On the Scene Reports

The 2002 St. Andrew El Salvador Mission
Day 9: October 15th
The Final Day

This was the day we had been driving for….and dreading….the completion of major work on the building…and our final day at Buenos Aires.  Over a week of intense work has turned the assorted contents of two shipping containers into a 30×80 foot building and contents ranging from school desks and chairs to shelving, office space, storage, bathrooms, school supplies, computers and a collection of tools for ongoing use by the village.  The mission and village teams worked steadily all morning and into the afternoon installing and painting window shutters and walls and completing the trim around the front door.

The entire project has involved people of all ages working together to create what will be a major new resource for the village.  Gary Stein and one of the village elders — Senor Miranda, use a Sawzall to trim wood framing around the front door.

The ladies of the village enlisted Lisa and showed her how to make papusas….cheese, beans and pork fillings inside tortillas and grilled…served piping hot.  We have really enjoyed the El Salvadoran cuisine.

Late in the afternoon, just before a big village celebration, Antonio, the village President (l), and Andreas, planted one of two new trees donated to Buenos Aires by the mission team — a coconut and a palm — near the front door of the building…symbols of growth and hope for the future.

Team members then headed for the outdoor area near the old school building set aside for final ceremonies.  On the way down, team members were stopped by many of the children and their parents who asked them to sign their names and leave names and addresses for future correspondence.

One of the village elders, Juan Antonio, expressed his thanks to Guillermo on behalf of the Village and of El Salvador, and presented him with an El Salvador T-shirt.  Then came a big hug and tears in the eyes of both men.

Village President Antonio also expressed thanks to the mission team for their sacrifices in coming to El Salvador, leaving jobs and families and giving up weekend time to see the completion of the new school and community building — a resource which the village will use to strengthen the future for itself and its children.  Guillermo then presented Antonio with a Sonoma baseball cap.

Team members watched the ceremonies from front row seats.  We were deeply honored to be joined today by Father Flavian Mucci of Agape…he’s in the blue shirt in the front row between Kitty and Guillermo.  Every segment of the ceremonies tugged at the heart and left all of us with tears of joy for what we had accomplished together with village friends, and sadness at our impending departure.

Cathy Collier then stood and read a prepared statement, but even having it written down didn’t prevent her…and other members of the mission team… from losing it just a bit.  Cathy thanked the villagers for their love…and for their willingness to ignore our awful Spanish.  “You will always be in our hearts.”  Youngsters from the village presented each team member with a special certificate in their name and a hand-painted cup commemorating their work on behalf of Buenos Aires.

The team presented the village with baseball caps, sports uniforms and sports equipment to be used for youth programs.  A big hit was the gift of “bubble” liquid for youngsters who filled the air with bubbles…and laughter.

Desks — surplus donations from the Sonoma School System — will get good use at the new school.

There was tremendous excitement over the delivery of donated computers and software.  Plans are underway for training in the use of the systems and hopefully, the installation of a phone line to the building and a possible link to the Internet and to friends in America….and to the world.

When the ceremonies ended, and with darkness falling, team members moved indoors, and by the light of a work light, each placed their signature on one of the building support beams.  They then invited members of the village, so many of whom had directly contributed to the construction with their own time and labor, to sign their names as well.

We gathered in the dusk for a final group photo outside the front door, followed by hugs and handshakes with new friends and promises that we would be back…if not ourselves…certainly in the form of future joint projects between the village and St. Andrew….and our community.

And so the Mission Team 2000 ends its adventure, but does so with the knowledge that the journey will continue,  with new volunteers taking up future effort to make life better in one small corner of the world. No words can describe how this has affected us all and touched our hearts.  Our mission now is to show and tell others about what we have seen and how, with commitment and love and friendship, great things can be done when people work together for a greater good.  Our thanks again to the congregation at St. Andrew, to the people of the Sonoma Valley and to the many businesses and organizations worldwide who helped make this 2002 effort such a success.  Without you, this would not have been possible.  With you, we have done more than any of us ever believed possible.  God has truly proven that when we give, we get back so much more.

Doug, John and Whitney headed for San Salvador tonight and will arise early to catch a flight home in the morning.  The rest of the group departs tomorrow evening and gets into San Francisco after midnight Thursday morning.  On Sunday, the team assembles once again for special services to tell the congregation about their adventures and what is has meant to them…and to show what we all have accomplished.  To our families and friends…thanks for your support and love and sacrifice.  You were part of the team too!