Monday, August 20, 2018

Living On Faith

Here we are once again, at the end of a long month that, surprisingly, went by rather quickly. July was a month full of volunteer teams, dramatic meltdowns and pretty hysterical culture moments. July was also, if I can be honest, full of incredibly hard hurdles to get over. Emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, culturally, honestly, I feel like you get the picture, it was just really stinking hard. However it was a month of challenges we were expecting, so I guess that makes it better... I guess. Anywho, make yourself a nice cup of tea, settle in and let's catch up on what life has been like for me for the last month or so.

First, I want to tell you of a cultural moment I had this morning on my way into work, one I thought was so funny I could barely keep myself from tears, I was laughing so hard. Now before I share with you what was so funny, you need to remember where I am serving in El Salvador. MTES is located in the medical district of downtown San Salvador, and is a place that is constantly bustling with the loud noises of buses, horns and people shouting. The traffic here is the worst I have ever witnessed and honestly arriving at work each morning is a success all in it's own. So as you can imagine, I had just turned at one of the busiest intersections on my route and was brought to a stop as I waited for pedestrians to cross the road to the hospital across the way. As I sat in my car with one of the interns serving with us, I glanced over and thought to myself, huh, there is a man over there walking an awfully large dog, that's not a usual breed I see here.... It was definitely not a breed we see here, that's because it wasn't a dog at all. No no... this man was waltzing down a city street with a full grown, larger than usual GOAT, that's right, a goat. Now that alone was funny, however when I noticed what was in his other hand, that's what really got me going. He had a stack of cups, and would walk the street milking the goat for fresh milk to sell to people on their way by! At 8 am, this was one of the funniest things I have seen here, and was definitely a cultural moment for me, then again honestly, I think this was a little odd for everyone to see. So that pretty much made my day, because honestly this goat was gigantic. This isn't the only interesting animal encounter I have had this month, oh no, there's been lots more. Whether it be our house being plagued by the biggest ants I have ever seen, or the giant spider I had to kill with my shoe, to the iguanas that mock me from their branches in our garden and the baby possums that visit me on the patio while I nicely chat on the phone, and yes for those who remember last year, these are the second generation, grand baby possums.... because apparently God is extending my gift of hospitality to the creatures outside too. This alone has made for an interesting month.

July marked several challenges for me, one of the most important, being that this is the longest I have ever been away from friends and family back home in Canada. Usually my trips are about three months long, which makes missing home easier but isn't always beneficial as someone trying to get accustomed to a new place, culture and life. I decided that for this year, I would stay through from April until just before Christmas, giving myself time to really settle into life here. I knew this upon my arrival but I also knew this would be a huge hurdle . One of the biggest struggles I face here is being so far away from things that matter most to me, such as family. I am comfortable and at home here, not only at MTES but life in general here in El Salvador, which is a huge blessing, however that doesn't mean I am happy here every single day. This month tested my nerves, my patience, my friendships and most importantly my reliance on God. It's stressful enough to be here when things are going really well, imagine being here exhausted, worn out and down right "just done" with everything. I was tired of missing my family, my country and my culture back home and honestly just couldn't understand why on earth God needed me here, and if He did in fact insist on having me serve here, well could He not at least make things a little easier. Still He allows for things to go wrong, for people to not show up, for finances to not come in, for emotions to be strained and for patience to wear thin. He pushes, He challenges and He tests. He tests my faith, my reliance, my trust and my relationship with Him. This isn't just to make my life hard,it's God at work in my life,  shaping me into the woman He not only desires and designed me to be but the woman He genuinely needs me to be, in order to use this work for His kingdoms glory. So many times this last month I have struggled to see the good God is doing here and yet, I know He is hard at work. There were weeks where, quite honestly, I just wanted to pack my bags, catch a flight and be done with this season of my life. There were days when I actually considered, what it would be like to genuinely consider just walking away. I have never experienced such a deep grief and frustration like I did this month. Never have I had to excuse myself so many times, to simply sit in a room all alone and let the tears just pour down my face, take a breath and then get back to work. Some days I knew what was upsetting me, I had seen something awful or couldn't fill a need that was so clear, sometimes I just missed the comforts I have been used to for my entire life, and then other times, honestly the tears just bubbled over for no reason at all. There were nights I lay awake blubbering to myself about missing out on being my sister, as she gives birth to her son, not being there for the folks back home who need me, and not knowing if the money I needed to live here would come through, but having to trust that God would provide the people to give, while I work week after week without a paycheck. There was one specific moment when I actually sat on my bed upset because how on earth am I going to be able to retire if I am not making any money! (I will admit, that evening was fairly dramatic, but they were real feelings none the less.) Each day I lay down exhausted wondering if this really is the best thing for my life right now, and each time morning comes, and with it a renewed sense of courage to make it through whatever the day brings. Each day a new opportunity to say yes. Yes, yesterday was awful and didn't go to plan, but today is a new day, yes I will rise up and face the day knowing God is with me through every step. We all have a desire for God to choose us to go and serve and change lives, when in reality my life is the life He is changing during my time here, and it may not always be pretty, but I trust that in the end these struggles will be worth it.  

