What do you call a group of sunburned teenagers with sore muscles and tired eyes? Foundation builders.
On July 21, 2012, a team of 13 teenagers and 4 adults traveled from Timberline Church to El Espino, El Salvador. On the surface, the trip was all about continuing to build a wall at a public primary school. (While a team of youth from Timberline started work on the wall last year, an adult team from Timberline and a team from a church in Missouri had also worked on it.) When complete, the wall would not only diminish gang recruiting in the area, but also serve to keep landslides out of the schoolyard.
But before another section of the wall could go up, a foundation needed to be laid. So, team members dug a trench over six feet deep, almost three feet wide, and nearly 18 feet long. They had to dig that deep because the wall will eventually have 5 feet of block underground and another 15 feet rising into the air. They moved the dirt by hand until they reached beyond the unstable soil to a firm foundation. (Hmm, could that be a real life object lesson about building on the rock and not on shifting sand? Not to mention seeing how much work it takes to build the unseen foundation that keeps what is seen from crumbling!)
As the shovel work continued, others tied metal rebar together with wire and mixed cement by hand within sight of rifle-toting military assigned to protect the team and school. After four days of back-breaking and muscle-straining labor, the concrete foundation was completed and team members participated in the dedication ceremony.
However, another foundation was being built in the form of relationships with the local church, Salem Bible Temple, and their commitment to serve the community through their partnership with ENLACE, a Christian development organization that exists to alleviate spiritual and physical poverty by equipping local churches to transform communities. On Sunday, team members provided church ministry leaders with Sunday School training, game ideas, and three years of materials including Spanish versions of the Children’s Veggie Tales Bible. Five teenagers shared their testimonies during the midweek service and all enjoyed several delicious meals prepared by the ladies of the church.
Beyond the church doors, team members spent time chatting and playing with the neighborhood kids including jumping rope and playing soccer and softball. Even some of the military men assigned to protect the school joined in on the soccer field showing their approval of the church initiated project and ultimately of our team being there to help. On two different days, team members were able to tour parts of the community and go into homes to pray for people. While in homes, they saw gardens, chicken coops, tilapia farms, and a candy-making business that were all the result of ENLACE developed initiatives implemented through Salem Bible Temple’s love of Jesus expressed through love of their community.
After seven days in El Salvador, this hardworking group of teenagers headed for home with the knowledge they had left behind a firm foundation for future trips to build upon.