Faith Comes from Hearing

I'm beat after spending all last week with 11 Oregonians that started their week off by keeping me up until 2:45 am ;) I still maintain that I have the best job in the world, though. Certain fellow missionaries may make the same claim, but they're wrong. I've never been a teacher, but maybe the thrill I get from opening others' eyes to the impact of what God is doing in this place and to my adopted culture is akin to watching the light bulb go off when something clicks for a student.  

But I digress. The best way to sum up all that was accomplished is Romans 10:17:

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

The team's "work project" was to assemble, decorate, and install acoustic panels in the a three-story facility that houses a school, church, and Mercy Center/seminary. Like most buildings, it's pure concrete and tile, and therefore echo-y -y -y -y. Adding some soft mass to the walls and ceilings is phase 1 of a multi-phase project to enhance the sound quality - and therefore the quality of the Lutheran education - throughout. It was not lost on anyone that while preschoolers on the first floor were learning their ABCs, young men two floors up were pondering the depths of theology. Fittingly, it happened to be National Lutheran Schools Week. 

I put "work project" in quotation marks since another, perhaps more important, aim of the group was to explore and experience the DRLM's mercy work, particularly among those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The verse above assures us that faith comes from hearing. Not outwardly demonstrating that what was heard was indeed understood. Not verbally regurgitating what was heard. Just hearing. In their interactions with the six kids at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Homes group home and the nearly 140 adults at the two institutions lumped into "Kilometer 28," I heard much of the word of Christ spoken. 

Here's a visual look at my exhilarating but exhausting last few days. 

We left the panel designs up to the group, who put hours and hours of forethought into crafting beautiful, meaningful patterns. Upon arrival, they needed to be enlarged and transferred to butcher paper. 

A unique feature of DR mission trips is the opportunity to dine in missionary host homes. Who am I to turn down an excuse to try a new recipe and spend extra time with the people who make getting out of bed worthwhile?

The group home kids love to be helpful, and the team members were nothing but patient and accommodating. 

Nita, who lives on a Christmas tree farm (!), was the lone female on the frame assembly crew. 

Each fabric scrap was painstakingly ironed by Char. 

Talk about beautiful, meaningful patterns! Each panel was essentially covered with a banner. Given the attention to detail that went into each one, we had to reevaluate the initial plan midway through the week, which included coming up with simple symbols that still conveyed a depth of meaning. 

Post-lunch group pic! The tías at the group home cooked lunch for us Monday through Wednesday.

Putting together a foam puzzle!

On Wednesday, our numbers grew by two! Johanna Heidorn shadowed the team & I to document "a day in the life" (and get in on some gluing action)...

...and missionary kid Abby Warren got her first taste of short-term missions

I encouraged the team members to write messages or Bible verses on the back of the finished panels, as I've often done on studs that would eventually be Sheetrock-ed over. 

Side project! A few of the ladies, and Abby, helped box books and move them out of the space that will soon become the seminary library. 

Carpenter Bobby (foreground) was instrumental in purchasing and preparing all of our materials and came to the rescue on installation day, too. 

The first panel to go up! 

Terry and her friend at Kilometer 28 on Thursday. Danelle led us in a reenactment of the Prodigal Son at the Happy Angels Home, and then we toured the Social-Psychiatric Rehabilitation Hospital. 

Friday beach day with the group home kids! Everyone left thankful for sun, sand, waves, and a scrumptious seaside lunch, but mostly for the blessing of being able to provide six of God's children with an experience they'd never get in a state-run institution. 

Please continue to keep the group in your prayers as they debrief from their experience and as many of them left battling colds. I've gone from a sore throat to a runny nose myself and should have taken a nap this afternoon, but instead I've been catching up and packing for Jamaica! Yep - I'm leaving for the airport at 6:45 tomorrow morning. Good thing I could care less about the Superbowl; I think there's a watch party going on in the office. More soon on trip #2 to the home of jerk and reggae.

Until next time, blessings!