Happy Independence Day! Today was another early wake up! 7 am seems to be getting earlier each morning. With sore muscles and tired faces, the team headed to breakfast. On today’s menu we had bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and French toast. After breakfast, we sang the National Anthem and took a picture with the American flag. Then we hopped on the jeepneys and started the 45-minute trek to Tarong Elementary School. The weather today was very sunny, and we felt the heat immediately. We had a long day ahead of us. Our end goal was to finish the stage before leaving this afternoon. On top of that, we had to level out the remaining rock pile and paint the exterior wall surrounding the school. Everyone took on their roles and worked hard as a team to get the job done. It was crazy to see how much strength everyone had even after the past two days of intense labor. From carrying buckets of rocks to shoveling cement, painting the walls, and picking up trash- we all worked relentlessly alongside each other until our work was finished. No matter how drained we feel each day, we can all find motivation in the encouraging words of one another. By lunchtime, we had completed every task thrown our way. The concrete stage was completed, the excess rocks and dirt had been spread out, and the exterior walls of the school had gone from a dull grey to bright blue and vibrant yellow. We were all so proud of ourselves and the team as a whole for pushing through the sweat and grimy dirt on our skin. For lunch, we had fried chicken and white rice with vegetables and bread. Following the refreshing meal, half the teams split up and went on home visits. After about a 5-minute jeepney ride, the teams arrived at their individual locations and greeted the families. They warmly welcomed us, and we were invited to ask any questions we had of the families living in these conditions: anything from what they eat for dinner to how happy they are with their lives. These home visits are eye-opening and heart-altering. After gaining a new perspective, the teams that had departed now returned to Tarong Elementary School and quickly tuned back in to help with any task at hand. The team made some finishing touches to our project and completed the concrete stage by marking our handprints and initials in the cement. This allowed us to appreciate all the hard work that we have put into this school and community in the past few days. Seeing all of our labor finally come together was so relieving and rewarding for the entire team. We prayed over the stage and for all the events that will take place on it for years to come. Next, we split into groups of two and went around to the classrooms at Tarong handing out Bibles to the students. We asked them their names and wrote it down for them and told them two things: Jesus loves them and we love them. Then, kids of all ages came running out of their classrooms with huge smiles and open arms ready to greet us. Even after an exhausting day of difficult work, we were still somehow able to give our full attention and energy to these kids. After exhausting ourselves once again playing with the kids, we changed clothes and loaded up in the jeepneys. We drove 15 minutes to downtown Bantayan and explored the city. The boys immediately took over the basketball court and began an intense game while others walked to the market to buy the infamous cocoa bread. At the same time, a large group went to see the Catholic church in downtown Bantayan. Built in 1580, this structure was covered in intricate paintings and small details. We took in the surroundings of the square and jumped back onto our jeepneys, immensely satisifed with all our eyes had seen tonight. Finally, we made it back to Anika resort and quickly showered to prepare for another eventful night. Dinner was served: American style! It was a blessing to see hamburgers and hotdogs on the menu for a change. We all ate very well and made our way to large group. We all sat down according to schedule and were pleasantly surprised by Chad telling us to get up and walk down to the beach. Here, we watched a colorful firework show to celebrate the Fourth of July at our temporary home. This display was beautiful, even though the other guests at Anika may have been #confused. Once we made it back into large group, we shared stories from our long, busy day and worshipped God for all He’s done and will continue to do. Then, we read last night’s blog and the comments attached to it. It is so comforting and encouraging to receive a comment from a family member or dear friend. After, we broke into small groups to end the night in laughter and companionship. As we all head to bed now, we cannot wait to wake up tomorrow morning and find out what the day holds for us. Tomorrow is Friday- our last day at Tarong Elementary School. Although it will be hard to leave the bonds we’ve created with these children behind, we know that the best is yet to come. Our trip is far from over! Thank you all for your support back home in America, we love and miss you all!
Much love, Aislin and Halle