El Salvador Mission - Nov 2013

wimg.7.el-salvador-team-frameOn November 7th ten members of St Thomas UMC will travel to Ahuachapán to partner with Salvadoran Mission Projects to build a home for a family. The members of the team are Will Ameen, Nancy Forrest, Tim Grembowski, Ginny Howell, Marian Ludlow, Abby Miller Janie Russell, Zuzana Steen, Lori Perez (not pictured) and Paula Renfro.

18
Nov

Mission Reflections and Final Blog Entry

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I have taken a few days to reflect on the mission. Lots of thoughts are swirling though my mind about the mission, but I will try to give you a glimpse of them (there is such a thing as too much information). Hopefully, your won't find this entry too long winded (terse in not my strong suit).

I think one of the things I learned (or rather confirmed) was that I am probably not the best of team leaders. I do logistics very well; I can handle change with no problem; and I think I grew eyes in the back of my head on this mission when it came to keeping track of the team members (although I struggled with corralling my chicks whenever we went from one place to another). What I did learn was that just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the entire team to lead the team. Sure, I am, as the team lead, the final arbiter on some things, but the members of this team supported me in the areas that were not my strength. And I want to highlight some of the areas where they helped me.

thumbnail.xlarge.7.1384775645.finished-house4While I was taking on the role of mother hen at the work site, Tim was able to see what tasks we could help with and how. Even without much Spanish he was able to know what Aroche, our boss, needed.

Will has an innate and in depth curiosity and asked questions about the places we visited that enhanced our appreciation and knowledge of those places.

Zuzana and Abby have tender hearts and took Rebekka and her children under their wings.

Lori was not only a hard worker (all of the team had that trait) but had a generous heart. She was always willing to give her time, her strength and her possessions to anyone needing them at any time.

Ginny possessed the even temperament for the team and the gentle heart. But for me she was my tension breaker. No one could make me laugh quicker or harder that Ginny.

Marian and Janie, as my oldest friends, know better than anyone else my imperfections. They gave me a safe sanctuary to be my imperfect self while not letting me take myself too seriously or devolve into whining.

thumbnail.xlarge.7.1384775645.finished-houseNancy may have had the most difficult job – she was my roommate. She was constantly (and that in not an exaggeration) helping me look for things I had laid down without paying attention. And she was occasionally (at least I hope it was only occasionally) subjected to my grumpy moods when I was tired. It was good to find someone who understands talking while brushing your teeth and likes to dance to music even if the dancing would not win any awards.

I also learned how important "me time" (time alone) is for me. Without it I began to realize that being gregarious is not as much second nature for me as I thought, but can become difficult to maintain without “me time”. It reminded me that I need to be willing to ask for those things that keep me refreshed.

I discovered that I do not have trust issues. I was surprised to discover that some members of the team needed more detail about what we would be doing. Information I very seldom had. I trusted Brian to always have all our logistics taken care of on the mission and trusted that he had all the “I”s dotted and the “T”s crossed and so I never needed to know in any sort of detail what was happening next. The failing for me was that I could never communicate that very effectively to the team.

thumbnail.xlarge.7.1384775645.finish-house---interiorThe lens I view the people I come in contact with was shaped in 1969. The summer of that year I traveled to the then Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War with an organization called the Citizens Exchange Group. Their mission was to help people see that there are more similarities between people in other countries (in this case the Soviet Union) than there are differences. They hoped by doing this they might in some small way help to diffuse the Cold War. Anyway, they taught me to see/look for people's similarities first. So here are a few of the similarities I saw.

 

  • I saw kids flying kites and evidently the technique I never completely mastered is the same in El Salvador as in the States.
  • People gather together for fellowship. Sometimes they gather over a board game; sometimes over food; but fellowship is always accompanied by laughter and talking.
  • Someone, often the mother or other female person, is responsible for washing clothes and preparing meals. And sharing a meal with others is one of the signs of hospitality
  • People appreciate the effort behind a gift (like singing a praise song in an unfamiliar language) more than the perfection of the gift
  • Students coming home from school look the same everywhere. And students coming home for a long break from school (they won’t go back until mid-January or the first of February) have a look of freedom ad pure joy on their faces.
  • Work is easier when you are laughing and joking with fellow workers
  • Families just being families. There are always those gentle touches that say “I love you” to children and spouses

I still believe 44 years later that the similarities outweigh the differences. Seeing how much I am like the people I come in contact with makes connecting with them so much easier. So much for my reflections.

