Thursday, March 18, 2010

Medical Clinic Under the Treehouse

Today I returned to the Treehouse & again shed some tears as I approached and saw many people sitting in the shade of the treehouse waiting for our medical-dental clinic. The tree is called "fire tree" because of its red-orange blooms which are just beginning to show. I tried to capture their beauty in a picture but it does not really show their vibrant color.

The tables we used to cut the wood for the treehouse last week were used today for cleaning dental equipment.

Everyone who saw and climbed on the treehouse had nothing but praise for the a big thank you to all the hands that made this project a reality....especially to our architect and supervisor, Ben.

All day I sat in the shade of the palm trees (with a medical student & Becky Carlson who is a friend of Jon's from the age of 4 & is now a physician's assistant) so I could stay within sight of the tree house as we saw many patients from the nearby town of Santo Tomas. The kids, before and after being seen by the practitioners, climbed all over the treehouse and tire swing. Such an awesome experience to see their smiles and to hear their laughter.

I am scheduled to go back to La Finca one more time tomorrow before returning home. It will be so hard to say goodbye to the treehouse in Jon's memory.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A memorable week!

Well, I guess a post is better late than never. At least I hope so. I too would like to echo other sentiments in this blog and say that I truly appreciated and enjoyed working with these other men on the tree house. It was a memorable week. I won't forget it.
  • Jon . . . your life was remembered and honored many times during the week. May the children of La Casa de mi Padre continue to honor your life as they enjoy this tree house and climbing wall for many years to come.
  • Ed, you're a great dad and a great friend! Thanks for allowing me to be a part.
  • Ben, Arion, Matt M., Ken, Joe, Mike, Dan, Steve and Matt M. . . . I was so moved by how God knit us together as a team this past week. I enjoyed getting to know each of you (or know you better) and really enjoyed our sharing times in the mornings.
  • Gary, Sharon, Wilfredo, and Kurt . . . thanks for driving us around, feeding us, and generally supporting us in many ways. I look forward to seeing how God builds "the farm" in the years to come.
  • To the staff at La Casa . . . you are doing a great work in San Salvador. You don't get to come for a week and then leave. You are loving those children 24 hours a day, every day. May you be blessed for it. I know the kids are blessed for having you there to help them heal, and to learn to love God and love life.

Adios! Alabado sea Dios!

Sunday, March 14, 2010


After several unsuccessful attempts at posting some of my photos here on the blog, I've given in to my inner luddite and created a picasa page with all of them.

El Salvador Pics

I will never forget the experience of building this with you guys -- I think that even though we will have grief until we see Jon again, it was wonderful to transcend that as a group last week by collaborating all of the frustration into our creativity to bless the community down there.

Furthermore, it was such a blessing to get involved with MFHI. I don't know if the staff down there will see this blog (I hope so), but what a great encouragement they were simply by serving our group.

I arrived home to DC and felt very encouraged by it all, and humbled by how good we have it back home. I pray that those of us who are home now will continue to receive God's ministry from our time together, and Ed, for God's continued blessing on the clinics throughout this week.

Your friend,


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Taste of Heaven

Just said goodbye to the team as they all head to the airport and back to their homes. Words can not express how I feel and what these men have done for me as a grieving Dad. This week was a real taste of heaven for me, but in heaven Jon will be part of the "team"....praise be to God for His grand plan.

Panorama of the kids playing on and near the tree house

Panorama of the kids playing on and near the tree house.

Climbing the wall

This video is a young girl from the La Casa de Mi Padre Orphanage climbing up the wall.
Time to leave

Words can not express my feelings today as I think back of all that we have done together as a team. Getting to know Jon's friends has been a real blessing. These guys ROCK. The kids had a great time climbing the rock wall and swinging on the tire swing. God has truely blessed Matt and I on this trip. What Garry and his wife are doing down here in El Salavador is amazing, more than just an orphanage. They get into the DNA of the child's life and really make a difference one child at a time. Thanks Garry for all of the God stories.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Heading home

I head home tomorrow to Colorado. This has been an amazing week. It was a such a joy to see kids running around all over the treehouse today. I've gained a lot of respect for the men on this trip. Sharing in such a simple, purposeful week has been a real blessing. Such a fitting way to celebrate Jon. Thanks to all those folks who made this trip possible.

