Saturday, August 13, 2016

Visiting Cristo Rey (Chist the King) Lutheran Church in Santa Ana, El Salvador, Central America

On Saturday, August 6, we departed the Mamapan hotel and set off to Santa Ana, where Briseida hosted our visit to Cristo Rey Lutheran Church.  Below, Luis and Briseida (both representing Habitat for Humanity El Salvador) with Pastor Tom at Good Shepherd where they joined us for the special Mission Fund dinner in May.  It should be noted that Briseida is currently pursuing a Master's degree in divinity by attending school at night, in addition to her full-time position at Habitat.  Both Luis and Briseida visited us at our house work site this year in Ahuachapan.

We were sorry to hear from Briseida that Pastor Carlos of Cristo Rey is in poor health.  He had heart surgery, has a pacemaker, plus liver troubles.  He decided to step down from being Pastor at the church, and his wife, Pastor Vilma will take his place immediately.  She is already Pastor at another church about 20 minutes away, on the outskirts of Santa Ana.  Briseida has asked us to pray for Pastor Carlos and Pastor Vilma.

The entrance to Cristo Rey, where we worked on the foundation in 2014.  Jim and Barbara Hack attended the dedication in early 2015.

The front entrance.

Inside the front gate.

The old church, used after the original church was destroyed by earthquakes.

The 2016 group in front of the altar at Cristo Rey.

Below, a close-up of the this year's group including Francis and Briseida.

We spent the remainder of Saturday at a quirky beachside resort.  But, it offered the first warm shower Jim and Dean had in a week.
Below, Jason meets up with Montano, the same lifeguard we met at the same place in 2014.  He was proud to wear his lifeguard hat for the photo.

A pleasant surprise occurred back at the Mamapan hotel.  The owner, Claudia, gave Jim Hack an official Mamapan hat, shown below, in the hotel lobby.  We all agreed that Jim looks pretty great in his new hat!

If Francis is happy, everybody is happy!

Thanks to EVERYONE for all their support of the 2016 Mission Trip.  It would not be even close to possible without the combined help of many.  On behalf of the families of El Salvador:

Mucho Gracias!  &  Ve con Dios!  (Go with God)

The Friday Going Away and Thank-You Party

Work site efforts ended mid-day Friday for lunch and a Thank-You Party.

We gather at a nearby, former coffee plantation and share a meal prepared by the people at our hotel, the Mamapan in Ahuachapan.  The owner of the hotel, Claudia, also owns this location.  She is a former Miss El Salvador.

All the work crews, the masons, the Habitat help, the ladies from the co-op who provide our lunches,  and our friends from Kewanee, IL, join together to watch as everyone is given a certificate of thanks.  The pinata rests patiently in the vicinity.  Beti and 2 of her daughters, Yamileth and Glenda are behind the pinata.  Juan, our lead mason, is at the far right.  Douglas and Peggy are in the foreground.

Below, the Llanes family, whose house we helped build.  From left, Giovanni, Javier, Mirna, and Felipe.  On the right, Juan's fellow mason, Hermando.  All the family members, even the boys, individually expressed their personal thanks to the work crew.

Below, our project masons, Hermando & Juan, and Dean.  These guys really embraced what we tried to do.  Through we are not the pros they are, I believe they truly know we did our best to help, and they genuinely appreciated our efforts.

 The kids go nuts at the pinata bursts open with candy.  Most of the kids gave some candy to each of us.

I remember Adriana from last year, but it is only this year that I learned her name.  I believe she is a cousin to Beti's daughters.  We met her in 2015 at the Ladies Co-Op for this very same Friday afternoon Thank-You event.

Below, Jason does his best pinata imitation.  He'd better be careful!  I'm not sure the bat has been retrieved from the kids just yet.

Nathan Hack puts on a new face with a couple of new friends, Javier and Felipe.

Last Year's House - 2015 Build Site Results

On Friday, Francis took me back to the Good Shepherd work site from last year.  I wanted to take pictures so everyone could see the fruits of our efforts.  Of course, the house is done and occupied, but the person was a way at work for the day.  The house is down this road that may look familiar to last year's crew.

The front of the house.

Another view of the front of the house with Francis.  The inside floor is tiled.

The back of the house, below.  The barrel collects rain water, and a cement sink is visible.
Another Habitat house is right next door.

