Tag Archives: community

We Have Proof…

We have proof…that God is at work! Our last two days of work needs it’s own blog to describe how we have seen God at work, literally!
We left for the Limón prison to be with a team from the Alliance “jungle” church for their weekly visit to a men’s high-security jail. They expected to have 2 baptisms. When we got there, 6 men wanted to be baptized. Here is Linda’s description of what happened. (Sorry, no pictures as I couldn’t take my camera in).
What made me come alive yesterday was walking into the Limon Prison & stepping into what could’ve been the New Testament! What an experience to witness a Christ-movement. Wow!
We were invited by our Alliance Sarapaqui Pastors to attend a baptism of 2 men from their prison ministry & God began moving in their hearts before we even came. Two men were to give their testimony & be baptized but God had other plans. Yesterday not only 2 were dunked in a  40 gallon barrel but 20!
My mind was thinkin’ “this must be what happened when Christ would come into a town, preach & started baptizing”. Well, the same movement happened yesterday with Pastor Rodrigo preaching & inviting men to radically change their lives, & proclaim that they are Christ’s. What started out as 2 became 6, & as the men heard the Pastor & Curtis praying for them, saw these prisoners make a proclamation of faith, it had men passing the small bucket outside to get more water so that MORE men could be baptized as well.
I had so many thoughts racing through my mind & heart this afternoon. Yesterday I experienced what salvation, in a very dark place, looked like. I saw GRACE in action, I saw tenderness on hardened men as they sang or stood in adoration after the ceremony, I could almost hear the angels rejoicing over not just 2 but 20! Tears flowed down my face as I thought of what Christ would do for one lost sheep but He brought 20 home!!
This was a day that my heart resonated loudly & saw the power of the Spirit move in these men’s hearts. I didn’t understand all that was said (it was all in Spanish) but I could see the impact of the presence among these men today.
My last farewell to these men as we left the prison was seeing them clasped together in cuffs to be taken back to the barracks. What were freed men in Christ today are still chained men to their consequence of their sin.

The next day, we visited Cecilia and her family. If you have been following our adventures, you know who she is. If you don’t, you need to look at past blogs. She moved to a community called La Lidia. 
La Lidia is a community far from nowhere. We drove a really bad road to get there, past fields of yuca, pineapple and banana. If you can find work, you find it as a laborer in one of these fields. It’s common to get up at 3am, cycle to work by 4am and work till 4pm. Lunch is very short as you would rather keep moving in the heat that just sitting there. All for $10/day. Houses are made of plastic over a wooden branch frame or if you have the skills to make a house from tree, you make a makeshift building. 
Cecilia knows that these people need Christ. She has become a mother to many. Yesterday for the weekly kid’s program, there were 70 kids. She told me she gets as many as 130. It’s a day filled with music, games and Sunday School. (Then there is the women’s ministry…another time)
Many come everyday just to hang out and get food. I do not know how she does this as the family makes about $400/month. The kids are loved and and taught Biblical values and morals. I had a blast. For hours, I played foose ball on this old table that we would normally use for firewood! The kids kept repeating my name so they could get the pronunciation correct. Living conditions are so poor. A 13 year old girl has basically lived on green plantains (cooking bananas) for the last 6 months. I talked with two boys who have absolutely nothing, even food and they rely on Cecilia and her family. Most of these kids cannot read. Those that can afford to go to school (about $150/yr), still can’t read and they certainly don’t get the 3 “R’s”. Most of the kids are barefoot. At the mininum, 70 pairs of shoes are needed for the kids that are at the local school.
Cecilia, her husband Marcos, and their son and wife, Gerson and Rocio, have the biggest hearts. Wow! They hope to add 6 computers + English + more reading + more math…. to their program to give the kids a future and hope.  Please pray for them as they will be hosting 4 different Christmas parties for about 650 kids this month. She says “God will provide” and He does. 
Can you help? You are part of the answer! If you can help financially, support for food or schooling or shoes or a Christmas fiesta, email me at suncompassionla@gmail.com and we can work together to help out.

Guatemala, Mexico and More

Things are frantic around here as we plan and pack for 1 month of traveling. We have to pack for the heat and humidity of Mexico and the rain, dryness, heat, snow, cold and mosquitos of Canada. We have regional meetings in Mexico (that’s where the biggest group of International Worker’s live) and then we travel up to Canada for General Assembly in Winnipeg but more about that later.

