san salvador a month ago. he said, 'i'm doing good. i'm gettin my life back on track. i'm working on my relationship with my family and trying to fix those relationships...'

i think we played a small part in this turnaround. it's a simple joy in the midst of a dark world.

story 2

another friend carlos was deported from the states two years ago because of trouble with the law. a while after arriving in el salvador he joined teen challenge rehab center. after leaving rehab he moved to our town san vicente. helped with translating at church and elsewhere. helped with teams from the states cooking, etc... a couple weeks ago he went awol for about a week finally showing up on our doorstep late one night with a fair bit of drink in him. we chatted, prayed and encouraged him. the next morning we got him in to teen challenge in san salvador again, but a few days later i called to see how he was doing, and he had left.

i've been pretty worried.

two days ago, he showed up at our door again. this time with his 14 year old son visiting from colorado. he'd left teen challenge to connect with him. had met him the day he flew in. they had a great week together and then came out to san vicente to connect with us! we were filled with joy and relief to see them both. they stayed in our home for 2 nights. lots of time to talk. laugh. chill out. and let him have some 'normal life' time with his son for a couple days. (michael is staying with his aunt in san salvador, but she won't let carlos stay in her house because of his past mistakes, so the visit had its restraints) we hit the pool with him yesterday afternoon and our kids had a hoot with his son michael. it will be a hard day thursday when he flies home leaving his dad behind. harder still i think for carlos watching his son fly home...

carlos cannot enter the states for at least 8 more years.

but today we see the determination in carlos to carry on. to make things right. to work hard. for his son to find in his dad the man he was made to be the next time he comes to visit.

again, a much needed bit of joy in the midst of a pretty tough week on many levels. we are looking for moments of light in this dark world. sharing those stories. and hoping you know and feel that your investment, no matter what piece you are playing, is not going without a really good return. these returns are in human beings discovering they are loved by a God who thinks about them all the time. these are returns that michael would say are worth their weight in gold. (and carlos is around 350 pounds)

so what more do i say,

but thank you on behalf of those who look, feel and live like they're at the bottom of the pile. those who are scorned by their own countrymen for the things they've done and are doing.

but in the kingdom, those people are on top.

last thought.
ever played 'king of the castle'? i did. i only won when i cheated. i mean i was the youngest of the cousins and i had to pull hair or hit low or whatever to get on top. all alone on top - what a good feeling! even though it only lasted for a moment, cuz someone was coming up to take you out. i look forward to the days where the guys who've spent their lives at the bottom of the pile make their way to the top. sometimes they even make it there in this life. one day though, i think they'll get placed there. and they'll get to stay on top... what a good feeling.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Isabel & House # 2

Today I spent the morning with Isabel from San Antonio.  We sat in the clinic waiting for an ultrasound. This seems to be my norm these days, waiting in clinics. I ask God all the time in my prayers to use me as he sees fit. I guess that this is one of the ways because recently I have a heart ache for the women in San Antonio and especially their health. I have read and been told many times that if we starting taking people to the clinic or buying prescriptions for them, that we will have a line up out of the front door. I have taken that into consideration and decided that I don’t care. All I can think about is what if I was in that situation? If I knew that I couldn’t afford the medicine that was needed to make my child healthy or if I couldn’t afford to see what was wrong with me, so I just had to live with it? There is a free hospital here, but it takes 3 months to get an appointment and then even when you do, you have to pay for your prescriptions which are usually quite expensive. We have found a fabulous clinic here with an Ultra Sound Technician, a lab, a paediatrics doctor and an English speaking adult doctor. They have been very kind to us and are even going to help us out when we host our own clinic in San Antonio on Saturday. It costs money to get a consultation, but they give as much as the medicine for free that they can.                                                                                             

Anyway, back to Isabel. She thought she was pregnant because her period stopped and her tummy was getting bigger. After a few months though, her tummy just stayed the same size and remained soft. She went to a doctor and he told her that if there was a baby in there, it was not alive, and she needed an Ultra Sound. Yesterday we went to visit her and we were with Tomasita, the area Director, and I overheard Isabel telling her this, but that she couldn’t afford an Ultrasound. Thinking again about what it would be like to be in that position, I offered to take her today to find out.  This morning at breakfast I asked Stuart, “what do I do if it is bad news?” Usually I am not very good at handling that kind of thing. He said to take one step at a time and go to the hospital if we need to. I was thinking more along the lines of how to handle it emotionally, but oh well, guys don’t understand that kind of thing J!

 So she had the ultrasound and we found out that she has a large cyst in her stomach. At first I thought she was going to be upset because she was so excited when she thought she was pregnant. I said I was sorry, but then she said, “No, this is a good thing because it is reversible and I will be able to get pregnant again!”  So we went to the hospital and made her an appointment with a doctor to start the treatment to shrink the cyst. While waiting it also gave me the opportunity to chat with Isabel. A few months ago I found out that she used to work with an industrial sewing machine. Since I have been trying to start up this sewing machine project using local people, I thought she would be a great person to ask help teach.  Yesterday I asked her if she would and she said no because she didn’t think the other people here would listen to her, she says that there are other people more qualified. Today I shared with her that I think the Lord has big plans for her and that he uses people just like her to do His work. God you are good!!


This brings me to house #2 Christina and Carlos

Using the screws that Kade and Winnie’s school purchased (Escuela Canyon Meadows), by collecting recyclables, we put together another house. Each of the kids helped, by screwing the hinges to the doors and windows. At first it seemed odd that we were building a house for a couple with no kids, but then we dug deeper to get Christina’s story and it became clear.  Christina 25 and Carlos 28 lived with their mother in a little lean-to shack built beside the house of her mom. Carlos works in a factory hauling bags of sugar cane. They had a child 3 years ago, but two years ago he choked and died. She has been trying to have another child since then and is unable to. It is time like that when I hear these stories that I feel so blessed to be born in Canada. I also can’t help but think what I would do in that situation? Would the St John’s ambulance training would come in handy, or would I just freeze with fear?  Christina is so ecstatic to have a house to call her own. She is taking great pride in keeping it up and I think that Tomisita is training her to take over her “job” as Director because every time we come to visit, she always yells at her , “Christina, let’s go!!” (In Spanish of course)  
Stuart & Trent with Tomasita

Also Christina lives in a different part of San Antonio then the other families we have been building for. Usually it is Stuart and Trent, our 4-man local crew, and maybe if we are lucky a couple of other men. At Christina’s house, there were about 15 young men that came out to help. It was amazing to see the community come together and help each other. This week we are building in that area again, and about 20 men showed up to help. I really hope that this pattern continues so that even when we are gone, we can send money for a house and know that it will be built by a community together with the 4 fantastic men that are part of our crew.
Speaking of which, we are getting a little low on our funds for projects and would like to keep our crew employed building two houses a week. If you find it in your heart to help us and the community we are working in out, PLEASE click on the "Donate Here" button on the side of this webpage and specify PROJECTS when donating. A house costs $2700 to build and every little bit counts. Thank you so much for your support emotionally, spiritually and financially.

*a special thank you to Kerrie for taking most of the pictures and a special hello to all of Laura Martin's co-workers. We appreciate you keeping up with our lives!!