Sunday, January 8, 2017

Goodbye

Goodbye

It can be hard to say goodbye. Especially after having shared an experience together. But when you've shared several experiences, the connection between you grows. This makes goodbye almost excruciating, a pain deep down within the soul that you just can't or won't let go. It's almost like the pain is a reminder of the relationship and so you don't begrudge carrying it. That's what goodbye's are like for me. This trip, this time it is another one of those gut wrenching goodbye's.

So...goodbye orange tshirt. When we first met at Old Navy you were bright and beautiful. Your $4 price tag misled and underdefined the legacy you leave behind. One trip to El Salvador turned into two, then three, then four, then...more and more. You were my constant companion on each of those trips. You always had my back...and front... Though you faded to an almost transparent hue of orange, you held me within the impenetrable seams of your shoulders. You have walked through valleys, across streams and up mountains. You have endured dirt, dirt and more dirt. No matter how hot the sun tried to shine...as try it did..you never let my brown torso get browner. You were no ordinary shirt. They say Father Time is undefeated. That nothing lasts forever. You endured beyond the point where other more expensive-fancy-namebrand shirts have wilted, ripped and worn out. If there was a hall of fame for tshirts, you would be in on the first ballot.  Not just because of your in the field accomplishments. But also for the tears you have absorbed on your shoulders, the children you have carried, and the congratulatory slaps  you have received upon your back. Let's not forget the constant wrinkling you have endured from all the hugs. Despite all of this, despite the blackening and hardening of your armpits, you gave everything until the end. You have shown yourself strong to over 60 team members, over 100 El salvadorian families. 

So thank you faded-yet faithful-crusty armpit-orange friend. You put the capital T in Tshirt. 


Deve

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Casson's Post

This week has been one of profound experiences. I chose to blog first on New Year's Day (if memory serves) so consequently plenty has happened since  and been blogged about many times over. The lack of original material available definitely contributed to my "bloglessness", as well as my tendency for over-analysis. I know that when I write, it won't be finished quickly. I've read that there are essentially two types of "creatives" (I, of course, am using this term absurdly loosely for myself) in the world. Cassons, who are extremely scrupulous in their process and are constantly perfecting; and Picassos, who reach their peak quickly and output creativity like the air they exhale. I am undoubtedly the former. I am a much less creative creative who spends excessively long on his creative process to produce sub-creative creations. Anyway...

I suppose a brief summary of key events is in order. On our free day we had the tenacity to climb a dormant volcano by the name of "Chichontepec", which we were told translates to "volcano of two peaks". An exhausting endeavour it was, but one worthwhile. The view from the peak (which guides stated as 2,137 meters above sea level, but the inerrant internet describes as 2,182 meters) was ... incredible? Awe-inspiring? Urine-inducing? Yes. All of the above. The day following the climb we spent a portion of the afternoon learning about the Salvadoran Civil War. I found this incredibly fascinating and I wish we had spent longer hearing about it. The entire discussion took place on one side of a bridge that had been completely annihilated with explosives in 1980 by the guerrilla left, done in order to force the government's hand in paying for repairs. But the bridge was never repaired, and all that lies between the two banks are a couple of piers that once held it. But despite my interest in these activities, they aren't what I came to El Salvador for. I, we, came here to build houses for the broken and express love and compassion to all. 

There are a few reasons that I decided to commit to this trip back in...whenever I committed to it. I've been exploring questions about my faith, my worldview, and about myself. At home I'd been feeling stagnant. Caught in routine. This trip helped to escape from that. It taught me much about myself, and much about how I perceive other people. It was healthy for me. It, at times, made me feel incapable, unintelligent, and insignificant. All of these hopefully contributing to the humility I prayed for before and during this trip. The more I think about the week, and how I feel as it comes to an end, I'm not sure I share the ambiguous feelings some of my teammates do. I think I understand why this trip has been so significant: I experienced something completely different, I was able to help people, and I learned more about humility. 
Much of my reading material for the past year or so has been Francis A. Schaeffer books, thanks to Deve. In his book "The God Who Is There" he talks about communication. Specifically, communicating our beliefs, and the message of our beliefs, to others. He states that there is no automatic or mechanical method of communicating with people in this way, because this would contradict the element of personality (unique personality to each of us) that is so philosophically important to our relationship to God, who is a personal God. But ultimately, Schaeffer says, the only universal form of communicating to the individual is in love. I would like to insert a quote from this book: 

"Love is not an easy thing; it is not just an emotional urge, but an attempt to move over and sit in the other person's place and see how his problems look to him. Love is a genuine concern for the individual." 

