I’m writing this in Honduras on a mission trip. Members of Grace Presbyterian Church and members of Fort Mill Rotary Club (and some friends of each group) have traveled here to build houses in the village of Santa Cruz in the Copan Valley.
These folks live on the side of a mountain in open sided adobe houses. The flat lands are reserved for agriculture.
The Fort Mill Rotary club has previously provided clean water to the community, so that the women are no longer hiking down to the river for water for drinking and cooking; The same river is used for animals and for washing clothes.
Once they had safe and clean water, they applied as a community for the housing project, coordinated by our missionary there. They have to work together, and everyone has to work on houses other than their own.
Prior to our arrival, the men had made 5,000 concrete blocks, and carried them four or five at a time up the mountain on their backs (they weigh 35 pounds each!). Now they carry 90-pound bags of sand for the mortar.
I work alongside our missionary, Gloria, as she fixes lunch each day. She engages the women of the community as they make the tortillas and help with the other lunch preparation and cleanup. She teaches them as we work...about hygiene, about health, about community. These women spend very little time together, since all of their time is spent cooking, caring for the children, and gathering wood for their cooking fires.
I visited another community where our group worked on a previous trip. They have stayed engaged as community, now having a governing council, with a mayor, and people in charge of health, education and culture. He said that having houses (rather than stick homes with thatch roofs) gave them a sense of dignity and enabled them to give more attention to their futures, and the future of their children. More of their children are now completing school (sixth grade).
They now have hope.
We have devotions each morning in the community, and each evening reflect about where we have seen God at work that day. This morning we had a brief worship service on the deck of the bird sanctuary, where parrots and macaws are being rescued. In the shadow of the mountain, we talked about the beauty of God’s creation, as described in Psalm 95.
We also talked about the Paraclete promised in John 14. Usually translated there as Comforter, the Greek refers to "one who comes along side." The disciples, who had left everything to follow Jesus, were finally understanding that Jesus was not going to be with them much longer. Jesus promised that he would send a Paraclete to be with them. The Comforter/Advocate/one who comes along side, would be with them as the continued with God’s work.
This group is embodying that concept for the indigenous people as we come alongside to work with them to improve their lives, and the Spirit is alongside us as we do God’s work... and whether we are working in Honduras or in Fort Mill, the Spirit will always be alongside us as we do God’s work.
The Rev. Dr. Joanne C. Sizoo is the pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church. She can be reached at email@example.com.