Nestled at the base of a picturesque mountainside stands what remains of war torn barracks for the fortunate people in our mission area, while others lived in tag along trailers only large enough for a bed and chair.
The imagery which connected the streetscapes of a pristine city to the area of our mission was a rapid descent into hardship and devastation.
Dumpsters lined the walkways with elders picking through the garbage for items they can sell to only a devastated society. What remained was dumped on the sidewalks to allow goats, stray dogs and cats to feed. Life here is harsh.
When we arrived, we were greeted by children—young children— unsupervised and neglected. Their only education is to learn from one another how to survive and navigate the streets. It was difficult to dismiss the notion that they were responsible for bringing home whatever they could glean from the outside.
Our work began with the installation of AstroTurf for a soccer field and to prepare for the installation of 32 solar light poles. We excavated, by hand, 32 3’ X 3’ holes with a terrain from mountainous rocky soil to asphalt pavement. Our tools were a pick, shovel and pry bar. We hand mixed concrete for these holes and assembled the poles on site. The poles were carried on shoulders to each location, manually erected and set. The work was intensive and every day I would swear that time would just stop.
Each day I asked myself what difference would this make? There is no culture here, nor a sense of community. But each day we returned to fulfill our mission.
A few hours before sunset on the third day, we completed the soccer field, installed the last of the poles and landscaped the area outside the field. By now the children were out of sorts, wired with energy and wanted to play on the soccer field. Some parents also became excited and helped with the cleanup of the areas in front of their homes after we were finished backfilling the holes.
We rested for a short time and waited for the sun to set. More and more, parents and children began to congregate near the entrance of the field. A select group of children appeared wearing brand new soccer uniforms chanting loudly, excited to play on the field when the lights went on. For the first time, I knew I was witnessing this community come together, in celebration and in pride.
What difference did we make? We left behind a culture—our culture—a sense of community and pride.
We are Generation V!
John & Lella Pyonteck