The month of July brought it's share of challenges sure, but it also brought it's share of triumphs as well. We had another one of our New Dawn boys graduate, which is always an incredible moment to be a part of. I am settling into my responsibilities of managing our Bakery Micro Enterprise and learning the ropes of how to use my knowledge in a foreign country with different tools and expectations, and finally, I am slowly but surely seeing the fruits of my labour in language learning. We celebrated the work God is doing here at MTES with all of the wonderful volunteers who came to work tirelessly in making MTES better equipped to serve our clients. We even celebrated Christ's birth with my annual Christmas in July party. This event was something I had been planning for months, and honestly it was something we were all looking forward to. It was an evening filled with mountains of food, beautiful music and games, and most importantly, my own crazy "family" made up of my closest Salvadoran and American friends. I was amazed that I was able to convince 16 people to get crazy right along with me, but I truly believe you can honour Christ's birth any day of the year, with good food and great company.

Now as we settle into the finishing of summer and the beginning of fall, I am so grateful for the things the Lord has taught me in these last weeks. I am also grateful to have life settle down a little bit, giving me time to get back into some kind of "routine". I look forward to the coming weeks of rest and renewal for my spirit with a peaceful heart and a quiet house.

I pray you're able to take heart and have courage to walk through this season of life God has you in as well. That you find rest in Him and know that He is using your constant love and support to build His kingdom way out here in El Salvador as well. If you would like to receive my other monthly newsletter, would like to catch up with me personally or would like more information on how to give financially, please email me personally at always love to hear how God is working in your life as well.

Love and Prayers
Erica Byleveld

"Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. We boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so,  but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope. Hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." 

~ Romans 5:1-5 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Catching Up

Let me just start by saying, I know, it's the end of  June, I don't fully understand how it's the end of June, but none the less the end of June it is! I have sat and began writing this post more times than I can count, each time I have been called away or have simply put it off until I really had a chance to sit down and fill you folks in. I didn't however intend for whole months to go by without a chance to get my thoughts in order. I was told by one of my favorite people "Just write a quick sentence letting us all know you're still alive!" So here I am, alive and well!

So many things have grown and changed over the last three months as I continue to settle into my life here. I feel like I am truly finding my place here, whether that be embracing my new freedom in driving, prospering relationships with old friends and new ones, and finally transitioning into a position within MTES.

Returning this year has come with so many new responsibilities but also a much needed feeling of freedom, something that I often feel is rare, way out here in El Salvador. Driving here has been a huge change for me, as the traffic is horrible here, but having a chance to run errands around town, go  on adventures or simply be responsible for getting myself to work on time, have been pure joy. When I have some free time I often go to Sucree, a beautiful place for coffee and fine desserts, but most importantly, a place I truly see as my second home. I have become dear friends with the family that owns it and am welcomed with big smiles and hugs from the whole staff, bringing a  feeling that mean more than me the they will ever know. Having a place that is beautiful, peaceful and welcoming means the world to me, a place I can go and be truly known, in a country I often feel  little lost in, makes my heart warm! I have places that are beginning to feel familiar and comforting. I have come back to the church I attended last year, and have even joined their young adults Bible study, another huge blessing. I am meeting new people and am doing my best to embrace this culture I have come to serve. I love being back at the guest house, making it home to those who comes and visit MTES, adding joy and love as I go. It feels so wonderful to feel settled into one place for a little while. I have my personal space all decorated and cozy, have planted a garden oasis on the upstairs terrace and am adding to my canning cupboard regularly. I love having the space to welcome others into my home and fellowship with them, something I have always dreamt of doing. I get the opportunity to open my home and my heart to those that God has so perfectly placed in my life, I get and walk alongside so many journeys for a short time. Our house has been blessed with many visiting groups from different places in the US as well as two new interns, one from the US and one from England, so needless to say, life and the house have both been a little chaotic lately. 

I have begun my new position as manager in our bakery micro enterprise. which has been both exciting and challenging, which I enjoy. I have a wonderful assistant, Jocelyn, who is quickly becoming one of my dearest friends. She is Salvadoran and only speaks Spanish, so that of course has made for lots of confusion and even more laughs as we learn to communicate with each other. I have loved seeing Gods faithfulness in this new endeavor, as I always had a sort of idea in my head of how I could use my baking skills and education as  a way of serving others in a way that helps give life skills to those in need. This bakery enterprise has been a surprising answer to a prayer I have always had, but it was just a thought. I get the opportunity to not only sell bread and be in community but also be part of providing work for people who have been effected by poverty, addiction and sex trafficking. I have an opportunity to teach the boys in our program important life skills and job training that they can use in the future. I get to come up with new ideas and inspirations that can better serve our clients, and of course, am able to get my hands dirty and create something delicious. I am so looking forward to where God leads this program in both growth as a business and growth in the community. Your continued prayers for this endeavor are always appreciated. 

