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In the US, when we think of pouring concrete, we get an image in our heads of a very large and interesting-looking truck, which pulls up to the site and puts out a super-long chute and this gooey stuff oozes down and then a couple of very messy (but probably very nice and maybe we sit behind them at church) guys named Mack or Joe or maybe Menno if you live in Grabill, but then you probably don’t sit behind him in church, but then maybe you do……but I digress… In your imagination, Mack and Joe skillfully wade through the goo in special boots that are meant to get dirty, and get all the bubbles out and carefully smooth the goo with more special tools, then they hose off and collect your check and you have a new driveway or sidewalk or house foundation or whatever.
Toto, we’re not in Indiana anymore. And Dulce Refugio is on a tight budget. So today is Concrete Day, and that means we make concrete from stones and sand and water and concrete mix. And haul it to where it needs to be in wheelbarrows. And haul it UP to where it needs to be in five gallon buckets.
Our youth were amazing! We had three girls shoveling rocks into buckets and throwing them into the mixer. Four more girls were shoveling sand into buckets and throwing those into the mixer. One girl hauled five gallon buckets of water and pitched it into the mixer. And two more hauled and split open 100-pound bags of cement mix and threw them into the mixer by halves.
Three guys made up the wheelbarrow gang, wheeling batches of wet concrete mix where two more were using that to fill more five-gallon buckets halfway up and then Brad hoisted them up a ladder to Jeremy (one of the construction leads here in Aguascalientes) who poured it into a form and reached for the next bucket. “One must experience it to truly appreciate it…” -Ken Batt
This continued for about 3.5 hours and we poured ceiling support beams for the boys’ dorm, the final hour punctuated with “We’re not stoppin’ ’til we’re done!”
Achy and tired, we all dragged to lunch, then the youth cleaned themselves up and ran a raucous VBS session with the kids, singing and telling stories. The top hit, though, was the hand-puppet fish that each kid made from a lunchbag and a rubberband. MacGyver meets Jesus, that fish! The kids loved them, and we watched one little boy take it back to his room and place it very carefully in his drawer like it was made of gold!
While all this was going on, the adult team continued to weld and paint and cut and build.
To gain some context and understand this area better, and to get some variety, we piled into the van after dinner for a quick trip to the center of town, where we took a three-hour walking tour of the city. Aguascalientes is a thriving city, with architecture dating back to the time of the Spaniards, murals depicting the war for Mexican Independence and the Mexican Civil War, Beautiful churches, and a downtown pedestrian mall area lined with shops and sidewalk cafes. We watched the start of a 14-kilometer bike tour through the city; reportedly, nearly 3,000 cyclists take part and it’s a regular occurrence!
While it was fantastic to see this side of Aguascalientes, it also highlighted the divide between the average residents of the city and the forgotten children in whom the founder and volunteers at Dulce Refugio are investing their lives. We’re halfway through our work, and we’re getting some amazing things accomplished, yet there remains so much work left to build out this campus and to maintain the buildings that are here…the need will continue for several years, and Pathway plans to be here and do our part to help meet it!
As we end this day of hard work, we are thankful for no serious injuries or illnesses, but we do have a lot of aches and pains and some over-do-it-itis, and the dry air and dust are crating sinus “challenges” for most of us. Pray for protection and healing for us!!