We just finished a great work crew. We had nine people come down to work on a water installation at our camp. There were eight from the Forest Dale Church in Cincinnati and one from the Palmyra Church of Fredericktown. They arrived in late August and stayed through the first full week of September. I picked them up the same day that Sasha, our summer intern left the country. I took them to a hotel for the first night so they could get a good night’s rest and recover some from their trip. The next morning, which was Sunday, we headed immediately down over the Andes Mountains to Villavicencio. At the request of the Colombians, we did not attend a church service the first Sunday but had our own out at the camp. The reason was the Colombians wanted to error on the side of caution and not let too many people know they were here too early in the trip.
Then on Monday we went out to buy our food and begin planning for the work ahead of us. It was a relaxing day and a time to get a feel for the city of Villavicencio and the surrounding area. Tuesday the maestro, or Colombian builder arrived to lay out the plans and order the materials. He laid out the foundations and our crew began to dig and get ready to pour the footers. The next day materials arrived and we began to cut rebar and pour concrete. By evening we had the footers in. The next day we poured the floater beam and set the first eighteen foot tall rebar columns in place. The day after that we poured the first nine feet of the supporting columns. Our first week had been filled with hard work and significant progress.
On Saturday we took a trip out into the countryside and visited the villages of Puerto Lopez and Cabuyaro. We are starting a new church in Puerto Lopez and we visited some of the new Christians there and checked out the home where the church meets. From there we stopped at an obelisk that marks the geographical center of Colombia. The Colombians jokingly refer to it as the “belly button” of the country. We headed on down the road and left the pavement behind. We had to cross the Meta River on a barge-like ferry. On the other side we drove over rough roads and on into Cabuyaro. There we met the local preacher and had fresh river catfish for lunch. We took a walking tour of the sleepy little village and stopped by the church building. We left town in the late afternoon, not wanting to spend the night there or be out on the open roads after dark. We arrived back at the camp as nighttime fell.
On Sunday we headed to the church in Villavicencio, where the group sang and where Jay Russell, the preacher of the Forest Dale church delivered the message, which was translated by Cris Fuller a team member who is fluent in Spanish. It was a great time of sharing and everyone really enjoyed it. In the afternoon we visited the local zoo and saw many of the animals that are common to this region. In the evening we went back for the second service of the day and the after that headed back out to the camp.
Monday was another day and we helped form up the slab of the first level of the water tower and get the rebar set in place. On Tuesday we poured that slap and the beam around the edges. Then on Wednesday, we poured the columns the rest of the way up to the eighteen foot level. Each day was filled with hard work and all of the team members and many Colombian Christians buckled down so we could get the maximum amount done. On Thursday we set the tank in place and began to get the plumbing done to get it installed. Friday was a day to work on the tank and get the water system set up. We could not get it running for some reason we could not understand. On Friday, Jon Underwood woke up with a swollen hand; apparently an allergic reaction to a spider bite. We took him into the hospital as the rest of us worked.
Saturday we finally got the water system to work by moving it up to the first level. Jon was improving and we began working to get him out of the hospital as Sunday it would have been impossible and we needed to travel back up to Bogota. He arrived back at the camp in the late afternoon, much improved but with significant swelling in the hand. Sunday we caught our bus back up to Bogota and then took a tour of the Gold Museum and made a trip up to Monserrate, a mountaintop church overlooking the entire city. We returned to the apartment by about seven and had a bite to eat and then had our final worship service together.
On Monday morning we headed for the airport and the hectic chaos of getting checked in and through security. I said my goodbyes and headed back to the apartment. They had an uneventful flight back up to the States to end a great work crew. The Colombians had really enjoyed having them and are now busy raising the water tower the final six feet and pouring the final slab for the gravity feed. It had been a great trip and it engendered a real feeling of brotherhood and love. It was a great work crew and our only regret is that many more of you were not able to come along and experience the excitement that is the Lord’s work here in Colombia.