500 Down, 1700 to go.

October 18, 2017

Only about another 1700 miles to go

 It was several years ago—probably about six years ago—that Hazen Dempster (aka “Gadget”) commented to me that he wanted to hike all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. That comment lodged in my brain, and bounced around for a while.

          As my 55th birthday approached, wanting some kind of a challenge to take on in light of that “milestone” (hey, I rode 100 miles on my bike on my 50th birthday, so I needed to do something around 55), I decided to try and thru-hike the Georgia section of the Trail. Look back to entries from 2012 to see how that turned out—not so good.

          I eventually was able to finish the Georgia section, and once that was done, thought, “Why not North Carolina?” I chewed off the first 20 or so miles on my own, invoking the wrath of Gadget, so we set a week to finish North Carolina—which we did in 2013.

          Succeeding states and sections fell beneath our feet—the Smokies in 2014 (where we picked up Fitz Wickham (“Sawmill”) and Chad Sartamalaccia (“Pippin”), then we jumped ahead to the Roan Highlands in 2015, walked from Tennessee into Virginia in 2016 (where James Norongolo, aka “Splash” became a part of what we were now calling the “Lost Mountain Boys.”) 

          For the record, we were neither lost, nor from the mountains, nor were or are we boys, but it seemed to fit.

          Along the way, I’d managed to nibble away about another 50 miles from a gap that we created when we jumped ahead in 2015. Yes, I felt the ire of the rest of the gang, so this year we decided to tackle the gap we had between the northern border of the Smokies and Indian Grave Gap outside Erwin, TN.

          It was a challenging itinerary, forcing us to take on average about 15 miles per day over some fairly challenging terrain. The first day called for a 19-mile day; we told ourselves we’d done days that far and long before, and since we’d arranged for the first eight miles to be essentially a day hike (carrying very little), we thought we could handle it.

          We were wrong.

          The climb out of Erwin Tennessee was more than a challenge; it was a killer. Add the heat of the time to the mix, and we were withering by lunchtime, spreading out along the trail. As evening started moving in, we realized we would not make out planned stop for the night—we pulled up about three miles short and camped.

          Telling ourselves we’d make the miles up the next day, we were later breaking camp than we wanted, and difficult climb followed by treacherous descent followed by tough climbs and equally hard descents wore us down. Sawmill strained a knee, and it became obvious we were not making the planned stop for the night. Fortunately, we’d met a brother and sister who offered to give us a ride into Hot Springs, NC if needed, and we took them up on it.

          We regrouped, taking a zero day in town, admitting that our planned itinerary was too ambitious given our (ahem) advanced ages and fitness levels, and the heat and dry conditions (water was really scarce at points) worked against us, as well. Sawmill got a rental car and drove home, the remainders were shuttled to where we’d pulled out on Sunday, and started hiking. When we reached the spot we’d planned to spend Sunday night, we realized we would have all made it in the dark, if we’d ever gotten there. AT vista 9.28.17

          We plodded on, meeting and chatting with South-bound through-hikers, and making the best time we could. It was hot, climbs were difficult, I won’t mention the times we walked off-trail or thought we had, but I will mention the fact that more and more people told us about the scarcity of water. We managed.

          Fifteen miles north of Hot Springs, NC, Pippin pulled out, to be able to get home to sick babies, and prepare for his grandfather’s funeral, and to try and let his ankle that he had rolled too many times to heal. He had covered the trail into Hot Springs before, so it was not a problem.

          The dregs of us pushed on, for the better part of that Thursday, camped near the top of Rich Mountain, and made our way into Hot Springs in time for lunch on Friday.

          Tired, sweaty, footsore, bedraggled, and no doubt smelly, I had closed a gap, and Gadget was about 35 miles away from having closed one. Chuck & Hazen 9.29.17

          As we sit outside Bluff Mountain Outfitters, we have hiked close to 510 miles of the AT together. Only another 1700 to go. At this stage of the game, we’ll be about 77 when we finish the Trail!

          You get to know a guy fairly well when you walk 500 miles with him. I can’t think of another hiking partner I could trust more!

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Christmas Surprise

March 8, 2017

Not too sure how long it has been since I actually sat down and put fingers to keys and felt as if I had something to add to the global blogosphere; but I decided it was time. This little tale begins on Christmas Eve 2016 (with a glance back to August 2015), and jumps into 2017 pretty quickly.