The reason I use this paragraph is because I think it really applies to what we did, or tried to do, this week. We expressed love for these people by being close to them, doing things not only for them but with them. We spoke to them about their lives (not without the help of translators) and told them about ours. This engaging, involved, and genuine love that was not only directed from us to them, but was reciprocated, is what I think made this memorable for me. I didn't have a cathartic experience, but I did have an experience. Something that was outside the normalities of my home life. This trip was a small step in my life of continuous learning, and although it was a small step, it was an integral one. 
I've thanked my team, our translators, our food providers, our hospitable hosts, and the families that welcomed us into their communities this week, but lastly I would like to thank you. The readers of this blog. Your support and comments don't go unnoticed, we talk about them within our team daily. I have a feeling this will be the last post on the blog for this trip (editor's note: it's won't be), so if that is the case: here is to El Salvador in 2017, here is to a life of learning, and here is to communicating with genuine love. 

-Duncan

Keaton's Breakfast Devotion


1 Corinthians 2:9

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

As many people who know me well may understand, I don’t like situations that I cannot plan out and control. If I can’t organize myself, and follow a pre-made plan of my own design, I can become anxious about various situations. Thus, deciding to come on this trip, wherein which things rarely go as planned, was rather out of character for me. However, as a result, I have been forced to look at things in a new way, and with a new perspective. I have been forced to follow God’s plan for me, and to let him take control, instead of trying to do everything myself.

Over the years, my mother has often said this to me (that I need to allow God to take control in my life, and not try to do everything myself), and I have been very reluctant to accept it as truth. However, coming on this trip opened my mind to the necessity of allowing God to be my vision.


In reality, I can’t control anything. I can’t reach my dreams on my own, or achieve what I want to achieve in my life without allowing God to show me what His plan is, instead of attempting to follow my own. Over the course of this trip, it has become apparent to me that God has a plan, and regardless of what I do, or what anyone else does, God’s plan will always pan out in the end–and it is truly magnificent, and far better than anything that I could imagine.

Keaton

A Week to Remember


As our time in El Salvador is coming to an end I thought I would share a couple stories and some things that this trip has taught me. But first, I would like to share what it has not taught me- which is to drive. Whether it's passing a vehicle coming up to a curve, passing on the shoulder of the road, passing on a double line coming up to a hill, not stopping for stop signs, and even carrying cows in the back of a pickup truck down the road, they do it all.  I learned quickly not to take any driving tips from the drivers of El Salvador (or maybe I should).

What I have learned about being on this team is to appreciate everyone's differences. Some people might be good at building, talking to the locals, playing with the kids, or talking in front of  big crowds, but what makes a phenomenal, united team is all these things flowing cohesively together.

Personally, one of my favourite activities was playing with the local kids. Teaching them how to throw a frisbee is definitely one of the highlights of my week. The kids would also tap me on the arm, motion for me to bend down, and then whisper in my ear, something in Spanish which I could not understand. One time a little boy, named Christopher, tapped me on the arm. Expecting him to whisper something in my ear, I bent down. Instead of whispering something, he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a big hug. It was a neat experience to play with the kids, one I will never forget.

One thing I have noticed is the lack of education, not because of the individual, but because of the lack of opportunity. While we were interviewing one of the women that we built a house for she mentioned that she went to a church named Acts 4:32. Curiously, my mom asked her if she knew the verse. Her reply was what shocked me. She said, "I do not know the verse because I do not know how to read or write".

It has been one of the longest and shortest weeks of my life. It has been the longest because of all the stories, experiences, friendships, and opportunities I have been blessed to take part in. It has been the shortest because it is already finished and I will miss it more than words can describe, for this is a week that I will always remember.

There are many more stories and experiences that I would love to share with you. If you would like to hear more, I would gladly take the opportunity to talk about it.

