I was surprised to see that Uruguay looked much different than the other parts of South America I had been too. It greatly resembled the Midwestern United States. Cattle ranching is one of the major industries in Uruguay.
The First Baptist Church of Colonia had outgrown their existing Grass roofed church and was meeting in a tent outside. We stayed in the old church which was located directly next to where the new one was to be built.
Janelle, Julia and the other two ladies, Sharon and Elizabeth stayed in the small room located on the second floor. Frank and I along with JW Peavy slept downstairs and the other 12 stayed in another house down the street.
We arose early Monday morning to begin work on the new building. This crew was mostly block and brick masons, one carpenter and everyone else was there to do whatever was needed. By the time the ladies had breakfast ready, we already had most of the columns about half up.
Frank and I both enjoyed having our daughters along. They have both heard many stories of previous trips and now were able to be a part of it with their dads.
Throughout the day, the girls kept us refreshed with cool drinks. We also received deliveries of sand and brick. How do you like the brick truck. You don't see many like that in the US, do you?
It rained a bit that day, so we would line up under the grass roof of the old church to stay dry.
The next day we began laying brick between the columns. as the girls cleaned up after breakfast.
Bruce and Ted set the windows as the brick was going up.
Several of the Uruguayans began work on the back wall.
As I built the columns, Ted Jr. was my help. He was very good at balancing a block on his head. We all worked well as a team. the project was coming together well. I really enjoyed Uruguay and it's people. Everyone I met was loving, appreciative and a lot of fun to be around. One thing I noticed early in my visit was that almost everyone was carrying around what looked like a bowl of weeds with a metal straw in it. I asked what it was and was told it was a Mate. (ma-tay). Mate is the gourd that the cup is made of. It is filled with a tea from Brasil called Yerba. They pronounce it (sherba). The whole thing is called a Mate.
By Wednesday, the walls were going up fast. Teddy, Teddy Jr. Bruce and Paul began setting the beam that attaches the walls to the roof. They also built the first two trusses which needed to be lifted into place before bricking the gable ends. Wednesday night we all gathered for church. As we have done in the past, the CWE team planned to sing a special song. I had asked the Pastor at lunch to see if he could find someone to bring a guitar or two so we could play it that night. They found two, so Phillip and I played guitar as I led the group in singing a song. After the service there was a line of women coming by and kissing me on the cheek, my Uruguayan friend Alejandro told me that is was the custom for ladies to do that after you sing. I rather liked that tradition.
Hector, Alejandro, Kevin (me), Janelle, Gabriel
Frank and I had decided that we would like to try some mate, so after church we jumped on the bus and went to the nearest store and bought some mate and yerba. A missionary named Danny went with us to show us what we needed. Danny showed us how to prepare the mate, we stayed up late talking and drinking. The girls even decided to try some. All of us had the same first impression, it was awful.
Julia and Janelle
Frank, Danny, and me.
. Thursday morning I went out first thing in the morning to find Gabriel arriving with his mate in hand. I showed him mine and we shared. His tasted better than mine, I was later told that the reason mine was so bitter was that I hadn't cured my mate gourd. I was tasting the gourd, not the tea.
Since most of the block work was done and the real masons were working on what was left, I went to the back of the building to help the Uruguayans finish the back. I figured, where better to learn to lay brick than up high on the back of a building in South America 4500 miles from home.
We finished all the work we had planned just in time to shower up and prepare for dinner. Janelle and I posed for a picture in the new Church building.
This picture is of the three of us that brought our kids on the trip. Frank and Julia Doolin, Kevin and Janelle Kesler, and Teddy and Teddy Jr. Steger
Friday morning we ate breakfast early and then headed to the town of Colonia for a short tour of the very old historic town on the Rio De La Plata. (In English, "The Silver River") I rode to town in this little Fiat, with my feet on the floor, my knees were above the dashboard. When we made a turn to the left my door came open. I guess he has trouble keeping it closed
The town is very old and there are very many old cars still in use in the country. I had read that there were many old cars here but I thought they were just for show, I was wrong.
After the short tour, we rented some scooters with plans of following the pastor on a tour of the area. Janelle and I got separated from the rest and just did our own little tour.
We had to leave for the airport around 2:00 so we met back with the rest of the group and headed home. There we talked a while as we prepared to leave. This is always the saddest part of the trip for me. I meet new friends and form relationships with people I may never see again here on earth. Praise the Lord we have the assurance of eternal life in heaven and I know I'll see many of the people again
. As we pulled away in the bus they waved us goodbye (tchau) and bid us God's blessings.
I miss them already and look forward to someday maybe visiting Uruguay on a family vacation.
This is the completed building. The photo was sent to me by Gabriel, march 19, 2004