First the glance to August 2015; I can’t believe it, looking back, and discovering that I did not blog this, but on August 22, 2015, our daughter Anne became Mrs. Ryan Brody. Anne and Ryan repeated their vows at Church in the Pines on the shore of Lake Martin, AL–the place where I have been privileged to preach for about 20 years, and only 3 miles from the family Lake House. It was a glorious day, the day every family dreams of, and every detail was absolutely perfect. I delighted in the privilege of walking my daughter down the aisle, and the service was begun by Dan McCall, my first boss out of Seminary, and the pastor who baptized Anne. After I “gave her away,” I stepped around and officiated the remainder of the ceremony.

While the outdoor service (Alabama in August?!) was a bit steamy, the reception was indoors where the AC was set to blizzard. We danced, dined, and partied until the newlyweds departed for Atlanta and then their honeymoon. We returned to the Lake House, where a bunch (BUNCH) of friends were coming to hang out, have a beer, and catch up.

On returning to the house, I was a bit distressed to not be able to locate Gumbo, our almost-15 year old black lab. Long story short, I found him a bit later; he had “expired,” and gone to that place where there are no fences, no cats, and the rabbits are all fat and slow. We buried him there, and took solace in our daughter’s joy in marriage.

We pretty well decided that our dog days were behind us. Lib was tired of sweeping up hair, and I didn’t think I had another dog burial in me. So life moved on.

Until Christmas Eve 2016.

I arrived home a bit before 10:00 PM, having been in or observed what felt like 100 worship services (in actuality it was only eight); I was exhausted, and as I pulled in the driveway I watched Lib run through the kitchen, and wondered, “What’s that all about?” I parked in the garage, walked in, and did not see her. I made it to the den, calling her name, and nothing. I walked upstairs, tossed my suit coat on the bed, and turned to see her step into the opening to the sunroom off our bedroom, as a puppy trotted out of our bathroom into the sun room.

Lib smiled and said, “Merry Christmas,” as I gawked and asked, “Have you lost your mind?!”

She is a pure bred English Lab, and we named her “Scout” (as in Jean Louise in To Kill a Mockingbird). Here she is at about 4.5 months: Scout

This little wiggle worm (see her tail moving too fast to be photographed?!) has brought so much joy into our lives, “It takes two to tell it” (as my mother in law would say.) We have spoiled her rotten, trained her pretty well (she’s easily the smartest dog I have ever had), and she has spoiled us.

And she has taught me about the love of God.

In the mornings, I get up at an unthinkable hour (4:30) to have my quiet time and exercise before the day begins. I let Scout out to “do her business,” then she goes to my office where I have my devotions. I’ve put a bed down there, and she has a couple of toys, and a chew or two. But what she wants is to be in my lap (even at 35 pounds now!), licking my face, begging for attention.

And I find myself wondering, “Why do I not hunger for God’s attention the way this little girl hungers for mine?!” She has inspired me, and taught me that simple affection-pure, unbridled joy-is what God wants from us, as much as Scout gives it to me. She is unquestionable an instrument of sanctification in my life.

And wow, do I (we!) love her!!!

