Mount Victory and Ridgeway UMC teamed up with teams from Catalyst Resources International and loaded up on the big blue bus headed for El Durazno, Chimaltenango. The view from the bus provided just a passing glimpse into life for many of the people that we passed along the way.
As the bus bounced and shook into the dirt lot where we'd depart on foot, we were greeted by two small children whose mother was working inside a nearby tienda.
The Mt. Victory and Ridgeway team of Gary, Tina, Stephen, Wesley, and Luke first met the Zen family: Wilder, Heidy, Edward (5), and little Carli (18 months).
Through a partnership that began with a nervous introduction, a handshake, and a prayer, the next few days were spent building more than a house... relationships that would not be forgotten by anyone there, no matter how far away they might travel, or how many years might pass.
This team came geared for production. With experience in building, agriculture, and a history of working together, within three hours they had completed a typical day's work. This meant... there was time to play. Antony was game and I was ready to capture his feat with video.
With day one completed, the team requested a photo with the newly framed home and their newest best friends. As the walls rose, relationship began to grow. Memories were already being established that were more than names... smiles, laughs, memories, and hopes for the future.
The second day of construction outstripped supply, and so labor gave way to play. I sat by with amusement as the team began building with scrap, and then took the play to a new level as a stump and a panel transformed into a multi-generational, multi-cultural teeter-toter.
Check out the video... Live Action!
While play continued on the ground, the roof crew began to lay the trusses. To my amazement, I looked up and saw Caleb on the roof. This week brought two big firsts for my son: his first time serving as a translator,
and his first time as a roofer.
Our days found a rhythm of hard work and hard play. On her first day in the village, our new intern Sophie found herself a prime attraction for the niñas. Dirt had been unearthed to fill the foundation, and now imagination transformed it into a bottomless canyon to be jumped by brave explorers.
On day three the project was so far along that we needed to find additional work. The team agreed to fund and provide the labor for a sealant and stain. This extra touch will protect from weather and insects while adding beauty to the house.
At lunch time the team and family were gathered together on the porch. We were no longer two groups, but single family that was bound together at the heart by experience, shared belief, play, and accomplishment.
A discussion took place between the team and it was decided that the neighbors who had helped lay the foundation last week should receive a thank you. Our CRI Project Manager, Edgar gathered their extra funds and went shopping at local tiendas, keeping the economic stimulus local, and quietly prepared food for four families that helped with the house.
The day ended as previous days... a good deal of play
and progress ahead of schedule! This Ecocomal Stove will be the centerpiece of a new, outdoor kitchen. The vented stove will improve breathing conditions for the family, and will reduce their wood consumption, labor, and cost by half.
The final day with a team in the village is always a powerfully emotional day. Projects are complete and that feels really good, but the folks from the US are faced with the reality that they now have to say goodbye. The typical rushed falling of hammers begins to slow as each person now feels the value of time and savors each swing.
Hearts are forever changed. Life now will necessary look different when feet land back on US soil. Faces and deep unspoken thoughts will echo in the coming days. We are all not so different. Culture, money, tradition, politics, it all just somehow pales and disappears in the tender gaze of a little girl wearing her first new pair of shoes.
Wilder cut and sanded a plaque. He had gone into town and had a photo printed so that he would not forget the faces of his new family from the United States. He borrowed a Sharpie from the team, and asked us all to sign it. He said that this would hang inside their house so that they could pray for each of us each day.
Suddenly the time was upon us that we had anticipated. Now that it was here, none of us wanted the day to progress. It was the best time of the week... dedication... and yet, it was also the signal that we'd be saying goodbye.
The dedication began with scripture and prayer.
A final photo to document what was done here.
And then we quietly wiped tears as Heidy held Carli and walked into her families new house as her husband Wilder stood by with the smile that reflected all our hearts.
The family is in their new house.
Now their challenge is to make it a home.
Gary and the UMC team gives food to each family that helped. This unexpected gesture was a powerful moment as he explained that we are all God's children and we are given each other to help each other out.
Even though I've been a part of more dedications that I can count, each and every one is powerful and breathtaking. We are reminded that we are all sons and daughters of God. We all have the same needs, hopes, and dreams. We are not so different. When the dust settles... life is not so complicated.