Saturday, April 9, 2016

Day 6: Families & Finishing Touches

With tired muscles we set off for our last day on the  Thrivent Builds project.   Over breakfast Each of us have shared our appreciation for this opportunity  to serve our three families in the San Cayetano community:  Ana Ofelia Garcia, Jesus Garcia and Franklin Beuo.

Today is all about CEMENT-
 5 buckets of rock, 5 buckets of sand, 1 bag of cement to build a volcano.  Then add 2-3 buckets of water as you shovel & shovel.  Everyone waits for an opportunity to take over when another person gets exhausted.    Then buckets are filled and passed to the masons.  Once the mixing pit is empty we repeat.  Team work resulted in all three houses having their floors poured in less than hour.  High fives all around.

The morning culminated in the very emotional blessings and presentations of the houses to each of the families.  With everyone's hands on the house our Lord's Prayer  was proclaimed, ribbons were cut and tearful speeches were shared.   Habitat provided bibles that we signed and gifted to each family.

Then the fiesta with limbo dancing and musical chairs with the children of the village.   Final hugs and good byes as we depart.

The last day for this build but the first day for each of us to apply this experience to our future efforts to impact our communities.  Blessings to all.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Day 5: Routine & Rhythm

We all crave it; it's human nature. Our work this week has been a new routine, even though each day has required different work. We have fallen into a pattern, a rhythm. We wanted to give you a feel for our construction work.

 On build day # 1 we arrived at the work site with great energy and little technical knowledge of what we would be doing. Our Habitat Para La Humanidad crew consisted of site engineers, site supervisors, bus drivers, masons and homeowners who were putting in their sweat equity. Each helped teach us skills and shared their personal stories throughout the week cementing our love of this project, the Habitat organization here in Nicaragua, and the homeowner families. Each day on the site we've been asked to perform different skills. When we arrived on Monday the foundation blocks for each structure head been laid with two courses above ground and at least five below. The first day was all about laying block. Learning how to developing a team rhythm mixing masonry, mixing concrete, while the Masons laid block, we filled joints. We worked really well as teams and finished ahead of schedule on all three houses.

Our second build day started with the first course that required structural reinforcement via rebar ladders and the start of window openings. By the end of the day whe had the 12th course nearly completed which was full height. Good quality construction and proper support are critical based on the frequency of tremors and earthquake potential.

 The rhythm of Brick Laying complimented our daily routine up at six, breakfast at 6:30, bus to the site at 7, start work at 7:30. Work for 2 hours was short water breaks and then take a group break so that we could work until noon to finish the morning. We bus back to the hotel for lunch some down time during the hottest part of the day and returned at 1:30 to to finish at 4 p.m. this hard work gave everyone a feeling of physical and mental accomplishment.

So how do routine and rhythm combine? In wonderful ways. We've built trust in each other that will keep up the routine and we've fallen into a rhythm of connecting on a personal level with our teammates and local Habitat staff. The stories and relationships we take home will be innumerable and lifelong.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Day 4: Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Last night we learned we were far enough ahead of schedule that we would be given the opportunity to bless a fourth family this week. After meeting this family, learning of their sweat equity, and witnessing them as brothers and sisters in Christ; we are the ones blessed by them.

We have a video that will upload later that will describe the tremendous amount of Labor they have already put into their new home, so for tonight, we like to share a few words about our witness of them and the blessings we have received. Also, will share more about each of the partner families we have met in subsequent blog entries after this trip.

At the additional home today, the host mother brought chairs out of her home for us to sit on. Later, when she saw last suffering during another break in the relentless sun, she set up an area on a neighboring shaded porch where we could all sit. She sat with us and although we could not say much more than "mucho gracias", as she sat there with her young son our eyes shared an understanding that requires no words. Her husband worked tirelessly beside us always working harder and faster than our soft American bodies allow us to do. At one point it was obvious that a dead tree was in the way, so without a word, he simply uprooted it out of the way. Everytime anyone of us turned around, he was there with the next book could have water, the next wheel barrel of gravel, and always a smile on his face.