Wow. So much that we have seen, and how in the world to sum it up in just a few paragraphs?
The last day that we spent in Istanbul was a really busy one; we started the day walking to a museum devoted to ancient mosaics, where grand mosaics that have been discovered by archaeologists—most found in homes or courtyards—have been painstakingly excavated and moved, so that people can see and appreciate them. From there we walked to the Carpet Museum, where we viewed ancient—and I mean ANCIENT—carpets on display in atmospherically controlled environments.
Hagia Sophia From there it was Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), the church built by Emperor Justinian in 537, that was converted to a mosque after the Crusades (conversion of a church to a mosque involves facing Mecca and saying a prayer from inside the church, then adding some architectural accoutrements that are required for a mosque), which is now a museum. The artwork within it is fascinating, the architecture that went into building it is historically groundbreaking, and the grandeur of the space—even with the scaffolding inside used in current restoration—is stunning.
Interestingly, at the top of the main dome, there is a painting or fresco depicting Jesus, which was covered entirely with a painting of the first verse of the Koran; but allegedly in the ongoing restoration, plans are being made to uncover and reveal the painting of Jesus.
The next day we drove—a LONG way—to view the ruins of ancient Troy, and ponder the truth of Homer’s depiction of the Trojan War (he wrote about it around 5-800 years after the war, basing his story on oral traditions); the archaeological discoveries are jaw-dropping, with some speculation that there may have been a Hittite city on the site that predated Troy by hundreds of years. But the evidence of roads, and homes, and temples, and theater, are plain to see.
After a night in Canakkale, we traveled to the ruins of the ancient city of Assos, visited by the Apostle Paul on one of his journeys (but no mention of his staying there any amount of time), then on to the site of Pergamum, where one of the churches mentioned in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation was. To read and remember that the message to that church mentioned the “temple of Satan,” and to see the many temples in the area—to Athena, to Trajan, to Dionysius, to Zeus—helps one to reflect on the fact that the hope of the Christian faith struggled in a culture that was oppositional to the message of the Gospel. We today, in lands and cultures where the Gospel is unknown (even in America!), and where other faiths are more prominent, need to remember that we must always speak the truth—and in love!
EphesusThe magical port city of Kusadasi was our next stop, allowing us to make a trip to the sprawling, ancient city of Ephesus. Ephesus was an important port city in its time, was where Paul’s preaching and the conversion of many to the Christian faith prompted an economic crisis in the city that resulted in a riot that led Paul to need to “hot foot it out of town.” The Apostle John allegedly ended his ministry and life here, as did Mary, the mother of Jesus. There is a tiny church on the alleged site of Mary’s home, as well as the ruins of an ancient Basilica above the purported site of John’s tomb.
But the archaeological site of Ephesus is simply amazing—it spreads far and wide, with evidences of Greek and Roman influence, but here and there, the sign of the Cross can be found. To think that both Paul and John came here to spread the good news of Jesus; and that a church started here to which Paul later wrote one of his letters—is an encouragement to all followers of Jesus to continue to be bold witnesses wherever we go, and whatever we do.
Lib and I ended the day with a few others at a carpet school, where we were privileged to see how hand-woven Turkish carpets are made; how silk is collected from cocoons and spun into thread; and were later treated to an explanation and display of probably 50 rugs. And despite the soft-sell, great price, and wonderful attention, we walked away without purchasing one!
Next up? The cruise of a few Greek Isles, with the Isle of Patmos, where John received and wrote the Revelation, on the first day!

Philippi to Istanbul

June 4, 2015

Tuesday we travelled from Thessalonica, again reversing the course taken by the Apostle Paul, making our way through Amphipolis to Philippi, the first city on the European continent where someone was converted to the Christian faith (see Acts 16), and where Paul and Silas were arrested and beaten, then jailed, before being miraculously released from their jail (picture is purported to be the location, while history and archaeology suggest otherwise—but it WAS somewhere in the area) and using the incident to proclaim the faith and lead more people to Jesus. Paul's Jail Cell (?)
We then pushed on to modern day Kavala, a nice port city, which was a major port in Paul’s day known as Neopolis. We spent the night there, and had a fun seafood meal in a nearby restaurant (Kavala is known for fishing today.)
Wednesday was a day spent on busses. We left Kavala headed for the border with Turkey, grieving that we would say goodbye to our guide Maria and driver Nikos (we’ll see Maria again, and we hope Nikos.) We arrived at the border around 11:30, and since the bus could not cross (long story, let’s just say that the Greeks and Turks don’t get along too well), we were met by two taxis that arrangements had been previously made to shuttle us across the border.
overloaded taxi We loaded (overloaded!) the two taxis with bags, filled the cabs, and sent the first crew across the border. It took almost an hour before we heard (via call) that they had made it, but the bud and guide on the Turkish side were not there. . . the taxi’s returned, we loaded more bags, and this time crammed five passengers in each cab. Passport went fine, customs went OK, until one car was pulled over, and held up. The car I was in zipped on through, and we waited (the bus and guide now having arrived) and waited and waited. It turns out that the taxi was emptied (of bags and people), and the auto itself was X-rayed. The same thing happened (to the same car!) on the first shuttle.
But finally we were all through, and on the bus with Tosun (guide) and Mahmoud (driver). We drove for a bit, stopped for a bite to eat, and proceeded on to Istanbul.
I must say that crossing the border offered a stark contrast. The terrain is markedly different in Turkey (no more mountains); the country is much more populous, there is a great deal more traffic, gas prices are about double, and the country just feels . . . heavier. With a population that is 99% Muslim (by birth, not by practice), there are as many mosques in cities as there are churches in America, but we are told that fewer and fewer people practice the faith.
After settling in to our great hotel with it’s marvelous views, we enjoyed a five-course dinner at the hotel next door, and returned to our hotel to crash for the night, just as the final call to prayer rang out (at 10:30.)
column in Blue Mosque Today was a really busy day; after breakfast we visited the Blue Mosque, which while still a functioning mosque, is a major tourist attraction (hundreds and hundreds of people lining up to view it and take pictures). Not only is it beautiful inside with its paintings and mosaics, it is also an architectural masterpiece, with the majestic dome flanked by four semi-domes. From there we viewed the Hippodrome (used for chariot races) with its three obelisks, the oldest dating from 390 AD.
Then it was on to the Topkapi Palace, the place from which 30 of the sultans ruled the country; the focus of this compound seemed to be courtyards more than buildings, although there were many of the latter. The treasures room, with an 86 carat diamond once given to a sultan as a gift, was pretty impressive, I must admit.
After lunch we enjoyed a private boat tour of the Bosporus Straight, where our guide pointed out many municipal and educational buildings, as well as many, many, mosques. Chuck & Lib on boat tour
We ended the day with a trip to the Spice Market, where all kinds of spices from all around the world are available (and yes, we did buy some, and hope that they make it home through customs!)
More tomorrow—especially the tour of Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine Church that became a mosque that is now a museum.

