Tijuana Ministry Reflections
Monica Rising 2022
Jesus said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.” Matt. 25:40 Jesus says we need to help the poor.
18 years ago Fr Jon asked if I wanted to go to Tijuana to build a house. Since then, I have gone back every year and BASICS Tijuana Ministry has built 58 houses, for cancer survivors, heart attack victims, single moms, people with mold ridden shacks and others struggling. We have learned so much as our ministry expanded.
We finished a School for special needs children and learned of the joy of children who had never gone to school before.
We doubled the size of a Chapel and learned of the joy and ingenuity of a community who could worship together at the same time.
We saw the amazing love at the Aids clinic as they loved drug addict and AIDS patients the community turned their back on and healed them. We helped build a community house to help the overcrowding there and met Roman, who had been a drug addict. Someone there saw his worth and helped him heal. He went to school, became a professor in microbiology and helped others struggling at the clinic. He knew of the connection of AIDS and TB and had a dream to build a lab and Clinic so they could get the right medicines to the patients in hours instead of weeks. We helped him get funding, some builders and followed their plans. After 5 years, last November they opened the clinic and lives are being saved because he believed in a dream.
The church there has a Scholarship program that inspires the youth to graduate and go on to college. They return to their communities as Doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, architects, and social workers. I learned education makes a bigger difference when you share it with others and your communities.
David was a gang member at 16. He found Christ in the church and went to school and became a Psychologist. He runs a door-to-door ministry. He goes to the very poorest in the area and knocks on their doors and asks what they need. They always say they need food, because they are hungry. He then shared what he had learned that was so profound.
They are so hungry they cannot see beyond their hunger to what else they need.
It is his job to see the other needs as well. Blankets, holes in the roof, medicines, or wound care. When you are hungry, you cannot see, let alone fix your other problems.
I have learned about the richness of faith and generosity from the materially poor. They feed the hungry of spirit
Hunger is everywhere and it is up to us feed the Christ in everyone.
There are 6700 people who are unhoused here in San Jose. And 10,000 in Santa Clara County.
There is a growing number of people who don’t have enough food. Catholic Charities is still serving emergency food at the rate of 29 million meals since the pandemic started. The food pantry numbers are continuing to grow as prices go up and people are evicted from housing as the eviction moratoriums are being lifted.
I see answers to solve our problems here in Silicon Valley in the poorest areas in Tijuana. It takes the community to support the hungry, the homeless, the sick and the poor of spirit. If we love Christ, we must love and help the least of these. Serving Christ is not just a one week of the year event, or even just a Sunday event.
I have learned that I must not only serve the poorest ones in one of the poorest cities in the world, but I must also serve the poorest in one of the richest cities in the world. For they too are so hungry they cannot see beyond their hunger. We must all serve the least of these here.
Andre Sosinski 2022
Hello fellow parishioners, we are Andre and Joanna here to share our reflection about our experiences with Tijuana Ministry which began at St. Julies 17 years ago but as it grew to include other local parishes, it became part of BASICS, an acronym for Brothers and Sisters in Community Service, and NO, you don't have to be biological brother and sister team to join.
It would be presumptuous to speak of my tiny part in this endeavor without giving the biggest shout-out to the core organizing and leadership group. Many of whom have been doing this for so many years prior to me joining the team. They all did a phenomenal job, once again, in preparing us for a successful mission. These sometimes unseen and unsung volunteers spent countless hours organizing, fundraising, communicating, researching, hiring, planning, packing and procuring for the trip. I also want to thank everyone who lifted this ministry with financial donations, prayers, emotional support and/or by staying behind to take care of our needs and responsibilities. The basic mission for TJ Ministry is obviously about providing safe housing but it is also about so much more. It is about putting our faith into action, about loving our neighbors, about social justice, about collaboration between our parishes and between different communities. In short, it is about building physical, emotional and spiritual bridges. It is also about developing personal friendships with people we meet along the way or work alongside, a priceless gift.
My ego might want me to falsely say that I went and helped to build two homes for those in need. The fact is that I was honored by the opportunity to participate in something much bigger than what I could ever do alone; a chance to give back to the people who equally deserve basic human rights, rights which I get to enjoy through privilege on a daily basis. Can't wait to go to Tijuana again not just to serve God but to admire how the previously built houses were transformed into homes by the wonderful families we met there.
Hopefully next time we will be able to run again the other branches of the TJ Ministry that include programs for local children, teens and a mother’s program.
For more information and to donate please visit TijuanaMinstry.org.
Joan Mibach 2022
During the week of July 17th, 25 travelers joined the Tijuana Ministry mission trip sponsored and organized by BASICS, Brothers and Sisters in Community Service. This is the 11th year that St. Simon Parish has been an integral part of this mission trip. We had not been to Tijuana on Mission since 2019 and, out of an abundance of caution due to the Covid pandemic, we limited the number of travelers and the program offerings for the 2022 year. We did construction only this year and built two homes with this smaller crew of travelers. We hope to resume the Children’s, Teen’s and Mother’s programs next year.
Our base site is the Maria Inmaculada Parish in the La Morita area on the outskirts of Tijuana, about 20 miles from the US border. The parish is run by the Missionary Oblates of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They provide us with dormitory style housing, an industrial kitchen where we prepare and serve meals, and an outdoor gathering area where we can do morning prayer, daily reflections and offer presentations from locals who help us to understand the local conditions. The parish has a chapel where we attend Mass twice a week with the parish members whom we have come to know after our years of traveling there. We take time during the week to visit with the community of families we have built for in the pasts.
