In early April, a strong earthquake hit coastal Ecuador. You no doubt saw the total destruction in metropolitan areas on television. My missionary friend lives on the coast of Ecuador, so I contacted her to see if and how she was affected. At that time, she thought her house had escaped damage but was very concerned about fishing villages which had lost many homes.
She told of a pastor friend who was starting a factory to pre-fabricate split bamboo homes for those who had lost theirs. Factory? Why couldn’t a couple of teens plug in to help construct those homes? This would be a mission to remember.
So in mid-July I left for Ecuador with two 17-year-olds. They would work in the factory on the weekend we were there because that’s when we could get a translator for them.
We had gone with the expectation of helping to assemble walls, floors and roofs for parts of new homes. But, factory? There was none! There were only construction sites. The work to be done was digging! Now, these teens are not allergic to work, and are totally willing to do more than is expected of them.
However, they did not have adequate gloves and their hands are not calloused. After a couple of hours, I returned from the walking tour the ladies of the village had given me and found my teens still digging, but they were beet red and had sore, blistered hands.
I stopped them mid-shovel and told them to get into the shade, rest and drink water. Not only were their hands blistered, and now the blisters were open, but they were not accustomed to the heat and humidity of the coastal climate. This was dangerous!
We were given lunch during which we experienced a 3.5 earthquake. By then it was “the heat of the day” and they couldn’t work until later in the afternoon. We were taken to another village to view some of these houses in various stages of construction. One was mostly complete, and was being lived in already.
Various things entered into the decision, but our translator suggested that we return to our home away from home with my missionary friend. We prayed and considered what we really should do as contrasted with the reality of very painful hands and the effects of the climate.
We ultimately decided to leave. We were very disappointed! But at least the kids did all they could do in their efforts to help people.
So often, I have heard this young man express his desire to “help people.” Whenever I ask his interest in a career, he comes back to that same thought: “I don’t really know. I just want to help people.” Though it fell short of his expectations through no fault of his own, this was yet another experience in helping people that is so meaningful to him.
Friends, we have some great teens among us. I spent the greater part of 12 days with these kids and came home with deep admiration for them. By helping such youth, we can fit into the “helping people” mold, too. We adults must nurture these young people. We will turn over our churches and our country to them before we know it, and we want them to continue helping people when they are the adult generation in our country.
Helen Guilford is a longtime columnist for the Expositor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org