A few years ago, I was privileged to lead a gaggle of Presbyterians on a “Presbyterian Heritage Tour of Scotland.” It was an incredible trip on which we forged lifelong relationships, met the most incredible guide ever (to date), and were privileged to see the “Mother country.”

And now it’s time again. It’s almost takeoff time for Sacred Journey, a venture travelling through Greece and Turkey, stopping at sacred sites where the Apostle Paul started churches, accomplished great things for God, and cities (now archaeological sites) where some of the letters to the seven churches in the Revelation (that’s singular, Revelation, not plural, “Revelations”) were sent–as well as the island of Patmos, where John received the Revelation.

The intent here is to let this be a pilgrimage–the crowd that is going has spent a number of weeks reading, doing Bible study in the book of Acts and Paul’s letters (as well as the Revelation), so while we are going to see great sites (and not all biblical), we have done the hard work of preparing our souls to be shaped by God. Along the way, while on the trip, we’ll continue to read and discuss Scripture, and the impact we may experience being in the places where Paul preached, was stoned, jailed, worked miracles, wrote letters, and simply spent time with people.

So stay tuned to this site–Lord willing, I’ll be making posts along the way to let folks know where we are, what we have seen, and what we are up to!

And for the record, hopefully this “Sacred Journey” will continue in another year in Rome–where I have a friend who is a Priest in the Vatican!

I had the privilege of seeing an advance screening of Unbroken last week, the movie that will be released nationwide on Christmas Day, based on Laura Hillenbrand’s great book.

I might also add that our Church hosted Louie Zamperini, the subject of the book and movie, about two years ago. Lib and I were privileged not only to hear him, but to have lunch with him and a small group of others. Louie was a wonderful man, a delight to be around even at 96 years old, and his story is a marvelous inspiration.

The movie is, hands down, a great movie! I advise everyone planning to see it to go on a fluids fast for several hours in advance, because you do not want to make a bathroom break once it starts.

It’s gripping, it’s horrifying in the authentic demonstrations of the abuse Louie endured, it is inspiring in the relationships between Louie and other prisoners, and especially with his flight partner Phil.

For those in the Christian community, the highlight of the book is the amazing conversion experience that Louie had at a Billy Graham Crusade. Spoiler alert here, the movie does not cover that—not the way many would have preferred.

I will say that the movie has a profound prayer scene at the beginning, with Louie’s Mom. Another in wartime after a particularly harrowing landing on the base. And there is Louie’s promise to God in the life raft, that he will devote his life to God if the Lord will let him survive.

The movie ends—while trying not to give too much away—with the acknowledgement that Louie’s life changed dramatically after years of PTSD, and that Louie kept his promise to God. It reveals his reconciliation with his captors (with the sole exception of the Bird), and celebrates his running in Tokyo as a part of the Olympic relay.

In short, the movie deals with Louie’s war experiences, and his indomitable, unbroken spirit. To fully understand his life—particularly the years he tried to mask his anger and pain with alcohol, and kept his brokenness inside until God allowed him to release it, and be made Unbroken by His grace, you need to read the book.

But do go see the movie. It’s wonderful!

