Many of you were gracious enough to donate to my fund to travel to Puerto Rico as a leader with the Glenkirk Church youth group. All together there were 39 of us, and we met another two churches there to serve with. In total, we were around 100 strong including the onsite staff - coordinators, translators, cooks, etc.
We stayed in a church building which was basically a big auditorium. The auditorium was split into sections using steel cables and curtains so the boys and girls sections could be separated. All the girls shared just two indoor bathrooms, while the guys used 5 porta-potties outside. The shower was a shed-like building with stalls made out of tarps. We typically took one shower a day at designated times. Believe it or not, the tropical island of Puerto Rico is also experiencing a drought right now. The weather stayed in the 90's almost all day with humidity to match. At some point you can't tell if you're sweating anymore. The best part is no one cared what they smelled like or how gross they looked. We were all just excited to be there. Also, this is worth noting, the food was great. We had the most caring and passionate folks in the kitchen preparing 3 meals a day for us while we worked. They were always smiling, they were always happy, and they were always willing to serve.
The trip was built as a servant leadership experience. That basically meant that we didn't just get told what to do - we were in charge of what we did. That said, our church was split into two groups. The first group went off site from where we were staying and did all kinds of manual labor at an elderly village. The village essentially exists because the younger generations leave Puerto Rico for the states, in most cases for jobs and money, and the older generations are left behind. This groups job was to beautify the area where those elderly were staying. There was plenty that went on there, but I was in the other half of the group, the half that put on the "English Camp", aka, vacation Bible school (VBS).
As leaders, we were assigned areas before hand. I was given music which was terrifying. We weren't taking any instruments with, and we had to come up with songs that children with potentially no english skills would enjoy "singing" and participating in. Short story, the student leaders owned it. Throughout the week we walked, played basketball (this is the #1 sport for kids in PR), ran, kicked soccer balls, played volleyball, read the Bible, made crafts, memorized Bible verses, taught scripture, swung on tire swings, ate, laughed, screamed, slid on water slides, got bitten by fire ants, sprained ankles, got sick, got better, and really just had a good time with the kids that came. We even had one of the local students who was doing some translation for us become a Christian this week.
One of the other things I appreciated about this trip was that the folks in charge over there really wanted us to get a feel for the island, to make sure what we saw and knew of Puerto Rico wasn't just based on the church grounds where we slept, ate, and ran VBS. Each day, after our work had been completed, they had something special planned for us. We visited two different beaches, one being pretty famous in Puerto Rico - Crashboat. It's what you're thinking, crystal clear blue/turquoise water, tropical fish, palm trees, and an old cement/iron pier that you can walk out on a do flips off of into the Caribbean Sea.
Probably one of the most amazing things I've seen happened on one of the nights. We went to a bioluminescent bay. I think I got that right. There's a scientific explanation, but essentially we jumped into a pitch black ocean at 11pm, and each time we stirred the water (splashed, moved, etc.), it made the water glow in the dark. It was amazing, and also funny to think that God made this a thing for us to enjoy. I also saw the largest radio telescope in the world, the one where Golden Eye was filmed. It's ok to be really excited with me about that.
There's a whole lot I can write about this trip, but I don't know if you have that much time to read. PLEASE leave any comments or questions you have at the end of this post. I'd be happy answer any of those nagging questions you might have. Again, thanks for all your support.