I miss the people I met while in Ahuachapán and I will include them in my prayers. I thank God for bringing them into my life, if only for a short time. I have included some photos of the finished house.

- Paula Renfro

15
Nov

Day 8 - Heading Home

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This entry is a bit late getting out because I have taken time to just settle in to being home again. Yesterday we head home. After breakfast and devotions and final bits of packing that still needed to be done,we all drifted downstairs to say our goodbyes to Mimo (the hotel owner) and his wife, Mary Lou. Then it was time to load us and our luggage onto the school bus. Our first stop was the work site to say final good byes to the worker sand Rebekah and to see how far along they had gotten on the house on Wednesday while we were at the beach. And to take some last minute photos, of course. Then it was on to the Missionary Residence and Juan de Dios' house to pick up Juan and his family. Juan will be speaking at the Fredericksburg UM District conference on Saturday.

thumbnail.xlarge.7.1384523475.arocheOnce that luggage had been loaded it was time to say goodbye to John Benson, Ellyn and Brian. Then it was on to the airport and a series of "adventures". The first was being pulled over by the police for a spot check (I am sure there is an official term for it). A policeman boarded the bus and checked each of our passports and then let us continue on our way. A little after that Abby spied her family a bit before we got to the airport and we pulled over to let Abby and her luggage off and for us to say our goodbyes to Abby and to wish her well during the time with her family (this was not one of the adventures). An added benefit for Marian, Janie and me was seeing Noél, Abby's nephew, who had been a member of our mission team in 2012. Then it was on to the airport.

At the airport baggage check-in went pretty smoothly we thought, since Brian had printed off the file with our Boarding Passes and given them to me before we left Ahuachapán. A few of the check-in agents printed out a separate boarding pass. However, when Zuzana got to the CBP (Customs and Boarder Patrol) agent (the equivalent of our TSA agent) to show her passport and boarding pass (she had one of the reprinted boarding passes), she discovered that the boarding pass that had been printed for her was in actuality Nancy's. So Zuzana and I headed back down to luggage check in to get her the correct boarding pass and then she was able to get pass the CBP agent with no problems.

thumbnail.xlarge.7.1384523475.heartThen after Ginny's carry-on luggage went through the security screening, she was pulled aside and her carry-on luggage was searched with a fine toothed comb. Every one of her souvenirs was unwrapped and inspected and her two yo-yos were confiscated (I guess they thought they could be used as garrotes). To assuage her disappointment, she decided to drown her sorrows in a cappuccino and she received the added treat of a heart design in the foam.

The final adventure occurred as we were getting seated. When Lori got to her aisle seat there was a woman sitting in the window seat I had selected for Zuzana (and was on her boarding pass). I explained to the woman in Spanish that the seat she was sitting in was the seat assigned to one of our group and asked her if she would check her boarding pass. When she pulled it out, sure enough her seat assignment wasn't the seat assigned to Zuzana – it was the seat assigned to Lori. So I promptly grabbed one of the flight attendants and explained to him in Spanish the problem. He looked at Lori's boarding pass and then at the woman's boarding pass. He noticed right away that the boarding pass the woman showed us was from the previous month. She then pulled out another boarding pass that showed a seat assignment 15 rows behind us. That was my final duty as the team leader.

Ginny and I watched the in-flight movie, Crazy on the Outside. No one else seemed interested in it. However, we were laughing so much that others on the plan started pulling out their earphones to watch the movie. One of the things I discovered early in the trip was that Ginny and I have very similar senses of humor and find each other's laughter infectious, so we laugh a lot when we are together.

Then we were descending toward the airport to the accompaniment of what sounded like a barking dog. Despite the sound that had Ginny and me trying to determine at what altitude it might be safe to bale out, the landing was smooth.