I have continued to take some much needed Spanish classes and I  am beginning to surprise myself with the amount I actually can understand. I love seeing the fruits of my labour in the conversation and special moments I am now able to have, because I can actually speak the language. It also helps that I am good with charades! I don't always love the learning aspect, as I do much better working with my hands than sitting in a desk having to do book work, but the Lord has blessed me with  wonderful teachers, who are so patient with me, and that makes a huge difference.

Another big excitement we had here at MTES last month was the graduation of one of our boys in our New Dawn Program. This is a huge step for these bright young men and it bring me so much joy to see them walk across that stage and receive their diploma. These guys have worked so hard during their time here and I am honoured and blessed to have the opportunity to watch God change lives first hand and get to be a part of the work He is doing. I will admit, these events always bring a few tears, ok a lot of tears, but the guys always make sure to  come back and visit regularly so that makes a big difference. I love having them stop by and say hello, with big hugs and bright smiles, getting to see how they are doing with work and their family, seeing them be the wonderful, incredible and brilliant young men they are. It really does bring so much joy to my heart, to think that God has placed me, even for a short time, in their lives, and it's something I will cherish all the days of my life.

As the summer carries on, so do the months of not seeing my family and friends back home. I have had a really good time of settling in here and am slowly beginning to feel God nudge me and show me that maybe just maybe I could settle into a life here. He continues to show tiny little details to persuade me, which is always fun to see. However I would love to just get through these coming months without worrying about that. Most days I am quite happy here, as my days are always filled with all kinds of wild adventures and wonderful things, and then some days, out of no where something tugs at my heart and makes me long for home. I miss being able to drop in for cosy visits with my family and make memories with them at special events. Some days I miss the days when everything went according to plan, and I didn't have to deal with ridiculous issues, like running out of drinking water while having a team at the house, and not being able to simply drink from the tap. Having to find someone to walk to walk with me to the store up the street because it's not safe, constantly having plans change not only daily, but hourly, because honestly that's just life here in El Salvador, and we just gotta roll with it! Often I just really miss Canada, and the beauty, love and freedom it has to offer, a freedom I will never again take for granted. The long back roads, lush  forests, and cool weather, honestly just the beauty all of it is. As the days keep rolling on, please pray for this heart of mine, that I am able to miss home and still be content here on the days when it's tough to be so far away. Pray as well that God continues to nudge my heart towards His will for my life, where ever that may be.

I want to take this time to thank you all for your continues love and encouragement. The kind words, prayers and little messages, mean more to me than you could ever know. It's with this support that I am able to serve here. I would love to get connected with you to share more in depth about my time here and can be reached at  If you would like to come alongside me financially, see the information below, and know that any contribution is a huge blessing to the work God is doing here in El Salvador.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
                                                                                                   ~ 1 Corinthians 15:58

Love and Prayers
Erica Byleveld

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Friday, April 13, 2018

New Beginnings

How do I even begin to catch you up on the last six months of my life. I can hardly believe that once again, here I am in El Salvador! So much has changed in the six months that I have been back in Canada, within MTES and with me personally, so I will take this time to fill you in on all the things that I have been up to while I was home.

I returned to Canada at the beginning of October, just in time for Thanksgiving. It was so wonderful to be home and to see all of the beautifully bright colored leaves change and the cold winds blow in, driving through the open country side, seeing the farms and fields pass me by, that is where home truly is to me. Seeing customers come into the shop and saying hello to neighbors around town, something that I think is so special to living in a small town. I enjoyed the freedom to come and go as I please and have most, if not all of my plans go exactly as I wanted them too. It was wonderful to drop in and see friends, visit with family and spend precious moments snuggling my ever growing nephews. Shortly after my arrival back home, my sister Monica got married, and it was a time of grand celebrations and visits with family I don't always get to see. I returned to Bremfield's to work full time while I began fundraising, and before we knew it, the snow was beginning to sparkle in the sky as the air grew crisp, and so we began to prepare for Christmas. This season of preparing to celebrate Christ's birth, is one I will always cherish, as the weeks prior are filled with joy, anticipation  and of course, traditions! Spending time cozied up with friends and family is one of Gods biggest blessing, and it was during this season that I truly began to notice how much these little moments were beginning to have a big impact on me. I have begun to have an astonishing and overwhelming gratitude for this life the Lord has blessed me with. Simple little moments, such as, seeing the beauty in the little lives that bring me so much joy with their giggles and squeals, building memories with my grandparents over Sunday's meals, or simply driving my mother crazy, making us both smile. Simply having my daily needs so easily met, and being sure to take time to realize what God has so freely and graciously given me and my family. Spending quality time just being present was huge for me during these six months, I also needed to begin preparing to return to the field.

