We had an early morning - on the road by 7 a.m. to head up into the mountains. A little background on this day....
When we were preparing for the trip, our group leader told us that he reserved a day toward the end of the trip as a "free day", allowing the group to be a bit touristy. It would be up to us how we wanted to spend that day, and he was setting aside some money for it. I believe we started talking on Saturday about what we were going to do for our free day. Any beaches were a 4 hour bus ride away, meaning we would go down the night before, stay overnight in a hotel, spend the day at the beach and then drive back in the evening. One of our honorary group members, in a separate conversation, had mentioned that there was a ministry he knew of that built houses for families for $1500. $1500 was the amount set aside for our group to have our free day. When we started talking about how to spend the free day, the group agreed unanimously to build a house for a needy family instead of spending our money on our own fun and comfort. We had 2 half days of shopping earlier in the trip, and would be able to spend an afternoon at a beautiful national park before we left. It blessed us tremendously to be able to turn our fun day into a new house for a family.
The drive up into the mountains took us on a different route than we were used to. This one was a winding road past large homes, including the American, Canadian, and South Korean ambassador's homes. We stopped at a place called Villa Gracia to pick up some supplies and meet Mark, the guy in charge of the house building ministry. Villa Gracia was a beautiful retreat center used by missions teams or for weddings that reminded us a lot of home. Lots of pine trees, beautiful views, but no bugs! We soaked up some of the beauty for a bit while we loaded up our supplies and a few more team members.
As our bus got close to the house site, we learned that we would have to hike the rest of the way up the hill, as there was no place for the bus to turn around at the top. Mark took a few people, including Soyla, in his pickup, but the rest of us hiked it. It was steep and long. I needed lots of breaks (mostly due to my out-of-shape-ness, but also the altitude and heat), and was amazed to learn that a group a few days before had made that same hike carrying all of their lumber and tools up as well.
When we got to the top, we saw the cleared site for the new house right next to the mud home the family was living in, which was collapsing in one corner. There were 2 women and 5 children living in the home, which also included an outdoor kitchen and bathroom area.
I was able to use a post hole digger to help dig for the corner posts. We added 4x4s along the walls, an elevated floor, wooden walls, and a slanted tin roof. A door and window completed the 15x16 foot home for the family. We added a plaque above the door saying "en el nombre de Jesucristo" (in the name of Jesus Christ). The whole team worked together well, and we finished in just over 5 hours. It was hot and dirty work, but immense satisfaction when we finished. We invited the family in to their new home, joined hands to pray over them and their home, and they thanked us, and wished that we could come back to bless another family in the way we had blessed them.
We hiked back down to the bus, ate a few sandwiches and drank some water and headed back to Villa Gracia to drop off our new friends. We were all exhaused, and the house was pretty quiet that night - most of us showered, slathered up with aloe (sunburns are more intense at those altitudes and on the equator), ate dinner, and went to bed. Last day tomorrow.