Last I wrote, we hade two trips ahead. One to Guatemala and a return trip to the Tarahumara of Mexico. First, I had gone to Guatemala to join in a week-long YWAM-sponsored course on micro-loans focusing on the poor of Latin-America. This course was arranged by a local Alliance church, Iglesia Galilea. They have a focused community development program with schools, smokeless stoves and building new housing structures. We were shown a Mayan village where they have a strong ministry focus. This village gets shut off every raining season because there are 4 rivers to cross to get there. I had a great time playing with the kids at the local school. A special part of this course was that many from the community and local government attended so they could in-turn help their community. And they all were presented with a clear message of the Gospel and the Biblical theology of why you help others in need!  It was all in Spanish so I lasted pretty well through the first 3 days before my brain just didn’t want to work anymore. The course was informative and I was able to take away many highlights.  I had several outside meetings with other ministries that could lead into strong partnerships. I love how God brings these people into my path. It happens over and over. We also spent some time in Antigua. It’s a beautiful place to see.

On our return trip to the Copper Canyon, Linda and I brought in another $18,000 that many of you gave to the Global Emergency Relief Fund of the C&MA. Based on our last trip, this will buy about 14 tons of food that will be distributed to about 1700-1800 people. We did not have an Alliance Men’s work team to help us so I was wondering how we would be able to separate the 100lbs sack of food into 1 kg bags without a big group. When we were in Guacayvo, the kids came through and I think we were ready to distribute earlier than when the adults had helped :).  After providing a hot meal and Pastor Tomás giving the Gospel to the group, we gave out food to about 225 families. This was less than last time as it was reported to us that many were sick and could not make the hike. We went to the second village, the same area as last time, but we went a bit further in to a more central meeting point. At one point in the traveling, we crossed over a dirt airstrip and we were told this was a drug cartel airstrip. Here we fed about 180 families. This was also less than less time but many of the males had been literally taken by the military to “volunteer” to fight forest fires. For both villages, we were joined by a Dr from Virginia who was on his 18th volunteer trip in to run medical clinics. We also  were with 2 contractors who were doing an evaluation of water systems and buildings and drew up plans for a possible improvement project.  Again what a blessing to be part of this humanitarian aid. Pray as we plan for the next step. I am looking to take an agriculturist specialist and a Geologist/Water specialist as we look at finding a local spot to drill a well and provide much-needed water and build into the ability to expand their agriculture ability.

We will be in Winnipeg for a week for General Assembly C&MA. I have the privilege of being a co-presenter along with two other members of the world-wide Justice & Compassion team. Linda and I have 3 other speaking engagements that you are welcome to come to. At High River Baptist Church on June 28 at 7pm. At High River Alliance Church on July 8 at 10am and at Brooks Alliance Church on July 15 at for the morning service. And we get to spend time with family and friends!!!!

Alliance church with house at back

I want to leave you with one story from Guatemala. This was back in the woods near the Mayan village we went to that gets cut off by 4 rivers. We were getting a tour by a local Alliance pastor through the community and saw the church which Linda said it looked like an outhouse; but it was a building donated from a local owner. At one point, I had asked the pastor about his family but he didn’t answer me. Later, our guide told us this story. This pastor and his family had been living outside of the community. Their young son, less than 10 years old, was found dead on the river bank outside of the community. He had been sexually abused and then killed. The community took an active role in helping and they found the man who had done this. It turned out that several kids had disappeared in this community and everyone had their suspicions who had done it but nothing had been done judicially. Remember, we are back away from any large towns. This is also a culture that went through many years of civil war and the scars run deep. This time, the man was taken to the police and he is now in jail. Here is the scary thing. If the evidence against this man disappears, the local police have no reason to keep this man jailed. The family of this man have made several threats against this Alliance pastor, his wife and 2 remaining kids. If this family is killed, (remember the recent civil war) then there is no evidence against this sexual predator. If the family is killed, he is released back into their community.  The family is the only evidence that this child was killed in such a way. So they have moved to live immediately behind this little church for safety. This pastor says he will not move away. God has him and his family there for a reason. Please pray for his safety and God’s ability to work through this dangerous situation.