Preparing to return for two more years has been an interesting new challenge for me, as I have to do visa paperwork, partner with a sending organization, securing monthly donors to partner with both prayerfully and financially and finally, attend formal missionary pre field training. I chose to attend training in Colorado at Mission Training International (MTI) for four week at the beginning of the year. I had never been to Colorado, nor were my expectations overly high, as this to me was simply something I needed to accomplish before returning. I was blown away by my entire experience with MTI, and how God perfectly ordained my time there. Whether it be the wonderful facility in the mountains, to the incredible friends I will now have for life, with missionaries going to all corners of the Earth. Friends that are in the very same situation as me, trying to fund raise, learn new languages, adapt to a different culture, trying our best to be missionaries all while not having a full grasp of what we are doing.  This training gave us the tools we needed to learn new languages, manage our stress, work well in our organizations and the go through the process of transitions well. It is so nice to finally have friends with the same understanding as me, facing the same challenges, having felt the same call on their lives, journeying with God. I have such wonderful and supportive friends and family, but it is hard to be understood sometimes, even though they do their best. It's different if you haven't experienced the same things. In this training, we went to deep levels together in a short period of time, being strangers at first, turning into our own sort of missionary family. Journeying through stress, our spiritual walks, the devastation that is all over our world, a devastation that we have seen results of first hand. All of these, incredibly tough to work through, and yet all vital to serving on the mission field. God had us be open, honest and very real, and I am so glad He did, because it gave us the opportunity to grow together in the most meaningful way. Our month together flew by and I enjoyed my experience immensely.

Once I returned back home, it was time to get down to business fundraising and preparing, and let me tell you, it's a full time job in itself. God has once again shown his faithfulness and provided the funding for my two year commitment. I love seeing Him at work in the lives of those partnering with me, both prayerfully and financially,some I have known for years, others are new friends, both crucial. I met with some different church's and really got to share about the work that is going on at MTES. I managed to sneak away to Ottawa to finalize papers needed for my visa application and visit very good friends of mine, who I served with at MTES, it was a great little getaway. I celebrated Easter with my family and even had a few surprise early birthday parties, for 6 slightly confused but very excited nephews, theses little celebrations mean the world to me when I am away. 

I did my best to pack up my life in Canada and get ready to say so long for now, surrendering my relationships to God, knowing that He will keep them precious in His will for my life. He will ensure I am taken care of, and knowing the blessing of technology these days, I am able to still be a huge part of their lives, even if this part of my life is being spent in El Salvador. I still get to see their beautiful faces, hear their funny little giggles and watch them grow! 

So I said farewell and boarded the plane, in completed surreal denial, that's usually the way it goes. As I sat ready for take off my mind began its also usual panic of "uh, what's happening, what's going on, why are we doing this". I should mention, I often have a conversation in my head of dramatic over reacting Erica, that can be a little ridiculous, and sensible Erica who reassures we are fine and no we are not going to sit and do this on an airplane for crying out loud we're fine! Haha, needless to say I stayed on the plane and I was in fact, just fine, I actually felt pretty good. I landed in El Salvador, easily made it through immigration and customs and met my director outside for a ride to the house. It's so strange to be back to the same place, as if nothing has changed, which in reality, most things have not so much changed as they have grown. I have settled in and unpacked, making this place my home again, filling my walls with beautiful photos and collections from back home. I had a few days of rest and then returned to the office, welcomed by sweet faces of old friends and excitement  from new colleagues. Coming back to a place that I love, and that makes me feel loved, makes all the difference in this time of transition back to the mission field. 

As I worked on this post by hand yesterday, I wrote about how usually the first days back are always the hardest, filled with so many emotions and changes, I get so overwhelmed that I found myself bursting into tears, however that hasn't been the case this week, I felt very comfortable here and at peace, which was beginning to freak me out a little bit, but not too worry! I am sitting here, in my cubicle, typing this, as tears trickle from my eyes... Yes today I am having a tough time missing my other home, my family and my other normal, but mostly I am sitting here, snacking on cantaloupe, laughing at myself because I feel like a fool, thinking about how reidiculous I look blubbering in a cubicle over my fruit. Don't worry about me, this is all to be expected and hey at least this time around I can fully laugh at myself, and hopefully you got chuckle out of it too! 

Thank you for taking the time to sit and catch up on all that God is doing in my life, in both of my homes. I am so blessed by your continued prayers and words of encouragement, they really do make this life I have chosen so much easier. I look forward to this journey we are embarking in these coming months. Please feel free to email me at if you would like to be part of my weekly prayer requests email, or would like to donate!

Love and prayers

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Adventures ~ Exciting, Challenging and Sometimes a Little Furry

Do you enjoy luke warm showers with the company of geckos and slugs? Feeling your blood pressure rise while standing on the street, nearly being hit by a bus? Fearing the fate and weighing the consequences of your stomach when you bite into a piece of fruit? How about the unexpected company that stays way too long in your home, unwelcome and unappreciated... in the forms of giant spiders, flying cockroaches and a baby possum? Well have I got the place for you! 