Ed I hope you have a great fruitful week conducting health clinics and continuing to serve at La Casa. Your courage, humility, and leadership is inspiring. Ben you're a good boss. I'd work for you. Matt, Joe, and Mike. Killer climbing wall. Those kids loved it. Dan, that's the best ladder I've ever seen built for a tree house out of uneeven 2x4s. Dean, you play an old guitar that never stays in tune and sounded like a pro. Steve, your push-ups are legit. Matt, super glad you came. Orion, the photos rock. Take care fellas...

Day 5: The Kids arrive!

Check out more of the day's photos here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ben's foot

In case any of you had read Ben's first blog entry ever, you might want to take a look at this visual to go along with his bug bite story. Also, take note of this amazing sock sunburn line.

Day 4: Construction completed!

Day 4's construction on the tree house saw its completion. We started off by shooting a rope over a high branch for the future tire swing. Steve was the the first to test the rope, and the whole tree house moved several feet - requiring us to make major repairs before continuing on (just kidding!) Once that hurdle was passed, we moved on to finishing the railings and installing the rock climbing wall. Each member of the team installed a climbing hold on the wall so we all had a part in it. Later in the day, part of the group splintered off to paint the outside of the chapel on the farm. You can check out all the photos from today here.

Tomorrow the children from the orphanage will come to play on the tree house for the first time. It will be a blessing to see how this project will honor Jon by providing so much joy and happiness for the children.
this is my first time blog ever, its very exciting. i counted 26 chigger bites on my right foot this evening, i havent used bug spray and they crawl in your shoe. many people are having a push up contest on the patio, we know how to have fun on mission trips. we ate poopoosas and tomales for dinner, great . tomorrow we get to see the kids at the tree house, i hope they dont get any big splinters while we're there.

Thursday - Treehouse Completed

Today we began with Arion sharing his journey over the past 8 months....again team members were brought to tears. Out to the worksite to complete the railing, build a gate for the top of the climbing wall that can be removed when kids are on the wall, ladder sanded, & hand holds mounted to the climbing wall with each member of the team attaching at least one of the holds in place.

Half the team painted the chapel (inside and out) and returned to help clean up the worksite in anticipation of the children coming tomorrow to play and enjoy. We also put up the rope which will have a tire attached tomorrow. Mounted the board onto the tree that will have the plaque.

A common feeling amongst the team was that we wished we weren't finished as we all have so much enjoyed the time working together, sharing together, telling Jon stories together and just plain having fun.

Tomorrow we will have time to go to the artisan's market, lunch at the black sand Pacific beach and then back to La Finca to play with the children. God has blessed this trip amazingly and we have felt all the prayers from home.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday began with Ben sharing his spiritual journey with honesty, candor and vulnerability rarely seen amongst men. Dean taught us a new song and we were off to Day 3 of construction. All the flooring was placed, the railing is 75% done, the ladder is complete & attached and the climbing wall has is boarded & holes drilled for hand holds.

This is such an awesome time of laughing, good natured teasing and hard work. Our "boss" (Ben) continues to amaze us all with his vision of the final product and he keeps us from losing too many drill parts and tools. We have learned to make due as the "Home Depot" is not just a few miles away...and does not have a supply of "everything".

This evening we had our meal "out" together at a local Italian restaurant. More than a few laughs as we tried to order from a totally Spanish language menu with a waiter who was not bilingual. Ben had a tough time trying to order his steak "well done" so the best we could do as a group effort was to ask for it "three quarters". Thankfully it was cooked to perfection.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we should complete the treehouse & hang the tire swing plus a small group of us will spruce up the chapel with a new coat of paint. Many times throughout the day I can sense Jon nearby smiling. Thanks for all the prayers for us.

Day 3's Construction

Check out all the progress we made on Day 3 of construction!

Link to the files online here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday: Day 2's Construction

Day 2 started off with some major work being done all morning. Everyone was working together like a well greased machine. The tree house was really shaping up as the joists were put into place, the rock climbing wall was set in motion, railings began to form on the sides, a portion of the floor boards are now in place, and the ladder was built and ready to allow people access to the top of the tree house.

