Hola, dear friends! We have spent a wonderful day serving others in the colonias today. We are following a slightly different schedule this year. The folks from Faith Ministry have requested that we arrive in the colonias a little later in the morning, so we are having breakfast at 6:00, devotional at 6:35, and departure at 6:45, which really means we get to sleep about 30-45 minutes later. This morning, we were met by David on the U.S. side of the border at 7:30, and he then led us across the bridge and into the colonia.
Because of the later hour, the traffic seemed to be somewhat better. We stopped by the church to check in with Omar and Colleen before heading to our work site for the week. This year we are building a house very near to the garbage dump and close to the local school which we visited a few years ago. This is a part of the colonia where we have built several homes, so we sort of knew what to expect; still, it is quite shocking. To me, it looks like what you would expect to see at a landfill, with every possible kind of trash or garbage just thrown into a pit that surrounds a small lake. When we pulled into the alley that separates the dump from our family’s current “home,” I was concerned that our vehicle might slip into the garbage dump. In addition to trash, garbage, and junk, some of the other things we saw in the dump were pigs and piglets, furniture, and a dog house with a Rin Tin Tin look-alike “guarding” the area. Several garbage collectors use this dump, so there were also horses and donkeys with their respective buggies or carts, which are used to collect the garbage. Because of the area, we all sprayed ourselves copiously with insect repellent, and today, that seemed to suffice. It is difficult for us to imagine living in such squalid conditions; although, even we, who only mission here once each summer, have become somewhat used to these conditions and just go about the business of building a home.
As you already know, the family for whom we are building a home is small, just Adan, Rosy, and their daughter Donnae. You also know that the husband in our family works as a garbage collector, making around $30-$35 a week. Both the husband and the wife are very humble, and so appreciative and grateful for what we are doing this week. Their current home is quite small with no walls, but they also have a pen for their three horses and one foal, and they have a huge sow, a few dogs, and one cat, all of whom are very scrawny.
As always, the first thing we do when we arrive at the building site is gather in the footprint of the house and pray. The major task on day one is filling the home footprint with caliche, mixing the concrete for the floor, and then pouring that concrete to make a floor. While wheelbarrows and buckets are being filled with caliche and dumped in the house footprint, others are filling up the holes in the concrete blocks that make up the edge of the house. Doing both of these things allows us to use less concrete for the floor.
As soon as that is done, we begin to mix the concrete which will be used to make the floor. It was the usual mix: 5 buckets each of sand and gravel, and 2 buckets of water, then half of a bag of concrete. There was lots of help, and so this somewhat daunting task was accomplished rather quickly. Most of the women shoveled the gravel and sand, but some of them could even move the filled buckets closer to the mixer. (Not me!) For the most part, the men lifted and poured the bucket contents into the mixer, and a few pushed the wheelbarrows into the house to make the floor. The “professionals” do the smoothing part for the floor. Surprisingly, we were finished with the floor in less than two hours, but we did have lots of help.
We then returned to the church for our mid-morning snack and a somewhat lengthy rest break, before we were put to work cutting and straightening the heavy wire for the rebar cages. For us, it has been quite a while since we have done this particular task, and so a little re-teaching was required. Robin and I spent a lot of time under the direct supervision of Alberto, as he watched, coached, and gave his final approval or disapproval depending on the shape of the rectangle or square we had made. We then supervised Jessie and Jamie as we coached and taught them. Others cut the rebar to the required length with giant wire-cutters or pounded the rebar until it was straight. As we were in the shade, this task was not quite as hard as it used to be when we did those exact same tasks in the very sunny middle of a dirt lane.
As has been the recent custom, we make lunches for our amigos and amigas to take home and share, but our lunch is prepared at the church, and all the volunteers who are present join us for the meal. Even before lunch was served, one of our amigas purchased a fruit cup from a vendor on a bike. When she brought it over, she offered some to all of us. Several of us graciously accepted her offer of a piece of fresh pineapple, sprinkled with some sort of red pepper flakes, sugar and salt mixture we now know is called “techas” (thanks to our friend a Jennifer from Weslaco FPC). Wow! You have never tasted such scrumptious pineapple! It was the best I have ever eaten, and it was also on the lunch menu for us today. In addition to the pineapple, we also had a meat and potato mixture, rice, re-fried beans, and jicama. All of it was good!
Following lunch, we had a short worship service, where David Rodriguez talked a bit about our work and introduced our family. The pastor, Carlos Ponce, also led us in prayer, and then we sang a few of our favorite songs, finishing with “Unidos.” As it was a wee bit early to return to Weslaco, we then went right back to work on making the rebar squares and rectangles.
Our return trip to Texas was blissfully uneventful, with very little traffic and practically no waiting at the border. We did not disembark from our van, but simply handed the border agent all 11 of our passports and Shawn’s passport card. For the first time ever, the agent did not open the van to match up our passports with the occupants of the van. One never can tell how the “border hoopla” will go…but today was the proverbial piece of cake.
This afternoon, we arrived back at Weslaco FPC at the planned time for possibly the first time ever …3:00, and so we had, what seemed like, a huge amount of semi- free time. As is the custom, we were greeted by the two Diane’s, as well as Pastor McCann and the church secretary, Savannah, who also brought us some decadent chocolate fudge brownies. We indulged in our usual snacks of fresh fruit, chips and salsa, and sherbet with lemon-lime soda. There was plenty of time for all to take leisurely showers and read our devotional materials before dinner at 6:00. The two Diane’s are changing things up a little with the dinner menus this week. Tonight, we had roasted chicken, roasted vegetables, baked sweet potatoes, corn, and rolls, all followed by some of the yummy desserts prepared by Weslaco FPC. The members of the Weslaco church have a standing invitation to join us for dinner, as well as Eventide.
Please continue to pray for your missionaries, Faith Ministry, and the family for whom we are building a home.
Your Mexico Mission pen pal …..Randi