Mission trip offers eye opening experience
On Sept. 13, Kessy Hanson and her son Kingston flew out of the United States to London and eventually onto Sri Lanka, an island off the coast of India. The two took a roadtrip from the airport in Colombo to Jaffna where they would be working.
Having seen information from a friend regarding "The Dust Project," a missions organization that raises money for and builds homes for families in Sri Lanka, Hanson decided it would be the perfect time to help a family in need and show her son that life is very different outside of Wayne, America.
"The whole trip was two weeks after you added in flying and the couple of days we did the sightseeing," Hanson said. "The other group members arrived on Sept. 18 to start work on the house."
Aside from a run in with an aggressive monkey, sightseeing went well for them. Sigiri was conquered, and they both took an elephant ride among visiting temples and seeing the city for a couple days before they got down to business building a home.
A family of five was receiving a small home, with just two bedrooms, but it was a major upgrade compared to what they had which was a one room hut. The children had began staying at a nearby orphanage simply for their safety as poisonous snakes and scorpions are attracted to body heat and during the night kids sleeping on the ground made perfect sleeping conditions for said dangers.
The home Hanson worked on was the first home to have an indoor toilet, which was a great amenity for the family but it also meant significantly more work was needed to complete the home.
The group Hanson and her son worked with was largely made up of women, which came as a shock to some of the local workers.
"We were women in tanktops and hats working just as hard as they were," she said. "The workers would pull out their phones to record us."
She helped with the brick laying itself, stacking and cementing which isn't an easy task in the heat and humidity of the jungle.
Hanson said her son got stuck with some of the more unsavory jobs due to his size.
"There was a ledge at the orphanage that he got shoved up into because he was the only one that fit. It needed painted but there was no air movement and Sri Lanka is hot, but he was a trooper."
And he got to be a kid. Hanson sent him off to play with the local kids each afternoon when they were out of school, where he learned to play cricket with rocks and palm-leaf stem bats.
"He was one very white boy surrounded by kids much darker than him and it wasn't an issue. They were all just kids playing."
Over and over Hanson said they were reminded how good life is here.
"There were beggars and peddlers outside of our hotel. Armed guards were there to keep them back. People tried to sell things like rocks that were pretty or, like when we climbed Sigiri there were people there just trying to help me up the stairs for a few rupees."
Hanson said that was a huge part in why she chose to include her 11 year old son in the trip and it's what she tried to explain to her younger son Ryden.
"When we got back home we talked and I told him that I saw the starving kids and that's why I tell him to finish his food," Hanson said.
The progress on the house was the fastest any group had done so far, but it's not finished. Local workers will continue working and another group will come back when more money is raised to finish it.
To finish out their trip, Hanson and her son were invited to church on Sept. 24. During the service, she said they were asked to come forward to be prayed over.
One of the most moving moments of the entire trip happened in the minutes that ensued, where members of the congregation laid hands on the workers and prayed over them.
"They prayed for our hands and for our backs and then, mind you everyone is dirty, barefoot or in flip flops, everyone got down on their knees and laid hands on our dirty feet and prayed for our feet. And I just lost it."
She recalled the biblical story of Jesus washing his disciple's feet and how that resonated with what happened in the church service.
Goodbyes were difficult, Hanson said.
"The girls in the orphanage nearby never know when people are going to come. And when you leave, they get reserved and pull back. You can see it in their eyes."
And she will eventually be back to experience it all again, whether in a year or two or when her younger son is 11.
"He wanted to go so badly so we had to put a date on it. When he turns 11 like Kingston was for this, we are going back. I want to come back sooner but for sure when Rye is older."