This morning we Returned to Gregoria's house for our last time this trip. Pastor Diego, Brother Tomas, along with Cruz and his son Jose returned with us to bless the house. We were greeted at curb side by a small army of children to help us carry the staples and home wears to Gregoria's house 200 yds in from the street.
As we brought each item into the corn stalk gated court yard Gregoria's eyes got wide with excitement. Pastor Diego spoke to the family (Gregoria, Vilma, Claudia, Esteban) for a few minutes and then asked for comments from the team. I wanted it to be clear that our team was just a representative of a church family that felt blessed and wanted to bless others. The gifts they were receiving are not from us. They are from God. He only asked us to be obedient and bring them to them. Jason added with a comment about hearing part of her testimony and how it was powerful and filled with hope and courage.
Gregoria is a single mother of 3 children now. 4 years ago she and her children were abandon by an alcoholic, abusive husband/father. They were left to the wild and the generosity of strangers. She opened up to us and described how for 3 yrs she and the children lived among rocks and slept in the coffee fields, subject to the weather and the men that worked the fields. Occasionally someone would let them stay in their house or sleep on the ground within their fence, but she would start to feel their welcome being worn out and they would reluctantly head back into the coffee fields. It was not until Pastor Diego and the church found her that she started to feel hope. The elders help her get a loan to buy a small piece of property. She and the children slept on the dirt and worked on their looms that they borrowed from the church ladies to pay off their loan. They could not afford to, nor did they really know how to build a shelter from the elements. Gregoria came to Pastor Diego and Brother Tomas and begged for help with a shelter. It was the rainy season. The Elders of the church worked together and built them a corn stalk house of which you can see in the picture of the site. She was not expecting the surprise she got when we arrived to build her a house made of brick and mortar.
At that time Gregoria surprised us. Vilma and Gregoria had been working hard on their looms all week. What we did not know was that the scarves that they were working so hard on were for us. She explained that she could never repay us for what we have done for her and her children. I think we as a group collectively at once told her that she already had through the smiles, laughter, and yes tears, we as a team of believers experienced while working on her house. She then walked among us and placed over our heads onto our necks a scarf they had made. It felt like we were receiving metals of love from her for the hard work we had done. I don't think I have ever received a more touching gift from someone I barely knew. Collectively none of us wanted to leave, but it was time. We hugged our goodbyes and posed for picture then reluctantly headed down the trail looking back over our shoulder to catch one last glance of her house before we went around a corner and it was gone.
The day continued with visits to families of past builds. It felt like home walking the trails of this village. Around every corner there was a familiar face. Diego's daughter's (Vilma and Claudia) followed us from their house. We were then joined by Marta (Pedro's daughter) and then Ernesto and more and more. I was able to finish each leg of our walk through the village with big hugs from families and children that I have grown to know and love over the past years of working in this village.
We finished our day with a good meal and tons of laughter followed by short periods of silence as we remembered the day and then felt the sorrowful pain of the coming departure from this community.