Almost 14 Tons of Food Aid

Well, the final numbers from March are in from providing an emergency food aid to the Tarahumara people group who live in the Copper Canyon area of Mexico. Almost 14 tons of food was purchased from funds provided by the Global Emergency Relief Fund of the C&MA. About a 1000 of the 1800 people served received about 50lbs of food that was to last them for several weeks. The rest receive about 25 lbs of food. The boarding school at Guacayvo received several weeks of food for the kids at the school who have nothing. And you may ask what is the point? Well, Isaiah 58 says to all of us that we are share our food with the hungry and provide the shelter for the homeless and cloth the naked so the the chains of injustice are broken and the oppressed are freed. And you know what, Linda and I get to do it all over again.

We travel back to the Copper Canyon for the last week of May. We saw evidence of how showing this love by giving needed food opened up hearts to hearing about what the love of Jesus is all about. And this in a culture where there is no word for “love”! Pray for us as we get to be apart of this amazing compassion response. Pray for the strengthening of relationships and hearts to be open to who Jesus is. Pray as we continue to evaluate the living conditions of the Tarahumara and how sustainable responses to their poverty and health can be addressed.

Back in Costa Rica, we continue to work with a group of Nicaraguan women in a barrio. They have a weekly Bible study and they have committed to reach into their community through a sewing cooperative. We met with the cooperative leadership last week for a leadership development training time. It’s is so exciting to see them take ownership of their community. The group received their first big order – 40 bags!

Along this line of sewing…we are finding that sewing machines are a tool of community development that works. Another local community would like to start a cooperative. With that being said, I have a question for all of you. A thrift store in Salmon Arm wants to donate sewing machines. But the question is how do we get them down here. Any ideas? One idea given is to ship them down. Anybody have any expertise in this area? Is anybody willing to ship them down (by boat) for us? Lot’s of questions. I need to compare the cost of shipping vs the cost of buying new machines local (but imported). Let me know.

Our schedule until mid-July is busy. May 11, I fly to Guatemala for a YWAM sponsored micro-business training session. I will be there for a week. After one day at home, Linda and I will be in the Copper Canyon for an additional short-term food aid. One week there, 2 weeks at home and then we are gone for a month. This includes a regional ministry retreat in Mexico and flying up to Canada for General Assembly. We will have 12 days in the Calgary area that I am looking forward to.

Some of you have been giving to our Approved Special account. This is a ministry directed account. It is called “The Patarra Project“. Patarra is the barrio where the soup kitchen is and the kids that need help with either food or schooling costs. Because our community development work in Costa Rica is expanding in coming along churches that also are part of addiction counseling and prison ministry, we have had to change our Approved Special focus. It is now called “SunCompassion / Costa Rica” which better reflects our justice and compassion work in this country. So if you would like to give directly to an area, designate it to SunCompassion / Costa Rica and let us know what area you want it directed to. I also want to thank those that give to the Global Advance Fund. This is what supports International Workers world-wide with their living costs.

A quick note…then the Copper Canyon

Just a quick note as we want to keep you updated and we treasure
your praying. We are continuing to get together every Tuesday afternoon with our group of Tica and Nica (Costa Rican and Nicaraguan) ladies for their time of fellowship and worship. Praying Latina-women-style is quite something. The faith shown  is amazing. The noise is mind-blowing. It’s also our time to do some training in basic community transformation issues like the value of woman, understanding money, leadership and working within a cooperative. As Cecilia, a local leader, said yesterday, “It’s all about salvation!”. With the sewing cooperative that has developed, the last 1.5  hours are spent sewing. A leadership group has been chosen. Please pray as we are part of the development of this amazing opportunity of creating self-worth, skills and livelihood opportunities. We are now up to 8 sewing machines for 18 ladies. AND another group wants to get started in a nearby community! Pray for direction.

Next week, Linda and I are off to Mexico, specifically the Copper Canyon area to meet with Pastor Tomás and his team. They work with the Turahumara group of people. After 17 years of ministry, this team is making inroads into this indigenous group. There are are 50,000 people living in and around a canyon that is bigger than the Grand Canyon. The problem is that in many ways, these are a forgotten people so many C&MA churches have sent short-term missions teams into this area. Lot’s has been accomplished.

