The Day The Sun Came Out

June 13, 2011

            Monday dawned cloudy, but it was only to tease us. After a hearty breakfast, with plenty of teasing and laughter filling the room, we all pretty well admitted to ourselves and one another that we were starting to feel the effects of fatigue. Frankly, while we all exercise with some kind of regularity, none of us works out for around four hours a day, which in essence is what we have done for the last two days. We started this day tired, and then went to work swinging hammers, hauling lumber, lifting walls, and building roof trusses and stairs for longer than we are used to. Let’s face it; none of us are used to this.

            The other thing we are not used to is the reality of human suffering that we see when we are here. Today was a good example. One team built for a young mother, likely not out of her teens, who has a young child that suffers from some form of birth defect. What the child’s diagnosis (much less prognosis) happens to be is unclear, but the defect was obvious.

            The young Mom’s home was being built in front of her mother’s home so there is some form of support system, at the very least. And the good news is that at the end of the day, this little family had something they could call their very own; a home.

            The other team built for a woman who enjoys the support system of her four daughters, two of whom have their own families. However, this new homeowner suffers from Type 2 diabetes, which has given her neuropathy in her feet. That’s bad enough, but add in the fact that the neuropathy is so bad that she did not know as she slept that their dog gnawed her toe.

            In the United States, there are heath care systems, government programs, effective public transportation systems, and opportunities that can allow people with real human needs like this to survive, enjoy a quality of life, and experience a sense of hope. In the slums outside Guayaquil, survival is not always of the fittest, sometimes it is a game of chance.

            The sun came out today, breaking through and burning off the clouds. That sounds sometimes like an idyllic situation, but when you are two degrees south of the Equator, the sun burns hot and fast. We slathered on sunscreen, reapplied it, sought shade whenever we had a moment’s break, and did all we could to hydrate; that’s one of the keys to survival here, keeping fluids in our system.

            The two teams reconnected at our local watering hole after the labors of the day, to see who won the daily spitting contest, and compare heartbreaking stories. As much as we enjoy teasing one another, it is the experiences we have interacting with the families we build for that leaves the greatest lasting impression.

            As the afternoon wore on, we returned to Schoenstaat Retreat Center, where there is a comfortable bed for a nap, air conditioning, and a (lukewarm if you are lucky) shower, not necessarily in that order. We give Nieves, the young woman who cooks here at Schoenstaat, the night off, as we’ll go to a sports bar we discovered last year to have some different food, watch whatever happens to be on the satellite channels they are broadcasting, and trade stories and lives.

            Tomorrow is a day off from building, as we will interact with the ministry partner we have here, Hogar de Cristo, to learn more about their various ministries, after which we will do a little sightseeing before coming back to recharge our batteries for the final two days of building.

            While we enjoy a day off from building, we know that our friends Ivan and Gato, the local “maestros,” or master carpenters, that we work with, are never assured work; they will be at the Hogar offices looking for a day’s work to fill in the gaps.

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