These are just a few of the challenges I face here, but honestly, it really isn't so bad, I kind of love it actually. It wouldn't be El Salvador if there weren't just a few interesting surprises. Not to worry though, the animals have been taken care of by either my shoe or by being returned to their very unimpressed mama possum, who seems to personally blame me, as if I was the one that sent her baby a personal invitation into our home, which I assure you,  I did no such thing! I also informed the mama of this, while sitting on the patio one evening, after DAYS of receiving the stink eye. Oh yes, I did indeed have an out loud argument with a mother possum, I am telling you, this country makes you do things you never dreamed of doing! Those others things,well I have simply accepted them as part of this new life of mine. It could be a whole lot worse! I have come to be incredibly grateful for those funny little things, that make me appreciate Gods goodness all the more. It could have been a rat! Lord knows I am not ready for that~ although my sister has been encouraging to remind me that I truly can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me. I just didn't realize quite what He meant when He said all things..

Well, here we are in September! August has come and gone. Obviously it had it's share of interesting moments, stressful situations, but all around, it was wonderful as usual. Each day brings new and exciting opportunities and challenges, ones I never could of dreamed of facing. I can confidently say, God is at work in my life, every single day, and I am so glad. This world I live in way out here in the Jungle, is like nothing I could have ever imagined.

 During my last 8 months here, I have seen my perspective, my focus and my heart change and adapt to my surroundings. 

 I have watched God perfectly place people in my life to teach me things about the language, the culture and the people of this beautiful country. I have learned that even though I don´t like to admit it, there are times when my North American Superiority, that I didn't even realize I had, threatens to make an appearance and I have to be reined in again. Times when I can´t understand why these people just don´t get how my way is better, and how their way makes no logical sense. I have had to realize, that I was born and raised in a different environment than what the people of El Salvador are accustomed to, and just because my way makes more sense to me, does not mean that it is infact the correct way. I have had to shut up and just listen, to a new language, to the sounds around me and to the needs of others, and to appreciate this language barrier as a way of building relationship so deep and so meaningful that we don´t need words to express our feelings. 

I have learned to appreciate a different culture, and what it has to offer. To live my life adventurously! To ride on the back of the truck like a crazy person, wear the clothes bursting with colour and to try new foods, ones that look outrageous and questionable, but actually taste like nothing I have ever experienced before. To not be scared to give a part of myself away to this beautiful place, because that doesn't mean I am giving up everything that makes me who I am. It just means that I am growing into the women God desires me to be, and who knows, I may even love it. To realize that slowly but surely, this place that used to be so crazy, so dangerous and so incredibly challenging,  is actually kind of home now. The reality is, this place has changed who I am. I still have pieces of myself that make me ME , things in the way I was raised, that have made me who I am today, but there are also new things that I cherish and value, things I never known or understood in the life I lived before. 

Who would have known I would fall in love with people that I thought were so different than me, people who, when you actually get right down to it, really aren't that different at all. Who knew I would experience what it feels like to take  pride and joy in the progress of the children I work with, children who are not my own, but who have most definitely stolen my heart, whom I love as my own. I laugh with them, talk with them, challenge them and do my best to share wisdom and love any way I can. These are the same children, that at times I cry for, when this hurt overwhelms me, not fully understanding how and why their lives have been shaped the way they have, forcing myself to trust that God is sovereign, even when I don't understand. I rejoice and take pride in their accomplishments and encourage them when I can, ensuring they know how truly loved and cherished they are.

I have friends that are helping me grow into this new life of mine, ones there to lend a listening ear and to share a nice lunch with. Friends that have welcomed me with open arms and open hearts, for which I am eternally grateful for. They show me the beauty of this country, one I never really saw at the start, and how to appreciate the different way of life here. What used to be all barbed wire and guns, is now beautiful flowers and bright colours. There isn't only sorrow filled eyes and empty stomachs, there are joy filled smiles and mended hearts. God is busy at work here, and I love that He has me here to play part in it. I love to see the progress these last 8 months have brought, and I can't wait to see what the future holds, for not only me, but all of El Salvador.

I encourage you to continue praying for me way out here in the Jungle, pray for the ways that God is growing and changing my heart. I love to hear from you folks and am happy to share my experiences here in El Salvador. I encourage you to be open to adventure. You don't have to move across the world to find it, it's right there in your very own heart. I encourage you to be brave, because who knows, you just might love it!

Love and Prayers
Erica Byleveld

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Joshua 1:9

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Growing and Changing

The moments of time here in El Salvador seem so surreal, filled with beautiful little moments, challenging moments and an ever changing craziness that is simply life here in El Salvador.

