In a word, today was about liquid. Drinking, sweating, and pouring.
We knew today would be our most physically demanding day, and we weren’t disappointed. Our brother Andy picked us up at the usual 9 bells as we made our way to the site where we were going to be put to work. On the way, we picked up one of the mission pastors named Jose. We had a few minutes to go into the church and watch their worship band practice for tomorrow’s services. It was really cool to see these guys learning the music – all by ear! They had no sheet music, so they would play sections from a CD and help one another with the parts. Not too bad, actually.
Once we picked up Jose, we went out to the outskirts of town which is a much poorer area than we’ve seen up to this point. We turned off of the main road and our van quickly turned into an off-road, all-terrain vehicle. All of the “roads” were dirt filled with rocks, potholes the size of excavation sites, mud, garbage, you name it. Andy had to come to almost a complete stop to get us through some of the obstacles in the road. I don’t know how this van is holding up as well as it is. Yay Toyota!
As we meandered back to the site the latest church plant is being built on, we drove by crumbling foundations of homes that had remnants of cinder blocks, rebar sticking up, and overgrown weeds. We drove by mounds of trash and saw three cows sort of feeding off of it, while another man was bringing more wheelbarrows of garbage over. It was quite a sight to see.
Another mission group helped Ministerios Benedicion lay the foundation and put up the walls and roof to their new church. Outside, there were three or four large piles of dirt and clay that needed to be brought inside the church, as we needed to level off the floor with another twelve or so inches of dirt. We had a lot of help from some of the local church members as well as from the missions pastor Jose, and Juan, the man who is going to pastor this church once completed. Between pick axes, shoveling, wheelbarrowing, and spreading dirt all in close to 100F heat and ridiculous humidity, we all about passed out at one point or another. The pick axe was the hardest work of all. I know at least for the guys, we’d go at it hard with that thing for a few minutes and just about destroy ourselves from exhaustion. During one of our water breaks, some of our team had the opportunity to read some Bible stories to the children. Christina was able to hand out extra copies to some of the kids, who then had their mothers read to them. It was a beautiful moment.
For our lunch break, we drove another ten minutes through the same type of streets I described earlier. When we arrived, there was a dozen or so people to eat with us. The family whose house we were at had prepared some sort of spaghetti dish in a *huge* pot that my elementary school lunchlady would be proud of. It was SO good! I know I speak for all of us when I say we have been spoiled with the amount of incredible food we’ve eaten on this trip. The family even brought the couch from their living room outside for us to sit on. Everyone has been so hospitable.
After lunch, Jose shared a little bit about how he got into ministry. He had had a white-collar job for around 20 years and during his lunch breaks, he would walk around the area and eat lunch with people at their homes. He wouldn’t preach to them, he would just get to know them and be their friend. Once he had established that friendship, he would tell them about his relationship with Christ. This eventually led him down the path of going into full-time ministry and relying on God and others to support him financially. He’s been in ministry now for over a decade and has never been worried about being provided for. It’s been neat to see how excited the people are to know we’re from Saddleback Church. “Ohhh! Rick Warren!” hahah. Jose even mentioned how Saddleback has supported him and his ministry, as well. Very cool!
After Jose was done sharing his story, he asked each of us to tell how we ended up on this mission trip. It was a great time to go around and share. He was just so genuine in his interest for us. One of the most joyful men we’ve ever had the opportunity to meet. One of the women who helped make our delicious lunch had a little boy, Alejandro, who had been born with some birth defects. His mother was working at a chemical plant when she became pregnant. She tried to hide her pregnancy so she didn’t lose her job. Unbeknownst to her, the chemicals were harmful to her unborn child and now she feels a lot of guilt for how her son looks. He’s had five surgeries performed as they’ve obtained the resources, but still needs several more. She’s very grateful that he’s been able to be healed as much as he has. Jeremy suggested that we pray for little Ale right then, so we all joined hands with the family and Erik prayed for Alejandro while Jasmine translated. It was such a wonderful moment.
Just after lunch, we were heading back to the build site to finish up what we started. That’s when it started to rain. Downpour! Of course, we couldn’t work anymore so we headed back to the city. It took probably twice as long to get back than on the way out. Some of the roads were washed out and we had to take different routes. A lot of kids were playing in puddles and running through the streets in their underwear. Some adults were standing under their water eaves and putting shampoo in their hair and cleaning off with soap. It was interesting to see how all the people did different things when it poured like this.
All in all, another awesome day. We finished the day by playing a game of Cranium back at our room. It was a lot of fun to just unwind and talk about what we all took away from today and just have a fun time with one another. We’re really starting to become a family in a lot of ways. We love and support one another, but we also can bicker and be sarcastic with one another, too. And we love it!! It’s great to see everyone’s personalities coming out as we play to our strengths and support others where we’re not as strong.
It’s nearly 1AM and I’m the last one up. I’d love to post some pictures and I know you’d all love to see them, but I’m afraid I’ll have to wait for another day to post them. Sad, I know! We have so many great ones! Thank you again for all of your continued support. Pastor Chris called us tonight and we had a few minutes to share with him what’s been happening on our trip. He let us know how many of you are praying for us and then prayed for us on the phone. It was great to hear your voice, Pastor Chris!!
Tomorrow we’re going to go with the church members to a park as they are celebrating some baptisms. It’s sure to be an awesome day and I look forward to telling you all about it. I’m not proofreading this; don’t judge me!