So much to say…

There is so much to say, I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I will start by saying say thank you from the bottom of my heart to Rev. Jean Stairs and all who organized and lead the 2019 El Salvador trip. It was an eye-opening experience that I would highly recommend. Being able to meet with people from new and different places and being able to connect with them in such a way is truly a blessing. I have made many new friendships and connections that I will never forget. The food was completely amazing, and being able to walk outside without a coat on in March was thoroughly enjoyable 🙂 However, my favorite part were the people. There was always someone to talk to or chat with and I found myself able to talk with so many people from so many places in life, whether they be young or little older, Salvadoran or Canadian. El Salvador is such an amazing place, and although it has a bit of a bad reputation due to presence of gangs, I never felt unsafe. The people in El Salvador and from IBE were so kind, loving and welcoming. Though I do admit to being slightly homesick during the second or third day, the Salvadoran people made me feel so at home and welcomed that by the end of the trip the thought of leaving brought tears to my eyes. Learning about the people and their culture and how they lived was extremely eye-opening. In Canada most people have a stable roof over their heads and food to eat, as well as ‘basic necessities’ such as working toilets, fridges, cell phones, schools, gyms, etc. But in El Salvador that is not the same. And although there was extreme poverty the people were so welcoming and happy to share what they had. I find that in Canada people are upset over what now seem like the smallest things. For example, one person may be super upset and outraged that they don’t have a phone, or that their data plan isn’t big enough or they may be upset because they couldn’t get the dress they wanted. In El Salvador many people do not have phones or fancy clothes, and if they have access to the internet it is usually limited. I’m not stating that people in Canada do not have problems (because we do) I just find it …how many people (and I admit I do this much more than I would like to) complain about certain inconveniences that seem so huge, but in comparison are so small. However we are so adjusted to this way of living we don’t realize how lucky we have it, until we don’t. This experience opened my mind and I admit, made me feel guilty and ashamed of the times that I sit there and become frustrated when a website isn’t loading or when I have had a bad day and gotten into arguments with people. Because now I know how truly good I have it. And although the people in El Salvador may not live in quite as much luxury as most Canadians, they seem like such a welcoming and happy people. The people have such a hope in them that I wish I could instill in the entirety of the world. I will miss El Salvador deeply as it has truly made a mark on not only my life, but my heart.
I look forward and hope to go again next year.
Goodbye for now,
-Raven Miller

From “Pink Jean”

I”ve just returned from El Salvador on the mission trip and want to thank Rev. Jean Stairs and all the organizers for an amazing and spiritually inspiring experience. There we experienced amazing hospitality, kindness and learned so much abou the history of the country. We are forever changed and thank our hosts Igelsia Bautista Emmanuel (Emmanuel Baptist Church) and their Pastor Miguel Tomas Casrol and all of his family. When my Great niece Olivia got sick they all jumped in to arrange hospital care and to get her back to perfect health. We are eternally grateful. I”ll enclose some photos- one of our family grouping- we are all descendents of the late A.J. Wagg of Mindemoya, Manitoulin Island, who died in 1960. From him we learned the faith and now are sharing it with the next generation. Here we are L to R. Olivia Hudel, Nicole Gilchrist, Jean Brown, Cindy Pettis. We are at the Igelsia Bautista Emmanuel Church who were our hosts and whom we thank from the bottom of our hearts.

Thank you!

So thankful for the safe return of the whole team! I’m loving hearing all about the experiences my daughter had! A special thanks to all of the leaders for taking such good care of our teens and to Jean Stairs for organizing the trip!

Blog pictures

Just a note that the pictures you see on this blog page can be found in full at Trip Galleries > Various Pictures

You are all missed very much!

At our home, the twins (Raven and Phoenix), are being missed so very much by all the little people! (And the mini-baby too!) I know there are many friends and family that are missing all of you as well! We hope you’re all having an amazing adventure and making many new lifelong friends along the way. We wish you all a safe journey as you travel home.
Sending well wishes from,
The twins’ Mom, and the many little humans that brighten her day!

Las Crucas – Day 2

I woke up quite early with someone passing in the dark street outside yelling “pan” (bread?). Was it the local baker going into work early? Who knows? Couldn’t get back to sleep so it ways a chance to contemplate the coming day. How far would the work progress? How hot would it get? Would we get to stop at the roadside lookout viewing the surrounding countryside from near the top of the mountain at Alegria?