This past Sunday, August 5, I was scheduled to preach at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, in our three Sanctuary services. We are nearing the end of a series of messages that is looking at parallels between the modern Olympic Games and the faithful living of the Christian life. While reading the Scripture passage (1 Corinthians 9.24-27), I “hit the pause button for a moment and pitched a little bit of a hissy fit on something that is a burr under my saddle: so-called “participation trophies.” Here is what I said:

Together, let us hear the Word of God:

   1CO 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. [If I may, I want to pause here for a moment, and quit preaching and go to meddling. Did you note that Paul points out that only one person gets the prize? We live in a day in which if a child sits on the sidelines of the fifth-place team in a division of any sport, they get a trophy. Being a parent, I understand why we may want that, but folks, we are doing our children a horrific disservice. We are raising a generation of underperforming people who think they are entitled to everything they want, with no effort. If you are a coach and you support this practice, I’d have you run the stadium steps until the geese fly over and the cows come home if I could. This needs to stop, people, and our children need to learn that if they want something in life, 95% of it has to be earned. Undeserved trophies are an injustice to our children and will undermine our society. Other than that, I don’t feel strongly about it.] 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

May the same Holy Spirit who inspired the writing and preservation of these words, inspire them for our understanding, as well.

To my surprise, at the 10:00 hour, the congregation erupted in applause. It’s the first time in 29 years of ministry that has happened. I think I hit a nerve there.

Should you struggle with insomnia, here is a link to the sermon on our wesite: http://peachtreepres.org/MA_Viewer.aspx?ID=658

            Today, Monday, we have the day off from building homes (of course, if you read Sunday’s entry you know that a home is being constructed today for Sara, by our friends Ivan and Gato). As typical men, we would “soldier on” if we were building today, but a day to let stiff and sore muscles rest and heal is a welcome reality.

            So instead of working our backs, we worked our minds today. We met with Luis Tavarra, the Social Director of Hogar de Cristo. Luis is a former Jesuit Priest, who has a passion for the poor. He shared with us all that HdC does, not only here in Guayaquil, but throughout Ecuador.

            HdC has it’s roots in Chile in 1945, when a Jesuit Priest, on a cold rainy night, encountered a feverish man shivering. He gave him his coat and invited him to come along to find help. In seconds, the man disappeared—not run away, but simply vanished. Fr. Alberto Hurtado knew than that he had encountered the living Christ, and was called to make a difference in the lives of the poor. From that surprising beginning has grown Hogar de Cristo.

            It came to Ecuador in 1970, and there are currently 4 factories in 4 different cities that create 61 home kits each day (in total, not at each site). HdC thus houses around 150,000 families each year in Ecuador alone.

            Other ministries they are involved with include microlending, working with around 1500 communal banks of 10 to 15 women each. The communal banks first work with trained graduates of the program, who function as social workers, to build up the self esteem of the women (the lending is ONLY to women-men would squander the money, while women invest in their families and communities), and then help the women plan for success. The default rate of the loans is .97%.

            In te area where we are working and building homes, called the perimetral area (outside the perimeter of Guyaquil—we joked about building “OTP”), HdC operates 5 health centers for the approximately 470,000 people who live in the area.

            There are 23 primary schools in this area, serving the population of children. Few teachers are trained, most are simply high school graduates, who are fortunate to have been able to advance that far. Only about 6% of students are able to go “off” (into the city) to High School, and only 2% make it to college.

            In these schools, roughly 1200 children are fed breakfast daily, a soy roll (which we had and was quite tasty), and soy milk (ditto), which are working to reduce what was discovered to be severe anemia some years ago. Since the introduction of fortified soy milk, the incidence of anemia has dropped nearly 50%. In schools where, for one reason or another, HdC is unable to provide this breakfast, anemia is rising.

            Committed to protecting and helping women, HdC also runs the only shelter for abused women on the Ecuadorian coast. We were shocked to learn that while the number one cause of death in women in Ecuador is cancer, the #2 cause is spousal murder. This shelter can house 125 people, to include children (girls to 18, boys to 12). The shelter offers medical and psychological help to the women, and runs a day care so they can get out to look for and benefit from work.

            HdC also has a “materials bank” where local industries give surplus materials, which people use to improve their homes; a process of offering water filters (the primary source of disease here as in many places is water borne illness); a fish farm (tilapia and a freshwater shrimp); and jobs for former sex workers to give them the opportunity to get out of that industry.

