I apologize in advance for adding some personal content to this one, however I feel that it's a hard one not to intertwine a little bit of my own feelings in this one.
For those of you who don't know me as well, I have been at GCA for 10 years now, and this is my first time going on a Mission Trip. I have seen the pictures and the video clips. I have heard the testimonies and built galleries or blogs. I have been very grateful to those staff members who have taken the time (and believe me when I say it is hard to find those windows of time) to send whatever they can in the window that they can. I had no idea really what the experience would truly be like until now.
After an early morning start, we all made our way to the chapel sprung structure to get a few rules for the days ahead, as well as watch a short history on the Homes of Hope program. And then, we were off with our teams to our build sites.
I had the honour of travelling with Don, a veteran Homes of Hope volunteer (who I showed a clip of on our GCA Instagram page), and Kim, a spunky British woman who was taking photos for the Mission Adventure program. So you have an American, a Canadian, and a Brit in a car... and while there's no clever punchline, I can tell you we were a motley crew. Turns out Kim grew up in the small village in England next door to my Aunt and Uncle's town. But I digress...
We ended up following the Red Team bus first. The Red Team's site is actually in a very different area than the other teams. It's in a more populated area in a valley. We pulled into the alleyway where the house lot was located.
Again, we see the pictures, but seeing it in reality is a truly humbling experience. The family is currently living in a small shack which only holds the mattresses for the family members to sleep. There was an outhouse next door. This family, with so little, was busy making a meal over the fire for the full team in their outdoor kitchen covered with a tarp. The meal of chicken legs, beans, rice and tortillas was being lovingly prepared by the mother and her daughters.
As the group stood in a circle on the concrete foundation, their sad and very personal story was shared with the students. The students then prayed for the family, and then the build began. It was her son's birthday today, so Pastor Brooklyn and one of the Homes of Hope staff snuck out to buy him a cake. We spent the morning with the Red Team taking photos. See below for the gallery (and continue on afterwards for more of the day's story).
We had lots of quality time with the Red Team in the morning as we waited for a guide to come and lead us to the area where the other teams were building. We left the Red Team after a delicious lunch and headed on up to where the other three teams were building. And when I say "up", I mean up.
Again, the drive itself was very humbling, once again reminding me of how truly blessed we are at home. Here are some photos on the journey to the next site.
The roads went from concrete to dirt, and definitely bumpy. And as I mentioned, they also went up. And up. Don, Kim and I made it to the Orange Team site just before 1:00 pm. The Orange Team definitely got in their leg work today. They were just finishing lunch, and getting in some downtime which they definitely needed. With a site that included two sets of stairs, it was definitely a workout for everyone. Single mom Elisa had made the team Pozole (a delicious Mexican soup) for the team. Her little boy came out and we had fun trying to make him smile for the camera. She, too, was living in a tiny room which she had obviously tried to make child friendly for her lovely son.
Our arrival at the Orange Team site coincided with the walls going up on the house. Here are our pics of our stay at the site (and keep going for more after that).
We could see the Green Team build from the Orange Team site, so it was time to move forward and visit with them. So down the winding dirt path we went, then back up to the opposite side. Again... up.
The Green Team had been making excellent progress, despite the battles with the heavy winds to start (Pastor Dave also has pics which he will send to me when he gets a chance - they are all in chapel together right now). By the time our little band of three made it to their place, walls were up, roof was on, and the interior was being worked on. I didn't get the chance to find out what the family made for lunch, but I have no doubt it was delicious and generous given what we experienced at the other build sites. Here are my pics from the Green Team visit.
The Yellow Team site was further along and also up a hill. If they had all been on level ground, they would have made a triangle. However, all were up a hill, requiring us to go down first, to get to the next site.
It was getting closer to the end time, and Don, Kim and I drove down to the road, hoping to figure out how to get to the Yellow Team site. We could see it... however the road wasn't as obvious as it had been to get to the Green Team site. We got to a steeper downhill part - but still didn't know if we were on the correct road. So back we went to the Green Team site to see if we could figure out where to go from a higher vantage point.
Now, for the sad news and the good news.
The sad news is that we didn't make it to the Yellow Team site today. The clock was ticking and the rain started. However, Mrs. Allan took pictures today, and our first destination tomorrow is with the Yellow Team. They, too, struggled with the high winds but persevered. Here are the pics from the Yellow Team. I had a good chat with a few of them tonight, and promised I'll be with them first thing (and I found out at dinner that they had empanadas for lunch ;). If it's anything like the other three experiences I had today, I know I'll be equally as blown away by all of it.
And a HUGE thank you to Don for driving us. It wasn't an easy task!
It's incredible what our kids are doing here. It's been quite cold, windy and a lot of hard work. However, they are doing it without complaint, and are determined to bless these families with a new home. And believe me when I say, having seen it now for myself, to have been able to help these families to change their current circumstances is such a gift. So thank you all for contributing to this gift. Lives really are being changed by it.
Rest assured, we have been taking LOTS of video. :) But you'll have to be patient for that. In the meantime, please know that your kids are being well taken care of as they serve through love with all of who they are. The last photo really sums it up for today. So I'm off to see what they are up to in tonight's session. Will check in tomorrow!