Before I knew it, the morning alarm went off and Alex was singing. We had the usual breakfast and onto the buses. We did stop at the roadside look out in the view was a little bit hazy but still fantastic. Lots of pictures were taken in various groupings. And one picture was taken of the entire group. Missing our friends who stayed behind in San Salvador.

Before we knew it we were at the worksite. We walked over to the chapel foundations and started twisting wires on rebar, moving sand around from one pile to another to clear space for the pouring of cement, working on shoring up an erosion spot from the chapel down to the road. The group worked well together and with the local folks who are always working on the site. A small group went to meet the mayor of Umaña and learned about the issues facing the town. Once again the temperature was up near 36°C and people were careful to keep drinking water and having a rest in the shade when necessary. There was not a whole lot of work got to go around so people were constantly on the hunt to find a new job to do when one finished.

We talked with a couple of the children who were hanging around the site. One was named Christopher and the other was named Jefferson. We wondered whether that had to do with the fact that quite a few of the family are living in Tennessee now. Those in the United States are there as illegal immigrants. So they send their money back to El Salvador as a contingency and should they be arrested and egg exiled back home. They’ve built a fine looking house with that money and have a place to live when they come back if they have to.  The family donated the land for the youth centre and the chapel.

Sometimes, I think that the local group would make more progress without us.  But working with them together towards a common objective, I think, contributes both to them and to us in the long run. In The end, we were able to get things moved forward far enough that they could start mixing concrete with the borrowed mixer and start pouring the foundation. We cleaned out the small First Aid kit of bandages with the various scrapes and cuts and blisters that people were getting.

It was my first opportunity to travel with my grandson, Xavier. He incurred blisters on both hands digging the foundation trench and post holes so, in the end, he was used mainly for translation purposes with the workers as he is reasonably fluent in Spanish. Proud moment for a grandfather.

After lunch we received speeches from some of the local people who thanked us for being there and working alongside them. They all seemed to feel that our presence meant a lot to them, a common thread at all of the places we visited. And then it was back on the bus and back to San Salvador. The bus ride was an opportunity to take advantage of some air conditioning and to watch the view of the countryside along the way. It’s quite dry this time of year and we could see the couple of volcanos as we passed with plumes of smoke coming from the woods on the on the sides of the volcano. We’re not sure if it was just wood fires or something else. Pastor Miguel told me today that even in the wet season now with climate change there is no dependable rainfall so any crops are not all that plentiful.  In the case of coffee there’s only a three month period when the crops are harvested and workers can earn money.

Once back at Centro Gabriel we met up with the group that stayed here to do a visit to the school.  Both groups compared notes and were quite excited with the experiences they had had.  In both cases the groups had to deal with children who only spoke Spanish or rudimentary English and discovered that they could get along quite well with sign language and just miming things. Tonight, we celebrated five birthdays that were taking place over the course of our stay here. A three-piece band entertained us for an hour. Guitar , bass, siku (pan flute) and quena (a recorder like instrument)  which was a recorder like instrument. We heard an old favorite, El Condor Pasa and 4 or 5 others that were quite entertaining. The kids got up and danced like nobody was watching. All musicians were very good. After the entertainment, we retired to the dining room for cake. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s visit to the University of Central America and Cal Pipil, run by IBE.

Jim Lamb

CBE Day 2 – Field Trip to the National Theatre

March 12 2019

Fulfilled from our day in the community yesterday we started the day by meeting with the school’s Principal, Vladimir, and he shared today activities:

– Field trip to the National Theatre with a class to see a play from a local playwright
– Helping out in the kindergarten classrooms
– And of course, more painting!

We split into three groups and started our day in the community.

I was at the theatre with Sifa and Jean Brown. Here is a recap of our morning of arts and culture with the school community.

Melina (English teacher we met yesterday) was with us the whole time, which we were grateful for. She helped share what was happening and acted as our interpreter.

We’ve been seeing these decked out charter buses all week in our travels – and today we got to ride in one. They are DONE UP, including luggage racks, TVs and a door at the back (like city buses). For some reason they also have brake lights inside (still trying to figure that one out). Of interest, the bus drivers have relationships with street vendors so they allow them on to the bus to sell to the kids. Could you imagine that back in Canada?!

The National Theatre is in the downtown area – across from the Oscar Romero crypt. The downtown area has recently changed to pedestrian and bike only. A very welcome change. Melina pointed out some neat features including separated, contra-flow bike lanes, and what I can only call rumble strips for blind people.

