Tijuana Ministry Reflections

Bob Malone 2008

It feels good to reflect back on the wonderful Mission/Social Justice trip that St. Julie’s parishioners took this last summer to Tijuana, Mexico. I wish I could relive each magical moment of fellowship, humor, discovery, courage and fulfillment. Each one of us brought home exciting stories and experiences of what we shared with our new Mexican friends. We left behind two wonderful new houses, gallons of sweat, a few drops of blood, and lots of shared tears and laughter. We also left behind grateful families who experienced the wonder and awe of random acts of kindness on an unimaginable scale. How surprised they must have felt when perfect strangers from out of nowhere appeared, shared their lives, and gave them a new home. I am sure that they have never felt so loved by God! Never have the Gospel stories of Jesus come so alive! We truly walk in His footsteps when we reach out in love, action and compassion to our brothers and sisters in need.

 
“Transformation” is a word you will always see or hear in any publication or conversation about the nature of the Mission/Social Justice ministry. Everyone who touches, or is touched, by this ministry is truly transformed. Just like sand dunes in the middle of the desert that are moved by powerful winds, people’s lives, materials, churches and communities are moved by the transforming energy of mission and social justice work. A pile of lumber, cement, old doors and windows are transformed into a house. A group of individuals and strangers are transformed into a ‘family.’ The life of a poor Mexican family living in wretched conditions is transformed into the life of a family living in healthy, warm, clean and hopeful conditions.


In keeping with this renewed spirit and desire to do more random acts of kindness I ask you to do three things:


1) Pray for all the members of our community and ask God to continue to bless the great work that is being done in His name at Saint Julie’s.


2) Provide the spiritual and financial support to allow us to build three houses in Tijuana next summer. These houses will be dedicated to the Holy Trinity. One will be built in honor of God the Father, Creator of us all. One will be built in honor of His Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And one will be built in honor of God’s living presence on earth, the Holy Spirit. I invite you to be an integral part of making this tribute to the Holy Trinity a reality. Your prayer, decision to serve with us, and financial contributions will make this happen.


3) Help me in my local ministry doing regular random acts of kindness for the poor and homeless. I work with a group of volunteers serving the homeless at the InnVision Men’s shelter on Montgomery Street in San Jose. We prepare and serve breakfast every Saturday morning from 6:15 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Just this past year, we served over eight thousand meals - a 60% increase over last year.


All this was accomplished by God's grace and the hard work and generosity of many wonderful people. I invite you be transformed by this selfless and fulfilling local Mission/Social Justice ministry. Please take advantage of this opportunity to do God’s work.


My dear friend, Howie Major, has worked for an organization called AMOR Ministries for many years. AMOR’s thousands of volunteers help build over 4500 homes per year for the poor and needy of Mexico. Over the years I have listened to and read Howie’s testimonies about his mission experience. As I began to put my own reflection together, I reread all of the letters Howie sent me and I realized that, finally, I was able to experience first hand what he had been trying to share with me for years. I used some of Howie’s great words to try to explain what my own experience meant to me. I want thank him for all he has done for me and all of God’s children.


Our St. Julie’s experience included so much more than building homes. In those four days, some of our parishioners held separate programs for the mothers and the children. At some time each day, we left the work site on outings in Tijuana to learn about the Border issues; to meet, talk with local people; and to visit a homeless shelter which welcomed recently deported Mexicans from the United States. We accomplished a lot, and learned a lot, but most importantly we forged loving relationships that will last forever and that will have an effect on everything we do for the rest of our lives.

Norma Basanese 2008



The Saturday evening before we left for Tijuana we all attended St. Julie’s 5 p.m. mass.   Fr. Jon called us up after communion for a blessing in front of the community.  He called us missionaries.  That struck me as odd.  Missionaries to me were very special people who went to places like Africa, China or India. They preached and/or had medical training.  They dedicated their lives to living among and reaching out to the poor.

