BAXTER - When Brian Lemieux wakes up in the morning, he picks one of his finest suits and ties out of the closet in his Brainerd home and gets ready for the day. Lemieux then drives across town to his Thrivent Financial office in Baxter.
That's been Lemieux's workday routine for years - except for nine days in November, when Lemieux packed his suits away and packed T-shirts and jeans to help build a community in El Salvador.
It was Lemieux's first mission trip to El Salvador - and it won't be his last.
Several mission trips from around the country are being planned to build a community in El Salvador that is all part of a plan between Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Habitat for Humanity International. Thrivent Financial committed up to $1.3 million to Habitat for Humanity El Salvador to build as many as 75 homes in Santa Ana, El Salvador, over the next 18 months.
Brian Lemieux (right), a financial consultant with Thrivent Financial in Baxter, worked on cutting a tree during a November mission trip to El Salvador.
Thrivent Financial - an international faith-based fraternal benefit society and not-for-profit member organization - committed $125 million to Habitat in a program called Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity and the El Salvador community is one of several projects planned.
Lemieux was the only Brainerd area Thrivent representative who went to El Salvador, with 34 other Thrivent representatives from across the country. The representatives - three from Minnesota - were selected, and they volunteered to help create a holistic neighborhood that will provide El Salvador families with access to land, a house, basic services and social infrastructure such as green areas, a community center and a day care center.
"This trip was unique in that we got to work side-by-side with the people in El Salvador," Lemieux said. "We learned how their workers work and how they communicate; they were of Mayan and Spanish decent.
"They take a lot of breaks to celebrate that is different from our culture. It's like a party. They have a band come to play and they cook for us. Everybody dances and celebrates life. Then they go back to work."
Brian Lemieux, a financial consultant with Thrivent Financial in Baxter, fixed a chain saw during a November mission trip to El Salvador.
Lemieux, who has a building background, said that during his nine-day trip, his group assisted in clearing the jungle-like brush to make room for the first five to six homes. Lemieux said labor was intensive and the Salvadorans cleared brush with machetes. He said the Americans were able to purchase a chain saw to cut the massive trees. Lemieux said the group also started the foundation for the community center.
"The Salvadorans work much harder than we do," Lemieux said. "There was this 13-year-old girl who was running circles around us.
"The people there were really inspiring. For people who have so little, they are so happy and you could really feel the love they had for each other."
Lemieux said the housing community is much needed in El Salvador. Lemieux said a third of the population in El Salvador lives in shacks built from plastic, scrap lumber or corrugated sheet metal or in overcrowded apartments.
Brian Lemieux (right), a financial consultant with Thrivent Financial in Baxter, posed with a 13-year-old girl from El Salvador during a November mission trip. Lemieux said the girl was a hard worker.
Lemieux is planning a 10-day trip to El Salvador in September to build the homes and he's asking people in the community to join him. Anyone interested in going on the trip may contact Lemieux at his office at 829-5862 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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