The National theatre is gorgeous (and air conditioned)! There are three main theatres in El Salvador – the National Theatre, the President’s Theatre and the
Diploma Theatre.

There were two schools at the theatre today – College Bautista Emmanuel (CBE) and the school across the street from CBE, Colegio Bautista (not confusing at all).

The play we saw was based on a book by an El Salvadorian writer, Salvador Salazar Arrue. The book is called Cuentos de Barro. It’s a book of stories/tales for kids based on farm life customs. We saw a number of these tales acted out: La Botija about a lazy man, La Honra (about sexual abuse and a family’s reaction), Hasta Elchaco (about the love of father for a son he thought was his but found out he was not) and a circus tale, which was quite funny and included audience participation.

The show was so well done – funny and endearing. A special thanks to Melina and Aldolfo for giving us more insight on the stories after the play.

Tracy Nickleford

For photos of our time with CBE school community, visit the Trip Galleries on this site.

Presentation from ERMUC

Yesterday at worship Cindy Pettis and Olivia Hudel presented Keith’s beautiful communion plate as a gift to IBE. Our Canadian delegation presented several gifts including crafts from the ERMUC Sunday school, a quilted wall hanging and some maple syrup.


One of our gifts to the school in El Salvador is the gift of art. We are in the midst of painting a mural we are hoping to finish tomorrow – here is the before shot….stay tuned a picture of the finished product!

Sorting supplies

Thanks to the generosity of the congregations and community of our pilgrims we brought 7 humanitarian suitcases filled to the brim! Here is a pic of the sorting crew with some of the school supplies, dental supplies, first aid, feminine hygiene products and games for the community.

Worshipping in el salvador

We had a rare and wonderful opportunity to worship in San Salvador with a wonderful group of people – what a moving and beautiful service!

Small But Mighty – Our Visit to CBE

We started the day early and made our way to CBE (College Bautista Emmanuel) which is the school run by IBE. It is around the corner from the church.

We met with Adolfo, the vice principal, and he shared our activities for the day: painting a mural in the kindergarten area (drawn by an international artist David Mejia), helping out in an English class and visiting IBE to celebrate the International Day of Women. We split up and started our day.

Painting was an amazing experience (as the photos illustrate). The artist made it very easy for us by putting dots of paint colour onto the drawing so we knew which colours to use and where. We were thrilled to hear that tomorrow we’ll be able to finish the piece and sign our names to it. Painting is such a calming activity and it was nice to have a low-key, reflective morning.

The English class was interesting. The Grade 8 boys were learning about countable and non-countable nouns. Once again we were thrilled to help, AFTER the teacher explained to us what that meant. Haha! It’s not something we’re taught in the Ontario curriculum, so coming to El Salvador to learn something new about the English language was great.

The team that went to the church enjoyed the ceremony, including a “courageous”, emotional and honest speech from one of the peacemakers, scriptures, prayers and some dancing — which Sifa and Alison nailed! All the girls were given roses to end the ceremony.

All this before 11:30 am. Fabulous day!

We walked through the neighbourhood to Pollo Campero for lunch. Highlight was going over a pedestrian foot bridge (see photos)… I think we can safely say we “overcame” our fear of heights. Also of note — there is so so much dust. I think I understood in theory how dirty things were, but to walk through it… it was quite something.

We arrived back at Centro Gabriel at 2pm and spent the afternoon organizing humanitarian supplies.

La paz y amistad

Sunday March 10, 2019
Today was a day filled with peace and friendship. Our day started out at Igesia Bautisa Emmanuel for a very welcoming church service and communion. Just as I was last year, I was very moved by the strong hope and faith that was flowing through the church, my heart was filled. I found meeting with the peace makers from Collegio Bautista Emmanuel very humbling and really gave me a deeper understanding of El Salvadorian people and culture, making me feel like I am more apart of the this new culture and community. One thing that especially made me feel really apart of the church community was when one of the head leaders of the peace group gave me her membership pin for the peace group. I told her it was ok, but she insisted and then I was welcomed into the students peace group, my heart was so full with gratitude, happiness and love, that I couldn’t put it into words. For this day and the experiences it brought I am thankful, filled with joy, and humbled.
Thank you:)

Wish you all the best

I hope everyone who is involved in this effort learns valuable lessons. We in Canada have a lot to learn from other countries. Progress teaches all of us.