 

Never had I thought of myself in that way.  I am a mom, a wife – just an ordinary person. I had no special skills to offer. And while I understand Spanish a little, I don’t speak it.  I was not going to some exotic place - I was riding down to Mexico in a truck that pulled a trailer carrying building supplies.  I was not even going to build.  I went to cook for the builders so that they could do something very special.  

 

My husband and son went too.  They drove our small pick up full of kitchen supplies, food and some suitcases. Other people took gifts for the families, luggage, building supplies and water.   In all 12 vehicles mostly trucks or SUVs made the journey.  There were 42 of us in all.  Our ages ranged from teens to 60+.  Some spoke Spanish – most of us did not. 

 

But we did have a mission.  Our goal for the build teams was to build 2 houses - 16’ x 30’ (the size of one garage door by two garage doors) - for two needy families in just 4 days.  Both families had four children and a parent with health issues.  One of the mothers was diabetic and had difficulty getting around.  One of the fathers has Huntington’s disease and could no longer work because of the nature of this illness.

We offered a children’s program each morning from 9 am to noon which included a time of catechesis and crafts.  On one of the mornings Fr. Jon presided over a mass for the children in Spanish, of course.  The children were friendly, respectful and eager to participate in all the activities.  The older girls cared for younger siblings in a way we don’t generally see here.  It was a blessing to see such love and sharing in a place where they have so little.

 

We also offered a mothers’ program where the women of the area could come together and talk about their needs, get to know each other better, and were taught about nutrition, budgeting and other important life skills.  As they talked they worked on craft projects.   Although many were shy, they let me take pictures.  

 

Each afternoon, Fr. Jon offered social justice awareness opportunities.   We took a bus to the border wall where crosses show the names of people who have died while trying to cross the border.  There are crosses that are labeled “no identificado” and others with names. We held a prayer service for those who have died and those who will die in the future. Regardless of how one feels about the immigration issue it is a very moving and thought provoking experience.

Fr. Pablo (one of the four priests who serve over 200,000 people) and some of the local people including a social worker who helps to choose who is eligible for these houses we build came to speak to us of the problems, particularly the poverty and crime, that these families must live with.  

 

Fr. Jon took a group of us to Casa Migrante.  This is a shelter for men who have been deported back to Mexico.  We had the opportunity to learn what happens to people when they are deported.  We shared a very simple meal with these men and listened to their stories of how they got there, what their lives were like in the US, and what it was like trying to determine what they would do next.  It was again a very thought provoking and emotional experience.

 

We  all went out to the homes where Fr. Jon led a house blessing for each family.  It was the only time I was able to meet the families and see the progress of our builders.  Each house had a living space and four bedrooms.   Their families were so grateful and full of joy as they received the keys to their front door.  We all cried.  After the house blessing there was a mass of Thanksgiving followed by a fiesta.   It was truly a night of celebration and blessing.

 

For my part, I shopped for food before we left.  I worked with the women who led the women’s and children’s programs as we all shared the dining room space.  They helped our cooks’ team make the lunches to send to the builders.  I cleaned the bathrooms.  I mopped floors and swept up after the craft projects.  I wiped down tables.  I prepared food in a very hot kitchen and made sure there was always cold water, lemonade and a snack when the builders returned for the day.  I filled small sandwich bags with cookies for the children and their mothers. I tried to talk to the children.  When I couldn’t find the right word, I smiled and took pictures. Nothing spectacular – nothing out of the ordinary – the day to day stuff I do without thinking. 

 

How can that be missionary work?  I guess it just goes to show that God can use any of us if we are willing.  As a team we accomplished so much in so little time. As our motto says …“Doing together - what we cannot do alone.”

Chris Katsura 2008


 

This trip was a most incredible spiritual journey in my life. For a few brief days in my life, I could feel the Holy Spirit everyday and every waking minute, guiding me and providing everything I needed to be of service to all around me. This trip had a theme for me: immersion and transformation. The transformations I witnessed were:


- Prejudices dropping. Compassion rising.

