(Today's post written by Chris Gladdue)
Building trust. Today the team felt as though the gap between two different cultures was bridged through common goals and a shared love for Jesus Christ. It is this love we share as brothers and sisters in Christ that strengthened a bond regardless of how well or much we speak their native tongue.
Digging holes: This is where the trust was first experienced as the team was greeted with opened arms full of pick axes, shovels and a trench that required some sweat and tears. What started as a line of dirt hollowed out a few inches quickly turned into a deep graded line running along the entire building where septic pipes would soon serve the additional bathrooms and showers in the works for the church. Torey felt a genuine appreciation for his efforts and trust from the local team as they embraced his opinions and applauded his work. Chelsea, our fearless sidekick, held her own amongst the men as the word "rest" is not part of her vocabulary, but rather pure determination to get the job done so the next task at hand could begin. The appreciation for their work as well as the rest of the team was felt by all and watching everyone work as one unit shoulder to shoulder without barriers made for great progress today. In addition to trench sewage lines were laid by a masterful team who designed and orchestrated the connection with precision. However, not all went as planned as we quickly depleted the village of water one tank at a time as concrete was being made. One may envision a hose and a concrete mixer with bags of mix being pored in but remember, this is a mission trip. Close your eyes and picture a man waiting for two buckets to fill under a slow stream of water at a spicket under a large water tank. Once the buckets are filled they then are loaded onto a wheel barrel and pushed back to a concrete floor full of mixes in the shape of a 7 foot donut where everything is mixed in the middle with a shovel and loaded back into a wheel barrel to be transported outside to the site. These unorthodox methods is what grows patience, strength, and appreciation for the many hands.
Women's ministry. Today was a kaleidoscope of activities creating an endless panel of smiles when looked upon. What an amazing outreach these women have orchestrated from arts and crafts, devotions, and shoes for kids of all ages. Most touching of these were the family photos captured, printed, and placed within frames that were ornately decorated by each mother and child. The frames ranged from borders covered with flowers to carefully placed jewels galore but the treasure wasn't what was on the frames but rather what was inside. These mothers were seen staring at the photos clutched closely to their bodies in both hands as they would touch the faces of each of their children's faces. The love was felt, seen, and taken home with them in the form of a photo to place somewhere special within their simple homes amongst no other photo as these were surely their first. The intimate time amongst the ladies was heart felt as well with stories, a life changing testimony from the fire by Vicky and favorite scriptures such as Daniel 3:17-18 shared and translated for all to absorb. Then the silence faded as children eagerly awaited to come in and get fitted for shoes that covered the floor by size, nina or nino, and sport. Most touching during the process of sizing and selecting shoes for these children was the selflessness of the older siblings who would guide their little brothers, sisters and cousins through the maze of kids to ensue they received a pair of shoes as well. This community has a love like no other for one another rather than for toys and gadgets but truly for the companionship of one another.
Beyond the building and sharing there were times when the kids got to be kids and even the dogs got to be dogs thanks to Kim's kibbles. The puppet show was a sell out with every seat taken and kids piled on the laps of other kids as they looked on in amazement and laughter from the audience. The prodigal son was showcased and the children absorbed it like a sponge as they were quizzed following the show and, to no surprise, answered the questions correctly to be awarded with cookies. Speaking of surprises, at the end of a long day the kids parted only to quickly return fully cleaned up and ready to embark on a new adventure like no other they have ever been on before...McDonald's. We were scared at first as the bus named "Rojo Diablo" rolled up to pick up the 60 children. However, heavens angels were watching that devil bus as the children made it to the Golden Arches containing 60 beautifully crafted happy meals with prizes and drinks awaited them. Like a line of marching ants the children marched straight into the glorious Ninos play land in a single file line to anxiously await their first happy meal experience. Once the wrappers came off the fun began from those playing with Snoopy toys to the masses shaking the play structure like Candle Stick park during the Oakland A's World Series.
Reflecting on the day I would call it a success along with the team as we debriefed around the pool this evening. We have experienced many blessings on this trip, some life changing from within our group and surely within the village of Play Chiquita as well. God is good!