Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 8 - Beach Day

With our final breakfast at the hotel we gathered our things and met in the lobby. Our bags were much lighter now because all of us had brought clothes with to leave for Habitat to distribute as they saw need. This was another tough part of the journey. Throughout the week, in broken English, one of the workers at the job sight would ask us if we were going to leave our boots, gloves, or hats with them. We were encouraged not to give the workers any material items because Habitat didn't want to create a culture of begging every time a group came to help. We had to trust that Habitat knew the culture much better than we did. As hard as it was to resist giving items directly to some of the workers we knew that if only a few got something it would create jealousy in others.

We said more goodbyes to our translators and those who had been our guides all week. Without them we would have had a VERY different experience not knowing the language of the people we were working alongside. The other work crew was headed to a coffee plantation and we were headed to a resort by the beach. We knew we would see the other work crew at the airport since they were flying back to Peoria and the Quad cities so we saved our goodbyes. But this would possibly be the last time we would see our guides who kept us from embarrassing ourselves too much in front of the locals. They really did take such great care of us. Some of us took in the view from the roof one last time, others said goodbye to the parrot who greeted us outside the hotel each morning, and others shared last minute email addresses and phone numbers.

The ride to the resort was full of mixed emotions. Excitement for the chance to play on the beach and relax, but also time as a group to process all the memories of amazing people we had met. As we drove back towards the capitol thoughts of our first day in El Salvador flooded back. Thoughts of that first lunch with the other work crew; Eric, Andrea, Dave, Kelsey, Wayne, Deb, Drew, and Steve. Memories of Katy debriefing all of us about the history and culture of El Salvador.

As we drove we passed more shacks and run down housing. We passed more fruit stands, some occupied, others abandoned. We passed a clothing factory that we were told provides hundreds of jobs but has very little space for all the workers. The razor wire still adorning multiple businesses and houses made sure that the history of El Salvadors bloody civil war was not forgotten. And yet below those signs of a brutal past were some of the most beautiful hand painted murals and advertisements I had ever seen.

Once we arrived at the resort we were greated by a gentleman who offered to let us release turtles into the ocean for $3 a piece. Laurie, Al, and Harrison all decided to drop off their luggage and come back to release turtles. The money raised went towards conservation efforts because apparently these turtles eggs are a delicacy in El Salvador and fetch a high price. It was fun watching these cute little turtles waddle instictively towards the crashing waves. Watching these tiny creatures get sloshed by huge waves back up onto shore and then getting washed back into the ocean over and over made me wonder if these little guys even stood a chance. And that is where hope comes in.

Once we got checked in we wandered around the resort and noticed lots of hammocks, at least 3 different pools, and random animals around every turn. We went to look at the monkey cage and one of them grab a students cell phone before we noticed the sign that said; "Naughty monkeys will grab, steal, and scratch so beware." There were parrots, peacocks, guinea hens, chickens, turtles, alligators, horses, ducks, and even cows! Half of us grabbed our swim suits and ran to the beach to remember our baptisms and get clobbered by the powerful waves. Between playing in the ocean and eating lunch a few from our group got massages that were quite relaxing. A few of us tried some new seafood while others yearned for more United States type fair like hamburgers. After dinner we were anxious to play on the beach some more and headed out while resort staff set up chairs for what looked to be a beach side wedding.

That evening we had dinner and then met up for devotions. We talked about how we knew each other fairly well but through this trip we really bonded as a team. Gods presence as part of our team was found each day in the ways that we were cared for and kept safe. Whether it was a near miss car accident, a falling cinder block, a pick ax that was swung a little too close, or water that was not safe we knew God was with us. Each of us shared about our own definition of "hope" and where we experienced it throughout the week. Some of us saw hope in the nuns who cared for so many girls at the orphanage, others saw hope in Miriam who would sing while cleaning up at the job site, some saw hope in the Habitat staff and the work they were doing, and others saw hope in the church being built and how it will be a beacon of love and transformation in that community. Our devotionals reminded us that we are all agents of hope whether we are students in high school, middle aged parents, or retired handymen. There are people we all know whose lives can be made better because of the love God has placed in our hearts. Hope is not knowing exactly what will happen but trusting that God's presence in you will make things better for someone else.

