Thursday, December 29, 2011

Turning a picture on a table into a reality

A late Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all our friends and family! Our internet went out for a week, and I was intending to post this on Christmas, but such is life. We hope that this New Years' Eve finds you cozy and spending time with those nearest and dearest to you. I thought I would write an uplifting story that will hopefully give you the warm fuzzies!!

Almost 4 years ago, a friend of mine, who volunteers as a Compassion advocate, asked me if I would like to sponsor a Compassion child. Not knowing very much about the program, I asked her to explain more to me. She explained that it was much like the other sponsorship programs out there, but the children get close to every penny you put in to it and there is a real relationship between the child and the sponsor. I told her that we would give it a go, that we would like a boy in El Salvador around Kade's age. A couple days later, she brought me 3 pictures to choose from. We chose David Adonay Lopez Cuellar, he lives in Guazapa, El Salvador and his birthday is in March of 2001, making him about 2 years older than Kade.

The next week, we started writing him letters and sending stickers and photos of our family. To my amazement, we got a letter back from him almost every month. He often asked how our family was doing and asked us to pray for his family. He let us know how he was doing in school. We got a letter in the mail from Compassion asking if we would like to give extra money for Christmas and Birthday Presents. We decided that we would like to do that. We agreed to give $40 for his birthday. Adonai's first letter after his birthday mentioned a big thank you, and with the $39.91, he went with a compassion site worker and bought "rice, paper, corn, shampoo, a doll for my sister, oil, a skipping rope, " etc. Which showed to me that the money I was sending every month was actually going to where the organization said it was going. 

Fast forward to January 2011.... We knew we were moving to El Salvador and thought it might be a nice idea to meet Adonai in person and make what we read on paper a face to face relationship. We contacted Compassion at home to set up the experience. Together we decided on June 15 that we would meet an interpreter from Compassion, Ruth Cruz and head down to Guazapa to meet Adonai. 

Upon arriving there, we were met by a mountain of clapping and waving children, we were adorned with welcome sashes and treated in the highest regard. Here we were to visit our child and yet, to the compassion centre, we were representatives of every sponsor around the world. They were all so happy to have us here. The whole centre put on a show for us and welcomed us whole heartedly. We felt blessed to be the ones representing the rest of the countries that sponsor children.

After all the presentations and meeting Adonai we were showed around the centre. We were explained that the centre was not the school that the kids attended, but a place they went to after school to learn about health, computers, baking, raising chickens and getting tutoring to ensure that they stay and do well in school.

The second time we were there they happened to be doing medical checkups!
We were so impressed with all the centre does including routine medical and dental check ups. 

After we were served the best pupusas in all of El Salvador, we were taken to see Adonay`s house. We were welcomed with warm, open arms by Adonay`s mom Jessica and his little sister, Jasmine. We were shocked to find out that Adonai`s family lived in a tiny house made out of plastic sheeting and bamboo. The space inside the house was only big enough to fit one bed and a dresser and nothing else. The small space outside held a 2 burner stove. We were told the story about how when Hurricane Ida hit in 2009 Jessica`s house was destroyed. With reserve funds, Compassion was able to buy them this bed, dresser and a small stove.  Looking back, I remembered that on every single letter Adonay sent us, he always drew a picture of a house on the back.

This is what his house actually looked like....

My heart sank! Here we were building houses all year in San Antonio and San Felipe and yet my Compassion Child who we have been supporting and writing to every month is living in a house that is not even as good as the houses that we tear down to rebuild here.

The kids all got along so amazingly well and it was hard for us to leave that day. Even on the ride home, I was wondering when we would see them again. Then I got an idea. What ws the possibility that we could build a house for Adonay and his family? I asked Ruth and she thought it was a great idea, but because compassion had never had a request like this before, they weren't sure how to handle it.

The next day I put the request into both the Canadian and El Salvadorian compassion offices. It took almost 6 months before the request was finalized, as we kept misunderstanding each other because they thought I wanted them to pay for the house. They couldn't understand that we wanted to buy the materials and build the house as well. In October we went to deliver the news and measure the house. 
They were so over come by joy and couldn't wait to start building, but more importantly to be able to spend the day together again.

December 6, we pull up with 2 trucks loaded with house building materials, our two families and Chris and Krista Barkey (friends of the Berstad's and now our friends too!) and their children's Pastor Janice.
We worked our butts off and finished the house in only the morning.

Adonay, Jessica and Jasmine never stopped smiling! We then joined them for lunch that the Compassion centre in Guazapa cooked for us. It was delicious! Only we found out after that the chicken was from their chicken raising program!! :) 

Upon our return, we did a key ceremony like we do with all the houses we build. While we were getting ready to do the ceremony. I felt like God was telling me, that the building process needed to be in His timing. Just before we started, Ruth, the Translator, told us that the government had just given Jessica this land and the title a week before we built! If we had built it earlier, there would have still been a chance for the government to take it away. So this really was perfect timing. and once again a reminder that I can not control everything!!

Anyway, as we did the ceremony and gave the keys, I spoke a little about our feeling for the family and what it meant to me to be building this house with my bare hands. I read the verse in the bible Psalm 127:1
 1 Unless the LORD builds the house, 
   the builders labor in vain. 
Unless the LORD watches over the city, 
   the guards stand watch in vain. 
Which became quite obvious looking back from the pictures drawn on the back of the letters to the timing of the house building. 

I know one thing for certain. Adonay's house sure looks a lot more like the picture he draws now! And we have certainly been blessed to be able to have this kind of relationship with him. It make writing all those letters come to life.