Silas

To make sense of it all

Our trip is nearing an end, after an indescribable week. I'm not sure how to feel, as my time is wearing down: Relief, because my time in the blistering heat, putting together houses is finished for another year? Or maybe it's sadness, because the "goodbye see you tomorrow"s suddenly became "goodbye, see you next year"s. Perhaps I could be feeling a great sense of love as friends turned to family. How am I supposed to make sense of it all. I was blessed to be able to see the masterpiece that is called ElSalvador, from the heavens (2182 meters to be exact). Maybe the altitude from that Volcano view changed things for me. How am I supposed to make sense of it all. I feel overwhelmed. I was able to see the beauty of this country through the volcano that proudly stands guard. Then the memories of a war that tore this country apart reared its ugly head, through two men standing by a broken bridge. Reminiscing of the times when the two friends were once involved in a deadly war, on two different sides. This week I traveled to a country that is tortured by financial and political turmoil. The streets were littered with Broken hearts and fractured dreams, single mothers and orphans, violence and the unprotected. However, the closer you look the easier it is to see. Big dreams and happy families. The faithful and the joyful, the strong willed and righteous men. Hearts filled with love and compassion. It's so hard to make sense of everything. The ugly and the beautiful. How can so much love exist in the gang ridden streets of El Salvador? I think the easiest way to make sense of it all, is to add Jesus to the equation. Only the joy and love from God would be able to make a difference. I think that once you come to a place like this, and witness the friendships and love demonstrated by the people, only then will you be able to make sense of it all. Sometimes, you just have to stand on the mud floor of someone's dirt and stick home, to really feel the power of Jesus' presence.
-Josh

We're always learning

taking a group of high school students as part of our global mission team promised to be fun and it certainly has been. There are so many moments that we wish we could share through this blog. Having had the chance to speak with each of the students, listen to their words and watch them interact I can say that there are few experiences that have been more rewarding than this. They have given up, sacrificed a week of precious vacation from school, contributed their own money and worked hard as part of this team. They though they were taking a break from learning but the learning never stops. Here's some things we've learned that you can ask the students about:

History - the civil war of El Salvador
Geography/Fitness - climbing to 7,000 ft. to the top of volcano
Foods - listening to the story of Carmen, our cook
Shop Class - learning about house construction from Basilio
Spanish - duh, everywhere, everyday
Home Ec - visit to the sewing centre
Social Studies - learning about poverty in ES
Family studies - what happens when a husband and wife remain faithful to each other and involved in their children's lives
Theology - how is God at work in people's lives

Doesn't sound like much of a break from learning? Shhh...don't tell them...but ask them...because they all have had one of the best experiences of their lives.
Here we are at the end of the week already, but Monday seems so long ago at the same time. I have wanted to blog but have had a hard time putting anything into words.

 I love the women of El Salvador they work so hard to care for those they love without the conveniences we are accustomed to. They are brave, creative, kind and really know how to give a hug. The language barrier is so frustrating, I want to know them, yet without conversation it is so difficult to do. The translators do a fantastic job but it is difficult to spread them among all of us and the building sites as well. I wonder if I am reading their thoughts correctly as we earnestly look into each others eyes, do they know how much I really respect and admire them.

It has been amazing to watch my kids experience this trip as well. Watching them experience a different culture, new mode of transportation, new foods, a new way to communicate and so many other things. Thank you to those that made that possible. It has been a week that will forever be etched in their hearts and minds.

Karen

Waterfalls

You (the reading audience) may be thinking "waterfalls? in El Salvador?" if so then yes there were indeed some "waterfalls" here in El Salvador today. These "waterfalls" are the kind you can feel running down your cheeks as we said goodbye to our translators, driver and lunch provider. These people were part of my first experience in El Salvador and our trip would not be possible without them so it would be an understatement to call them team members, drivers, translators or even friends because they are much more than that to me. They are part of our family. So as we said goodbye today I tried to hold myself together as long as I could and as I expected I couldn't get the tears to stop rolling down my face long enough to get out a sentence, hence the title "Waterfalls". I was sad to say goodbye but I believe I will see these amazing people again someday and if not I know for a fact I will see them in heaven.  - Quinn "McAwesomeness" Jennings.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Contentment



This week, we have heard many stories of personal struggles. We have seen houses made of mud and sticks. Mud, which will wash away in the rainy season. We have listened as people we work with each day tell us stories of working in the market at seven years old, or selling food in dangerous areas, because they were desperate to feed their families.

