So there I sat, on a dusty cot, a beam of sunlight sneaking under the open tent flap and searing my back. It was weird and exhilarating all at the same time. It had been 6 years since I had last ventured across the Mexican border, and 14 since that first life changing trip. A lot had changed over time and on that first day I anticipated the movement that would happen that week.
Our Mexico trip this year got off to a bit of an exciting/exhausting start. We decided to drive down instead of flying in order to cut costs. The drive started out with momentum and smiles, making stops at Krispy Kreme and Jimmy Johns along the way, but as soon as we crossed over the California border the trouble started. The next 30 hours involved 2 car repairs, 1 tow truck ride, 5 hours in a Walmart parking lot, little sleep, and a race to get to the Mexican border before it became to dangerous to cross.
We made it. Just in time. We rolled into camp at 10:30 and the place was silent, everyone was asleep. Thankfully the other women in our tent had set up our cots because at that point I didn’t have the energy to do it myself. I had just enough stored to change into my pajamas, unroll my sleeping bag and crawl into bed. Sleep was instant.
Saturday was a workday. It was hard, but by 6am we were up and in line for breakfast. I was part of a group that headed out to Rosarito to finish of a handful of houses that still needed their last coat of stucco.
The first house my team worked on was on the hill overlooking the ocean. This family litterally had a million dollar view, but their house was the size of an American bedroom. I was able to use my intermediate Spanish to stumble over words and speak to the family. Five kids and three grandkids lived with them. Crowded.
In all teams were able to finish 9 houses for families that day. The smiles on the families faces as we loaded up vans to leave stretched from ear to ear. It was contagious.
Then came Monday morning. My team, team 12 got into our van, tools in hand, excited to get to work on the first step of constructing a house for the Diaz-Fuentes family, the foundation.
This year nearly all teams were building on the same 3 streets, close enough to visit on lunch breaks. The unity that came out of the close proximity was incredible. Seldom was there a moment without a person from another team on your site helping you get stuff done.
Somehow I ended up being the person on my team with the greatest Spanish vocabulary and experience. A daunting task for me. Maria, the mom of the family we were building for got used to me stumbling over words and putting together choppy sentences and just laughed with me. A humbling experience to say the least.
Maria and her husband Alberto were so great to us over the 4 days of the build. They didn’t have much. Their family of 5 was living in a small house the size of my bedroom, but they spoiled us with food. I didn’t have to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich once, and each day we had a different juice cooled by ice, a luxury I had never experienced in my previous trips. Maria said “We were blessing her with a house and happy workers work better.” She also wanted to leave a positive impression on us “so that we would come back to Mexico.” Beautiful.
The rest of the week really flew by. I didn’t feel well through most of it, so I ended up spending more time in the shade or AC than I wanted. But one of my favorite experiences came on the third day, and it’s a silly one. We had put the frame up the day before so day three was set aside for covering the the walls and roof. The roof had always been my favorite part of the build in the past, but this year I didn’t get up there, instead I worked on putting tar paper up on the walls using the most awesome tool I’ve ever held, a hammer tacker. I know, some of you are out there going “really?” There’s just something really cool about a tool that does double duty. You would hit the stuff with it like a hammer, but a staple would came out! I love it! I actually decided I’m going to buy my own to bring down with me next year.
So now it’s hard to beleive that I’ve already been home for 3 weeks. There was something really special about Mexico this year for me. The last time I went, in 2007, I enjoyed my time but when thinking about coming back again the next year I felt like I could take it or leave it. I think now, that I’m established as an adult (although people still often mistake me for a youth, others tell me that’s a blessing, I have mixed emotions concerning it) and a youth leader I feel like I have a role to fill and like there’s something bigger than I can imagine that I can do through this missions vehicle. It’s funny because I didn’t think it would ever be Mexico. Thailand, Bolivia, Swaziland maybe, and long term, but a week trip to Mexico, nah. Now I have a different attitude. Already I can’t wait to go back next year. I want to impact lives down in Mexico, but on the flipside I’m also excited about impacting the lives of youth, and I think that’s the avenue that God is telling my to invest in now.
If you want to see more p pictures from the Mexico trip this year you can click here.