With the passing of time, comes change too. Changes in the weather, changes in our programs and changes in the friendly faces coming and going, they seem to be everywhere Before I began this adventure, I will admit, I never liked change. I liked being in control of my surroundings and I was very much an old fashioned homebody, that enjoyed the things I was used to. I enjoyed not only the comforts of home we don't have here in El Salvador, but simply the feeling of being comfortable in life.  Now however, I have had to learn that in order to grow through these seasons of life, change is always involved, and change could be a good thing. I wouldn't be here in El Salvador, if I didn't make a change in my life and I definitely wouldn't have grown in ways like I have this year.  God has shown me how important it is and I have come to appreciate change, even if it's not always easy.

One of my favourite things here in El Salvador, is being able to have the perfect viewpoint  of God at work in the lives around me, especially with the boys in our New Dawn rehab program. I arrived here at the opening of this program and have had the opportunity to get to know each and every one of these children from the very beginning. I have seen them at there lowest point, at the start of their stay and have watched God not only change their health but their hearts as well. Each of these boys have had unbelievable struggles, that I can't even begin to pretend to comprehend. Many come from abusive pasts, lived on the streets with addictions, were gang members and in some cases spent time in jail. These are all horrible things to consider but what makes it worse, is that all of the boys in our program are 16 and under. Children.

 They come to us broken and closed off, emotionally, mentally and physically in desperate need of help, and only by Gods precious grace and love, are we able to cherish these children, meet their needs and love them the best we can. It hurts my heart to watch them hurt, but I also know that if they don't go through the hurting phase of change, then they can't grow into the next season of their lives, developing a thriving with new opportunities, full of hope. Some days we see no progress at all, other days we barely recognize the boy standing in front of us, smiling and healthy. I love spending time working with them, baking with them and laughing with them, they are truly incredible boys. It warms my heart to see their faces light up in a smile over a joke we share, and I cherish the moments when they wrap their arms around me in a big embrace. I am so blessed to be a part of this season of growing they are in. I love celebrating how successful they have been and sharing just how proud I am of their hard work. Each of them are happier, healthier and prospering in their relationship with Christ, nothing like those boys that showed up at our door, not so long ago.

I pray for the growth of each of these boys as well as their families back home, and I ask that you, when thinking of me way out here, do the same. Pray for God to show His precious love to boys that may have never know what it means to be truly loved, and that the work He has me involved  in here, is for His glory alone.

 I also pray that you take a moment to appreciate this season God has you in and your relationships. Embrace the challenges by leaning on God and not your own understanding and cherish the glimpses God gives us into the work He is doing in the lives around us.

Love and Prayers
Erica Byleveld

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

God Moments

As I sit here and write this post, I am once again amazed by how fast the time really does go. Just as April was coming to a close, May managed to rush right by us. June marks 6 months of my Internship here at MTES (Mission To El Salvador) finished, and I have to tell you, not only has the time flown by, but I truly have learned so much in a now seemingly short time. I have had the privilege of watching those I have served with grow day after day. I have had the opportunity to meet wonderful people and build truly beautiful and meaningful relationships, ones that I plan on having prosper through the coming years. I also have begun to notice the ways I myself am growing, changing and transitioning
. Things that once seemed so important have sort of drifted away, while other things have prospered and grown. All in Gods timing, all in Gods plan. I have had wonderful days filled with joy and I have had horrible days filled with pain and sadness. It is all part of this growing season of life I am in, and this place where I am doing the growing. I have promised my readers, no matter how few, that during my time here on the missions field I would do my best to be open and honest. It is not always easy and it is not always pretty, but it is real, and I for one think that should count for something. I truly feel that God has called me to serve way out here in the Jungle, and I also feel called to share my journey with you folks as well, so sharing I will do.

This month has been an interesting one that is for sure. God has done a wonderful job of showing me just how important these months of relationship building have been. I said good bye to my dear roommate Grace, and let me just say, it was tough. We spent the first two months here just her and I and took quite a liking to each other, Grace being the younger sister I never had. We shared so much laughter and our share of tears too, so many special moments perfectly ordained to strengthen and encourage each other. To love one another and be there to support the other when one of us was ready to pack up and just buy that plane ticket home. Most of all however, I will miss the practical jokes! I for one, took pleasure in hiding in dark corners or quite frankly in plain view, just to get a scare out of Grace, which left us both in tearful laughter! She however,  has been successful in retaliating by leaving me a wonderful scavenger hunt of notes throughout the house, well played Grace, well played. All in all, we have had a wonderful five months together growing together as sisters in Christ. I cannot wait to see the path in which God leads her, but will dearly miss having her here by my side. As Grace was leaving, in came Leanna! She has joined us for two months to volunteer with our homeless program (El Faro).  I am so glad that God has brought her into our lives, and am loving watching Him work in her life. She is a wonderful edition of fun to our household and we are enjoying having her here immensely.

