As I started hacking the grass with my machete, I wondered if this would really have an impact. In the US, community projects often have little effect. Here, however, so few people devote themselves in love to their communities that I knew someone would take notice. We kept working alongside the fantastic youth leaders who had accompanied us in simple faith in the Nehemiah Center’s expertise. Some painted the playground equipment, others picked up trash, and still others joined me with their own machetes. As my arm grew tired and my hands blistered, it was tempting just to go buy a $100 push mower and mow the whole thing in a few hours. Yet I knew that that was a short term gain, long term loss. Community projects have to be done with local resources or both the community and the leaders will assume it was “gringo” horsepower that really made the project work and it will never be repeated.
Sweat poured down my face as a local, homeless, 20yr old showed me over and over again how to swing the machete. Turns out he’s lived on the streets for quite a while now. He told some of the leaders how he “had once hoped to be a leader like them” but circumstances and bad choices led him astray. As the day grew long, people began to take notice. Dozens of people came to watch, work, cut grass, bring ice for drinks, and talk to the leaders to find out why anyone would want to beautify a children’s playground at their own expense. Were we paid by the government? No. Paid by the gringos? No. Paid at all? No. Then why spend your strength and money for anyone besides your own family and friends? Because God loves those who do not call Him Father, and those who do not call Him friend.
After two days of work, the park looked considerably better. Yet one could not help but feel that the real work was not visible, but hidden. The hearts of neighbors surprised with joy. The local “druggies” and “borrachos” puzzled. The children, jubilant. The local church leaders, astonished and gladdened by the effect of their own labor. God glorified in all.
See pictures below for the work on the playground.
These leaders really are amazing. Some of them have a passion not only for reaching the youth on the streets, but for reclaiming the arts for the Kingdom of God. See the video below for a five minute description of their academy of the arts.
See also a video on my facebook wall of their dance team (I was unable to post it here due to ownership issues).
See pictures below for some of their paintings:
[Pictures in order are: Slide Before, Slide After, Seesaw Before, Seesaw After w/kids playing, Kids help with painting, Kids help with machete, Scott’s machete instructor, Scott with machete, Youth leaders help 1 & 2 & 3, Local streetfolk, Day 1 group, Day 2 group, “Peace in the Midst of the Storm” by Roberto, Ana Carolina with painting, Ana Carolina with “The Lion and the Lamb”, Landscape Painting, Horse Painting, Sunset Painting]