"For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ."1 Corinthians 3:9-11

Day 7 - Pinata's and Parties

We arrived at the work site with renewed energy and a mix of emotions. Knowing it was our last day and that we would only be working until lunch made us extra aware of how precious the time was. Compared to Monday we were much more willing to try and joke with some of the workers who spoke little or no English, we felt more competent using the tools, and we knew what needed to be done and jumped in instead of waiting for instruction. It was extremely humbling to realize that all the dirt we had brought in and stomped, all 75 cubic meters of dirt, would be covered by another group with more dirt, and eventually covered by a concrete floor. Nothing we were doing would be visible.

"Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you."Psalm 89:14

What was visible was a lot more smiles on peoples faces. There were also less questions and more trust in the way things were being done. I know early on in the week it was hard to simply follow instructions because we felt like it could be done faster or better another way. At some point in the week we had to realize that those who lived here all knew what needed to be done and we were simply to trust in that work. All of us share that role. God doesn't line out the master plan, he simply tells us that we can trust him and he will give us amazing work to do. In many ways the things being constructed, the things that would be visible our whole lives, the things that would be seen by the world... were us.

"Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in."Isaiah 58:12

During lunch Habitat presented us all with certificates that read:

"Do Something Concrete. We thank you our volunteer for your commitment and enthusiasm on building the Cristo Rey Church in Santa Ana as we build a world where everyone owns a decent home."

Each person on our team was presented with one along with a tiny cinder block to remember the very physical way we had helped rebuild a church community. The other work crew presented the Cristo Rey Church with new Bibles, then we had some cake, and finally we tried to destroy a pinata! The games that followed made it even harder to leave. We laughed till our faces hurt as we played silly games that crossed all language barriers. For a brief moment whether from the U.S. or from El Salvador, we all forgot about the problems and struggles going on in our lives.

After numerous hugs and goodbyes we loaded up the vans and headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up before going on another cultural immersion experience. We went to a neighborhood cafe - Chilateria Dona Ana and had authentic cuisine such as fried Yuca, leche poleada, and something that was a cross between Hush Puppies and a donut hole. We met the owner who was a sweet older lady that asked us in Spanish how our meal was. She then proceeded to tell us that she is the only one with the secret recipe for the donut holes. We snacked on the different foods that each other had ordered and simply took in the mountains, vendors on bicycles, and families that were strolling up to get a bite to eat. Just down the street from this cafe was a beautiful church that had recently been repainted all white inside and out. This Catholic church had large murals of the holy family to the right of the altar and another huge mural of Mary to the left. A poster on their bulletin board advertised a celebration for the 800 year anniversary of the Catholic church in Central America!

With the hours seeming to slip by, and with a desire to make the most of our time, Harrison and I went with Karla to a local square to visit more shops. Once we headed down a side street we noticed a cultural dance performance. We stopped to watch, then waded through the market where I finally found a place to buy Horchata. If you have never had it, try and order it at El Toro sometime. It basically tastes like the milk left over after you have had a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Very sweet with a milky cinnamon taste. This Horchata however was served chilled in a plastic bag that Harrison and I had to break open with our teeth and drink straight from the bag. It had more of a peanut butter flavor to it because Horchata can be made with whatever type of ground nuts are available. With Horchatas in hand we cruised past the cultural dance performers who were no longer wielding large staffs but machetes and made it back just in time.