- People who did not speak Spanish came up with creative ways to
  communicate through gesture. To me, these were "gestures from the heart".
- Everyone in the group became 100% selfless in action. All action was
  service for others. Consequently, the group interacted with one another in a very positive          way. Plus, we gave so much of ourselves to the community we served if only a few short

  days.

 

As we passed along the border on Tijuana's side, it was a long chain-linked fence with the circular cutting wire on top. Parts of it were solid and painted. There were crosses placed by the family in memory of their loved ones who had died in trying to cross the border. To me, this is the beginning of a "Berlin" wall.


Chris Katsura

Kelly Chunglo 2008

 

Like many others, my heart said “yes” to Tijuana long before I uttered the word. As the time drew near, I frantically tried to think of all the possible reasons I could not to go. I was afraid. I was afraid to leave my family, afraid to go to a place plagued by poverty and crime, afraid of getting sick and afraid of looking into the human face of despair. Fortunately, my heart always speaks louder than my head and the excuses weren’t working.

The poverty was shocking and crime is a part of daily life in Tijuana but there was so much more. More than I could have ever imagined. I met happy, gracious people, I watched children laugh and play and I got to play a small part in bringing hope to an incredibly deserving family. What I brought to Tijuana was a tool belt filed with tools and the desire to help my fellow human being but what I took home is an experience that will live in my heart forever.


Through the people in Tijuana, God revealed the power of the human spirit over heartbreaking living conditions and a faith so strong that it has to be seen to be believed. Now that the trip is over I look at my photos of the family and I wonder how they’re doing in their new home and how the kids have decorated their new rooms. I will include them in my prayers every day. I suppose I should be thankful because true to form, my heart has already said “yes” to Tijuana next year.

Karsten Agler 2008

 

When Father Jon asked me to share my reflections about the Tijuana project, I started to say that I would be at a loss for words. Those of you who know me know how rare that is. But when I contemplated what we had seen and how we were treated, I searched my heart and my mind for some way to explain this. What finally occurred to me was the way that many people want to treat this problem. They want to distance themselves from the reality, to push it to the far corners of their awareness, just the way lepers were treated at the time of Christ. Leprosy is a disease and we can now cure it, but at the time, its victims were victims of circumstance. It could have been anyone. Christ could have simply cured all lepers. He could have wiped the disease from the face of the planet, but instead he went among them, forgave their sins, worked miracles on those he touched, and gave them hope.

 

Even in downtown Tijuana people there seemed to shun those in the Colonia La Muerta. The people there are pushed to the corners of awareness, just like the lepers. This poverty is a disease that has eaten away the self-respect and civilization of these people. They live in Chaos and Anarchy. While we were there, one of them was even so desperate as to break into the church where we were staying, to steal from those who were trying to help him. How hungry were his children? How sick was his wife? We may never know, because he got away.

 

I started to wonder, have we accomplished anything? We merely built two houses in the space of a week (not a small feat, mind you.) This disease of poverty rages on despite our efforts, but I know that we have. Just as Christ, it is not our task to remove all poverty, because there will always be poor. It *IS* our task, just as Christ, to go among them, work a few miracles on those we touch, and give them some hope. What miracles did we work? Well, I saw a border guard open a trailer full of contraband building materials, close it, and wave us on. I saw the tears of joy of a mother who would now have proper shelter for her little children. I saw the smile of a little girl. Most of all, I saw hope. Hope is rare in that place, but with it grows self-respect and dignity, and these are the true cure for the despair, the desperation, and the chaos.

Thank you, St. Julie’s, for giving us the chance to walk among them, to break bread with them, and to work a few miracles of hope.

Glenn Mayor 2008

 

Mexico before Tijuana to me is Puerta Vallarta, Los Cabos and  Punta Mita. It evokes memories of palm trees swaying in the see breeze, blue skies, nice beaches, cerveza and ceviche. This was a stark contrast to the view of Valle del Muerto 15-20 miles east of Tijuana. Upon entering Terraza Dos, the area where our beneficiaries live, our cars and trucks kicked up some dirt from the unpaved and uneven road worsening the already polluted air caused by burning trash. Trees were scarce except for a few shrubberies here and there offering limited respite from the scorching sun. The closest to a sea breeze was the rippling sound of a tattered edge of a blue tarp set up as sun shield in the Church plaza. We were told not to drink the water nor eat the local food.

