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Utuado, Puerto Rico, Weekly Report, June 9-15, 2018

June 28, 2018

There were seven volunteers with us in Utuado, P.R. this week from all different areas of the U.S. The group make-up was a husband and wife, four individual men, and a young woman who just recently graduated from Eastern Mennonite University (EMU).     

There is a local school that is no longer in use that MDS has been using to house our volunteers.  This setting is not ideal as it is not really set up for living quarters and the bathroom facilities are being used by the electric and road crews that have been working in the area.  Elizabeth Soto wanted us to look for a local home that MDS could rent so that the volunteers could have living quarters that were a little more private and accommodating.  In talking with Elizabeth, Pastor Debora, and her husband, Don Rafael, we decided that instead of paying rent and utilities on a rental house it would be better to invest the money in building two rooms adjoining the church for volunteer living quarters.  Once MDS is no longer housing volunteers in Utuado these rooms will become Sunday school rooms and guest quarters for the church.  The rooms were always in the long-term building plan, but we just decided to bump them ahead in the priority level so as to use them immediately for volunteers.

Sam Rhodes was part of the engineering team that designed the church, and he was here with us this week. He was able to contribute to details regarding the structural design and building plans for the rooms. The work group started on Monday morning by cleaning out the area and digging new footings for the concrete slab floor.  We continued working throughout the week getting the floor done, walls framed and sided, and a few rafters in place.

We also worked some with Rafael on his house and were able to finish forming and pouring five of his support columns.     

It was fun working on the room additions and since they are wood framed it was a process that felt very familiar and comfortable to me as a builder.  It was also a project that showed pretty quick progress and the volunteer group was able to see a big accomplishment by the end of the week. 

Next week we have five volunteers coming. Four of these volunteers are from our home church in Paoli, Indiana. It will be nice to see some familiar faces again.  This week’s work plan is to put the roof on the room additions, hang doors and windows, paint, and work on the block on adjoining church wall.

One quote that I heard this week that stuck with me was from Justine.  Justine is a young woman who just recently graduated from EMU.  She was a great help around the jobsite and was always willing to do what was asked of her.  She seemed familiar with jobsite procedures and after asking her about this she told me that her dad worked in construction and she often helped him.  One day when we were working, one of the guys who had been laying block held out his trowel and asked if anyone else wanted to try.  Justine quickly said that she would and took the trowel. Jason had just learned himself but told her he would give her his 10 minute tutorial and then she could start and see how it went.  She listened attentively and after he was done she jumped up on the scaffolding and began to prepare a mortar bed and lifted a heavy 8 inch concrete block up into place on the wall.  She was not fast or overly experienced but it was obvious that it also wasn’t her first time doing this. Jason called her out on this and she casually replied, “You didn’t ask me if I had ever done it before.”  Jason laughed and asked her why she let him give his 10 minuet tutorial if she already knew how to lay block.  Justine replied, “When someone is telling me something I listen; you never know what new things you’ll learn by listening to other people’s experiences.”

She said this nonchalantly and kept right on working but it struck me as being a very profound statement.  It is easy to get stuck in our arrogance/pride or just in rushing to get things done that we don’t take the time to really listen to what those around us have to say. If it’s something new they’re telling us we’ll often listen, but if it’s something we feel that we already know, we’re too often quick to cut them off and say, “Yeah, I know how to do this.” I was inspired by Justine’s example and I will try to be more sincere in my listening and in gleaning gems of knowledge that are ever present in experiences of those with whom we interact.