Once back to the hotel both work groups loaded into vans again to head over to the Habitat for Humanity office. It is tradition for Maria, who is in charge at the Habitat office, to make a home cooked meal for those who have worked all week. When we sat down to eat we were treated with a large plate of rice with fresh shrimp on top surrounded by cucumbers and served alongside a tomato and cheese salad. Maria expressed her heartfelt thanks for our work throughout the week and just as it seemed like things were winding down... A mariachi band showed up out of nowhere and began playing a bunch of songs for us! For a split second we all thought we were on a reality television show. We sang Happy Birthday to Sofia who was one of the volunteers translating for us throughout the week and who had turned 21 the day before. Then the funniest part came next. A room full of Lutherans tried to dance. There was so much laughter and joy in those moments and I never want to forget them.  - Jason

Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 6 - Sara's Week

Sunday Oct. 20th

"Getting ready to head to Santa Ana, El Salvador to worship with the congregation we are helping this week. We have experienced some of the culture and food. Looking forward to a wonderful week. Thank you all for the prayers! God is so very good!!"

"Wonderful church service at Cristo Rey. Today was pastors 65th birthday. We were able to see the progress that has been made on the church and looking forward to some hard, hot work this week. Delicious lunch made by Anna Maria from Habitat. Settling in to our hotel and preparing for the work week ahead of us."

Monday Oct. 21st 

"Pick Axed, shoveled and moved lots and lots and lots of dirt today. Hot and humid day but cooled down after it rained. It doesn't just rain downpours, then just stops. We are still in the rainy season so expect it to be this way everyday. Did I mention we moved a lot of dirt today. Going to feel it tomorrow but feels good to see the progress on the floor and changes being made!!! Gods work our hands!!!"

Tuesday Oct. 22nd

"The day started with some Aleve!Moved a lot more dirt out of the sanctuary today then started bringing in "road pack." Lots of tamping going on and using muscles I forgot I had! Building lots of relationships. Miriam, a sweet lady from the congregation was back to help and let me tell you...that lady can WORK! Met Ella and Gabriel. Gabriel was shy but liked seeing himself in my phone. More rain today but it held off until late in the afternoon!! Progress is being made! God's work, our hands!!"

Wednesday Oct. 23rd 

"The day started off with us needing to fix what the rain messed up last night. It was a little disheartening to see this morning is the rainy season. We all jumped right in and began tackling our chores. Met Lenny from the Cristo Rey congregation and we became buddies. He always had to throw ONE more shovel full onto my pileWe did more filling of road pack, tamping and carrying out dirt. I wish we had a count of how many wheel barrows full we have moved. Carlos, the main man came to talk to us. He said the work we do this week makes up 15% of the project! We stopped early at 2pm, got cleaned up and went to the The Hogar Moraga Orphanage. Talk about heart strings being tugged. This is an all girls orphanage with ages ranging to 18 years. They sang us many songs, the youth...and Al, played basketball. The girls won!! They were sinking 3's like crazy!! Met so, so many sweet children and teenagers. The young ones sat on our laps, held our hands, hugged us often and tight and cried when we left. The teens sat close beside us, showed us pictures of famous actresses and singers that they liked and hugged tight when we left. They thanked us for coming and for all of the fun. They asked us to come back, so we could lose at basketball  and that they would keep us in their hearts and prayers. So, so sweet!! I fell in love with Flower, Daniella, Theresa, Josephine and Carolina. Will have to talk to Timmy about that when I get home! My eyes were certainly watering when we left. Thank you for everyone's prayers! God is so very Good!!

Thursday Oct. 24th

"Today we carried in many more loads of sand, built more re-bar, tamped and filled 6 of the columns with hand!! This is my last day at the site. Heading home tomorrow for Olivia's confirmation on Sunday. Will be a bittersweet day. I miss my family, safe, cold drinking water, a warm shower and being able to understand the language, yet I want to stay and see the job finished...even though I haven't worked this hard for so many hours/days. The reward of the smiles, hugs, relationships built, within our own group as well as some of the members of Cristo Rey Church, the Habitat construction workers and our Habitat group leaders has been worth every sore muscle on my body!! And at this point...everything hurts! 😬 I feel blessed beyond measure to have been able to experience this with Luke and to watch him grow as well as to have been part of such an amazing, hard working, big hearted, go with the flow, fun group from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. We had a wonderful leader in Jim Hack, who is certainly one of the kindest, big-hearted men I know. (He's also quite sly at Euker!) I look forward to everyone's posts the final two days. Finish strong my Brothers and Sisters!! Gods Blessings!!"