 

As a handyman, I was ready to work with my team to build a simple house made from discarded garage doors and donated materials. As an American, I was not ready to grasp the complex forces that influence migration. It is difficult for me to understand the dynamics of economic policies and governmental regulations. All I know is that people are driven to provide basic needs of food, shelter and clothing for their families at the risk of losing their lives trying to cross the border.

 

When we visited the border wall on the Mexican side, crosses marked the names of those who perished attempting to reach the US. Other crosses did not have names written on them. Will their families ever find out what happened to them? No one knows. We stopped at the make shift altar as Fr. Jon lead us in prayer and continued to pray as we walked several hundred yards along the wall. Traveling to new places, I usually get a memento or something to remember the visit. I decided to get a pebble or a small stone along the wall. Halfway through our walk I saw a solitary stone near the wall and picked it up. Upon closer look, it turned out to be a brown colored stone shaped like a heart. It has a chip behind the arc on the right hand side. How symbolic I thought. This is a wall of broken hearts. People who don’t make it across are brokenhearted for not succeeding and people who make it are also brokenhearted for leaving their families behind. But there is hope. For the Zamarripa family, hope is in their children; Moises Jr, Gabriela, Jose and Guadalupe to take care of their sick father. I asked 15 yr.old Moises Jr. in broken Spanish if he can plant a tree in their backyard. He asked what kind. I said mango. I will visit in 3 years and hope the mango thrives to provide shade and fruits. I also learned that wishes are granted.  3 yr. old Guadalupe visited Wednesday, a day before we finished the house, and was very excited to see her very own room. When asked what color she would like her room painted, she answered “Rosita” or pink. Call it coincidence or luck but how can you explain one unwanted gallon of pink paint donated in San Jose traveling over 500 miles can bring such joy to a little girl. It’s a miracle.

 

Building a nice house in Terraza Dos standards in 4 days is a mini-miracle in itself. At the turnover, after a Bible reading and blessing by Fr. Jon, we were encouraged to say our wishes for the Zamarripa family. (Same ceremony was done earlier at Martinez’s house). Several expressed their fondest hopes for a bright future. I said, “Have hope, you are not alone. Other people are praying for you, even if they don’t know you. Other people are extending their love to you. May God bless you”.

Larry Cargnoni 2008

 

I’m sitting here in my cluttered office wondering how Alejandrina, Alejandra, Jose, Manuel, Paola, and Jose are doing and how they spent their day.

 

One week ago tonight, I listened to three parish leaders from La Morita , a poor neighborhood on the eastern side of Tijuana. Two ladies and a man spoke about the realities of living in that dirty, grey shanty-town.  The first thing I noticed was that they were dressed up and well groomed – almost out of place given the grit and grime that surrounds and pervades the neighborhood. They spoke matter-of-factly, with no emotion. One meal a day is common for most families. Families need to pay 200 (?) pesos per child to send their kids to “public” schools. Many families can’t afford to send their children to them. Kids that did attend school often dropped out before entering middle or high school – either because they got into trouble or they started working to support their family. Gangs, crime, and early pregnancies are common paths taken by kids. 

 

I learned that Tijuana actually has a low employment rate – folks can find jobs if they want to – but the wages are low – much lower than US minimum wage. The increased prices of food, gasoline, and other commodities that we all have been experiencing hit these families especially hard.

 

Later in the evening, across and down the valley, several fires were lit, as they were on Monday night and as would be lit on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Fires lit to burn trash and in some cases human waste. Early that morning too I counted 6-7 plumes of black smoke over the neighborhood. I learned that many people in the area suffer from respiratory ailments caused in part by contaminants and air-borne e-coli from the fires.

