Drying Up Houses

Day 3: Nov. 5, 2018

Our construction volunteers have been working on two projects this week, and on both of them their guidance and suggestions have led to an effective solution to the problems at hand. The first home was a 20’ by 30’ structure occupied by a young couple and their two small boys. The home with such limited square footage was divided into two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. The kitchen contained a table large enough for the family to gather around, making it a tight squeeze. As is typical here, there is a front porch with a few rocking chairs, enclosed with iron bars which the homeowner securely locked just as soon as our workers were inside to guard what little they possessed. What is sorely lacking in this home, besides adequate living space was any place for storage, a role filled by one side of this porch. It was this lack of storage space that explains why their Christmas tree remained up all year long. Squeezed in the corner, it proudly stands between a piece of furniture and the wall, complete with a creche made of sand, shells and garland. If they were to take it down, they would have no place to store it, so it stays there all year. Seeing this beauty prompted Larry to observe just how wonderful it is to have nothing and yet to have something wonderful.

The job that had been planned for our volunteers was to replace the roof. One of the small boys who lives here has serious trouble with allergies and it was thought that replacing the roof might cut down on the dust, thus giving him some relief. The men were a bit perplexed as to how replacing a metal roof would minimize the dust, but began the work of moving furniture aside to begin. It was then discovered that the bottom three feet of the wall behind the couch was covered in mold. The houses here are very close together and their neighbor is in the habit of tossing his dirty water out on their side of his house. With no seal on the outside wall of the house, the dampness increased and mold thrived. Determining that the mold was most likely the allergen creating the young boy’s problem, they had just identified what really needed to be done.

Identifying the problem did not mean that the solution was going to be an easy task. What would be required was to dig a three-foot trench between the houses, scrape the mold off the outer wall, bleach it and then seal it with a waterproof paint. The real challenge was not the labor required, but the lack of permission to do so from their neighbor which he had refused to provide for more than a year. This week that all changed when our mission team leader, Glenn, posed the question. Prepared for perhaps at least a mild debate, Glenn was pleasantly surprised when the neighbor agreed. We speculated that perhaps he did so this time because Glenn is 6’6”, or more likely, because God had his hand firmly in this situation allowing us to provide the needed remedy for this family.

Our second construction team was tasked with taking down a wall. Upon arriving at the site, they asked why the wall had to come down. The problem was similar to the other home in that it involved water intrusion — only at this house the issue was not mold but flooding. The house was built on steeply sloped land and the run-off of rainwater next to the house had carved a trench in the dirt. This trench overflowed in the heavy rains and the water then seeped right into the house. After surveying the situation, our team quickly realized that tearing down the existing wall, which was placed directly on the footers, would not alleviate the problem. What was needed were concrete blocks at the base of the wall. Consideration was given to building a new wall outside the existing one, but this would require new footers — which could not be accomplished in the time allotted here. The decision was made to remove the existing wall (all 30’ of it), build the concrete base on the existing footers, and then replace the wall, hopefully reusing the existing material. This created a small problem for this house. While only four people actually live in the house, it is a daily beehive of activity as just one of three neighboring houses connecting one large extended family. When it was decided that this was the proper solution, nobody made any move to halt the demolition — so down the wall came. Now the music favored by the teenage girls in the house could be heard more clearly outside — day and night — as the entire inside of their home is left exposed until the project is finished. This became another example of finding a solution once we knew all of the circumstances causing the problem.

The day ended with a visit to the center of the town where we are staying, San Ramon, a city much like Leon in Nicaragua. We enjoyed ice cream, some sweets and coffee, and a visit to their beautiful church. Our group did not arrive together, having come from our respective work sites, and there was a discrepancy about what time we would return to the mission house. The Bible study group had asked if we could leave 30 minutes prior to the planned time, feeling like that was more than enough time to see and do all that we wanted. The bus driver was more than happy to accommodate the change. Unfortunately, we hadn’t taken into account that the construction crews were still planning to leave at the originally scheduled time, a fact that was not relayed to the bus driver. So he arrived early to pick us up only to be informed of our situation, all of us agreeing that we had to wait until the later pick-up time. This turned out to be very fortuitous. When we arrived back at the bus with the remainder of the group,our bus driver was busy helping a young lady who was having car trouble. When asked if we would mind waiting ten more minutes so he could finish, we readily agreed. Clearly, the original time allotted was more than WE needed, but EXACTLY how much God intended.

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