You can check out more photos from Day 2's progress here.

Monday: Day 1's Construction

Monday morning marked the start on the tree house. Day 1's activities started off by looking over the detailed, well thought out plans the Ben created - followed by adapting the plans to the tree. We started by placing some lumber in the tree to get a visual idea of how the tree house way going to lay out. Before we knew it, we had our first beam in place and were setting the posts in place - which resembled raising the flag at Iwo Jima. As the day moved on, the shape of the deck began to take form and we soon had a visual of what was to come.

Check out all of the photos from Day 1's construction and progress here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

We had a great day building the tree house. 85 degrees with a very cool breeze blowing as you look out over the mountains. Lots of orange, mango, bananas and coconut trees. God is truly blessing Matthew and I with great fellowship with some great guys who really love god. On the liter side.I hid a great big plastic bug under Mikes pillow and we told him that the pet tarantula spider had escaped from the glass aquarium. I'm learning so much about Mike. I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.

Day 3 Monday

Today we began again with a time of sharing, prayer and song....and again I was brought to tears to hear Mike share his journey these past 8 months. Left promptly at 8am and arrived on site with all our tools. After arriving we stood in a circle and prayed for the project to bring honor to God, for safety and for his blessing. Then I read a card written by Debby to the team....not many dry eyes when I finished.

Ben adapted his design on the only someone of his amazing talent could....with great input from others on the team. Once the special stainless steel bracket was sunk into the the treetrunk, the initial crosspiece was mounted and it was on to the 16 foot posts. We were blessed by no surprise visits from OSHA, as there were a few interesting times of perching on ladders that were unlikely to have passed their regs. After holes dug, posts plumbed the second main crosspiece was placed and the initial "box" for the deck was completed. The view from this deck will be it is nearly 14 feet off the ground. The kind of height Jon would love for a treehouse. Matt McKinney got out the climbing holds...they are incredible....and he began in earnest the design of the climbing wall. He & Ben began discussing the eventual placing of the wall and how to best anchor it to the treehouse. Home around 6 pm tired, sunburnt, a little ant bit, very dusty but feeling such joy & peace.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A little pick-up game of basketball with the locals in the park near the Mission house. They challenged us, and we played hard, but we not victorious. There is still hope as we set a time for our next mach - Wednesday at 7pm. We feel confident that we'll be able to take them the second time around.

Steve ran into the median to grab some lava rock the volcano expelled in 1917.

How the locals drive around town. Looks like fun!

The boys chewed down on some sugar cane, and also used them as "stogies".

The guys climbing an amazing beautiful tree outside of the restaurant where we ate lunch.

The view from the top of the restaurant extends to the mountain range that separates El Salvador and Honduras.

Lunch was delicious and filling.

The view from our table was beautiful and set a humbling backdrop for our lunch.

All of us with the volcano El Boqueron - which means "wide mouth"

Overlooking the very steep sides of the volcano.
Church this morning in the courtyard. We shared our thoughts and personal challenges over the past 8 months as well as joining together in song.

Day 2 Sunday

Today we began with a circle of men sharing with unusual vulnerability their personal path of grieving during the past 8 months. Interspersed with the sharing were songs of praise, times of prayer and discussion of hope & faith. We learned that the Hebrew word for work is the same as the word for worship....insightful as our work on the treehouse is to worship Jesus Christ....who Jon loved. Matt recalled one of his favorites quotes from Jon...."I love Jesus but I hate all the bulls***"

Then we had the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of El Salvador as we traveled to the rim of a dormant (since 1917) volcano and a delicious meal at an overlook with a view all the way to Honduras. Next a stop at the local vege/fruit market and then POPS premium ice cream (not quite PSU Creamery but good). Back to the mission house where some on the team allowed some local teens to kick their butt in basketball at the park next door. Tomorrow the work (worship) to remember Jon begins in earnest.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Arriving at the Mission house we will be staying in for the duration of the trip. It is a beautiful little place that has an open air courtyard and plenty of room for everyone. We felt at home right away.
The guys walking down the hill from the tree house site.

View from the top of the site down towards the trail.

View from the top of the hill where the tree house will overlook the volcano crater which is now filled with water.

Ed, Ben, and Mike checking out the tree and talking over some ideas.