Yet….I watched a short video this morning about When a NGO Admits Failure. Take a look.  We are going in with an emergency food aid for the people in the region. Drought, lack of food and medical problems are problematic. It has been reported that less than 50% of kids in this people group reach the age of 10. In one community of 300 families where this Mexican mission team works, 98 people of have died in the last 3 years. Our plan is to bring in emergency funding from the Global Emergency Response Fund of the C&MA Canada to address immediate food supply problems. We will be exploring how we can come along side the local ministry goals and work together to create a sustainable answer to the physical problems. Pray as we meet, as we travel and see. We need open eyes and open hearts to see the needs and how we can be part of a long-term solution. As I write this, I am hearing that timing will be very tight with the transferring of funds to purchase the food. Please pray for the details to work out.

Gaining Traction….

It’s so gratifying after months of planning and preparation as you start to move ahead. But before we get into that, how was your Christmas? Did you have lot’s of great times with friends and family?  Our kids came down and we had a lot of fun together. Everyone except Linda learned to surf, we played lots of games and generally enjoyed spending time together. We had so much fun that Briana is still here! Actually she is down for 3 months spending time with us and getting recharged for going back to university in the fall. Jordan is back at Ambrose in his 3rd year.
Lately in the news here, tragedy struck in Honduras with a jail fire. 272 died and many injured. Please remember to uphold these families in prayer. I am currently putting together an emergency food security program for many families in the Copper Canyon area in Mexico. Due to food availability and medical issues, the statistics are heart wrenching. Less than half of all children live to 10 years of age. In one community of 300 families, 98 people have died in the last 3 years. Pray as we look to build a sustainable, long-term nutritional food response through the work of the local Mexican missionaries. We are planning an initial food response for the last week in March. Giving for this can be directed to the Global Emergency Response Fund through a local C&MA church or the national office in Toronto. 
Linda and I so much to be thankful for as God continues to provide through you and Canadian Alliance churches. Last month we were notified that our fund to pay for our work vehicle here is full. FULL!!! Amazing! A huge “gracias” to each of you for following God’s prompting in helping us. WOW.
With donated school supplies
Serving the children
Last week, 3 couples from Brooks Alliance came down for 6 days of interacting in our ministries and learning what sustainable ministry looks like with the idea of the church family extending their community outreach internationally to projects here in Costa Rica. We spent 2 days with Cecilia in Patarra with her love of the local, poor children and her daily feeding program. There was an emergency food suppply issue for the  children and this group brought down $$ that was donated from the High River Alliance and Brooks Alliance to supply food for this last week. Then a day was spent in Horquetas, Sarapiqui with Pastor Rodrigo and Aydeé  and being excited by their drug addiction program and their huge dreams of reaching out into their community for Christ. 
One of the highlights of the week, was enabling Cecilia and her leadership with her outreach to a group of Nicaraguan women who meet weekly for a Bible Study. After time in the Bible and praying, they break out the sewing machines where they have been learning to sew and trying to sell a couple of products locally. They have 3 old machines for 18-25 women. This Albertan group saw a need and we spent a day buying five new sewing machines and lots of material. Instead of just giving these machines to them and walking away like many “missionary-minded” teams have done in the past (read When Helping Hurts), we set up a sustainable, ministry approach by establishing a  sewing cooperative where this group gain self-respect and gain personal control of a 
 hopeless destiny. This will lead into a building a local savings and loans initiative that will enable them to take out emergency loans for food and medical issues. Also, this will build into a “livelihood” ministry where they make quality clothing and crafts, sell them in Canada and earn an income that goes back into the cooperative and can assist each member.  I can’t explain the joy in the faces of the women as this week, I presented the sewing cooperative to them and we unpacked the sewing machines together. We spent 2 hours with them practising and learning! Classes and training in areas such as women in leadership, budgets, working in groups… will occur over the next 4 months. If you have a desire to help out financially with these community development  initiatives in Patarra, you can give to “The Patarra Project” at your local C&MA church or here
If you are interested in partnering with prayer concerns, you can contact Linda to exchange prayer needs.

The Horizon is Huge!