            To show that Luis puts his feet where his heart is, he lives in a bamboo home next to the soy milk plant with his wife and daughter. He is truly a man of faith, of passion, and devotion, and we all are impressed with this man.

            A bit of rest this afternoon, then off to the artisanal market for some shopping, then it’s off to the steak house for dinner. If this year proves to be like last year’s, we’ll eat close to an entire cow.

            Back to building tomorrow. As we do so, it is with Luis’ words ringing in our ears: people look to us to see us smile, because when we do that, they see the love of Christ.

The plan today was to build two more homes. The plan did not work out the way we hoped.

  When we arrived at the first build site, after a terrifficly steep drive, we found what our leader Boli termed an “untenable situation.” There was a home that was to be demolished, which had not been done. And the site was contaminated with the remains of “fecal incontinence.” As Boli pointed out, just a little bit of airborne “stuff,” and we’d be laid down, if not in the hospital. We reluctantly left the site, begrudginly, frustrated that we were not following through on our commitment. That was mitigated, as Gato stayed at the site with a volunteer from Spain (Julian), to demo the house. They joined us later.

To compound things, we learned that the intended (and eventual) homeowner, Sara, has advanced MS, fecal incontinence, and some other health issues. She has NO means of support, and two children to boot. In an interesting turn, the community that lives around her arranged for her to get the Hogar home. They advocated for her, and made the commitment to get the site cleaned after the demo today. It is the community that brings her food, and essentially keeps her alive, at the age of 32. Tomorrow, on our day off from building (we will spend a good bit of the day learning more about Hogar and their broader ministries), Gato and Ivan will install the home in our stead; so Sara and her family WILL have a home.

We were able to stop by where Sara is staying temporarily, and present her with the Cross and Ascension window, and pray with her and her family.

The other site was a challlenge, as well. Sandwiched tightly between atwo fence lines, a brick home and a block outhouse, it was a challenge. But with both teams working on this one build, we managed to squeeze the home in and get it built. The homeowner, Maria, is building on land that her mother (also named Maria) has given her–Maria the senior is the owner of the brick home, which had a stove, washer and dryer, and all tings considered, was a relatively nice home.

Maria the daughter did not smile a lot today, despite the fact that she was receiving a home. Mother Maria was not present, as she got a call that she had work today (she is a shrimp cleaner.)

Maria the daughter works downtown, selling bottled water, soda, and candy on the streets. She also has AIDS. This was discovered when she gave birth to her second child, and is also when her husband abandoned her. Yet she is there, she now has a home near family, and she is doing what she can to provide for her family.

We consider it a privilege to be here, to be doing wht we are, and to be the hands, feet, and smile of Jesus.

 

 

We’ll play tourist a bit tonight, having dinner at a sports bar that we discovered a couple of years ago. Tomorrow, as I said, we will meet with the Hogar leadership, and play tourist some more.

Day 1 in Ecuador 2012

June 23, 2012

Good old hard work. That’s what happened today, as the baker’s dozen IRONMEN rose late (breakfast at 8:00), headed out into Guayaquil to purchase supplies (amazing how we have come to know where the hammers, saws, bungee cords, etc are; not to mention water, Gatorade, and snacks) before heading out to a build site. It was about 12:30 when we arrived at the location, at the top of a ridge. It was a treacherous drive, which at one point forced us out of the vehicles (steep dropoff into an aquaduct on one side, steep bluff on the other, in between, hard-packed dirt with DEEP ruts). Fortunately it was only about a half-mile hike to the site, if even that much. We built a home today for Francisco and Marta. They have owned a Hogar home before, but it had been disassembled, and we were building in front of that site. Suffice it to say that the ground was ROCKY. It was really hard boring holes through the stony soil, and that task alone—getting nine holes about 31 inches deep dug and the posts to support the home placed in them—darn near sapped the strength of us all. But we pushed on, and by about 4:30, we had completed the home. Francisco and Marta have six children; the oldest, a 20-year old daughter, has an infant of her own. One child, a boy named Eloise (?!) has some severe problems; born with club feet which were backward, three surgeries have corrected that problem (somewhat) so that he can walk, but at six he has yet to be toilet trained, and by observation, one can tell he faces other challenges. Please pray for the family! After a cerveza at 2 Degrees South, we returned to Schoenstaat Retreat Center where Nieves served a meal of chicken, potatoes, rice, and succotash. After debriefing, we’re ready to settle in for the night!