Hola, good friends! We have completed our first day serving the Lord in the colonias of Reynosa, and while we are a bit dirty and tired, we still had a great Monday.
After breakfast this morning, we had our morning devotional, and then it was off to the races! As usual, we had already iced down our water and made a giveaway lunch for our amigos and amigas in Reynosa, even before we ate breakfast. Since we were to meet David at the last quick stop before we crossed the border, we wanted to leave the church no later than 6:30. As it happened, we pulled in around 7:00 and surprisingly, so did David. Before we headed across the border, David made one last phone call to Colleen, making certain it was all good before we drove into Reynosa. We then followed David to the compound where we were going to meet the other team building a house this week. As always, it is wonderful to reconnect with all our old friends from previous years, and usually they are eagerly awaiting our arrival, (possibly because we have a tradition of bringing them our breakfast leftovers of ham or sausage biscuits.)
This week, there is a second small work group from Austin, TX, who are here for the first time in ten years. The five of them include a father and daughter, a married couple, and a man who is fluent in Spanish and was introduced as their leader. A couple of them had been here before, so they already had an idea of what to do, but they were basically the “advance” group for their church, here to verify that they still were able to help make a difference in the lives of others. We circled up and had prayer led by Pastor Carlos and David before loading up to go to the neighborhood where both teams would be building this week.
As we previously mentioned, the two houses being built this week are in a fairly new colonia, not very far from the compound, but still across the highway from where we usually build. Victoria, the new summer intern, worked with us today, so on the way to our building site, we quizzed her about her family, education, and her future plans. She comes from a family of four girls, and she is the next to the youngest. Vicky has already completed college and has a degree in bilingual early childhood education, and although she has worked in daycares and public schools, she is still not certain exactly how she wants to use her education. Right now, she is considering going to seminary, but her month with Faith Ministry will give her some time to finalize her next plan.
When we first arrived at our work site, we spent some time introducing ourselves to our family Anahi, Alejandro, and Samara, their one year old daughter. Alejandro, who works at the post office, had also spent some time in the U.S., so he does know some English. Kayo had brought a small digital camera for Alejandro and his family to use so they will have some pictures of the week when their new home appeared on their tiny lot. There are several young women and a handful of men working alongside us, some of whom we already knew. Chuky is our foreman this week, and José, the garden caretaker, is also working there. Our family is living someplace else right now, but they have purchased this small plot, which is about three times as big as the 12 by 24 home. They have also built a small lean-to shed where some of their building materials are kept. Still, we would say they are at the end of a cul-de-sac which allows for a strong breeze, and right now, there are very few neighbors. As soon as all were at the site, Pastor Carlos led us in prayer once again for this family and their soon-to-be home.
Basically, our main task today was to prep the floor and then mix and pour the concrete for the actual floor. Some of the work was already done when we arrived, but we finished by moving a lot of dirt, via wheelbarrow, to raise and level the floor. At the same time, several of us gathered rocks and broken concrete blocks to help fill in the holes of the first few rows of blocks. Once all of that was complete, we were the ready to crank up the cement mixer. You will recall that we have to shovel five buckets each of gravel and sand, which is then mixed with five buckets of water and a bag of cement. That mixture is then poured into the wheelbarrow and rolled up a makeshift ramp and into the house to be spread out in a beautiful floor. With so many volunteers, an arduous and difficult task was complete in no time, allowing us to return to the compound and help make some rebar cages for the roofs which will be poured this week.
Lunch today was rice, refried beans, a potato, carrot and chicken mixture, tortillas, and watermelon, and our dining hall was almost filled to capacity with the work teams, volunteers, staff, and visitors. Needless to say, it was a yummy meal which was enjoyed by all. After lunch, we all went to the sanctuary for a brief church service that included introducing oath of the work teams, the new volunteer Vicky, as well as a former summer intern and her family who were visiting for the day. As usual, we sang “This is the Day,” Dame la Mana,” and “Unidos.” Since it was not quite time to leave for our return home, we finished up some rebar until departure time.
Our trip home was fairly uneventful, except for some new “giant” speed bumps which bounced us so hard, we felt it may have cracked our backs, or even shook a filling loose! When we got to the actual border, it seemed as though the agents were spending considerable time with every vehicle that crossed. We have learned over the years to go ahead and hand our passports up to the driver, with them open to our pictures. Sometimes, when the agent returns to the side door of the car to match passports with passengers, we forget our names. This is easier than one would think since six of ten of us go by our middle names; so, for example, when he calls out Jane, I have to remember that I am the one he is calling. We even have two on the team with the same name, causing two folks to answer when he says Robin.
Perhaps the best moment of the day was crossing the border; imagine that! When the border agent opened the side door to match faces to passports, he said, “Thank you for your service.” Kayo replied, “Thank you for your service.” The border agent, Officer Munoz, then said, “But you serve a higher power.” And just like that, we were on our way across the border and back to Weslaco. I cannot recall ever being thanked at the border for the work we do with Faith Ministry, but what an unexpected “pat on the back” for being the hands and feet of Christ.
Before dinner tonight, we had a “pop-up shopping trip” for those who wanted to shop for gifts and the much coveted Mexican vanilla. A few of us stayed back to monitor dinner and the others made a quick trip to our favorite two stores on this side of the border. As soon as the shoppers returned, a delicious dinner of roasted vegetables and chicken and baked sweet potatoes was served. For dessert, we had banana splits compliments of Lynn from the Weslaco FPC.
Tonight, before bed, we all were spending time getting organized for the rest of the week, including sorting kids’ gifts, deciding what pottery to give, and dividing up our small treats to be passed out tomorrow. We had an update from Karryl that said Becky was scheduled to visit the orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday, so stay tuned for a progress report tomorrow. (Karryl with a K … Myra is trying to fill your shoes, and they are big shoes to fill! So far, she is doing okay.)
Diane and Diane are taking excellent care of your mission team. In addition to cooking for us at breakfast and dinner, they are also making WalMart runs almost every day to pick up whatever it is we think we urgently need. When we told the Austin team about our “back home” routine, they were a little envious that we had not one “mother” caring for us, but two. We so appreciate all that they and the Weslaco FPC do for us every day.
Since I stayed back instead of going shopping, I am able to finish up this journal entry way early tonight. We ask humbly for your continued prayers for your Mexico missionaries as we strive to do the Lord’s work and share His love in the Rio Grande Valley.
With gratitude and love for each of you ….
Your Mexico pen pal …. Randi