Sara Smith

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 5 - The Orphanage

"You may recall that yesterday, I never mentioned taking a shower. I should have included the fact that when we arrive back at the hotel shortly after 4 p.m., we all race to take showers – until we learn that the hot water is just a trickle. Part of that is everyone trying to shower at once, as we have a total of 20 people in the two groups. Of course, if you don't mind a cold shower, there is plenty of water for that! Almost no one showers in the morning, as there is little point. But, that afternoon shower is a great thing, and one of the most enjoyable moments of the day.

It is occurring to many of us that our trip is more than half over! We are busy and working hard, and the time is passing quickly. This morning at the work site we witnessed the effects of more overnight rain. Some of the high-quality fill material for the foundation that we put in place yesterday got too wet, and needed to be turned over and mixed with dryer fill material, and re-packed. The one mechanical device we have seen so far is a soil compactor. Al York even got to run it! Meanwhile, with certain sets of muscle groups being rather tired, I opted today for re-bar work partly for a change of pace, and partly to see what it was all about. A fine fellow named Wayne, age 81, from the other Illinois group, introduced me to tying triangles in place with wire onto to what will become three vertical rods for the corner columns of the church building. Say what you will about the manual construction methods, they accomplish an entirely professional product in the end. They mix all the concrete and mortar just on a flat, open space, without a mixer or even a wheelbarrow. All the wheelbarrows are in use hauling dirt or fill.

The re-bar work proved quite interesting. The triangles are made separately, then the vertical pieces are fastened into place. The triangles are first measured to length as straight sections, then cut with shears. The bending of the straight segment into a triangle is accomplished with a hand-held bending tool. The piece is put in a jig consisting of fat nails hammered into a flat board. Two important dimensions are marked with a pencil, and in four steps, you have a triangle – unless you goof. The more you do it, the better you get at it, and after a while, one is pretty good at it.

We had a visit from a Habitat official today, and he gathered us together in the church space to show us the architectural diagrams and some mock photos of the completed church. You could certainly see the layout of the church coming into shape. The mason contractors held the photos and diagrams, and the official thanked us for our efforts. He spoke in Spanish, and Karla (one of our Habitat hosts) translated, something she does with ease.

At 2 p.m., we stopped work to head back to the hotel, clean up, and visit the orphanage. We took our trickle showers, but did not have the other group to compete with. We packed up 4 full suitcases full of toys and goodies for the girls at the orphanage and left in the van about 3 p.m. We arrived in only a few minutes, and were greeted by staffers and one of the sisters, and gathered to get organized to meet the 47 girls. It became clear quickly that this was not only an orphanage, but also their school. The head sister decided they would like to go through the toys first and not give them to the girls today. The teachers might use them in classes, or some items might not be age appropriate. We left the 4 suitcases in an office. We stopped for a brief photo of our group taken by both Sophie and Frances (some of us call her Francine). Otherwise, photos were discouraged, and we think this is to keep the girls safe and private, off the Internet, etc. So, you won't see any photos of the girls.