Custom and baggage claim were a breeze (thank you, Janie for those bright orange strips we tied to our luggage). David Forrest was there to pick up most of us and take us back to the church and Glenn was there to pickup Ginny.

At the church we gathered our bags and headed for our cars (Marian managed to grab my bag and leave before I noticed the error). I dropped Janie and Zuzana off and then made the luggage exchange at Marian's and headed home.

It was a great mission and I enjoyed my time in Ahuachapán. I will take some time later today to process everything.

- Paula Renfro

view-from-inside-the-house

14
Nov

Day 7 - A Day at the Beach

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Today was our last day in Ahuachapán and El Salvador. We drove to one of the beaches.  Ellyn and John Benson and two Salvadoran girls, Fernada (13) and Celeste (17) joined us on our trip to the beach.  The weather was beautiful but the sand was scorching hot.   Tim, Will, Zuzana, Ellyn, Brian and the two girls went swimming in the surf.   The rest of us either lounged in hammocks or walked along the beach.  However, that did not keep us dry.  The crashing waves got us wet up to our thighs or waists depending on our height.  Tim was really good at riding the waves into the shore (body surfing).  

We had the run of the bottom floor of one of the beach houses, which included a swimming pool, changing areas, an outdoor shower to rinse off the sand, the aforementioned hammocks and tables and a patio with tables and chairs for conversation.  Lunch was provided by the on-site restaurant and the food was delicious.  Janie and I got the garlic shrimp.  The dish included the entire shrimp split down the middle to make it easier to remove the heads.  The heads were still attached (beady little eyes and all), but that did not keep me from scarfing them down.  

After lunch some people went back out to the beach, others longed in the hammocks and others chatted (your guess which group I was in).   It was a welcomed restful day after the week of hard work and a good way to end our mission.

One thing stuck with me all day that had been shared by Will during the devotion time.  Will's 21 year old son, Tom, had written Will that "although there may be a language barrier, there is never a compassion barrier."  What wisdom from someone so young.  It is well worth remembering.  Thought I would share.  

I have almost finished packing (there are still a few things that won’t get packed until tomorrow morning).  I had hoped to finish my packing and showering earlier than I did so that I would get to bed a bit earlier.   But I can always nap on the way to the airport and on the plane.   But the good news is I will get to bed before 1 am.

- Paula Renfro

More photos can be found on the Salvadoran Mission Projects Facebook Page

13
Nov

Day 6 – Final Work Day

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No sleep problems for me last night. I popped in my ear plugs at around 11:30 pm and dropped off to sleep almost at once. So I was pretty well rested in the morning.

When I got to the work site Brian pulled me aside and asked "How flexible are you feeling today?" I told him I thought I was feeling flexible (always a good idea to hedge your reply). Then he told me that all the hotels in San Salvador were full and we would need to stay in Ahuachapán an additional day. That was no problem for me nor did I think the team would mind. However, we would need to plan for possibly different activities for Wednesday. After much discussion the team agreed to go to Cerén, the Pompey of El Salvador, and then to the Volcano National Park. A few minutes later Brian came back and said I would need to exercise some more flexibility. All the El Salvadoran National Parks were on strike, so we could not go to either place. Brian suggested the beach and the team was amenable. It was good we found out about the parks being closed before we traveled in a school bus to find out.

Once all the decisions had been made we were ready for work. One of our first tasks was to bring in from the truck and stack up cement blocks (the entire team did with this). The other tasks we helped with were:

  • Mixing mescla (Will, Abby and I did this)
  • Smoothing out the floor area in the house (Tim, Will, Abby, Nancy, Zuzana, Lori and I did this)
  • Dumping the dirt that accumulated from leveling out the floor(Ginny, Will, Nancy and Tim did this)
  • Painting the metal roof supports (Marian, Janie, Ginny, Lori and I did this)

7.1384299720.thank-you-letter-from-rebeccaRebecca, the mother we are making the home for gave us a thank you letter. After reading the letter we took a picture of the entire team including Rebecca and her two sons.