Coming back from Canada, the focus has been about “getting focused”. The title of the blog says it all – “The Horizon is Huge”. When we look at where our Relief and Development ministry can go, it is overwhelming when you know the depth of the physical and spiritual needs that are all around us. God has been working in us too. Over the last 2 years, one of my prayers is that God will show us our niche, a ministry direction that we can have direct impact for Him by not doubling up on what others are doing (especially in terms of dollars and time), but being able to increase out effectiveness through relationships and partnerships. We want the local churches in our region to be the “hero”. We want to equip the local church to be more effective in being the hands and feet of Jesus in their community.

For those that are interested, here are our Ministry Objectives for 2012. I welcome any thoughts or questions.

My next 2 weeks is filled with travel. I am in El Salvador for the Alianza Congresso. This is a gathering of Alliance pastors from Central America. I am looking forward to this opportunity to network and hear what God is doing in the various churches. Also, this is a great opportunity to help to me know what and where there are areas that we can look at assisting with. It should be easier this year as my Spanish speaking has improved abit. I have a one day break at home and then I am part of a CFGB delegation (Canadian Food Grains Bank) to Honduras. I am joining 4 others from Canada to visit Honduran farmers and learn about how they are adapting their agriculture practices to farming on mountain-sides and steep slopes. We will also be evaluating how to improve farming practices and how to improve market access.  What we learn from here can now be transferred to other parts of the world. This is especially important to our ministry as Central America has the mountain chain running down the middle and we want to focus on improving food security issues for the poor. Honduras has similar statistics to other nearby countries. From a recent report, 49% of Hondurans living in the rural areas live in extreme poverty.

Linda has been working hard at developing a prayer network of individuals and Canadian churches. She has lofty goals of how to make this interactive. We desperately need you to be praying for us but vice versa, you need prayer too. Drop Linda an email with any questions or requests.

With our family, there has been a change. No, Linda is not pregnant! Briana has chosen not to go back to college this year. She is pursuing her dreams of being an EMT/Paramedic. Jordan is back for his 3rd year at Ambrose University College. He has changed programs to International Ministry.  We were wondering how we could have a family Christmas together. With using some airmiles, we have Jordan coming down during his Christmas break. We are still unsure of if and how Briana will make it down. That’s something to pray about.

Last but not least, I will close with a huge concern for us. Many of you have been following our vehicle saga. Our ministry vehicle was in the shop for 4 months due to transmission issues. We have it back now but it is not 100%. There are still computer codes errors showing. As one person put it, Linda and I have experienced “longsuffering” through this months-long ordeal. We pray for completion with this. The major concern for us on-top of this is our ministry vehicle funding. We are at just over 50% of raising support to purchase this. We have $6000 left to repay an account (for other international workers to get their vehicle). If you feel led to assist us with this, we would be grateful. Direct your giving to the Doell Vehicle Fund, through any Alliance church or through the C&MA office in Toronto. Until next time…..bendiciones.

Feeling abit Disembodied!

We are back in Canada (Calgary) and have experienced 3 or 4 snowstorms! Unbelievable! And very few days of temps above 10C. But the warmth of family and the people of several Alliance churches and 1 Baptist church we have met have more than made up for it. Well, truthfully, there was driving in one snowstorm where I just did not want to be here. Coming back to Canadian culture has been tougher than I thought it would be. We felt disembodied. Here but not really here. Feeling comfortable but not really…just having to wait for Canadian cultural norms to float to the top and feel more natural. It’s amazing how one can adjust to the Spanish culture in such a short time. There have been many times where I wanted to give a “beso and an abrazo” in welcome and saying good-bye but I think it would have thrown many for a loop. I thought for this blog update I would give a general ministry update via a note I sent out to a friend.