Yesterday, I stood in the home of a grandmother, who taught showed us how to make tortillas. She described being a child and having to walk all of the neighboring villages until she sold all of the tortillas, because if she came home without selling them all she would be beaten.

Yesterday, I sat on the remains of a demolished bridge, listening to two men describe a civil war that completely wrecked an entire country. Listening to one of those men say that he thinks it is more dangerous in El Salvador today than it was in the middle of the civil war.

In all of this, through all of these stories, they have been content. They have smiled.  They have laughed. They have praised God in their circumstances. They have thanked Him for what they have.

After building a home for one family, the father said to us, "We were happy before this house. I think it is important you know we were happy before. But we will be happier now."

Others have already spoken of how this week helps us to see God's Word come alive. Every time I listen to their stories, I can hear the words in my heart:

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to be content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles." Phil 4:11-13

I am thankful to see this verse in action. I am thankful to have these stories to inspire me to give more, to love more, to be more. I am thankful for the reminder that I am blessed with many comforts, but that the blessing of God's love should be more important to me than all of those things.

Today is the official key ceremony. Please pray for us that we may communicate to these families how much doing this with them has meant to us, that they may know how important they are, how worthy they are.

As always, thanks for following our journey!

Tara

Thoughts?

I've been trying all week to think of something worth blogging about, something that will be worth your time to read. I've been staring at a blank screen for at least fifteen minutes now and it's getting late (at least to me) so here goes nothing!! My hesitance to blog isn't for lack of things to blog about, in fact, maybe it's the opposite. Too many things, too little time to describe them in a way that will accurately represent my experiences?? I'll go with that.

This week has been everything I've been hoping for since my parents started coming down eight years ago. While this is my fifth trip, this is my first one with constant activity. No sitting through meetings or doing homework this time around! I've loved being able to use the building experience I have to work alongside those who are here for their first time. There's something so special about watching everyone experience being here for the first time. It's refreshing, they notice things that perhaps I've gotten used to.

As I go through each day, whether it be picking my way through breakfast or using my limited Spanish class knowledge to make conversation, I can't help but think that this is it. This is what I am supposed to be doing. Helping the helpless. Fighting for justice. Listening to not only the stories of those we are building for, but also the locals and those we interact with each day here only solidify that. The difference that is made and shown in their lives makes it impossible to think of doing anything else (I would describe some of the stories we have heard but I will leave it for some of the other team members as they can share much better than I can. ) I look at the kids and listen as they share their dreams. Dreams that haven't been tainted by the dark and dangerous place they live. They deserve every chance to accomplish those dreams and I want to be apart of making that happen. 

I guess maybe this post isn't really about this week as much as it is about the future. I can't wait for the day where this is my career. It must be close to an hour of me trying to write now so thank you for toughing out this painful read! Maybe I'll try again another day....



Aynsley 

The story of the one who turned back

If you're following along with the posts from the last few days, you'll have read about the trip to the volcano and the excitement and exhilaration of the climb. About the stamina and determination of making it to the top and overcoming obstacles to get there. But for me, the story was a little different. Hiking with steep elevations has proved to be very difficult for me and I find myself getting very short of breath. This hike was no different and after maybe 20 minutes I knew I wouldn't be able to continue. I felt humiliated, frustrated, small. But I knew I would have to turn back. And in doing so would have to take people back with me. So my dear friend Donald, one of our translators Patricia and a lady from the mayor's office offered to head back down with me. I watched as Deve and the last of the remaining volunteers headed up and out of sight...

Back we went. To the spot where our truck was parked. When the tears were flowing and I wished for what I couldn't do. Because sometimes things in life just don't go the way we'd hoped - no matter how hard we try. And then God gave me an unexpected gift right when I needed it most.

The truck was parked at the home of a past El Salvadorian president. Up on the volcano in the middle of his coffee plantation. So while we ate our lunch I casually asked if there might be someone around who could tell us a little bit about the coffee and how it's grown. No one really knew, but a little while later I was introduced to a lovely elderly gentleman who had worked there for 60 years from the age of 13.

 He had so much to tell and it was so fascinating. And then, to my companions' surprise, he did something that apparently just doesn't happen... He opened a gate and led us into the president's gardens. Centuries old walkways and stairways. Manicured lawns and stunning floral gardens. All looking out to the valleys and hills around us. It was so beautiful and so unexpected and so lovely. I was thankful beyond what I could express. To our kind and generous guide, but mostly to Our God (my true Guide) - The One who is always there to show us the way. Even when it was not the way we had planned.

