Buenos tardes, amigos and amigas! We have completed our last “big” work day of the mission trip, and as I write this, the others are trying to gather in their gear and prepare to pack up early tomorrow morning before we head over to the colonias. It is the new normal for us, as we no longer spend Friday night here in Weslaco. Instead, when we return from our work in the colonias tomorrow, we will finish loading the bus and head out for Baytown to spend the night before returning to Athens.
This morning, we had three extra guests join us for breakfast: Will, Colleen, and Minga! Will and Colleen, of course, were our overnight guests from the previous night, and you will remember that Minga used to be the custodian at the church here; however, Minga is now retired. Of course, we asked Minga to sing as part of our morning devotional, and she graced us with a new song she has learned.
Following breakfast, we loaded our van and Colleen’s car with our extra gifts for our family and our gifts of food to the volunteers who work with us all week. I think, altogether, we made up 2 bags each of food staples for the 12 volunteers, as well as for our family. We have already arranged to give our family a stove, a table and chairs, and two beds. All, except the stove, have been made by the Faith Ministry group that is learning carpentry, and the table and chairs are beautiful and have the look of handmade furniture … which it is! After talking a little with Rosy, we learned of a few other things she might wish for, so the two Diane’s picked out bedding for the beds, and also some dishes, cookware, drinking tumblers, silverware, towels, and a cute tablecloth to protect her new table. We have also packed some things for Danna, including a Barbie, some books, and some art materials, because we learned she liked to draw. We are hoping to add a jump rope, because she likes to do that, too. Tomorrow, we will make a presentation to the family after our fiesta lunch at the church complex.
This morning, both Colleen’s car and our van were stopped going into Mexico. The funny thing was that we got a “green light,” which usually means a pass, except the car ahead of us was stopped, and so, we had to stop and wait? (I guess that meant they may as well check us out, too.) They had their dog out, but he found nothing interesting about our sacks of food. We made our usual stop at the church, and a few of us purchased one of the Faith Ministry tee shirts, since we failed to pack a clean shirt for Communion at church, and we were doing concrete today.
The only task on our to-do list today was pouring a roof, but we had already been alerted to possible pop-up jobs that might get assigned to us. The roof we poured was for Casa 8, which is the home of the Rodriguez family, a wife, a husband and daughter, and they are expecting a baby boy. Because it was a roof, there were a few new folks at the site to help today. You may not believe it, but our team, made up of our 11 folks, the Mexican volunteers, and a few hired hands, poured a roof in just under an hour. I do not think I have ever seen it go that fast, but we were a finely tuned machine, with every person doing the job that each does best: bucket-fillers, bucket passers, wheelbarrow-pushers, bucket-haulers, cement mixer operators, (Yea! We had the cement mixer!) water distributors, errand-runners, and subs for all jobs when needed. We returned to the compound briefly for our morning snack, before we headed to the next home site to … you guessed it … dig a foundation. (“No me gustó” digging foundations.) That, for me, is one of the worst jobs of the trip. The foundation had been laid out right next to the existing home, and there was not much space anywhere around it. Additionally, the side right next to the home was many, many layers of garbage, with some glass objects, a rug of some sort, and a plethora of the bugs that exist in garbage. (The owner finally brought out a kitchen knife to cut the rug that was buried.) Needless to say, it was a very taxing job in a small, hot, stinky space, and several of us found ourselves not quite able to help in a constructive way. In fact, Santa told Robin and me, “Maria and Wendy, go.” As Karryl said to us, as we watched Shawn, Kayo, Jessie, Jamie, and Elise dig away, “It is humbling not to be able to do the jobs you used to do.” And, yes, it is. However, one thing we have all learned this week is that we are not “useless;” we just need to learn new ways to serve and be useful.
We returned to the compound for lunch and church afterwards. Today, we had a beef mixture, rice, refried beans, tamales, salad, oranges, and Joyas. (Some of you may not know what Joyas are; they are fruit flavored sodas which are popular in Mexico, and which we also love.) There were even some Coca-Colas and Coca-Cola Light! You might also find it interesting that these homemade tamales had a complete drumstick inside; indeed, we were somewhat surprised at that as well…authentic Mexican food.
Following lunch, we all went inside the church for the house dedication and communion. David Rodriguez sang today as part of the service, both the new-to-us introductory song and as the Communion music. Our family was introduced and given a chance to say a few words; this is what the father, Adan, said, with tears in his eyes: “I never dreamed it was possible for me to have a house,” and he thanked all who helped build this home for his family. Our team then joined the family and encircled them with our love as David and Pastor Carlos prayed for the family. Pastor Carlos also gave a Communion meditation, explaining what it meant and using several Bible verses as his text. We learned later that the church in Mexico rarely has Communion, and so both Kayo and Carlos were very deliberate in their words and actions. As usual, we closed the service by singing “Unidos,” only this time, we made a circle around the entire church, joining hands and singing together. For many of us, that song is quite emotional, made even more so by the love and gratitude expressed there today.
After making a plan for Friday, we headed out, a little later than usual, and so our wait at the border was a wee bit longer. It must have been a “two for Thursday,” as, for the first time this week, the border agent came to the side door and matched up our passports with our faces and quizzed us about what we were doing in Mexico. We have yet to figure out the method to their border behavior.
Tonight, after a delicious meal made by the two Diane’s, Jessie and Jamie led our Eventide. As we draw to the end of our week together as missionaries, we are full of emotions and a little sad that our mission is coming to an end. We sang both “Amazing Grace” and “Here I Am, Lord,” two songs which often make us cry, and several of us voiced our love for this mission and for the opportunity to serve together in Mexico and in our home country.
Both Diane’s had spent a major portion of the day preparing for the fiesta we will host tomorrow at lunch in the colonias. The brisket had to be prepared, and it is cooking even as I type this, and a huge Asian slaw salad was prepared by them. Before everyone retired for the night, all the desserts had to be cut and placed in individual baggies, and those will also be taken across the border tomorrow. We will also be taking any of the food we have leftover from our meals here during the week. We will conclude our time in Mexico with the presentation of our gifts to our sweet little family, who are so happy to have a home of their own, one with walls and that does not have to be shared with their horses.
Tomorrow morning will be busy as we break down our sleeping quarters and pack up our stuff. We will try to be on the road by 3:00 or 4:00, as we begin our trek home. We covet your prayers, not only for our last day of work and our travel home, but also for Faith Ministry, the Weslaco FPC, our amigos and amigas, and our family at Casa13.
With love and gratitude … your Mexico Mission pen pal … Randi