Leaving our Work Site for the Last Time in 2016

On Friday, August 5, we concluded activities at our 2016 build site.  Wedged between rows of corn, the foundation we worked on is about the size of a 2-car garage.  I walked it off as 10 paces by 10 paces.  The family will have a front yard, and some room in back where the tool shed currently stands.  We dug dirt and shoveled sand, then packed it.  We moved and sorted countless blocks, and made a great deal of mortar and chispa.

Above is approximately how we left things Friday, mid-day.  We put everything in the tool shed for the night.  Usually, someone in the mason crew stays behind to watch the site overnight so nothing is stolen.

 The floor plan Juan has shows 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen area.  We think the outside will have a 2-foot paved apron if it is like other Habitat houses in the area.  This is a design and size the family can afford and maintain for years to come.  Habitat is adamant about appropriate housing.

Douglas, a Habitat associate who worked with us and Francis, has a shirt that says it all.

Kara, Peggy, and Jenelle participate in sifting sand through a screen for making the smooth mortar that goes between the cinder blocks.  The unsifted sand is mixed with small stones to make chispa which goes inside the blocks.

The back of Douglas's shirt leaves us with a good message.  We leave it to the masons and the next wave of volunteers to finish the work.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Travel Day - Sunday, August 7 - Update from Champaign

Update:  We are now all back in Champaign, except for Jason who went on an ELCA trip, and Nathan, who when to Indiana.  We got back to town at about midnight.

The entire Greer family met Tyra and Kara at the airport - nice to see them!


Update:  We are in Atlanta waiting for our connection flight to Bloomington, Illinois.  Thanks for checking in.  Jason Fisher is off on a separate trip, and Nathan Hack is off on a separate flight to Indianapolis.


Greetings to all,

We are all doing well, and had a good day of rest at the Rancho Estero y Mar, a Pacific ocean beach resort just south of the San Salvador airport.

Today is a travel day, and we leave for the nearby airport soon, then to Atlanta, and Bloomington, IL.  Jason goes to an ELCA event by a different route.  We'll get back to the church late tonight.

Check here next week for some additional posted photos!

Devotion and Prayer for Saturday, August 6

Devotion and Prayer for Saturday, August 6

At the end of the days, I lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever… - Daniel 4:34

This is the end of our week here in El Salvador.  At times, we were exhausted from our work.  “What was I thinking?” may have been on your mind more than once.  We have seen many life stories walk before our eyes this week.  Did you notice the happiness and the hope in the eyes and faces of our new friends?  When God asks us to do something really difficult, he gives us the strength and knowhow.  After all, we just may have had the right skills, tools, and words to make a bad situation easier for someone.  The folks we worked with walk in humble pride with what they have, and they are God’s children just like us.

Perhaps you’ve been moved many times this week to thank the dear Lord for our many blessings in the United States.  But when we’re faced with what these new friends do not have, we often give thanks for material things we have back home.  It is good to remember that Salvadorans have the same Jesus Christ who died on the cross - for them as well as for us.  We have the truly important things in common.  Praise God that we can come to El Salvador and help build new homes for people.  Being here is like receiving a gift.

Let us pray.

Dear God, thank you for the talents and blessings you give us to work in your kingdom here in El Salvador and back home.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Devotion and Prayer for Friday, August 5

Devotion and Prayer for Friday, August 5

One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.  -  John 9:25

The pages of the Bible are filled with accounts of people telling what God has done for them.  One of the most vivid appears in John 9 where Jesus encountered a man blind from birth and miraculously enabled him to see (v.1-7).  After repeated questioning by skeptical local religious leaders, the man could only say, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see”.

If you had six words to express what Christ has done for you and can do for others, what would you say?  Perhaps, “Jesus Christ will forgive your sins.”  Or, “Jesus Christ will give you hope” or “Jesus Chris will save your soul.”  When Jesus has changed our lives, we affirm His power to do for others what He has done for us. “I was blind, now I see.”

The Bible tells us that when we believe in Christ, our lives will be affected by faith.  Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  - John 15:5.  By faith we invite the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in us.  Good works come as a response to Christ abiding in us and us in Christ.  We become channels through which Christ can pour out his love to the world.  We’ve had a unique opportunity to put our faith in action this week.  May we always be thankful to God for it.

Let us pray.

Strengthen us by faith, Lord Jesus, and produce your good fruit in us.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.