After a brief tour, which included a sewing room, we met in a music classroom. This particular class of girls of mixed ages accompanied by their music teacher on a keyboard, energetically sang us several songs, none of which we recognized, and all of which Sophia told us were Christian songs. They really loved to sing! We walked about for a little while then re-grouped in what was likely the cafeteria, where ALL the girls joined their keyboard playing teacher for more songs – which they all knew by heart. Some of the younger ones slipped over to our side of the room and sat next to us, or even on our laps as the older girls sang and sang and sang. Next, we moved to the courtyard basketball court, and one can see that they need a new basketball. Teams were established, us versus them, and the girls all played barefoot while putting Good Shepherd's Team El Salvador to shame. The rest of us played games and tried to understand the things they were telling us before we had to depart. Leaving was hard as many of the girls, Guadalupe (“Lupe”), Sylvia, Blanco, Theresa, Daniella, Josie, Carolina, Andrea, and no doubt many more hung onto us and said good-bye over and over. We were delighted to meet them, but it's hard to learn that most do not get adopted out at all. They stay until they are 18, and they leave to work, and maybe some go to school. The girls thanked us, and some even gave an impromptu speech in Spanish translated by Sophie. They said they would long for us to return, and would keep us in their prayers."  

Dean Olson

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 4 - Laying a firm foundation

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

“After breakfast, we get our backpacks ready for the work day: hat, gloves, insect spray (I have not seen a single mosquito yet anywhere in El Salvador), sun screen, water bottle, electrolyte powder, naproxen tablets, a few snacks, a book if it rains again like it did yesterday – and boots. You have to wear boots and long pants at the work site, where we are rebuilding the Christo Rey (Christ the King) Lutheran Church. At 7:30 a.m., we get in our van which seats 14, including the driver and our Habitat host, and make the 15-min trip to the Church via a busy city choked with diesel exhaust and people everywhere getting ready for their day. We arrive and the fence around the work site is locked. Someone shows up and unlocks it, and once we are all situated, the fence is locked again. Now, it's the 11 of us from Good Shepherd, plus about 10 workers hired by Habitat. Some are clearly masons who do a great job putting in place the decorative cinder blocks which will be for the outside of the church. The corner pillars are already in place and today, like yesterday, we are digging out the foundation already within the church walls, and we use the basics: pick axes, shovels, and wheel barrows. But today is different; we can see that we made progress yesterday on the task. Yes, things look better than they did when we arrived Monday at the same time.

The work is hard, but we have good tools, a good plan, and good teamwork, again much better than yesterday. Instead of trying to figure out what to do all the time, we now can see what should be done next. Occasionally, a crew leader comes by and gives us some corrective instructions, like Roberto who appears to be the site boss. The overall plan is always to start work about 7:45 a.m., work till 10:15, take a 15-min break, work till noon, take a 1-hour break, work, take a break, and stop at 4 p.m. We do this but most of us are not wearing wrist watches, and we don't watch the time very carefully. Except for lunch, it is hard to get everyone to take a break at the same time. Breaks are simple with bottled drinking water poured from a big jug, and today, bananas. A hot lunch was served today consisting of cheese macaroni, green beans, and a slice of beef inside a styrofoam containers with a plastic fork and knife. Most of us also have snacks purchased at a local grocery store within walking distance.

We stop early due to rain and put the tools and wheelbarrows back in a storage shed. We sit in the current church for a while and it never stops raining. It did this Monday after lunch – for more than an hour. Earlier, a woman we met yesterday named Miriam visited the site. She is about 50 years old, stocky, short, and to put things simply and accurately, worked harder than most of us. If she brings back her wheelbarrow from an emptying trip and it is not refilled fast enough, she grabs a shovel, and fills it herself. If you are standing idly in her way, she simply goes around you. When she is not on the construction site, she is sweeping the old, makeshift church nearby while singing hymns. Later, she helped serve lunch in front of the church, then mopped the church floor. Yesterday at the end of the work day, she said “Hasta la vista, baby”. No one works harder than Miriam, and we think she is a church member putting in some of the sweat equity required by Habitat.

After the work day, we stop at a small area “downtown” to do a little shopping in a courtyard of about 15 businesses selling mostly local arts and crafts. Most of the places consist of plywood booths with tin roofs and tables and walls-full of goods for sale. Some of it is touristy stuff, but other things are quite nice, and one man is making jewelry. After the shopping stop, we visit the grocery store about 4 blocks away to pick up a few goodies. Prices are typically much less than in the USA. I can remember one price: 30 un-refrigerated eggs for $3.72, and they use the US dollar here, and our dollar coins are very popular here. The average monthly wage is about $230, and the unemployment rate is 30%. Most of us in the States would consider the city of Santa Ana largely dilapitated and it offers little or no tourism for employment of locals. Our hotel rooms are $60 per night – considered very high here.

