Monday, August 11, 2014

Our Church in Santa Elena

One main part of our mission trip to Nicaragua was to work on the church.  The existing church in Santa Elena is a small building.  It is halfway under ground, with a block wall about halfway up and a cement floor.  From the remaining half wall to the ceiling is tin, and the roof is tin (steel?).  Two years ago the church began expanding.  They are building a larger building around the existing building.

This picture from google maps has an arrow pointing to the church, where you can just barely make out the wall around the church.  To see the map and be able to zoom in and out, go here.

We worked on the walls the week we were there and we painted beams for the roof. Our team raised money to help purchase supplies for the roof. I was encouraged by the several men in the church who were faithfully there every single day, working hard. We pray that they will continue to work in our absence. I was also encouraged by the young men on our team who put their brute strength to work. There was much heavy lifting involved and back-breaking work.

During the week our team shared with the church during evening services by singing (a few songs we prepared in Spanish), by giving testimonies, and by bringing the sermon. I was pleasantly surprised by the teens who willingly volunteered for this!

This is Pastor Louis (and Berto translating).

The church is located in one of the poorest villages in Managua. It is right on the border of the city (which you can see by clicking on the link for google maps above). The village has dirt roads and the sewage from houses drains right into the roads, with hardly any ditches dug. The smell is overwhelming at times. Nearly everyone sells things from their homes. There were several stores we frequented to buy pops, juice, and snacks (especially ice cream!). Mitch and I enjoyed walking by one house every day where a man was building furniture. He used a lot of old hand tools. One day he was using a hand planer to smooth the surface of a door. It was beautiful. As we got to know children around the village, we were often invited to stop at their homes. Every day we walked several blocks from the church to a house that the church had rented for our benefit. It was a place for us to rest, clean up, and change clothes. Also women from the church cooked lunch for us there over an open fire every day.

Our second day in the village we divided into 8 groups and went with various church members to small "cell" groups that meet in members' homes. Mitch, Eden, Jarl, and I went to the pastor's home with his wife and some other women in the church. After I said my few practiced phrases in Spanish and showed pictures of our family, there was an awkward silence.  The pastor's wife said something in Spanish, which I didn't understand. She smiled sweetly and said to the others, "No entiende." ("She doesn't understand.")  LOL We had a time of worship, where the group sang songs (unaccompanied) in Spanish and read from Psalms. They invited us to do likewise, so we sang a couple songs in English, and I read from the Spanish Bible. :) The language barrier was a challenge for sure!

After the second day work began in earnest. Here are the steel beams before they are painted.

Wall of the new church around the existing church.

After being painted, one of the church members welded these together.

When we arrived, work was still being done on the front face of the church, and by the end of the week it was looking good.

A look down the street in front of the church:

Another good view of the existing church inside the walls of the new church.

Mixing concrete by hand. The brother with the black hat was one of my favorite men from the church. He had a great smile and a good attitude. He had several children and was always very affectionate with them. He reminded me very much of my step dad. He worked so hard.

The church will stand high above the village and be visible from a long distance.

Scooping up gravel for more concrete:

I climbed the scaffolding at the rear wall, hoping to get a picture of the village, but once I got to the top all I could see were the trees. It was really scary to be so high!

Here it took several men to carry the steel beam once it was welded together. I still don't know how they managed to lift it so high, even though I have pictures of it!

This was a percussion instrument used in the church. I loved it.

The front of the church...we asked and a member told us that a glass window would be placed in the opening above the large doorway.

The final evening we were at the church was a fun one. The members of the church had prepared several special events for us, including some special songs by the women in the church. They also prepared a drama, and a fun game. There were laughs among the difficulty of saying goodbye.

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