I believe everyone extra hard today because it was the last day. At the end of the day there were handshakes and hugs and good byes all around. It was a good last day of work.

John Benson (Ellyn's father and a friend of mine from by trips to Guatemala) arrived in the afternoon. It was good to see him. A blessing of the change of plans is that I will get to spend a bit more time with him. He is planning to join us at the beach tomorrow.

After dinner Brian took a few of us to a store across from Parque Central for ice cream. Then we wandered over to the park to look around. It was a nice easy going activity to end the day.

thumbnail.xlarge.7.1384299720.carrying-the-supportsAs part of our evening devotion today, Janie asked if any members of the team wanted to share where they had seen Jesus this week. I have seen the face of Jesus in all the workers. They have been kind and patient with us as we struggle for the Spanish words to ask our questions. They were always willing to help us and patiently guided us in the work we should do. They treated as part of their work team and laughed and joked with us and made us feel a real part of the team.

They are who I will remember when I think about this mission. They are a one of the reasons why the mission will remain memorable for me.

- Paula Renfro

More photos of the trip can be found in the Photo Gallery

 

12
Nov

Day 5 – Continued Work on the House

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With only about 2 hours sleep I was pretty tired in the morning. Others in the group were tired, too. But when we got to the site, everyone was eager to get started for the day. The jobs we did today were.

  • Sifting sand (Zuzana, Marian, Janie, Lori, Nancy, Ginny and I did that)
  • Backfill (Tim, Will, Lori, Nancy and Abby did this)
  • Mixing mescla (Will and Tim)
  • Moving blocks from point A to point B (Tim, Will, Zuzana, Nancy, Janie. Marian, Ginny and I did that)
  • Putting mescla in the cement blocks (Lori, Janie, Ginny, Zuzana, Nancy, Marian, Abby and I did that)
  • Tim made sure that were all aware of tasks available for us to help with)
  • Tim and Will were at our beck and call for trowels, buckets of mescla and to help us get on and off the scaffolding

thumbnail.xlarge.7.1384212182.1-house-on-3rd-day(Pictured - House on Day 3)

Abby and Zuzana spent time with the mother we are helping to build the house for and her 3 year old son, David, and the 2 week old baby. Abby gave David a bath and played some games with him. Zuzana taught David to count to ten.

Eventually scaffolding had to be made to all us all to continue to work as the walls of the house got higher. The workers, Tim and Will helped to put together the scaffolding. The tricky part of working on scaffolding is making sure you don't' try to keep your balance by holding on to the cement walls.

We are all, workers and the team getting more comfortable with each other. Today you heard more joking between the team and the workers and halting Spanish conversations by some members of the team. It was not uncommon to hear a member of the team ask for the name of the tools we were using.

The mother we are helping to build the house for and her sister made a snack of frozen bananas dipped in chocolate. It was very good and refreshing and a welcomed treat on the warm day.

In the afternoon, Brian took us to see one of the houses that had recently been completed

thumbnail.xlarge.7.1384212182.house-on-3rd-daySince the house won't be completed before we leave it gave us a chance to see what the house would eventually look like. The woman who lived in the house had a two month old pit bull puppy named Leo. He was so cute and to my mind very well behaved. Most of us on the team fell in love with him.

At the end of the day the walls of the house were close to 6 feet high (about twice the height of the house on Saturday).

After dinner a few of us walked down to Super Selectos for ice cream and other treats. I purchased spoons for the ice cream.

Tomorrow will be our last day in Ahuachapán. On Wednesday we will travel back to San Salvador. We eagerly wait to see how God will use us tomorrow.

I am about to head off to bead in the hopes of catching up on the sleep I missed last night.

- Paula Renfro

(Pictured - House after Day 5)

7.1384212182.house-after-the-5th-day

11
Nov

Day 4 - Excursion and Concert

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This morning I overslept and didn’t get up until 6 am (I guess this was to correct waking up at 4:17 am the day before).  This was a major tragedy for me since I can get coffee starting at 6 am and this meant I had made a major dent in my coffee time.  So I rushed to wash up (good thing I take my bath at night) and get dressed and was downstairs for coffee at 6:17 am.