Dinner is always at 6:30, and tonight we had chicken, french fries, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and a dessert of two jelly-filled crepes and a light ice cream which seemed light and partially whipped. After, Laurie and Sara had smoothies – both served room temperature.

We sorted and organized our toys for our orphanage visit Wednesday. Then, as always, we went up to the patio on the roof for some devotions, discussion, and prayer. It was a good day, though we are all sore somewhere, and often in places we did not know could get sore.”

Post by Dean Olson

Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 3 - Digging in

Day 3 had us up early with a breakfast of fried plantains, yogurt, fresh made omelets, cereal, pancakes, fruit, and sausages. Little did we know that we would need all that energy for the work ahead of us. There was lots of rain the night before so it had us wondering what the job site would look like. Arriving on site at Cristo Rei we met the crew who would be doing masonry work on the walls of the church while we dug out the dirt floor. Using pick axes and shovels we dug out load after load of dirt, while the other half of our work crew hauled the wheel barrows full of dirt away. We did this for about an hour and a half before being instructed to take a water break.

After a little yogurt it was back to the pick axes and shovels. Many of the masons were either bending rebar, making concrete, or putting blocks in place to form the sanctuary walls. The language barrier was pretty severe so it took considerable effort to find ways to be of help but that didn't stop a few from trying. With each swing of the ax or filled shovel full of dirt we were building relationships slowly side by side with our Salvadoran brothers and sisters. One older lady named Miriam came in with a wheel barrow and didn't stop even after we left. The rain held off until a little after noon which was perfect for our lunch break. Then it seemed as if the heavens opened up and unloaded tons of water on the work site. Many took advantage of the extra free time to either take naps, play games, or buy some jewelry from a couple of young ladies that rode the bus 3 hours round trip this morning just to sell us a few dollars worth of hand made crafts.

Once there was a break in the rain it was back to the dirt... well now it was mud actually. Which, wouldn't you know it, is a little bit heavier. The team didn't let up and plowed through until we took another break for gatorade and chocolate covered cookies! After about another hour we called it a day and headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up.

During devotions we reflected on the amazing work ethic of the masons who only get paid $8 a day. We shared about the amazing example our Habitat for Humanity leaders have set for us by digging and hauling dirt all day long right beside us. Many of us told stories of how difficult it was to communicate with the masons but how both they and us seemed to try really hard through hand gestures to reach an understanding. The group agreed that we have many things to be thankful for and that our complaints back home, when it comes to work, are pretty lame. In fact our whole understanding of suffering is changing the more we interact and observe the people here. The day closed with us being both exhausted and inspired. Now we are looking forward to getting the rest our bodies need to see Christ in each other again tomorrow.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 2 - Worship & Work

The day started off with an amazing sense of newness. A recent rain made everything seem refreshed and ready for us to explore. We packed up the van and headed from San Salvador to Santa Anna noticing cattle, corn, and dogs grazing or growing right alongside the road. Many of the houses we saw would be considered terrible to even be used for tool sheds back home. Walls made of either cinder block or sticks with roofs of either aluminum or plastic. At one point in our journey a car cut in front of our van to make a left hand turn while a bus in the right lane also came to a stop. Our van driver Armando did an amazing job of veering out of the way and avoiding both possible collisions. After pulling over and giving thanks to God for our safety, and Armando for his quick reaction, we were on our way.