-Amanda

Alive

There are moments when God's Word comes alive. Those moments are made more special when they are shared with an intergenerational group of others, who also can not deny the pulse, excitement and vitality of the ancient words exploding on our senses with a timeless impression. Today was another one of those kind of - are you kidding me, this is awesome - days. On top (sorry about the pun) of all that our group was joined by two mountain climbers, passing through for the day. We were able to share with them all the what's and why's of our presence in El Salvador. Join us in praying for Rob and Allan - may the Lord direct their hearts toward Him.

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above1 proclaims his handiwork.
 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
 jTheir kvoice2 goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for lthe sun,
  mwhich comes out like na bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat...
...Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
Lord, my jrock and my kredeemer.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

One More Step

Today the team had a chance to hike to the top of a volcano. We see it every day enveloping the skyline. Standing massive and beautiful in the distance. The Volcano is a grand focus point for miles and miles around. However, it does not look like a volcano that we picture in our heads. It is inactive. So it looks like a grand mountain covered in green trees and plants. In fact it has millions of coffee plants growing on it. Plants that are so good that they get exported out of the country and the El Salvadorian people don't even get to try them.

More background to my story...
We were escorted by military. The volcano is on private military property. So four soldiers hiked with us up the mountain. Two with the front quicker group and two with the pacer group. Neat experience to be able to see them close up and share some snacks and drinks.

Now to my story. What did God want me to learn or apply today? I had been hiking in mountains before. On these hikes there comes a point where your legs start to burn. Today that happened with everyone. As a Fitness teacher I wished my students could experience this burn. Many who work out may say they have. I may agree. But it's the fact that as your legs burn, as your lungs burn, as you think you can not possibly take another step you do. You push yourself beyond what you think is your limit. Here is the difference. In class you push yourself for one, two maybe three more reps through a burn. Today, we pushed for hundreds maybe thousands of more reps. Karen kept saying to herself,  and Tyson and I, "One more step. Take one more step."

We discussed how if they had distance markers like we've seen on other hikes it would make it easier. We would know how much longer we had. If we had done this hike before we would know approximately how much longer we had. Isn't this the same with life? We don't know how much longer we have. There are no distance or time markers. We haven't done it before.
Why did we continue today?
Why didn't we just quit and say our legs and lungs burned too much to continue?
Why push on?

We were told the view from the top was exhilarating! We were told you could see 360 degrees around and you could see for miles and miles and you would see mountains and lakes and amazing scenery.  We knew there was a top and we were focused to get there.
So we pushed on.

In life we push on. I encourage YOU to push on. We don't know the distance or time.  But I do know that God has told us if we follow Him, if we continue to push on through the burn, if we focus on the top there will be a grand reward. Today we were blessed with a magnificent 360 degree view of a glimpse of God's creation. In life we will be blessed with a view of Heaven that will be a billion times  more magnificent.

I want to encourage you to continue to look up.
Continue to walk in His ways.
The view is going to take our breath away.

One more step. Take one more step.

Tim

Flee or stay.



    Today after a good day of building four homes we were able to once again sit down for a delicious meal at Carrie and Stuart's home. As typical, our translators and drivers stayed and ate with us and I was blessed enough to sit by them. While I have talked to Donald (our driver) before and even met his wife (Ellie) before, I was not aware of the things going on in their lives.  Donald spoke to us about his children. Donald and Ellie have two children they can barely afford, but are also caring for two other children who were abandoned by her sister and brother-in-law when they fled for the USA.  This is a similar story to those we have heard before from others, and these stories always move me as I consider the impact on the children. In this situation, the oldest child (10 at the time) pulled back and would not accept any affection or Love from Donald and Ellie for over three years. 
    What was different this time from the other stories I have heard was their description of the missing father. Their father does send some support (it does not cover their costs) and does phone on a regular basis.  Recently, the father paid for a coyote to bring the children to the USA without even letting Donald and Ellie know, so the kids were suddenly gone. However fifteen days later the attempt had failed and they were back and in trouble with the law due to the failed illegal attempt.  What shocked me was that throughout the conversation they had nothing bad to say about the father, and they even admired him for having the courage to make the dangerous journey to the USA. I was overwhelmed and had to express to Donald that we admired him and his wife because I believe it takes more  courage to stay behind and take care of both his family and the additional kids even though it was a struggle. 
    This very choice is what we have been commending this week in our building community, as so far every home built has been for families with both Father and Mother present and signs of strong commitment.  These families need our prayers as the lure of fleeing to a better life in the USA is still alive, even with the broken homes it leaves behind. 
Thank you for your continued prayers for us and these families.