We didn’t work today so we drove to Concepción de Ataco (aka Ataco) to purchase souvenirs.  An added treat was that Ellyn joined us on the trip. 2013 El Salvador Mission Team

We broke up into smaller groups which reformed from time to time.  I bought some ear rings and a few other things and then Marian and I enjoyed cappuccinos in the textile shop.  Around noon we headed for a restaurant that also had a small coffee plantation (5 acres). After ordering our lunch, the owner gave us a tour of the gardens and the coffee plantation.  The owner told us about coffee production as well as about some of the fruits that are also grown on the plantation.  After the tour we returned to our table and soon after our lunch arrived.  The food was very good.  After lunch a few of us bought coffee to take back to Virginia.  Then we headed back to the hotel.

We decided to wear our green team shirts to church since we would be singing.  When we got to the church we got to the room we had painted and the rooms with the floors that had been tiled during our mission last year.

I worked with one of the young men in the band and who spoke English to connect my MP3 player to their audio system.  Earlier in the week I had asked Brian if he could arrange to have someone video tape our team singing.  So Brian did the videotaping.   I think the team did a great job despite a minor “glitch” during our performance when
as a result of a member of the team stepping on a cable that resulted in a short, there was aloud feedback sound that sounded like a short scene out of War of the Worlds.  We all almost jumped out of our skins, but we continued on when the music continued.  I was very proud of the team.  I know that many (maybe all) were nervous about sing to them in Spanish.

The sermon was very good and Juan de Dios did the translating.  The scripture verses came for the book of Haggai and focused on our responsibility to be obedient and to give our time and resources to enlarging God’s church and His kingdom.  It reminded me in some ways to the sermon series David is doing on the Three Commandments of Giving and specifically the one on giving your time and talents.  After the service a group of women including Ellyn were singing a song and we were able to get the words.  Maybe we can learn that song, too, to add to our repertoire. 

We then returned back to the hotel for dinner (a great meal of tamales) followed by devotions in our room.  Tim had devotions tonight and he led a guided discussion of our reflections on the mission so far.  The discussion was an opportunity for each of us to discuss our impressions and voice any questions or concerns.  One of the things I got out of the discussion was the strengths and gifts each member of the team brings to the team.  It reinforced for me how blessed I have been to be a part of this team.  Also, I recognized in a very tangible way the truth of 1 Corinthians 12: 14, 20 and 27. 


After the devotion time Ginny, Lori and I walked down to the Super Selectos grocery store to get ice cream and fruit.  Unfortunately the store closed at 9 pm and we got to the store around 9:10 pm.  We also tried the store across the street, since it was open, but they had neither ice cream nor fruit.  Maybe tomorrow I will suggest that we have a 15 minute break before starting the devotions so those who wish to can make an ice cream and fruit run.

I’m looking forward to continuing to help with the construction of the home tomorrow.  It is raining and pretty late, so I am going to head to bed.  I would hate to miss the enjoyment of having the rain lull me to sleep.

10
Nov

Day 3 - Work on the House Begins

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A photo gallery of the team can be found at: See Photo Gallery

This morning I woke up and checked my new cell phone masquerading as my alarm clock. The time displayed through the window on the case was 5:17am.  I jumped out of bed saying my alarm didn't go off.  This of course awakened Nancy who looked at her watch and said it was 4:17 am.  I thus discovered a feature of my weather app which is displayed in the cell phone case window.  It turns out the time that is displayed with the weather at a particular location matches the time of the location.  During the night I had awakened and wondered what the time was at home.  So the location and time being displayed when I woke up was for Gainesville, Va. not Ahuachapán.   I tried to go back to sleep, but sleep was at that point non-existent.   At 5am I got up and ready and headed down for coffee.