Starting in May, I also have been spending more time in our New Dawn program (our drug and alcohol rehab house for children) and I am enjoying getting to know each of our wonderful boys. We have three boys ages 16 and 17 as of now and many more taking part in our lengthy admissions process. I have the honor of teaching a pastry class during the week, as an opportunity for these boys to learn a new life skill, and to enjoy some of their time while in detox. I have come to know each of them personally, bits and pieces of their stories in my very broken Spanish, and have been given a glimpse into the life they used to live. It brakes my heart to sit and hear these stories. Stories of pain, heart ache, abuse and their horrid tales of life on the streets. Each moment that passes, these boys find a small way to steal my heart. I love getting to know each of their personalities and after working alongside them, we have developed quite a beautiful friendship,no matter how mischievous they are . I continue to pray for the rehabilitation of not only these children but also the relationships they have with their families. I ask that even though you don´t know their names or faces, that you to stand beside my in prayers for their lives, and for the lives in the process of being admitted to our program. 

This month has been a wonderful month, but also one filled with tough times too. Each day I am surrounded by a world of hurt and fear, there is violence and pain everywhere I look. If I can´t see it in the unimaginable amount of homeless people we see and serve, I can close my eyes and hear it in the yelling and gun shuts that ring out into the night. All these things can so easily leave a person heart broken. I myself have to do my best to put aside my feeling and thoughts in my work time in order to be efficient and capable of serving, all while keeping the balance of not pushing those feelings so far down as to not acknowledging them. It´s so easy to get caught up in the sadness. For example, I had the privilege this week of helping out one of our partnering organizations to help prepare their new facility for orphan children. The space that they were moving into was in need of some serious tender love and care, and a serious deep clean. Myself and a group of others had the opportunity to  spent a day helping out by painting, cleaning and gardening. As I walked through the building I couldn´t help but feel sad, not fully sure why, I asked my boss what this place used to be used for. He replied that this particular building had been used as a place for children with HIV/AIDS, as I walked through the building, I noticed a set of built in baby bathing stations, something that I have never seen before, indicating that a lot of these children were awfully young, most likely babies. This was something that once again made me simply stop. A second, to just stop what I was doing and give myself just a moment, to let the tears well up and to just feel. Actually feel my heart break, and for people I don't even know. As I walked through the building, refreshing paint cans and sweeping floors, my mind wandered to thoughts of how many beautiful young lives had been lost in this abandoned  building filled with such bright colours, something that I thought interesting, such bright colours. I thought how strange is was that this place wasn´t part of a hospital either, more just a building tucked away, forgotten. I grieved for the lives lost in that place, lives I didn´t have the opportunity to know, the families of these children possibly left behind. In the next moment, I prayed for the children that would soon be coming to this place, that are hurt and afraid, that they hopefully would feel Gods love somehow.  I prayed that even though I could only spend a day with a paint brush, that maybe one child would see this simple bright wall of green and be encouraged that God sent someone to care about the environment they were being brought into as their new home, to bring a smile to their face and to show that they were cared about. That day, was in itself, a season. A time of one work transitioned to another, and I got to be a part of it. That dear friends, was a very tough day.

God shows us tough days, He doesn´t make our time here always easy or always fun. We need to see the full truth in order to have our hearts see the need for change. God also provides good days. Another day I had recently was also one of those days where I get to see God at work, first hand, in practical ways. A "God Moment". One of the boys I had met early on in my time here came around to visit the office. This boy was a child living on the streets for years, who, to say has lived a tough live, is the understatement of the year. He was not able to join our rehab program due to his age (being 18 and therefor no longer a minor) we were unable to process his admission. He was however admitted to a different addictions and rehabilitation program. Praise God. It had been three months since I had seen this particular boy. The moment he walked in our doors, and gave me a quick hug and hello, I honestly did not realize it was him. It wasn´t until my boss told me that this clean, healthy, glowing boy with shiny shoes and a smile that could melt your heart, was actually in fact that same small boy that had not so long ago been riddled with disease and pain. I was speechless, which if anyone knows me, has never really happened, I am a women of so many words. My heart could not stop the smile that spread across my face. We saw it! This thing that we are a part of, it works! We are being used by God to change lives. We are changing lives when we submit our lives to Gods purpose! That day, I got to see with my very own eyes, God at work, and the fact that I get to play a hands on part in this moment in time, brings tears to my eyes, and an unspeakable joy to my heart. These days. These are the days I have to remember on those days when the pain and heartache threatens to overwhelm me. These are the days that I treasure. The days I get to physically see God, with my very own eyes. These are the days that make all the other days,  completely worth it!

I pray that God reveals Himself in those moments in your days too. I pray that you come along side of me in prayer and support, caring for the hurt and the broken of this world, here in El Salvador and where ever you are.

