First let me start with saying that this mission trip was like none that I have been on before. For one, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I was just along for the ride. Another difference is that I felt we were there to support a church that is doing great work there. We went to be servants however that happened to be. The days were very loose with many different things going on and it was up to you to find a place to be. We didn't have an agenda of things that had to be completed. We really had the opportunity to take in their culture and just love each other throughout the week.
We were involved with a construction project for which we laid rebar and then tied it together, transferred cement blocks to the second floor by heaving them up to someone on the second level, mixed concrete on the street and then shoveled it into small pales to be passed to the roof assembly line style. Construction was very different from anything I have done in the past.
We also had the opportunity to help in the kitchen preparing our meals. This included peeling vegetables (including gigantic carrots) with butcher knives, attempting to hand make tortillas, washing dishes, sweeping and mopping (mops were brooms with towels over them).
There was also playing with the children in the street. And taking care packages to the children that are sponsored by individuals in our church. This is probably what impacted me the most. The sponsored children live for notes from their sponsored families. We went into many homes where photos of their sponsored families were hanging on their cement block walls with the most recent letter. I had the privilege of being a face to represent their sponsor and to let them know how much their sponsor loves them. Some sponsors were there with us and got to meet their families for the first time. There were a lot of tears.
One of the biggest thanks about the trip was the team. The team worked great together. There was pretty much no complaining. People were sick, people got hurt or had a hard time, but just kept going without complaint and a lot of time with good spirits. Everyone found where they felt they wanted to be (kitchen, construction, playing with kids, taking a break, etc) and no one complained that someone wasn't where they were supposed to be or that too many people were in one place. Overall, a great atmosphere to work in.
The last two days, we got to participate in some adventures. One day we went to Lake Atitlan to go ziplining and on a boat ride. The boat ride was my favorite. Lake Atitlan is a lake surrounded by volcanoes and is actually a volcano that blew it's top. The water was so clear and the surroundings were amazing. I could have stayed in the middle of that lake forever. The other adventure we took was climbing a volcano to see hot lava flowing. I had no idea how hard it would be to climb a volcano. Think of trying to climb a mile high gravel pile. And, I happened to be very sick that day, so overall a rough climb, but well worth the trip to stand about 2 feet from flowing lava! For those who were not sick, they toasted sandwiches over cracks in the rocks and roasted marshmallows. An unforgettable experience.
PS Some of my favorite ways I got to experience the culture was by carrying a sack of potatoes on my head from the market and jumping onto the back of a chicken bus. Feel free to ask me more about these next time you see me:D