Today was a half day.  We were all eager to get started on the house.  Everything was ready for us when we got there.  The tasks today were:

  • Cleaning away debris from the Work site (Janie & Marian did that)
  • Sifting sand for use in making the mescla/mortar (Zuzana, Lori, Nancy, Ginny and I did that)
  • Making the mescla from sifted sand, quickrete and water (Zuzana, Will and Tim did that)
  • Putting mescla in the cracks between the cement blocks and in the holes in the cement bock where the rebar was (Abby, Zuzana, Nancy, Marian, Janie, Ginny and I did that)
  • Moving cement block from the area where they were stacked to close to where the sides of the house were going up (the entire team did that).  

At the end of the day we had about 4 levels of cement block placed on all four sides of the house (each level has 20 cement blocks plus two corner/half blocks per side of the house).  Everyone worked hard and team work was evident everywhere.  Relationships are evident everywhere.  Even though the family is not in a position to help on the house (father works and the mother is recovering from a C-section and nursing a three week old baby), many of the team is taking time to talk with the mother. And the relationships with the workers are growing.

We stopped at noon and had lunch at the Missionaries Residence and then took as short walk to the "market area" of Ahuachapán.  Back at the hotel we all showered and then got together to practice our song and correct any timing and pronunciation problems.

After dinner we headed to church at the La Providencia Methodist church for the 5:30 pm church service.   I received a wonderful surprise to find three of the members of the family (Jessica, Jocelyn and Theodora) whose house I help build in 2010 at the service.  Theodora looked very much the same.  However, Jessica at 13 and Jocelyn at 17 had grown a lot in the pass 3 year.   Jocelyn is out of high school and now enrolled in higher education in Ahuachapán.  It was really a blessing for me to get to see them. 

Juan de Dios did the main sermon at the service.  He did the sermon in both Spanish and English.  I enjoyed it. 

After the service we returned to the hotel for dinner and then headed upstairs to our room for devotions.  The atmosphere was more relaxed.  We played some praise songs and engaged in some discussions about our faith and the forms our witness can take that spring boarded off the devotion and/or the songs.   It was a wonderful God moment (well actually a lot longer than a moment).  We have decided to meet in our room for devotions tomorrow.   It was a very good day.  

Heading off to bed soon.

- Paula Renfro

09
Nov

Day 2 - First Day on the Work Site

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I got up at 5 am this morning so I could enjoy some coffee and a bit of "leisure time. I spent a great deal of my time before 6 am when I could go down for coffee looking for stuff.  I feel a bit distracted and so I have a tendency to put things down or “away" without paying a lot of attention.  Luckily Nancy was very patient and helped me search my luggage and purse for my camera and wallet and backpack.  Then it was time for coffee.  I spent most of the time before breakfast at 7 am acting as an interpreter and trying to talk to the hotel owner.  It was not what I had planned for the morning, but enjoyable and well worth it.

After breakfast we headed over to the work site.  We were introduced to the workers and the “boss”, Aroche.  Our tasks today were numerous and varied – lots of new skills to add to our resumes including:

  • Bending rebar into squares (Marian did this)
  • Cutting lengths of rebar (Nancy and I did this)
  • Attaching the rebar squares to the lengths of rebar (Zuzana, Ginny, Marian, Nancy, Janie and I did this)
  • Digging out the area of the site where the foundation would be poured (Tim, Will, Lori and Abby did this)


Our “team building” activity for the day was unloading cement blocks form a truck. This task was done in two “shifts”.  First we unloaded 500 cement blocks and later in the day we unloaded 200 cement blocks.  We made a long line from where the blocks were unloaded to where we stacked the blocks.

This year we will not have to shake the sand or mix the mescla.  A small cement mixer was brought in.  So all we had to do was fill buckets with sand and rocks.  Each batch of mescla mixture was composed of 7 buckets of sand, 3 buckets of rocks and half a bag of the cement mixture.

All the team participated in relationship building.  Some of the women played with the mother's oldest child (3 or 4 years old) and held the new baby (3 weeks old).  I decided to forego that pleasure for the time being.  The guys bonded with the other workers and worked closely with them.  I got to know Aroche, our “boss” a lot better.  We kidded each other while he tried to teach my new rebar skills.

