“The breeze of divine grace is blowing upon us all. But one needs to set the sail to feel the breeze of grace”.
The ‘Beyond the Norm’ programme aims to give participants the opportunity to encounter South America within a supportive environment. It creates new experiences, new opportunities and new challenges. It provides the setting in which volunteers experience mission and cultural diversity first hand. Within unfamiliar surroundings participants wrestle with numerous issues and gain a better understanding of their own cultural norms.
We are all prisoners, consciously or unconsciously, of our own culture. Travelling 6,000 miles to South America is never the most significant part of the journey. SAMS hopes and prays that every participant is challenged and from past experience we envisage that volunteer’s worldviews will be impacted. Our worldviews are shaped by numerous influences. These include a combination of factors such as the culture of which we are a part, our education, parenting, family, life experiences, and friendships. On arriving in South America a person’s ways of deciding, thinking and communicating will differ from that of the local people. Having limited knowledge of the language and being in a country for a short period of time doesn’t stop a person experiencing ‘a clash of worlds,’ when patterns of behaviour, social structures and cultural expressions differ. The fusion of experiences creates a unique opportunity to see and hear things differently as the baggage of western consumerism is lifted for a short period of time.
Before the Annaghmore team travelled to South America I was quietly confident as I knew the skill base was extremely high. I wasn’t disappointed as the 12 lads definitely produced the goods on the two building sites and their work rate was exceptional. But projects are much more than laying blocks and sometimes on teams people can miss out on the relational side. Thankfully the Annaghmore team embraced the relational side of the project just as much as they grasped the practical side. It was an encouragement and privilege to share with them as they interacted with the local people. They worked in challenging situations, ate there fair share of dry bread, stood under numerous showers that didn’t work, kipped in some suspect beds, and never once did they complain.
The team worked within different building methods and even though they had more skill that many of the people they worked with from the host country, they never pointed the finger and told local people how to do things, they showed respect to the community and valued everyone who worked alongside them.
I probably don’t need to tell you that the lads didn’t let me down when it came to eating everything that was placed in front of them! I could say so much, but maybe the local pastor in the church summed up the imprint the team made as he shared with me that for generations the story of the Annaghmore team would be passed on as one of the best gifts that God had given them.
This team was worth its weight in gold and every team member was authentic in all they did, and excellent ambassadors for their local parish and community.