The first time I traveled outside the United States was in 1996.
A friend had just launched a new organization dedicated to working in impoverished communities in Central America. A group of 11 of us traveled to San Simon, El Salvador where we worked on the construction of a chicken coop that would provide both food and income for the community. Now, almost 20 years later I am getting ready to help lead another trip. This time to several small communities in Nicaragua. The number of people going has grown from 11 to 65. And, instead of just our congregation we now go with a neighboring Jewish congregation. And instead of working on a chicken coop, we will build homes for six families. For all of these families it will be the first time they have a home with a floor and with a roof that does not leak.
This past week, as a part of a meeting to get ready for our trip, I was asked to speak for a moment about why we do it. Why, as Christian and Jews, do we think it is important to do it. While I have thought about this and spoken about this many times, this past week I felt tongue tied. Maybe that is a good thing in that I don’t just take what we do for granted, but I spent the rest of this week thinking about the question I was supposed to speak about days ago.
So, why do I do it?
Why do we do it?
Here are some thoughts…
- It feels good to work hard.
- It feels good to help.
- I get to practice my Spanish and to learn a little bit more.
- I learn something about gratitude.
- I learn much about the world in which I live.
- I enjoy watching high school students grow up before my eyes.
- I enjoy watching adults grow up before my eyes.
- I love watching Nicaraguan children coloring and laughing and walking hand in hand with their new friends.
- I love watching Carlos dance as he stands on the scaffolding laying block for the home we are building.
- I love getting up early and having a cup of coffee as I watch the community wake up and get ready for the day.
And, somewhere in the midst of all that is God.
A God which is more about the relationships than any specific creed or doctrine.
A God who is more about partnership and gratitude and kindness than a specific name or style of worship.
So, one more time, I will go and work hard and get tired and eat rice and beans and sleep in a hammock and come close to that which I know and name as God.