One of our projects in Thailand was to build a wall that would demarcate the new dorms for local students. Promise Lutheran Church in Chiang Mai is working with local people to accommodate students who cannot afford housing.The Christians in Chiang Mai have a vision for housing low-income students and allowing them to attend school, even when financial hurdles are crippling. To that end, the ATW II team was able to donate enough resources to start this project, and we were also able to participate in the building of the first wall.
As we were the first foreign team to visit this site, we experienced the fact that 37 volunteers are not always the most efficient means for accomplishing a building project.
However, the local church leaders and students were so thankful for our time that we were spending with them.
They considered our friendship a blessing, and the work that we accomplished alongside each other was a symbol of this new relationship. As we left that place for the second and final time, we thought about our time with people and how it is often more important than any wall we can build.
Our time in Vietnam included working with the local commune leaders on a drainage system near the local health clinic. In the village of Phu Tho, the local government leaders were very welcoming and excited for us to work alongside them for this project. Students mixed cement and placed it where the trench was being built. Other students dumped dirt into the stagnant water, slowly soaking the water up and eliminating the mosquito-filled pond.
ATW II trench digging
At first, our project seemed mundane, even self-defeating. What happens when the drainage trench clogs? Why are we moving this dirt by hand when a tractor could accomplish the task in five minutes? We began to see, however, that our service project had less to do with the project and more to do with the people. We were able to work alongside them and to show them that we cared about them. We were able to tell them about ourselves and why we had come thousands of miles to mix cement with them. It was an amazing time to realize that we have not come to accomplish projects, but to love the people that we meet.