On Sunday, we attended a worship service at Iglesia Resplandence. Pastor Fernado Arias’ message was from the book of Jeremiah.
So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
His lesson focused on the fact that we, like the clay of a potter, are made from the dirt of the Earth and sustained by the water of the Spirit. Like a fragile piece of art, we might get broken. But by returning to our basic building blocks – dirt and water – we can be rebuilt in the potter’s hands.
The pastor and church we attended was not affiliated with Forever Changed, our hosts for the week. The message delivered was not humanly constructed to coincide with our projects for the week. However, looking back on Sunday and reflecting on our work the past few days, the message was a divine starting point.
We have been delivering water filtration systems in the Maria Teresa ghetto, to Village of Hope, and to the citizens of Alvaro. Along with this tangible item, we hoped to deliver God’s Spirit through prayer.
Alvaro is a community of people who live next to and within a garbage dump. I say this with respect. I am friends with people who have served in the Alvaro community before. I have heard their stories; I have seen their pictures. My words cannot provide an accurate description of their living conditions. However, I will try.
Behind a gated wall that provides a barrier from the city is a garbage dump populated by a village of people. Countless bags of household waste, shredded mattresses and box springs, and feces only touch the surface of a list of scattered debris. Wild dogs roam. Vultures circle high above. Swarms of flies circle below.
Families live in one room tin houses. A seemingly endless series of wires from shack to shack brings electricity to the residents’ homes. Children play next to boards with exposed rusty nails. Mothers carry plastic bags of human waste from their houses and through a system of dirt and stone pathways that would be considered their city streets. The waste is disposed of in a ditch on one side of the community. We worked on the house next to this ditch.
Our two day project was to lay a concrete foundation to build two houses. The concrete was made by rotating shifts of shovelers mixing ash, rock, and water. Once mixed, an assembly line of Guatemalans and members of our mission team passed buckets of cement hand by hand and poured the clay mixture. The mixture became the foundation of what two houses are being built upon.
As we heard in Pastor Fernando’s message on Sunday, our team used clay and water to serve as a basic starting point. On the second day of our project in the Alvaro community, we held a worship service on the concrete floor we laid the day before. Our team and about thirty people from the village came together as our host, Pablo, delivered a message in Spanish.
Following Pablo’s message, he paired each team member with a person from Alvaro to pray together. We prayed for one man whose father had died the evening before, for several children who were sick and awaiting medical care, for people who were hungry, for people to come to faith, and many other individual petitions.
As I reflect on these days, the lesson I take is that even though our Earthly mixture of concrete might appear to be a firm base, our foundation is not truly laid until it is built upon worship and prayers.