18 days building a wall in a South America turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life! This blog post is my attempt to wrap my brain around why.
First the details.
Walls seem to be a necessity in Chile. Every property we saw had one. Early in June, 14 teens and 5 adults from the EBBC youth group traveled to Santiago Chile to help our missionary friend, Dan Vallette, build a wall on the front property line of Camp Pirque.
The wall was 23 sections of metal caging each about 10ft long 3ft wide and 5ft tall, The cages, made from scratch, used “coils” to fasten the edges and close the tops once filled with rocks. Several team members were tasked with cage building and coil making while others moved the camp’s endless supply of rocks all day every day.
My job was simple, I picked up rocks and put them back down, filling the bottom ½ of the cages with large (some very large) rocks then the top ½ with medium and small rocks all while making it look good without gaps, without bulging the cadge and all to the perfect height.
We named our rocks. . .
1. Face-Rocks everyone would see at front and back of the cadges.
2. Wedge Rocks or “wedgies” were used to prop up the face-rocks so that they laid flat against the cadges.
3. Grande Feos were “big ugly” rocks hid in the middle. No one will ever see them but they filled a ton of space and held the other rocks in place.
4. Toppers were large flat rocks that were used to “top off” the cage leaving a smooth flat service. A good Topper was worth its weight in gold.
5. Fillers were usually small rocks used to fill void between all other rocks.
6. Prayer Rocks are hidden inside the wall with verses and prayers written on them.
After 5 full days of work with 19+ people we were proud to finish 8 sections! We had explored uncharted territory, broke new ground and learned on the job. However, 16 sections were left undone but our time had run out.
What if we could come back? Crazy right? Philly to Santiago is an expensive trip, a long trip (15 hrs., overnight, one way) and would mean more time away from family and work. It could never happen…or could it?
The Lord made it possible for Tyler Rutherford and I to return to Chile and potentially finish the wall. This time we had 6 days and help from another group of teens and adults from High Point Baptist Chapel who had 3 work days planned. You might have already done the math.
If 5 work days + one work group = 8 sections (16 sections left) then 3 work days + one work group does not =16 sessions. The wall is not going to get done…or is it?
This second trip Tyler and I had one thing to do all day every day, build a wall. Sun up to sun down, that was our task. This time we knew what we were doing. The other parts of the project were ahead of the game (cage building, coiling, and rock moving) we just had to pick up as many rocks as we could and put them back down! We might not get the wall done but we were surely going to give it our best shot!
So why was this such an awesome experience?
1. Living to serve and not living to be served is truly living!
The Truth from from Mark 10:45 came to life.
“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The entire trip we lived not for our own comfort, wealth and well-being but to serve others. It doesn’t seem logical, but experiencing this exposed the truth that a life lived in service to others is the best life.
This was Christ’s life and his example to us.
BTW – you don’ t have to go to another country to serve others all day every day. Lets start in our own homes, communities and churches!
Make me a servant, humble and meek. Lord, let me lift up those who are week and may the prayer of my heart always be…make me a servant, make me a servant make me a servant today.
2. Hard work is good for the body and soul.
Sure manual labor makes for sore muscles, dirty clothes, and more than a fair share of cuts and bruises. But it also comes with a great night’s sleep, makes calorie counting unnecessary, gaurantees you get your work-out in for the day, and gives you plenty of time to think, pray, or just focus on the task at hand.
3. Team work really does make the dream work
What really made this special were the people who we got to work along side of. Here is the breakdown:
The Wife: Having your best friend and partner in life at your side is always special. It was a blessing to have her in Chile the first half of this trip. The second half of the trip was hard without her but there was peace in knowing that our kids were in the loving care of their mom!
The Co-Worker: Tyler Rutherford who staffed the first trip also traveled down for the second time to finish the wall. We all know about Tyler’s heart for God, positive spirit, strong work ethic and care for others. But the kid can also pound down a massive amount of food, including very large hotdogs. As a youth pastor my heart is filled with pride seeing this young man serve God. As a friend it was fun to work side by side all day every day.
The Missionaries: The man the worked harder than anyone else over these 18 days was Dan “the missionary man” Vallette. Moving rocks, building cadges, organizing the work groups and projects. He was our tour guide, camp director, banker, translator, host and more. I’m not sure when the man sleeps (or if he sleeps). It was an honor to work along side of a friend and mentor as well as with Becca and the kids! An added perk was being in the same city as my twin brother, Jared Park, who adjusted his busy schedule to help us most every day at the camp, the wall and picking up supplies.
The Team Leaders: Along with Jenny and Tyler the other team leaders were a huge blessing as they worked with us, feed us and kept our cloths clean. Ann and Cheryl have both traveled with us before and are amazing. It was an added blessing to connect with Pastor Luke and Ellen Hibshman. The HP youth group is blessed to have them as their leaders! Kirk and Lori Cowell fast became new friends! Kirk spent as much time as anyone out at the wall and helped make the time fly by with his bubbly personality and dashing good looks!
The Nationals: Seeing the body of Christ in action around the world is always a highlight of any mission trip. Ivan, Nikol, Jessica, Matias and Diego are some of those brothers and sisters in Chile who truly became family.
The Teens: This project would never have been finished without the hard work of about 30 teenagers. They were the muscle behind it all. These teens weren’t being paid or punished yet they worked hard, went the extra mile and had fun doing it. Work doesn’t have to be work!
I have to mention one teen by name. Burton Taylor did an outstanding job. Someone needs to give that kid a medal. He spent all of his spare out at the wall, working tirelessly completing high-caliber work. It was a huge encouragement and motivator when teens came out in their work clothes during free time, stop by with candy or drinks, came out to keep us company or send us special rocks to use in the wall (Brian Vallette).
Our last day was Sunday and we didn’t think the wall would get done. Tyler and I got up early and worked hard to finish. But when we stopped for church and did the math it didn’t look good. We only had a few hours until we had to leave and there was at least a half day worth of work left to do.
As soon as church was over we went strait back to the wall. Then came a moment I’ll never forget. It is one of those slow motion memories with its own music playing in my head. I looked up and saw 20+ adults and teens walking toward the wall all in work clothes with work gloves on. The High Point crew had caught “finish the wall fever”! Within 30 minuets the wall as done rocks, cages, coils --- everything!!!
4. Nothing beats getting the Job done
A feeling of accomplishment is extremely gratifying. I think that is why one of my favorite smells is fresh cut grass.
You feel this every time you finish the yard work, clean out the garage, turn in a paper or project, run a marathon, slap on a fresh coat of paint or crush a work out. 18 days, 4 all-nighters and countless rocks.
Nailed it! Thanks God!
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