We were all tired when we returned to the hotel, so the news of a change of plans for the evening was well received.  Instead of going to a church service tonight (not the one where we will be singing) we will do that tomorrow.  The nice part about that is that we will get to hear Juan de Dios preach (he will speak in both English and Spanish).  Instead we headed to the Pupusa Restaurant for dinner. The pupusas were a good as I remembered.   An added treat was that Ellyn, Brian’s wife, joined us.  Ellyn is a missionary with the United General Board of Global Ministries.    Ellyn is serving in the area of Christian Education for the Methodist Church in El Salvador.  It was good to meet Ellyn and learn a bit about what she is doing.  

Today was a day of hard work and flexibility.  For I got to know many of the team members better – such a blessing.  Everyone is working hard and helping each other out.  What a wonderful example of the Christian church in action.

Tomorrow we will only work a half day.  Hopefully, that will give everyone one a chance to recharge a bit.  I guess I will head to bed. 

- Paula Renfro

08
Nov

Day 1 - Leave Virginia and Arrive in El Salvador

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Well, despite operating on a bit more than two hours of sleep, I was able to pick up Janie and get to the church without mishap. The traffic on Rt 234 was horrendous Rt 234, but we made it to the airport in a bit more than 35 minutes (the HOV lane really does make a difference in rush hour traffic).  

Our flight to El Salvador was uneventful (a good thing when flying).  Brian Dubberly met us at the airport and got us all loaded on the bus and I managed to keep both feet firmly on the ground on the short walk from outside the airport to the school but that we took to Ahuachapán.   

As a team we decided to sing a song at the El Salvadoran church we will be attending on Sunday.  The song is called "Dame Tus Ojos" (Give me your eyes) and is a popular praise song by Marcela Gandara.  Many on the team were nervous about performing this song in Spanish with a limited knowledge of Spanish.  However, as a result of this nervousness Abby provided those members of the team with a list of basic Spanish phrases and has been “tutoring” some of the team members in learning the phrases and the pronunciation of words in the song.  

So to night after dinner and devotions and sagging energy levels, we rehearsed the song.  Granted we are definitely not ready to perform at Carnegie Hall, but as I listened to us sing, I was impressed at how well the group sounded.  I believe God used the nervousness to move Abby to teach the team and Abby's teaching has led to a desire to learn a bit of Spanish and the song is helping to build our team.  I am pretty sure this is the tip of the iceberg.

Well, I will head to bed (most of the team including my roommate, Nancy, are fast asleep).  I have some sleep to catch up on so I will be ready to start construction tomorrow.

- Paula Renfro

18
Oct

El Salvador Mission - Initial Thoughts

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Although our mission "officially" begins on November 7th, our team has been involved in projects as preparation for our mission since April. These work projects and other services we provided to the congregation as well as the community were fundraisers to raise money to pay for the cost of materials for the project we will be helping with. The work projects also offered us team building opportunities. The fundraisers have increased the awareness of our mission among the congregation. We want to thank all those who have supported us this year.

Our mission is only for a week and we will be actually working only 4 of the 7 days. This may seem like a very short time to complete a home. However, the goal and the focus is not to complete the home in four days. The goal is to build a relationship with the family and construction workers we will work with during our time in Ahuachapán. Our goal is also to get a better understanding and appreciation of the El Salvadoran people and their culture. It is easy to see as God's children those people to who look like us or share the same culture as we do. It is not always that easy to see as equals those in countries that have a different standard of living as being our equals. That is one of the ways that God will change each of us during our time in El Salvador.

I have thought a lot about this mission and what our team needs to remember while we are in Ahuachapán. Although I don't know how or in what way it will happen, but I do know all our lives will be changed. The thoughts below are not mine, they are reminders that God has sent my way.

  • Our obligation is to offer Christ to those we meet in love and service.
  • Things don't always go the way that we want them to go, but they always go the way God wants them to go.
  • We need to expect the unexpected.
  • We will all need to pack our flexibility.
  • We need to have faith that God can make the impossible happen.
  • And my most important reminder is that being is more important than doing on a mission trip.

Please pray for our team. I know that your prayers will help us follow the leanings of the Holy Spirit during our mission.

Paula Renfro

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