The families we build homes for come from an application process vetted by the parish. The active outreach mission of the Oblates leads to a clear understanding of the dire individual needs of their community. Each year the parish prepares a list of families in need, and we have a pre-trip where we visit these families who have applied for a home. The injustice of the living conditions that the truly poor are forced to live in just 20 miles from our border is overwhelming, and our first desire is to want to build for everyone, but we have to match our resources with the needs and select 2 – 5 families to build for each year, prioritizing living conditions, health situations, and how children are impacted. It is heartbreaking to have to say no to some, but luckily there are 5 other groups from northern California that travel to the same area to build homes so most families on the list are tended to.
We have standardized on the design of the house we build. It is 16’ x 32’ in size and includes three bedrooms, a functional bathroom with shower and flushing toilet, and a common area with running water. The home also has electricity and sewer hook ups if the services are available at the street which in some cases is just a dirt road. If these services are not available, we still leave all the hook-ups in the house so that they can be connected in the future as the city makes the service available.
As I write this, a 16’ x 32’ house does not seem like much by our standards. But when we hand over the keys and present the family with their first ever home, you see the overwhelming gratitude and joy of the family, and there is great satisfaction knowing that the Tijuana Ministry has left their small mark of God’s love that will have a multigenerational impact on the family forever.
The effect of participating in a mission trip is different for everyone. Naturally we experience the feeling of doing good for others. But traveling with the Tijuana Ministry mission we hope there is also a conversion of the heart that takes place over the course of the experience. This conversion comes from embracing the poor while sharing our love and joy. It comes from encountering strangers and loving neighbors from across the border. It comes from seeing injustice on a global level and realizing that you can have an impact both on the trip and when you return home. It is experiencing the revelation that Christ lives within us, and we take His love wherever we go.
Thank you for your prayers as we have been away. We are most grateful that St. Simon Parish has taken on the Tijuana Ministry as a mission of the parish. We thank Fr. Brendan for the value he has placed on mission trips and the impact they have. We thank the travelers from the parish this year; Joe Eder, CeCe and Devon Montgomery Eder, Tina Lipscomb, CJ Allen, Joan Mibach. We hope that you will join us next year and that we will be beyond pandemic concerns so that we can continue with all our programs including construction, children’s, teen’s, and mother’s programs.
Joanna Thurmann 2022
This was my 15th trip to build homes and community with the Tijuana Ministry. Since 2004, the ministry has built over 60 houses for people in need, as well as a community center and a dormitory extension at an AIDS and Tuberculosis clinic and a school for children with disabilities. St Julie’s goes down each year in mid-July for 1 or 2 weeks, along with other parishes from the diocese. Thank you for all your prayers and donations in support of this mission for all of these years.
My reflections and experience each year is both the same and different. It is impossible to capture it all in 3 minutes. So instead, I want to share with you how this experience has changed me.
First, I constantly see injustice and inequality all around me. When traveling by car to Tijuana, we see the manicured homes with manicured lawns in beautiful San Diego. And then we see Tijuana. Shanties amidst burning garbage, standing on dirt floors held together by tarps. Both of these “neighborhoods” are just 15 miles apart.
Second, I constantly see the crucified Christ. This year, we heard a man named David tell us about the work he does knocking on doors and visiting people. People whose bed sores have turned into wounds infested with maggots. No one else visits these people. They have no support network, no medical supplies, no car to drive to the clinic, and no money to pay for care once they get there.
I used to think that we build homes for the “poorest of the poor” but I was very wrong. The poorest and most vulnerable people have long ago been forgotten. They have been silenced. They have been hidden by heaps of garbage. They suffer in an unthinkable way – from physical pain and from the pain of loneliness and abandonment.
Of course, I also have joy in my heart. I get to see my 7-year-old god-daughter Daniela each year that I go. She paints me an early Picasso in watercolors. I also break bread with the construction workers with whom we work, the woman who sells Mexican pottery, and the 7 plus families who are so dear to me that stay in touch with them over WhatsApp throughout the year.
So how has all this changed me?
That wall damaged me. It keeps me from seeing Daniela and all the others I love. I want my Danielita to come visit me, and snuggle with me by the Christmas tree in December, rather than just one hot week in July. But she can’t. Because she can’t get a passport, or a visa, or some stamp, or some other arbitrary measure of worthiness.
I waste less. I conserve more – all of God’s resources. Water, food, things, money. People in Tijuana earn just $70 a week by working 12 hours a day at a factory. And they pay $50 a week for groceries.
I love more – everyone, everywhere, and every time I can because life is a gift. It is precious. And it is short.
I rage more. I rage against the injustice that makes all of this the way it is. The economics, politics, the privilege, the excuses that someone’s life is worth more. And someone else’s life is worth less.
And finally, Christ changed me. He taught me to have more freedom and less fear. To have more hope and to do more service. Not to sit back and despair. Christ is the alpha and the omega and He showed us the way. He is the crucified one among the crucified ones of Tijuana.
I know I have been given much, and therefore much is expected. Not to close my eyes but to see and feel the pain. And then to act for justice.
Alicia Aguilar 2022