Before we got to the work site we picked up Dennis who is from the U.S. and gave us his job as he says, "making rich people richer," and moved to El Salvador to work for Habitat for Humanity full time. His skills as an engineer will be used not only by us this week, but by 20 other work sites going on at the same time all around the area. As we climbed out of the van we saw the work site with the foundation laid and corners in place. The remains of the old church after the earthquake were now being repurposed as a security gate around the entire compound. Worship began with us singing many songs in Spanish. The lectionary readings for today were read in both Spanish and English so it felt good to know we were hearing the same readings as our church family back home! Then during communion the wafers were dipped in the wine and then placed on our tongues, which was a new experience for most of our group. The pastor thanked us with many kind words before, during, and after worship for our willingness to love God by loving our neighbor. He ended the worship with these words:

"The service may be over, but our service to our neighbors is not."

Lunch was served to us outside between the fellowship hall, which is being used as the sanctuary, and the foundation of the new sanctuary that is to be built. We sang happy birthday to Pastor Carlos who turned 65 today and who has also been serving the Cristo Rei church for over 30 years as an ordained Lutheran pastor without pay. After a pep talk from our Habitat Coordinator we left for our new hotel called the Sahara. Once at the hotel we had our official orientation with our Habitat leaders and the other work crews who will be serving alongside us. Then we hit the streets to visit markets, parks, vendors, theaters, and an amazing Cathedral. At the grocery store many of us saw something new: ketchup, mustard, and dressing sold in plastic bags. The evening concluded with an amazing dinner together at the hotel, lots of card games, and a devotion that got us sharing about what God is up to in our lives and the lives of those around us. Love God, Love Neighbor. Seems so simple and yet tomorrow we ask God to help us do it all again.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 1 - Arrived Safely

We left Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at 3:45AM this morning and made it to El Salvador by Noon their time. We were greeted by the Habitat for Humanity staff and then loaded into our bus to take us to lunch. On the one hand you have airport personal being searched before they are allowed to approach our plane and on the other you have beautiful mountains. There are armed guards or police are around every corner with automatic weapons but then there is also amazing fruit trees and colorful flowers every block as well. While the country still shows signs of its wounds it is clear that healing is happening as well.

From the airport we drove through what looked like a scene from Jurassic Park and Slum Dog Millionaire. Up through the mountains we climbed until reaching the capitol city of San Salvador. We ate at an amazing restaurant with a spectacular view of the city called Cafe' El Arco. After that we headed to our hotel, Villa Terra, for the night, unpacked and either took naps or went for a walk to the World Trade Center that had lots of cafes and familiar food places. It was cool seeing the rooftops used as an orange groves and the marvel at the numbers mountaintops that surrounded us.

After a short trek back to our hotel we loaded the vans again and headed out to Santa Tecla for dinner. We walked around the open markets past Iglesia El Carmen and the municipal building that had an art show going on along with a technology conference. After viewing some handmade clothes and jewelry we settled into a restuarant to try poposas which are tortilla shells filled with cheese, pork, or beans. We then placed a vinegar covered type of coleslaw on the dish and poured a tomato sauce over that. Then using the poposas to grab this new concoction we proceeded to enjoy some authentic food from El Salvador. Once we had our fill we headed back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

Friday, October 17, 2014

El Salvador 2014

Shots - check
Passports - check
Work boots - check
GSLC T-shirts - check
Goodies for the Orphanage - check
Bags pack - well.... almost

Our Lord and Savior has supplied us with every resource. Our Good Shepherd family has graciously shared these resources with us. Now we become ambassadors of Jesus Christ to share those resources with those who will welcome and work alongside us during our journey.

In the days that follow we will be trying to share our daily experiences on this site. Your prayers will fill us as the Holy Spirit guides us to work and play alongside our brothers and sisters in El Salvador. 

The kingdom is not only beyond our own efforts, 
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction 
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s word.

Nothing that we do is complete.
The kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals includes everything that we are about.

We all plant the seed that one day will grow.
We water the seeds already planted, knowing that they hold promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces efforts far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything.
Knowing this enables us to do something, and to do it well.
Our work may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way.
Our actions present an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, 
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are the workers, not master builders.
We are ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.