On our fifth week of outreach we got to build houses for five different families. The families we were building for were part of a people group called the Ngäbe (pronounced no-bay). There were 5 groups working on the houses, as well as a group that worked in a clinic, and another group that went door to door giving out Ngäbe Bibles. We had four days to build the houses, but our lead builder was used to building houses in two days, so we got our house done first.
When we got to the build site, there was already a new poured concrete slab: 20 by 16 feet. We began right away by building the wall frames. When all four walls were up, we painted around 20 4×8 Flat boards. We put all the flat boards on the walls and then painted the outside of the house. While we were doing that, other people were working on the roof.
My parents were the “electricians” of the group. The new house had only four lightbulbs: a bulb in each of the three rooms, and a porch light. There were also four wall outlets in the house. The house had two small bedrooms, and a larger room with a table and chairs. There was no porch, no running water, and no bathrooms inside. There was a bunk bed in the larger room because the bedroom was too small for two bunk beds. Even though the house was the size of most people’s outdoor shed, the family was so thankful to be getting a house that would keep out rain, dust, and disease.
On the last day, we had a ceremony where we handed the keys of the new house to the family. Since our team is a “music and missions team,” we did some worship. Then, we stood in a circle and passed the keys around the circle. When you had the keys, it was your turn to say something to bless or encourage the family. Finally, the moment came when we handed the father of the family the keys to his brand new home! Then, the family went inside by themselves and shut the door. We gave them some time to go through the house as a family. After a few minutes,we knocked on the door, and they welcomed us into their new home as the first guests. We went into the house, read a few verses, and prayed a blessing over the family. The Ngäbe Indians are very shy, and don’t show much emotions, but they were smiling from ear to ear, and hugged us tightly when we said goodbye.
Even now, I think about the family we built a house for. Their lives are so different now. They have a house with glass/screened windows that keep out bugs; they sweep their concrete floor, and have safe electricity. Four work days for us became a lifetime change for a Ngäbe family. And I think that’s pretty awesome!