Pat

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A tree

Palo de Los cuches

We used to call it the tree in the middle of the road. Why? Because the road passed on either side of the tree. For years and years, decades and decades, centuries and centuries, this tree was in the middle of the road. That is, until now. Earlier this year, the local government decided to remake half of the street into a pedestrian walkway, with park benches, tables and nice brick work adjacent to a wide side walk. Now it's the tree formerly in the middle of the road.  Even to the locals some of its lustre is lost. 

Why am I telling you this? Because this tree represents some of the identity for the people here. History tells us that this tree was here in 1635.  It's name "Palo de Los cuches" means the street of the pigs. Back in those early days they sold pigs beside or under this tree. But that's not all they sold. They also sold slaves! They sold slaves and pigs in the same spot! That's the value they placed on the lives of other humans - equating them with swine, sold for slaughter, sold as a resource, dirty, disgusting animals...allow that to sink deeper into your mind and heart and be honest with how it makes you feel. 

We come to build houses, it's true. But as Tyson reminded us last night, it's the least important thing we do. The greatest thing we do is to help people who feel they have no worth to discover how immeasurably valuable they are to our God who created them and their Saviour who has paid the price of his life so that they can fully experience a relationship with Him, together with us. 

We are no different than they are, in their history - we can be guilty of diminishing the value of others based on their perceived differences. However, we can all grow in our understanding that we are all equally created in the image of our Creator God - and allow that truth to change the way we respond to others; compelling us to be ambassadors of Gods peace among people. 

Deve

Monday, January 2, 2017

Church services, fireworks, and finally a day of building

Today was our first building day. For those of you who are familiar with the usual timeline of this trip, you will know that this is unusual. Although we arrived on Friday night, the New Year's celebrations meant that most of the area wasn't functioning as normal, so we had a bit of extra time to take things in before we were able to start working.

On Saturday, we met the ten families that we were building for. Despite the fact that we just got a small introduction to each family, it is already obvious that each one is unique. We are excited to hear more about each family as the week goes on.

We were also able to attend a local church on Saturday for a New Year's Eve service, and then again on Sunday for regular service. Although many on the team have experienced this before, it was my first time attending a service that wasn't primarily in English. As I watched the congregation worship God, loudly, despite the frequent distractions that came from the New Year's celebrations on the streets outside, I was reminded again that God is so much bigger than my worship, than my culture, and than my expectations. Taking communion, I think, was one of the highlights for many of us. There is something powerful about standing side-by-side with people who live in a completely different area, with a much different culture, and to know that we all serve the same God and that we are all connected as one body of Christ.

We also got a chance to see some pretty amazing fireworks. We all saw fireworks in the middle of town at around 9:15. Many of our team also saw and heard the fireworks that went off in all of the streets for hours and hours throughout the night. I slept through all of it, so you will have to ask someone else to explain it all to you when they get back. They may or may not be happy about it when they tell you. :)

Anyway, on to what most of you are interested in: the building. Technically, we are building in two communities, but these communities are less than 200 metres apart, so it feels like one. We split into two groups today and built a total of four houses. This is my first time on the team, so it all felt new to me. We were encouraged to see how many community members came out to help out. Although this often meant that we were left with little to do but to watch other people work, that frustration was balanced by the joy we could feel in seeing a community where people truly care about each other. Today wasn't without its struggles. Language barriers, injuries (everyone is fine), heat, and enormous rocks that took hours to dig out all caused us a bit of stress today, but as we sat with each of the four families after the houses were put up, it was easy to focus on the bigger picture of what God is doing.

I'm sure you will be getting more details about the families and their stories as the week goes on, but for tonight, I wanted to give you a general update of what we have been doing, since many of you have been wondering.

Thank you for keeping up with what our team has been doing! Please continue to pray for our team, that we may be open to what God will do in us and through us in the coming week.

Tara