Saturday March 9. A day at the Beach

Today was another beautiful day in paradise. We woke as always at 6:30 to the sounds of barking dogs and crowing roosters. A lovely sunny day, Birds in the trees and brilliant flowers everywhere. After breakfast and a short worship led by one of the three youth groups, we boarded our two buses and drove through the Saturday traffic down the mountains to the Pacific Coast at La Liberdad. Today was a day at the beach, which is a popular day on every trip to El Salvador. For many in the group it was the first opportunity to see the Pacific Ocean.
We spent the day at a small day-resort on the beach. The beach is made up of black volcanic sand which was very hot to run across to the water. The waves at the shore were very tall and scary at first. But after a short introduction everyone learned the skill of leaping in the waves and trying not to get up ended. There are 18 youth on the trip aged from 14 to 18. The adults were impressed by the endless energy the youth brought to everything they did. After a wonderful lunch of fish, chicken and pizza, some went back for more hours of wave jumping and the youth took over the small freshwater pool to play a version of water polo.

Some of the adults found a place to snooze in the shade. The heat (31C) today is very enervating.
At 4:30 we packed up sandy swim suits and towels and loaded back onto the buses. As traffic was heavy and congested with people driving back into the city, the drivers opted for an alternate route back. That became quite an adventure as the drive took us far out into the agricultural countryside along small, rough country roads. Up one side of a mountain and down the other. Darkness fell, as it does every day at 6:00 pm. On we went driving over 2 1/2 hours, with everyone quite certain that we were lost. Singing ABBA songs helped pass the time. Eventually we arrived at a wonderful Papusa restaurant on the outskirts of San Salvador. With great relief everyone headed for the banos.

Our friends from IBE had organized a terrific dinner of papusas, which are the famous and favourite Salvadoran food. Patties made of corn flour and filled with tasty combinations of cheese, beans and pork.
Leaving the restaurant we only had a 10 minute drive back to Centro Gabriel where we finished the day with a short evening worship, and then had free time to hang out, shower and unwind until lights out.

Sleeping at Centro Gabriel has been very comfortable. With the windows open in the dormitories, we benefit from a cool breeze in the evening. During the night it becomes cool enough that we appreciate the wool blankets provided. Ear plugs are a great help at reducing the cacophony of barking dogs and crowing roosters who seem to have no notion of “lights out”.

Tomorrow is Sunday and we will be off to worship with our friends at Iglesias Bautista.

Phyllis MacRae

Travel Day!

Our flight went smoothly and other than cramped legs from sitting through a five-hour flight we arrived safe and sound. We met Pastor Miguel and a few other members of Iglesia Baptista Emmanual at the San Salvador airport after our flight had landed and were bussed to IBE to set up. We had a relaxing evening of settling in and exploring the area, putting up mosquito nets and unpacking suitcases. After setting up we had a delicious dinner and had a peaceful night of relaxation before us.

Beach jumping

The black sand against the ocean makes a stunning back drop for this group of amazing youth!

Travel Day!

Our flight went smoothly and other than cramped legs from sitting through a five-hour flight we arrived safe and sound. We met Pastor Miguel and a few other members of Iglesia Baptista Emmanual at the San Salvador airport after our flight had landed and were bussed to IBE to set up. We had a relaxing evening of settling in and exploring the area, putting up mosquito nets and unpacking suitcases. After setting up we had a delicious dinner and had a peaceful night of relaxation before us.

March 8th – Saint Romero

Waking up surrounded by people you barely know, in a country whose climat is foreign in every way to your’s is a wonderful thing for me

I have been to El Salvador twice before, and each time is different in a new blessed way.

Morning started with salsa on eggs, toast (with cheese), papya and Jamica (ha-my-ka) to drink. Worship consisted of singing, prayer, scripture, and questions. We then boarded the buses, and left sometime around 8:45 (El Salvador time is different then the regimented time of Canada:) ). We took the bus through San Salvador, seeing the people weaving through traffic and selling goods in the middle of the road, to the location were Saint Romero lived, and was assinated. We toured his rooms, saw the reality of his death though documentation and pictures, and saw his bloodstained robes; these robes were worn when Oscar Romero was shot on March 24th, 1980. After Oscar Romero was shoot, the civil war became a reality, and the scars of this war are still evident today; this is the El Salvador that we see: a country striving for peace and reconciliation, to ease the pain. After our visit to Saint Romero’s rooms, we saw the chapel where he was shot while serving communion. Pastor Miguel talked to us a bit about the history and his personal connection to Oscar Romero, it was an emotionally morning.