Our ministry focus continues to evolve. We have re-focused our name to Caribbean Justice and Compassion Team to better describe the direction of ministry. Over the last several months, we have been doing more program development than anything else. We were in C*b* to check out the micro-enterprise which was totally uplifting. What  a revival movement that is developing into! Nicaragua was a great experience. 2 weeks of working with a Alliance Men’s work team doing translation work. It was very cool how a small business loan opportunity was put in my lap. Got a guy started with a welder. I am working through the local church on this one hoping to start something bigger and develop with stronger CHE guidelines. It’s really a test for the Pastor’s leadership to see if he will buy into community leadership and development thinking. If it works well, I would like to start a business cooperative there. When we get back to Costa Rica, the plan is to start some development work in a Nicaraguan community (in CR). There is already a local feeding program and a couple of other small initiatives through a local Alliance church that I want to expand on. Maybe use a CFGB grant in the area. Lot’s of work to do. Lot’s of money to raise. I want to use this as a bit of a proving ground in basic community development as there are larger things on the horizon in other countries that we need to tackle. Start small. As our ministry is regional, this will build into enabling a system of national level leaders in the Caribbean area to work on local CHE style programs. I want to center on a combination of micro-business and disaster preparedness training at the local church level but use this to teach basic community-level problem solving working towards Kingdom transformation principles.
On the disaster response front, the National Ministry Centre is totally revamping their database structure. I managed to get a request in with our needs. Our plan is to create a interactive, national database of volunteers from Canadian churches that are able to respond to a disaster event.  I want to work out the kinks with this response program in my region first. Then as other Alliance compassion track leaders come on line in other world ministry areas, they would be able to use this database for their response needs. Right now, I am working through ideas of how to involve the local Canadian Alliance church at the grassroots level making them feel part of  a ministry response even though they never leave the pew. We’ll see how that goes.
At times I am feeling intimidated and overwhelmed at the scope of ministry in which I have been placed though it is exciting to see how God moves, opens doors, puts people in our path. I think my biggest struggle at this point is finding that niche in disaster response that enables us to come along side other organizations and not duplicate problems and procedures. Though this morning (by chance), met with the SP Project manager for Latin America and we seem to be on the same page stressing the need for disaster preparedness/reduction programs in smaller communities using the local church as a mitagating force. A great contact for some future work. He enrolled me in the national DART (Disaster & Response Team) training happening in May.
I have written enough. I need to get some work done before watching some hockey. It’s really nice to sit and watch the playoffs. I didn’t realize that it was something I missed!
ps While we are here in the Calgary area and you feel like sitting down for a coffee… Give us a call 403-617-6377

On the Road

As of lately, it has felt we have not been home much. But as busy as it has been, we have been extremely blessed to be part of what God is doing in the Caribbean area with the C&MA. We are still feeling the excitement of seeing what was happening in C*ba. That carried over into our two week stay in Nicaragua. We were translators for the C&MA Men’s work team led by Art Wiens. As a team, we replaced a rickety set of wooden stairs with a metal structure to service their second floor as well as welding railings on the second floor to prevent children and others from falling 12 feet to the ground. My language abilities took big strides forward. Though it was not without it’s mishaps. I had to buy all of the supplies (structural metal, welding supplies, rent tools….). That was a process all in itself as I do not have a construction background in English either. There are lots of stories to tell. Linda chose to work with the team and was in charge of the painting. 

One couple from the church brought us juice one day and ended up staying and working with our team for a week. The wife, Diara worked with Linda while Maurico turned out to be an incredible help with the welding and his general construction knowledge. Even with the language differences, we enjoyed each other alot. It was unbelievable to see ministry opportunities open up. I was able to start a pilot project micro-business with Maurico. The possibilities of this type of ministry in the second poorest country in the western hemisphere (after Haiti) is mind-boggling. I wait with great expectations to see how God will direct us through this open door of using community development to transform communities through local churches. It was encouraging after spending much time talking with Rosario, the national church president and see her example of being a servant. Ramón, the pastor asked me to speak one morning in church. With less than 24 hrs notice, I began preparing for an hour of Spanish. In English, that would take me a week! After 20 mins of speaking, I finished and walked away from the pulpit. As I passed the pastor, he whispered “that’s all you have?” All I could do was nod my head! He did a great job of scrambling to fill in the time! By the end of each day I was mentally and physically drained.
 
With our schedule, it has been hard to plan for our time in Canada at the end of this month. I am happy to say that as of today, God has provided a suite for us to stay in. And it is in the south part of Calgary, closer to the churches we need to visit. Also, opportunities are opening up for us to present what we are doing in churches, men’s groups, and prayer groups. We would love to sit down for a coffee with you. Let us know.

We were reminded how powerful prayer is by our time in C*ba. There are several things we would appreciate you to remember to pray for.
– finalizing the plans for the 3 months in Canada
– opportunities to share our ministry vision and the building of partners from Canada in working together to accomplish this vision.
– the raising of funds for our vehicle in Costa Rica.
– making great memories with family, friends and churches.
– continued giving to the Global Mission fund that supports international workers