We built a house for the Martinez family. There was no plumbing. Their water came from a 55-gallon drum on their dilapidated back porch. They used a neighbor’s outhouse to go to the bathroom. Of the two windows I saw one, was broken. The front and back doors were covered with sheets. The roof was a patchwork quilt of old rolled shingles, plywood, 2x4’s, a ball, shoes, and a stuffed dinosaur. I’d be surprised if it kept out a lot of water. I think they bootlegged electricity from the grid.

 

I peeked inside their house once or twice and saw cramped, dank, and dark quarters where a family with four kids lived. It was difficult not to spy around more, but between respecting their privacy and perhaps being embarrassed for them (and for myself?) I stopped short.( I was touched by the fact that the family and slept in the house Tuesday and Wednesday night, well before it was finished.)

 

I don’t recall seeing a lot of toys for the kids. The kids had a small kitten, white and light brown that they seemed to take good care of.  The kids were clean and groomed the four days we visited their home and at the Thursday evening mass. They were well behaved, curious, and helpful.  They reminded me of my own – they were kids being kids – lots of smiles – they liked to play.

 

I wondered if they knew how badly they had it – if they thought their situation was “normal”. I wondered what it was like or what it would be like to learn someday that one was at the bottom of the heap – when “normal” turns to questions to parents about “why and how come?” What will trigger that self awareness?  Perhaps they already know? How could they not know? Worse, what answers does Mom give?  What would I tell my kids in that situation?

 

It bothered me, and I believe others on Team B, that we ate our lunches in front of the kids and Jose, our worker. Luckily we figured out that it was OK to give them an occasional snack, drinks of Gatorade and Cokes!  I think on Thursday, even the pathetic white (and purple-painted) dog down by Team A got a meal from us after four days of watching him in his suffering.

 

I couldn’t stop thinking about the experience, the family, and locale during the 2-3 days following our return. I notice as I throw myself back into work and the day-day grind, my emotions are hardening back up and perhaps my empathy is waning a bit too. I’m looking back at the week more logically, not as I had been emotionally connected, but almost as I had been detached or as an observer.  When retelling others about the experience, I’m hear back platitudes (oh it’s like that in China, you ought to see people in the India, etc), and not much empathy. 

 

At one of the masses this past Sunday, Monica mentioned that many of us had tears in our eyes as the family received their house keys. I was one of the “big and burly” guys that got emotional and I remained emotional off and on for 2-3 days. I suppose I experienced happiness, a sense of accomplishment, let-down, guilt, pity, despair and loss (and probably some fatigue and stress-relief) – I wonder if I was weeping for the kids, for the families, the community or for me (probably for all!). My biggest regret is not learning more about the family, their story, and perhaps their plans. My challenge moving forward is to channel my emotion into useful, constructive activity that can help others like those in La Morita. My fear is that I’ll lose the empathy and awareness that I’ve brought back.

 

Like many, I have an opinion on how the US and Mexico should deal with migrants and undocumented workers. That opinion may or may not align with those of the outstanding people that I had the honor and privilege to meet and work with in Tijuana. It’s clear to me that no matter which side of the immigration argument one comes down on, there is no excuse for these people, anyone for that matter, to have to live in and endure the conditions that I saw in my short 4-5 day visit. One would expect that there would be a minimum level of dignity and respect that we as a society would have for one and other – to ensure that basic services of life are provided- the bottom two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (physiological and safety)  - for everyone. And all kids need to go to school. And that all who want and are able to work can work at a reasonable if not living wage.

 

I know this stuff is not free. I get that living off the government (any government) and expecting it to solve all problems and be the center of a welfare state is not practical, reliable, or sustainable. On the surface, I want to say that parachuting in missions while tactically useful (fulfilling real needs, providing help and hope to a few) does little strategically to solve the larger issues, in my opinion, especially when there appears to be little or no government involvement doing anything to resolve the key issues. 

