To kick off the Lent Build in the Getsemaní community, our group from Myers Park Presbyterian Church joined with other local and international volunteers to begin construction on the first four houses of this ambitious project. We came to build houses, but after clearing land, pouring foundations and beginning the walls alongside the families that will live there, the experience came to mean much more than just the structures that were taking shape. Although the work was physically demanding, the companionship we found in our fellow volunteers and workers was spiritually uplifting, leaving us exhausted but inspired at the end of every day. The scene on the building sites was like a reverse Tower of Babel in which we came together despite different languages and cultures or rather because our differences meant that we had so much to share and learn from each other.
The significance of this event for the community was highlighted by the midweek Lent Build Kick-off ceremony, complete with music, speeches and many, many pictures. It was a joyous occasion—as was every time we gathered together to build, pray, make pupusas, share a meal or play soccer. Our group felt universally accepted and appreciated by the gracious members of this community, and the significance of initiating this project in the memory of Monseñor Romero lent a deeper meaning to the work that we accomplished alongside the very people that he gave his life to defend. This community of dirt streets lined with flowers quickly began to feel like home, and the crowds of children, patient masons and inspiring local leaders became like our family.
With every immediate goal of digging this trench, building that wall, mixing this batch of concrete, we had to trust and encourage each other in English, Spanish and some hilarious sign language. The Habitat staff and local churches were more than supportive and did everything possible to help us. We appreciated the hard work and unfiltered joy that filled our week in El Salvador. Although we didn’t get to put on the roof, paint the walls or hand over the keys, we leave this work to the volunteers who follow us and look forward to seeing completed houses and continued friendships when we return to Ahuachapán and the community of Getsemaní.