After this, we had a snack, took a group photo, and left for lunch. Lunch was at the ‘iconic’ restaurant called Pollo Campero (poy-yo cam-p-err-o), fried chicken, french-fries and a bun was our wonderful lunch.

From there we went to the Wall of the Disappeared , in a park under going restoration (which is now beautiful). There Miguel talked, and told of the sever sadness and reality that plagued his beloved country. It was sad, and brought the reality of fear and war to life. It was so sad.

After that we went to the cathedral where Saint Romero is buried, we saw his crypt, and the people that pray to him. We wandered around the crypt area, seeing pictures of the Stations of the Cross, and other priests who were influential during the civil war. Miguel spoke about the symbols around Saint Romero’s crypt, the four apostles, different branches, and the split in the tomb where Saint Romero’s heart rises from. It is a truly magnificent crypt, truly honouring who it represents. After this, we waited while some people paid (20 cents) to use a washroom, and then we wandered over to a magnificent cathedral, where modernisation/urbanism harmonises to make a beautiful ‘rainbow church’ which streams colours into it’s beautiful interior. This sojourn in San Salvador was completed by a walk back to the cathedral (with a stop for ice cream), were we got back on our buses, and home to the Center.

After milling around and chatting, dinner was had: spaghetti and hotdog pieces, vegetables, cantaloupe juice, followed by watermelon (delicious!). Worship followed, consisting of songs, prayer, and a reflection on reflecting Jesus’ acts, there was also group time, which was great.

From there, I have been writing in my journal and doing this. I must now say goodnight, and I hope you enjoyed reading this, goodnight!

Written by: Rachel Vollmer


I apologise for the problem with the Upload Pictures page. It seems that it may be telling you that you need to log in to post pictures. I have raised this issue with the software developers and hope to be able to correct it soon.

Again, I’m sorry for the delay.

Safe arrival

So glad that the group made it safely to El Salvador! The adventure begins! Praying for an amazing experience for all of you!

Anticipating Salvadoran Hospitality

As I write this we are in the midst of a snow squall off of Lake Ontario. In two more sleeps, we will be in sunny El Salvador hearing the sounds of stray dogs barking and roosters crowing, which bring memories of past trips into full relief. Lately, as Coordinator of this trip, I’ve been so occupied with all the logistics required for a group of 36 pilgrims that I feel I have almost lost touch with the theological and spiritual richness such a journey brings. Almost, but not. My heart awaits the experience of greeting, renewing and deepening meaningful relationships and friendships. It longs to touch into the life-giving, hugging faith community of our global partner Iglesia Bautista Emmanuel. My body is ready for sandals and t-shirts and my soul thirsts for the deep commitments manifested from Salvadorans who work for the day when justice and peace kiss. Lift-off is on Thursday from Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport (Montreal) yet my soul is already lifted by the sure knowledge that we will be greeted at the San Salvador International Airport with open hands and hearts. Just as I have been tossing and turning at night over logistical concerns, so have our partners who are making all things ready for our experience of their country, their church, their ministry, their mission, their understanding of God at work in all circumstances. I am grateful today for their preparations and efforts which will bring Salvadoran and Canadian hands together. My suitcase is full of items we will bring with us at their request – school supplies, maple syrup, mementoes of Canada to share – but my heart is even more full – full of hope, anticipation, delight, eagerness to learn how things are within a country that just elected a new President, has seen thousands of Salvadorans leave to join a caravan heading toward the US, celebrated last October the long-awaited sainting of the martyr and man of/for the people, Oscar Romero, and yet continues its struggle to be a flourishing country with peace-making ingrained in its soul. Soon family and friends, we will be there. You will be with us – all of you who helped us fly away carrying your heart-warming support, financial backing and loving prayers.

Commissioning of the Pilgrims at Emmanuel United

Yesterday, at the Sunday service, a commissioning was held to send our group on their way. A quilted wall hanging was presented to the group to take to Emmanuel Baptist as a gift to IBE from the Central Ontario and Eastern Ontario Outaouais group. After all the planning and emailing, it is with a feeling of relief that there are only 3 more sleeps.

Humanitarian Bags from Ottawa

Last Monday, we sorted and packed the school and pharmacy supplies collected at Emmanuel United, Glebe St. James United and in the Findlay Creek area. Thank you everyone for your generosity.

Praying for safe travel

We from Caven Church in Bolton (Nicole G’s church) are praying for safe travel for the whole group. May God be with you all as you prepare your heaths and minds for a trip that will change your life.