We have returned safely from our trip to Tijuana, Mexico, and are happy to report it was truly life changing. Thank you all so much for making our mission possible by your generous giving! Here is a recap of our trip:
On Day 1, we crossed the border into Mexico and the very first thing we noticed was that Tijuana does not smell like San Diego! Something like raw sewage immediately grabbed our nostrils, a smell that wafted through the air during our entire stay in Mexico. The drive to the orphanage compound where we would stay was eye-opening in itself. From the beautiful American setting of San Diego, we were plunged into a dusty, smelly, dry environment where hundreds of small houses crammed the crowded hillsides. There were dogs everywhere, barking incessantly. People on the streets stared at our clean, white Ford trucks as we drove by.
We arrived at the orphanage, unloaded the trucks, and listened as Mr. Stelter gave us instructions. We were to go down the street to the supply shed and begin painting the siding to be installed on the house. What?! We had expected to work hard, but so soon? We just got here! We quickly reminded ourselves that we had come to serve, not to be comfortable. Let's take control and do this thing. We got right to work and finished first coats on all of the siding and trim. Then we dragged our sore bodies back to the orphanage.
Throughout the week the desire to show God's love by serving drove us to work harder than any of us had ever worked. The days were long and the work was hard, but it helped knowing that we were doing something important. On the first day of construction, we hammered nails until our arms sagged in order to build and put up the skeleton of the wall frames. After seven hours of work, we had a skeleton of the house already standing. Day 2 was even more rewarding. By dinner that night, the orange sidewalls and a base of the roof had transformed this skeleton to a basic house. Day 3 was long and hard. We sweated and ached while working with tar and mineral paper to complete the weather-proof roof. Day 4 was the day of touching up and giving the house to the family. We worked hard to make everything perfect. We installed the door and three windows, put up trim, and even hung curtains inside.
After days of difficult labor, the house was finished and the time had come to present the house to the mom and her three children. They were solemn, but grateful. The mom broke into tears when the keys were handed over to her. The house we built is small, but the family took their time exploring their new two room home. They paused when they came to a place where we wrote on the wall: Dios Bendiga cada rincon de esta casa, which means "God bless every corner of this house." And underneath that, we wrote: i hechenemos con Amor de Christo! which means "Built with the love of Christ!" The mom huddled in front of the sign with her three kids and muttered "Gracias" over and over. Grandpa Juan hugged all of us and we just stood silently as he spoke in Spanish. This was it. This was what the months of planning and a week of labor came to. This short sweet moment. It was worth every drop of sweat.
Arriving back in San Diego was strange. We drove out to Coronado to have lunch before heading to the airport. The sweet smell of flowers paraded in the fresh, warm air. The clean asphalt we walked on and the luxurious cars that drove by were surreal. The beach was swarmed with happy, frivolous people, oblivious to the poverty that loomed, in view, just across the bay. A gentle satisfaction set in each of our hearts as we realized how God had used us to bless that beautiful family. It was just one family and our actions didn't change the world, but it changed their world. The orphans that we played with every day, that saw our kindness and joy? Their worlds were changed as well. That short, unsaid mission statement from day one of work, has slowly become the mission statement of our lives in school, church, at home and throughout the world: We are here to serve, not to be comfortable. Let's take control and do this thing!
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