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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mexico 2008

The true call of a Christian is not to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things in an extraordinary way. -Dean Stanley

Early yesterday morning, I returned from my almost annual mission trip to Mexico. My church, Noel UMC, takes a group of people down to Juarez, Mexico each year to work on building houses. I've been able to go four out of the five years that the church has taken the trip and it has truly become the highlight of my year. We loaded the vans last Saturday evening in a driving rain storm and set out on a LONG journey to El Paso. The driving system is well-organized and works very well, but by the time we approached our scheduled side trip, we were all pretty tired. That made the extra long "scenic route" to the McDonald Observatory especially tiring. The view from the top of the hills was really nice, but we were all so tired that it was hard to properly appreciate it. On top of that, all we could really do was look at the buildings that housed the telescopes and eat lunch in the snack bar.

Once we were on the road again, we were really glad to finally make it to the Wal-Mart in El Paso where we were to leave our vehicles. Jose Luis, Martine and Alfredo were there waiting for us so the process of unpacking our vans and loading everything into their 3 vans went pretty quickly. We crossed the border with no trouble and soon arrived at our "home away from home" for the next week. We made the usual Sunday night trip to Peter Piper Pizza along with a group of 39 from the Dallas area. I don't know if it was the LONG trip or what, but the pizza tasted especially good this year and we had fun visiting and getting to know our newest team members better.

The past couple of years, we have worked in areas that have become more heavily populated and our previous work areas have improved in so many ways. But, this year, we found our work sites to be reminiscent of the first year that Noel traveled to Juarez-----primitive homes in the middle of a sandy desert, no running water and little electricity. We built three houses in this area: one for an expectant mom and her little girl, one for a mom,dad and young teenage son and the last for their teenage daughter who is a new mom to a beautiful baby boy. Because Proyecto Abrigo is intent upon living in and serving the areas that are neediest, one of our work crews even broke ground on the new dormitory that will hopefully open this summer in that area. Because the Methodist church has built so many cinder block houses in this new area, it has become known as "Juan Wesley" or the John Wesley Community.

Jason and I were co-team leaders this year and we had a great team. In preparation for his team, Skip had already come up with a name and brought bandanas with the name printed on them, so we became known as the M & M's, or the Mortero Maestros. The family that we were building for was rather shy and at first there was not much interaction between them and us. But, slowly, through a few photos and sign language greetings, 13 year old Alfredo began following me around a bit. On Wednesday, as the maestros and men began the work in preparing for the roof, I placed an extra trowel in his hands and proceeded to show him how to patch up the holes left between the blocks. As my first attempt resulted in mortar falling to the ground instead of filling the hole, I laughed and he laughed and we forged a friendship.

The blocks went up fairly quickly and without
interruption and before we knew it, there were three new houses almost ready to move into. As each house was dedicated, the blessings were apparent---both for those who built the houses and for those receiving. While each family has unique challenges with children, spouses and financial burdens, this one gesture will hopefully open a new opportunities for them and provide a visual example of Christ's love for them.

Another highlight of the trip occurred when we went to the church service on Tuesday evening. The family that my team worked with last year attended the service in order to see us. It was a wonderful moment----looking across the congregation to see Antonia searching for us and then as we caught sight of each other, the joy of she and the children. Juana later told me that our interactions with them had served as a catalyst for some amazing changes in their life. Our scholarship had allowed Perla and Cesar to re-enroll in school--their grades were wonderful and their confidence soaring. Antonia is even learning to drive!! What a great affirmation that this service does indeed make a difference.

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