On the other hand, I believe it was Fr. Jon who told us that we needed to carry back and share our experiences with others so that we can build solidarity with these folks and through relationships work to resolve the issues over time. I want to believe that Rosie and her team’s messages and teaching reached 1-2 moms and inspired them to take more charge of their lives and take a step in building a community. Perhaps Alejandrina, Alejandra, Jose, Manuel, Paola, and Jose will one day give to others as they themselves received. Perhaps I need to figure out what it is that I can and should be doing as a result of me “parachuting” in for four days. And in the end, if I can and if offered the opportunity, I’d like to go back next year and do it again.

 

It’s a tough and unfortunate realization that while St Julie team touched and improved the lives of at least two families and many kids and several moms, the issues are systemic, intrinsic, human, political, complex and will take years to sort out and address. Without public and private partnerships and a willingness to boldly invest in those people and their environment, not much is going to change. Their clinic that was created over a 4-5 year period demonstrates how partnerships can work to bring constructive change and some hope to an impoverished area.

 

I hope Alejandrina, Alejandra, Jose, Manuel, Paola, and Jose enjoy their new house. We didn’t quite get it to where we wanted it to be, but with some elbow grease and a few more hours of work, they can finish it off nicely. I hope they take care of it and that they make it their home. More importantly, I hope they find a path to a better life and take it.

Larry Cargnoni

July 22, 2008



 

“Donde se reúnen dos o tres en mi nombre, ahi estaré Yo, en medio de ellos.”
(Mateo 18:20).  No hay duda que Dios estaba con nosotros en Tijuana, y que hace milagros a cada día.  Pero ser testigo de uno, hecho realidad en un bote de pintura “rosita” es para ablandarle el corazón y cambiarle la vida a cualquiera.  Cuando le preguntamos a Guadalupe, una niňa de cinco aňos de que color quería que pintemos su recamara, ella respondió con un susurro y avergonzada, “rosita”. Eso significó un gran reto y decidimos que se tendría que conformar con la pintura blanca o café, los únicos colores que se nos habían donado en San Jose. Pero imagínense nuestra sonrisa y lagrimas de alegría cuando un bote de pintura “rosita” apareció el ultimo día --- escondido entre cajas de herramienta, escaleras y clavos. A Guadalupe se le hizo su sueňo realidad, algo que muy pocos niňos en Tijuana pueden siquiera imaginar. Dios en verdad tiene un buen sentido del humor…… y pintura rosita.

Para ser testigo de tu propio milagro, el proximo año a La Morita. Este lugar del “Tercer Mundo de Norte America” se encuentra a solo doce millas de la frontera, en la parte sureste de Tijuana. Desperdicios y mugre decoran este pobre vecindario. Montones de basura y llantas viejas adornan las calles sin pavimento. Cientos de conexiones eléctricas –ilegales- se miran en el alambrado publico, arriesgando e invitando un incendio. Hay muy pocos árboles para descansar del calor tan fuerte.  El aire huele mal, contaminado con enfermedades como e-coli proveniente de quemazones donde se quema hasta desperdicio humano. Un cuarto de millón de personas viven en ésta vil pobreza.


Llegaron del sur de Mexico y de Centro America, con la esperanza de encontrar trabajos y pan para sus hijos. Se quedaron sin salida en la frontera, ganando $10 por día en alguna fabrica Americana y sin manera ni lugar a donde regresar. Grupos de cinco o mas, sin el apoyo de parientes o amigos, viven en pequeňas casitas hechas de carton y pedazos de madera, con piso de tierra y sin tubería o insolación. Solo 60% de los niňos van a la escuela, porque cuesta 2 pesos por niňo para tomar el autobús, mas el costo de lápices, libros, uniformes y comida. Raramente reciben atención medica o cuidado dental. Mueren 400 niňos al aňo. Para sobrevivir, ambos padres tienen que trabajar, por lo tanto, los niňos mas grandes cuidan a los mas pequeňos durante todo el día. Muchas niňas quedan embarazadas a la edad de 13 aňos debido a la falta de supervisión y educación. El ciclo continua perpetuamente.

