What a day and what a week. As we gathered for breakfast there was lots of excitement in the air. Everyone knew today was the day that the families would receive the keys to the new homes.
I rode with the truck that was gathering up the gift baskets for each of the 36 families. It is my first trip to El Salvador with the team, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The baskets were full of food and cleaning supplies like brooms and soap. As we drove on towards the church where the families would be, I couldn’t help thinking how much these homes impact these families and the communities. More than shelter and security, it means a place to call home. They have never had anything like this and never had anyone give them something so big. It’s like someone at home giving a house you (mortgage free) and then giving 35 of your neighbours a house as well.
We arrived at the church with much anticipation to give the families the keys to their new home and a Bible and the gift baskets. As we walked into the church with 36 families gathered, we could see the smiling faces of the proud new owners. The church wasn’t big enough to fit everyone so many people stood. I think the church had never seen so many attendees. We had split into team colours during construction and so we were going to keep it the same way for the ceremony. Team Red went first. They gathered on one side at the front of the church, as their 6 families gathered on the other side. With 3-6 people per family there was a lot of people at the front. Each team member had the privilege, of giving the families their key and a Bible. All the team members had also chosen a verse that was read aloud in Spanish, to go with the families and their new lives.
As the families continued to receive their homes they were so grateful. All of them would hug the team members and say Gracias, many, many times. They had a representative from each of the six families come up and say a few words. Many of them cried and said how life changing it was for them, their families and communities. One man talked about praying for 5 years for a home. Shelter Canada had been in the community 5 years ago and he had been praying since then, that they would return to build his family a house. They were so grateful. One gentleman, a wood worker went out of his way to build a giant key. He went on to explain that this is a key to our city and anytime you want to come you are welcome.
As they were taking their gift baskets, all I could see were the big smiles on their faces. They were so happy now to take these baskets to their new homes and start their new lives. These were much different faces I had seen earlier when I had interviewed a couple families. As they would tell some of their stories earlier, they would have a face of hopelessness. Now these faces were full of hope and love.
For many of the families God has entered their homes and entered their hearts to stay. There was one lady at the service who committed her life to Christ, but I know many hearts were stirred and God is working in them all. The love and gratitude that was shown by all the families can only come from God.
He is at work and we just pray the he continues to use us and the El Salvador teams as instruments of that love.
By Mark Laundry