|Methodist Church of Pijal|
When we arrived that Sunday afternoon, I expected to join a handful of workers building the new dining area for the children in this program. Instead, I was greeted by 10 women at the gate, who were in the process of cooking lunch. Then, as I entered the church property, I saw the 120 people working on laying the concrete roof!!
I could not believe my eyes, as I took in the sight of basically the entire community, young and old, working together shoveling rocks, mixing cement, wheeling it onto the roof, and pouring it into the holes. The team had quite an effective system going on, and there were so many people that at any given time, probably around 50 were resting. Quickly, we joined the work, though it was clear that there were plenty of workers already. I realized on that day that there is value in simply desiring to be with people, participating in the work, even when the extra hands are not necessarily needed. We were there to show our support of the project and community. The afternoon turned out to be quite fun, as I had the opportunity to chat with several women as we shoveled dirt and rocks together.
Later, I found out that this time of community effort, called a minga, is actually quite common in small farming towns in Ecuador. The idea is similar to that of a barn-raising, a normal practice in the 19th century. When someone needs a big project completed, all the neighbors pitch in. This not only makes the work easier and faster, but also gives people a chance to share stories and life. About once a month here in Ecuador, many towns have a minga, an event where all able-bodied persons in the community are expected to offer their hands to help with work of some type. It’s a great way to complete a huge job more efficiently. However, the community effort is more about spending time together than needing 120 people to complete the job.
Honestly I am very inspired by this community spirit. People realizing there is a need, and jumping to action. Many of the families in this community have kids that attend the after-school program, so it’s also a way for them to support this ministry. But what is really neat is that even those who did not have a connection with the church wanted to improve their community. Now, if only we could all come together like this as the body of Christ. If despite our differences of opinion, we could gather to discuss important issues and act against injustice in our neighborhoods. I think the church can learn a lot from the example of this community. Let’s work harder at sharing our resources and pushing for change where it needs to happen.