Love and Prayers

Friday, April 21, 2017


Fancy meeting you here! I will apologize, when I first embarked on this incredible adventure, I thought that I would have all the time in the world to sit here and share all my wonderful stories, of the life I live way out here in the Jungle. Turns out as a missionary, you are actually really busy and your days tend roll on by, in the blink of an eye! I will do my best to keep you folks back home updated!

Rebecca and I at her Pinning Ceremony, glad to see these last 4 years have aged us well.
Love getting together with this rowdy bunch! Finally the gang was back together again!

So let us begin. It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks! I decided to surprise my parents by coming home for a quick 2 week visit over Easter, and let me tell you, it was a blessing straight from God! Being way out here, I miss a lot of the mundane day to day events that happen back home. Little events that mean so much to me! I am very family oriented, so being away can be a little tough sometimes. During my first few weeks here, I was and continue to be stripped and called to give up my wants and desires, in order to serve Gods wants and desires, which is wonderful and hard and incredible. I came out here knowing this, but there parts of my life that I wasn´t quite ready to be rid of. Things that are good, and important to me. Things like bridal showers, house warming parties, graduations, friends with health situations, holidays and new babies being born. All of these things are wonderful life moments that are memories for a life time! Things I  hold very dear to my heart!

God allows me to be here with wonderful people, doing wonderful things, but He also knows me. Personally. He knows my wants,my needs and my desires. He knows what I like,what I love and what I absolutely adore. He ordained perfectly this time spent back at home. He allowed me to be there for every single moment. I was able to watch  my best friend Rebecca receive her nursing pin,a journey we have been travelling for four years now. I got to attend bridal showers and house warming parties to support and love my cherished friends back home during this wonderful stage of life they are in. I got to spend Easter with my family of loved ones, eating and celebrating Christ´s incredible sacrifice for us sinners. I even got to spend just some quality time with dear friends over coffee or dinners. To be there, just be there, where for a moment I was needed. I wasn´t needed to feed a homeless person or help a team. I was needed to sit and cheer my best friend across the stage. I was needed to watch my beautiful nephews while my sister brought a precious new life into the world. I was needed to make cupcakes and do dishes for family parties. I was needed home, and it felt so good. To be home. To be with family and friends and to honestly just enjoy some freedom!

What a little sweetheart!
Proud Auntie

I cherished every single moment of it, I can assure you! I drove down back roads with the music blaring! I went for walks and enjoyed quiet time. I ate like a queen!! Let me tell you, I miss my family cooking! I enjoyed countless snuggles and surprise visits. I enjoyed life.

I had my wonderful community shower me with donations to bring back for my baking program and for the people we serve here. A giant suitcase full of blessings! It still continues to amaze me how a community can come together so quickly and give so much! We can´t wait to distribute it to those in need! I am so thankful for my little small town back in Canada. It is so wonderful to have customers come and visit because they just had to see me and see how I was doing! It´s something that means so much to me, you can´t even begin to imagine!
Donations will go towards my baking class with our New Dawn Children and the rest will be handed out to families that are part of our food  Co Op

It was then time to pack up my bags once again. I wasn´t sure how this whole trip would go, it being my first time returning after being here so long, but it was perfect! That´s not to say there weren´t moments when I found tears streaming down my face for seemingly no reason at all. because there were. That´s ok! In the end I packed up my things, I will admit incredibly last minute and unorganized,much to my mothers dismay, but I managed to waltz out the door, over packed, over weight suitcases in hand ready for my journey back to my other home. I am stuffed full with the little comforts of Canada. Cans of beans and taco seasoning, dish soap and spatulas, hot chocolate and stuffing from a box! Even a cute new Canada mug and magnet. It truly is the little things that bring me so much joy! I said my ¨see you soons¨ (I don´t like goodbyes) and got on a plane, and it was surprisingly easy. I knew what I would be arriving to. I had friends waiting for me and a job to return to. I was needed back here for right now.

I will say this. During my perfect visit home I learned something very important. I love Canada! LOVE it! I respect what it stands for and am thankful to God that I get to call myself a Canadian. I also love El Salvador. The people, the culture, the work God is doing here. I love them both. I was leaving home, to go to my other home.

I have had to learn that Home isn´t a place or things. Home is simply this. Home is where I will ALWAYS have a place, where I will always feel loved and where I will always be cared for.

It´s not four walls. It´s your heart. I have people that welcomed me with open arms here in El Salvador, with hugs and laughs of how much they have missed me. I also have family back home that feel the same. I am so blessed, so richly blessed. God has given me the opportunity to have such a wonderful life, one in which I don´t have to worry, because He knows the desires and needs of my heart, and He lets me be there for those life moments I cherish so much!

I am happy to be back here in El Salvador, do I miss my family, a little, but hey in 9 weeks I will be back to my other Home. So I am really not too worried!

I even splurged and got myself a nice big Canada mug, just in case anyone was wondering where may roots lie.
Tea warms my up but being able to have a wonderful Bremfield´s scone all the way out here... warms my heart