Hola from your Mexico missionaries at the end of our first day in the colonias. (No surprise! It is really hot here in south Texas and in the colonias.)
We have put in a full day of work building a house and serving the Lord, and we are always grateful for our safe return to our home church, FPC Weslaco. As is the tradition, when we returned this afternoon, Diane and Diane were waiting to welcome us with homemade guacamole and pimento cheese, plus the sherbet floats which are so refreshing after our day in the sun. Both Diane’s are eager to hear about the events of the day, and so while we snack, we reveal some of the special moments from the day. This afternoon, Pastor McCann and his wife Hannah were also here to greet us, as well as Terry, our “ice man.” Between our snack and dinner, all the members of our group will take a much-desired shower and use the afternoon time to read their devotional or debrief their day.
Our day began around 4:45 when the first alarms go off signaling the two Diane’s to get up and start breakfast. I think by 5:00 a.m., everyone was up in our room, and in the process of getting ready for the day. Although we do not have enough room in the van for several coolers, we each made some sandwiches for our co-workers across the border, as well as a hearty snack for ourselves. We have a schedule, so once breakfast is ready, we eat and then re-assemble for our morning devotion. (David Rodriguez joined us this morning, since his vehicle was taking the water and coolers across the border for us.) Samuel and Rosemary were here in plenty of time for breakfast and devotional, and we were all in the vehicles, ready to roll, by 6:05.
Apparently, we were still not up to speed, because both Karryl and I failed to pick up the toll money on our way out the door. Never fear, though; Karryl had just enough cash in his wallet to cover our tolls both going and coming! We had one other small digression when we entered Mexico this morning: we accidentally went straight when we were supposed to veer to the right. David Rodriguez was right behind us, so we got turned around fairly quickly; however, it did bring several questions from the border patrol, which Tom Lewis, (who speaks Spanish, thank goodness,) was able to explain to the guard’s satisfaction. (Later he told us that apparently his Spanish is not as good as thought it was at 6:00 a.m. In the morning.)
As usual, our first stop was the church where we spent several minutes greeting our Faith Ministry friends and meeting some of the new folks who are putting in their sweat equity with the Ministry. Both Colleen, who helps with the volunteers and monitors the scholarship program, and Gracie, who is spending part of her summer as a volunteer, were there. (We met both of them last year when we were here.) After taking the opportunity to use the facilities and have a group photo made, all fifteen of us loaded back into the vans and headed to our worksite, (which is not too far from the clinic, as the crow flies.) The mother of our family was walking her children to school, so we began the work of the day, and waited until she returned to have our morning prayer, which was led by the new pastor, Carlos. Then Colleen introduced us to the members of our family, and we were soon back at work.
Where we are working this year is close to a fairly large plant and right along side of a large pond. Next to the plant, we can just barely make out the very colorful “condos” which are built for and then rented by the workers at the plant. There is a very small wood shed, probably about 4 feet by 4 feet, on the lot where we are building the house, and that is sort of a way station for the members of our family while we are working there. Gracie said the family probably had to build something on it to indicate the land was taken, and as of right now, our family is renting a house somewhere else in the colonias. The lot is not well kept, in addition to the fact that it is located next to water, and so the bugs are a bit of a nuisance. Fortunately, we are prepared and have an adequate supply of insect repellent.
There is another group working in the colonia this week. They are from an Indianapolis Presbyterian church and number about 15; however, they are all adults and are staying at the clinic. We love it when there is another group working the same week as us. Lunch is always more fun, and worship is ever more like worship when the congregation is larger than just the 15 of us. (We actually can see their worksite across the pond from ours.) One other benefit: help pouring a roof, and apparently we are going to pour two roofs together this week.
Our first task of the day was to shovel/wheelbarrow the “fill dirt” into the foundation of the house to save on the amount of cement used for the floor. We also picked up rocks to drop down in the first row of concrete blocks, again to save on the amount of cement needed to give strength to the walls. Then we began the process of making lots and lots of concrete. With shoveling teams at both the sand pile and the gravel pile, we implemented our system for taking turns, and in so doing, gave all shovelers a small break between turns. Stronger folks moved the buckets filled with gravel and sand; others got the newly empty buckets back to the gravel and sand piles, so we could fill them quickly. Wow! We have some amazing shovelers on our Mission team this year. Maybe it is because they are young, but all of our team who are under the age of 25 …Samuel, Rosemary, Jessie, Jamie, Laura, and Rachel….all were top-notch shovelers! The floor was completely done by around 10:30 this morning.
