Hola from the colonias of Reynosa on this very warm summer afternoon. Today, I am writing as we begin our trek home on this first day or working across the border. We were able to complete all the tasks assigned to us, and frequent attendees know that means … rebar!
This morning, we had a delicious breakfast cooked by Diane and Don Miller: eggs, bacon, sausage, grits, biscuits, and fruit. Julie and Courtney from Weslaco FPC joined us for breakfast and morning prayer, and then stayed to help Diane with clean-up of the kitchen. We were able to depart a little earlier than expected. Just FYI, the trip to the Hildago Bridge took 30 minutes, and from there it was about 20 minutes to the Faith Ministry Compound. Colleen, of course, was there to lead us in this morning, and will do that every day for us.
We began our day with prayer at the compound, before setting out to the worksite. This year, we are building again in the garbage dump area, and when we arrived, we circled up to pray again, this time with the family present. As we expected, many of the Mexican volunteers were there to help. One of the staff was missing though: Chuky, whose wife is expecting their first baby this week, was given the week off; (everyone hopes the baby will arrive early enough for Chuky and his family to attend the Fiesta on Friday.)
Our two main tasks today were prepping the floor, which means adding enough dirt to level off the base, making it even with the row of concrete blocks, and filling the spaces of the concrete block walls with rocks. Don Miller and Kayo drove the wheelbarrows full of dirt while the rest of us filled the block holes with rocks. By 9:30, we were shifting into “concrete-mixing” mode, leaving time only for a quick drink of water before we were in “full speed” ahead. You may remember that this activity requires a half bag of cement, a bucket or two of water, and 5 buckets each of gravel and sand. Don and Kayo wheelbarrowed, Karryl, (who calls himself the “old geezer”,) kept us all hydrated with water, and the rest of us shoveled gravel or sand. We were finished with the floor by 10:30, and we were oh, so, ready for that morning snack. As usual, we brought lots of the trail mix, all made and bagged by Diane Payne and her grandchildren.
When we got to the work site, our family was there, too, and they all stayed until we completed the morning’s tasks. You will recall that the family includes the mother and her three grown children, as well as her two grandchildren. Kayo got to spend a little time with them, but the rest of us hope to get a chance to talk with them tomorrow. (Ismael was too busy today to talk; he was running the cement mixer while Chuky is on family leave.)
While we worked this morning, we also had the opportunity to talk with the two new interns, Pierce and Sophia. Pierce, who is from Hoover, Alabama, and Sophia, who is from South Carolina, and both are with Faith Ministry for the summer. Both, also, had previously worked in Reynosa with a church group. Pierce, who is just 18, said he finished high school early and was able to get several college credits through AP classes. He plans to take a year off and work construction. Sophia, who is a student at Southeastern, hopes to minister to the Spanish speaking community. (Emily Clem would have loved getting to know them!)
Following a delicious lunch of chicken, beans, rice, and watermelon, we had a devotional led by David Rodriguez. After he introduced our team, he then introduced Ismael, the staff member for whom we are building a home. It was followed by a short video of Deantin telling the starfish story. We closed by singing some of our favorite songs.
Since we already knew it would be a long wait at the Hidalgo Bridge, we decided to leave right after worship, as we were testing the waters of how long it would actually take to get across the bridge. At this moment, we have been in line for a little over an hour, and we have just paid our toll on the Mexican side of the bridge. (Don Miller helped us a lot today with a generator and two box fans, so at least there was air blowing around us.) We thought we might get bored as we waited in this never-ending line, but we were treated to an endless array of items, all which we could purchase while we waited. Here are just a few: corn on the cob, dolls, bacon on a stick, window visors, chips, beverages, hammocks, pottery, water, sun visors, candy bars, carnival stuffed animals, … the list could go on and on, and we had our windshield washed anyway! (Those of you who were on the very first trip of our Mexico Mission will recall a similar incident when Frank Chacon refused to pay for his windshield to be washed, since he did not want it done. In the process, Frank lost his hat; guess who was wearing it the next day?)
There is a first time for everything, and today, after 25 years and a two and a half hour wait at the border, we were “randomly selected” for a vehicle search as we returned to the United States. We disembarked from the van, and two agents climbed in and went through all our “backpacks” and the water coolers. In our naïveté, we were surprised to learn we actually had contraband: one small orange and a handful of orange peels, both of which are forbidden fruits when coming into the U.S. (In our effort to leave a smaller “footprint” in Mexico, we bagged up some of our garbage and brought it back with us, and that is probably what tipped off the CBP.) After a stern warning, we were given a comprehensive list of what not to bring into the USA; lesson learned.
For dinner tonight, we are having Don Miller’s famous barbecue pork, scalloped potatoes, green beans, salad bar, rolls, and Linda Williams’s lemon cake with lemon curd and strawberries. What a wonderful meal it was, and it gave us some time to debrief about our day with Diane. By the way, Diane had a lot of help today from the custodian Ana, who assisted with some of the press for our magnificent meal.
Colleen gave us some Mexico Mission Swag this afternoon before we left. Each of us received a water glass with the 25 year logo on it, and many of us used it for our dinner beverage tonight. Today, we also talked with Omar about what special gift we can give to our family. He said, since this house is being built for Ismael’s mother and adult brother, we will be giving them two twin beds, a cook top, and a washing machine. We really needed to know that today so Diane can pick up a few additional items to go with the big items we are giving.
We hope to have a slightly earlier evening tonight, as we hope to, at least, be in our beds by 9:00 this evening, and that includes me. Because I typed while we waited in line to enter the U.S., I will be finished with our journal entry way before midnight. Tomorrow morning, we will be laying block and mixing mortar for the walls of the house. We expect to have some expert help from the Mexican volunteers, which will speed up the block-laying. It will be a much slower pace, albeit a somewhat hard job, especially if it is sunny tomorrow.
Please continue to keep us, the Mexican volunteers, and our family, for whom we are building a house in your prayers. We are eager to serve the Lord as we share His love and our building skills with our new friends.
With love and gratitude … your pen pal in Texas and Mexico … Randi
Below are some additional pictures from the Faith Ministry Facebook page