For several years now, I have been travelling to Guayaquil, Ecuador in the Summer, to participate in a short-term mission trip with a group of men from our church (Peachtree Presbyterian in Atlanta, GA). Over the last five years, we have built somewhere in the neighborhood of forty two homes for some of the poorest people in the world. Yes, you read that correctly: 42. Read previus blogs from June of 2010 and June of 2011 to track our work.

  These are simple, relatively small, split-bamboo walled homes that are roughly the sixe of a large bedroom. We put them together from a kit that is manufactured in Guayaquil, at a ministry called Hogar de Cristo (Homes of Christ; as they say, “More than a house–A Home.”) The kit has nine posts to be put intot he ground, floor joists, floor boards, eight large wall sections, an inside dividing wall, and roofing materials. Many of the homes have a stair kit, as the home is built off the ground. No water, no electricity; but if you and your family, and me and my family, and another family have all been living in a one-bedroom apartment, and now you have come up with the money to buy a small piece of land, and we show up and buy a house kit and put it together for you, you feel like a King or Queen at the end of the day.

  This year, for the first time, we had more men apply for the trip than we had room for–a nice problem to have. So the team is now complete for the year, and planning is underway. Each of the home kits costs about $1100; and guys have stepped up and offered to buy one or more. It’s amazing. Now I am about to contact some people to see if they want to provide one of the food baskets that we give to each homeowner-a paltry $50 each (that will not be a problem.)

  The problem? Airfare, in a word. Delta, which used to fly Atlanta to Guayaquil direct, has cut the connection out. American is our only option, and the cost as of today is easily twice what it cost us last year to fly. Yes, I know the cost of fuel has gone up, but really-THAT much?! So we are looking at options, trying to see what wobbling travel dates a day or so on either end would do (save several hundred dollars, it turns out), but what it boils down to is that this darn-well-planned trip is turning out to cost a good bit more this year. And that frustrates the dickens out of me.

 In 1969, the rock band “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” hit the charts with a song entitled “And When I Die.” While the song did not hit  the very top, the brief research I have been able to complete indicates that it made it all the way to #2.

  It was a good song, maybe a great song. I have actually quoted it in a sermon on occasion (hey, I’m a Presbyterian Pastor, in case you did not know). The chorus of the song, which I think reflects a hidden theology that many people carry, reads :

And when I die, and when I’m gone,
There’ll be one child born
In this world to carry on,
to carry on.

  Now, I say that the chorus reflects a theology (or belief, if you prefer), what I mean is that a number of people have this sense that when someone dies, someone else is born to take their place. It’s not reincarnation, it probably has something to do with our not wanting to fully let go of the person who has-as I like to say-been “promoted to the Church triumphant.” (The Church militant is that expression of God’s people who are alive today, loving and serving Him. The Church triumphant is that gathering of those who have died and celebrate God’s glory in His eternal presence.)

  This is on my mind and heart today, and this week, because something interesting happened on Monday. My nephew and his wife, expecting their first child, gave birth to a beautiful little girl at 10:50 Monday morning.

  And Monday just happened to be the 17th anniversary of the death of my nephew’s Dad, who was also my brother. Spooky? Not at all. Poignant? You betcha. Tad (the new Dad) said in a text to me, “17 years after Dad passed. . . crazy.”

  Tad and his brother (and step-siblings) have taken to calling March 19 “St Daddy’s Day” in honor of my brother, their father. I think that now, we’ll call it “Sydney’s birthday,” while still recalling the other major event that took place on that day.

  As I sat in the hospital room with the new family Monday afternoon, reflecting on and quoting the Blood Sweat and Tears lyrics, I got choked up. My wife said, “You’re gonna make me cry!”  But it was all about celebrating new life, while remembering another life that we all miss.

  So keep Sydney in your prayers for her growth and development, and Tad and Kim, the new parents, for them to be able to do what the rest of us have done at one time or another: go home with a new baby and figure it all out.

  And if you would, keep Kim in your prayers in particular.  Three months ago, while pregnant, she was found to have a brain tumor. Two physician friends have assured me that it is not uncommon for this to develop in pregnancy, with raging hormones and increased blood flow. Oftentimes, they say, the tumors go away after delivery, and most always are benign. It will be a few more weeks before they do an MRI with contrast (dye) to know exactly what is going on, something that could not be done while she was still carrying the baby. I’m praying that it just goes away.