Please extend your prayers to these partner families. When we return, please allow us -- no invite us -- to opportunities where we can share their stories so that the Holy Spirit may work through us to encourage more generosity and a stronger bond with all brothers and sisters of Christ.

Day 3: 2nd Full Day of Construction

We look forward to adding pictures at the end of the trip from YOUR Thrivent team.  Though you are not here with us physically please know that each of you are a part of Thrivent's commitment to this cause.  Each of the build participants are discussing how important it is to share this experience with our teams, our families  and our Thrivent members so that the impact of this program only grows in the years to come

The day starts early but amazingly meeting around the coffee pot at 6 am is not a chore as we prepare for the bus trip to the site.  By the end of today (Tuesday), we saw all three house reach the "u-channel" block level that on the front of the homes is the top level. This a concrete cinder block designed to hold the rebar that will help reinforce the houses.

We have been blessed to connect with several of the children of the families (pictures to follow).  Any of these kids would fit right in at your church's Sunday school class.   Based on what we've learned about living conditions in Nicaragua this build will add years to the lives of these children.   Who knows what this will enable these and so many other kids to accomplish during their lives.

Needless to say the team returned dusty & tired but comforted that everyone is safe and the project is ahead of schedule.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Day 2: Our first day on the job site in San Cayatano

Our day began with a delicious traditional Nicaraguan breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans & rice, fresh papaya & watermelon, bread, and soft cheese. To be fair, I'm not certain how traditional this breakfast was. From the limited amount of Nicaragua we've seen, I'd say the majority of the Nicaraguan population are not eating this way on a regular basis. I don't say that to indicate a sense of guilt or even pity necessarily; not pity in the sense that we typically consider it anyway. Sure, there's a sense of longing for something better for the people we see and meet, but better from our perspective; a perspective that includes a lot of daily luxuries that we take for granted. When your perspective includes a dirt floor, rotting wood walls, and no clean water, a full "traditional " breakfast is likely a little more than one might ask for.

In fact, the families for whom we are helping to build three new homes are a happy, proud, family-centric people. These families have never lived in a home that did not have a dirt floor. Not a dirty floor. A dirt floor. A floor compromised entirely of dirt. Yet still, they have joy in their love for one another. Parents love and care for their children. Grown children love and care for their parents. They may not have much by way of material possessions, but what they do have is more valuable than anything we might wish for them from our perspective.

By the end of this week, our team will have built the walls and laid concrete floors (concrete we are learning to mix by hand). By the time the families move into their new homes later this year, they will have luxuries many others in the community won't have; a concrete floor, for one.

Something else I've learned that I take for granted is the ability to utilize air conditioning. We asked our local Habitat staff about the seasons here in Nicaragua, wondering when they get a little bit of relief from the heat. They told us, "Nicaragua has a hot season and a hotter season." "What season are we in now?," we asked. "It's hotter," was the reply. We're able to get some relief from the heat on the bus to and from the job site, and at the hotel. In San Cayatano, they have to wait for the hot season.

Keep following our blog this week, and please keep our team, the staff of Habitat Nicaragua, and the families of San Cayatano in your prayers. Time for bed now. I hear it's going to be hotter tomorrow. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Day 1: Touring Managua

Today we toured Managua, including the Capital Building and a local grocery store. We also enjoyed a 1:16 scale of what Managua looked like prior to the earthquake of 1972. We checked into our hotel in Masachapa Y Pochomil and did team building at the beach, darts, and with pool volleyball. We had new tastes and flavors; my personal favorite was a watermelon juice at breakfast and hibiscus juice with lunch. Tomorrow we start early -- breakfast at 0630 so we can get to the build site by 730 AM.

We're Here...

8 days. 29 Thrivent volunteers directly supported by 6 International Habitat for Humanity staff. 3 homes built improving the lives of a grandmother living with her son, daughter and grandson; a widow with her youngest son; and a young married couple with their infant. Countless extended family and community members blessed by these new homes. Our life-changing adventure began yesterday as we traveled from across the United States to serve in Nicaragua. Thank you for following our blog; for many of us it will be our only contact with you as we immerse ourselves in this mission opportunity. We ask for your prayers - for the friends we are ready to meet, for the work of our hands, and for those family and friends supporting us at home.