One of the things we all took delight in today was our own little bucket baby. (Did we mention that it was hot today?) We brought 10 brand new Lowe’s blue buckets with us. These we use for gravel, sand, and water, as well as for passing concrete up top when we pour a roof. Our mother soon realized that bucket was clean and the perfect size for her young boy. She filled it with cool water and then put her baby in, and all the “mothers” took turns pouring cups of water over his head and body. It was such a sweet sight and one that brought joy to all of us….and it was possibly everyone’s favorite moment of the day.
Previous Mexico missionaries will know that finishing the day’s tasks early does not necessarily mean we get the rest of the day off….it almost always means more work, and in this case, we packed back into the van and headed back to the compound to do….? You guessed it! We were assigned to tying the rebar for our house, while we waited for lunch. We made the cages for the roof by tying and “gonzoing” wires to hold the rectangles and triangles to very long pieces of rebar. (This was our after lunch task, too.) Because a few of us were rookies, (and because a few of us forgot how,) Gracie gave us an excellent lesson in how to tie rebar, reminding me again that she has chosen the right profession; she is a natural at teaching.
Lunch today was prepared by Dora and Aurelia. (Mariceilia, who usually prepares the meals, lost her mother unexpectedly last week. Gracie said she would probably be back tomorrow.) At any rate, our lunch was fantastic. There are actually a few vegetarians in both of the groups, and the Faith Ministry cooks go out of their way to make certain there is a vegetarian option available. Today, our lunch was refried beans, rice, a meat and vegetable mixture, and watermelon. For the non-meat-eaters, there were cheese quesadillas and steamed veggies. Right after lunch, we went to the sanctuary for worship, which was led by David Rodriguez. It was an opportunity for him to introduce the two work groups, as well as the families who will receive homes this week. After worship, though, there was still time to finish up our rebar project and prep the water coolers before loading the vans to head home at about 2:30.
For some strange reason, when we left the colonias this afternoon, we ended up bumper to bumper in an endless parade of semi trucks. We were all hot and tired, and creeping along on the bridge does not provide much air conditioning in the van. When we finally made it out of the lines and lines of trucks and arrived at the U. S. Border, there were no cars waiting! Woohoo! After
three years of lecturing from the U. S. Border Patrol, we finally had the hang of “their” method for crossing the border. So just before we reached the booths, Kayo stopped the van, and thirteen of us piled out, (think big clown car,) to walk across the border, as previously instructed. As soon as we entered the office, an agent asked us if we had gotten out of a car. Then, she asked us where the car was. When the agent learned that our vehicle had not passed through the border yet, she commanded us to go get back in our vehicle. We had to rush to make it before the van got to the booth. There we are….thirteen “clowns” climbing back into our car. (While it sounds simple relating it to you, heat and fatigue can make even a simple task a bit difficult.) Still, we were back at our church home by 3:30, enjoying our refreshments and telling the stories of our day.
Tonight, as we do every night, we were served another yummy meal by the two Diane’s with help from Hannah and Jennifer. It has been said and it still is true, one could go on a mission trip just for the great food that is shared here at our home church. We are so grateful for our home away from home while we work in the colonias. It is a wonderful gift that is given to us every single day we are here.
Our evening devotion was led by Myra and Sister Diane. Tonight, we had lots to share about our day in the colonia! You might remember that Pastor McCann has been providing the musical accompaniment for us each evening. Tonight, he brought Shawn a guitar and he brought a song that he had written for the youth group here at the church. What a blessing to have Pastor McCann help with the music, and then lend Shawn a guitar, so he could help, too! Tonight, Pastor McCann also opened up the church sanctuary for our group. The stained glass windows are spectacular!
It is not quite 9:00 as I write this, and everyone is tucked in their spaces as we prepare to turn in for the night. Tomorrow, we will be pouring a roof and laying ten rows of block on our family’s home, please continue to pray for us as we strive to be God’s messengers of hope and love. Until tomorrow …
Your pen pal in Texas and Mexico … Randi