The First Congregational Church of Darien

United Church of Christ

A community of faith since 1737

A Few Words From Dale… January 16 2014

It could hardly have gone any better.  Cecile and I returned to Darien last night from the Dominican Republic.  And I know you are going to inquire how the Habitat for Humanity Global Village Work Trip went. And all I can say is: it could hardly have gone any better!

As you know, I have led a handful of these outreach trips building homes with the poor. Still, before we go, it always makes me a little nervous because so much could go wrong.

Feeling called to this work, and having my trust vindicated so many times, I try not to think about that. Instead I try to focus on God leading us outside of ourselves to do good in the name of Christ and his church. But leading 12 of us out of our familiar, secure world here in Fairfield County into such a different environment, people could have fallen ill or gotten injured.  We were working with very poor people and working with heavy equipment in our manual labor.  If you prayed God would keep us safe and well, God heard your prayers.

Even beyond the bigger concerns, one wonders how the group of personalities will come together. What kind of chemistry would develop among us?  Frankly, it is always amazing how a common purpose unites people, especially when it is near and dear to God’s heart. Our work group—spanning ages from 23 to 74—came together beautifully and admirably. Our gifts played off one another and our flaws were redeemed as God fully claimed us.

One day all 13 of us worked at the same site, fabricating concrete panels for the new and less costly Habitat modular homes. Having learned our duties, we returned after lunch to produce 105 concrete panels to slide between steel slats, enough for a couple homes. We interacted so well, like a well-oiled machine, we lost track of time.  It was exhilarating.

We worked very hard, supported each other with cool water and making each other rest, and returned to the Hotel Libano in San Juan caked with dusty concrete, but smiling.  Typically, we would delay our showers and go to the top story of our hotel to rehydrate and fully enjoy the 360 degrees of the sun playing off the distant mountains on both sides.

We worked with three families.  The first was a family of four, with an income of $100 per month.  Elias sells soft drinks in the streets, and Adele studies every afternoon to become a teacher.  They have daughters, 9 and 4, the youngest with mild autism. Elias and Adele truly won us over, working alongside us.  We didn’t only watch their dream realized, we witnessed God’s dream for all humankind at work in this big world. Of course, we had lots of help from hired Dominicans and Haitians.  But their home will be finished next week.

The other two families were headed by single mothers, each with several children, all of whom worked enthusiastically and tirelessly alongside us.  Living in tin shacks, they lived within the poorest section of San Juan de la Maguana.  Habitat was building each family a bathroom with shower and latrine, made out of cinder blocks.  We wanted full homes, of course, for the families, but sometimes you have to begin with small steps where you are.

I will share more on Sunday morning.  But know that the Gospel is a force in the world. And your generosity and prayers is changing lives in a way that can only make God smile.

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