42 de nosotros llegamos de Santa Julia con el plan de construir casas y así ayudar a dos familias muy agradecidas. Pero construimos mucho mas. Construimos comunidad, comprensión, humildad y gratitud por las bendiciones que recibimos cada día y ni cuenta nos damos. Nos percatamos que la mayoría de nosotros nacimos con privilegios y vivimos en el alto 3% de la riqueza mundial cuando se trata de necesidades básicas, posesiones, educación, viajes, salud y oportunidades. Nuestros hijos disfrutan viviendas amplias, escuelas, y todas las comodidades de una clase media en Estados Unidos.  También disfrutan de nuestro “tiempo”. Tiempo para enseñarles, amarlos y darles de nosotros, cuidarlos y acostarlos seguros en su cama cada noche. Fue simplemente por suerte que nuestros hijos nacieran a este lado de la frontera.

Este viaje demuestra la necesidad de compasión a cada día – la necesidad de detenerse y dejar de juzgar, o tal ves siquiera olvidarse de su propio rencor y resentimiento sin importar sus puntos de vista respecto a lo que dicta el gobierno y Migración Ilegal. Para lograr esto, debemos de mirar con nuestros propios ojos la pared erigida en memoria de los miles que han muerto tratando de mejorar su futuro. Debemos de visitar Casa Migrante, una casa donde se ayuda a hombres recién deportados y aprender sus historias, oir sus voces quebrantadas y mirar sus ojos llenos de lagrimas. Debemos traer nuestra herramienta y darnos cuenta que cuando se reunen dos o tres en Su nombre, Dios está en medio…. cargando un bote de pintura “rosita”.

Joanna and Martin Thurmann 2008

Rosie Rashidally 2008

 

I was asked to share with you my experience and in which way it impacted me. I volunteered to go because I wanted to help build the houses, not thinking  that there was more to it than just to go and build a house. I don’t know what impacted me the most; the dirt road that went what it seems miles leaving this cloud of dust, full of bumps that at that moment was funny and we laughed, or the piles of garbage outside the shacks along the way for miles and miles, or the smell of rottenness, of burnt plastic, of contamination.

 

Perhaps seeing the enjoyment of innocent children dancing and dancing like there is not poverty and hunger around them, or looking at their smiling faces when you welcome them, or when you call their name and pay attention to them, or listening to a mother that is struggling to make ends meet, or how to go about sending her child to secondary school, where they are charged even for the tests, or knowing that Rosita’s daughter that is 21 years old has already 3 children ranging from 7 to 3 years old, or that boys as young as 8 to 10 years old are already involved in drugs, that girls by 12 or 13 are having sex, or listing to the stories of the mothers that have lost their children to fires because they went to work during the night and their shack caught fire because they steal electricity from a high voltage cable, and children are left alone while they work, or a little 6 year old boy that had an infected foot that needed to had a cigarette inserted in the wound and when puffed the worms where coming out at the other end, and a man that lost his leg to an infection just because they don’t have the money to go to the doctor to get the help.

 

or looking along the wall at the border-site the thousands of crosses of all the people that have lost their life, and which only God knows what their family must be suffering,

or perhaps talking to a 58 yr old man at the Casa Migrante, that after living in Costa Mesa, Ca. for 25 years and working as a landscaper, was taken back to Mexico and cannot get residency because he was arrested for driving without a license, now he has a record, but driving was part of making his living.

 

When you SEE, SMELL, and HEAR all these, it becomes impossible not to question God, but only faith makes you go ahead, only faith can make you go to bed at 12:00 and get up at 4:15am. Only faith makes your body tired keep going, you wish the days were longer so that you can do more. Brother Junn’s team after going to the casa migrante went back to the site to work till 10:00 pm to start work next day at 5:30am. Because finishing the house was more important than their tireness.

 

I want to let you know that the mother’s group send their thanks to all of you and especially to the kids that sent the seeds for them, they have just the same dreams as you and me. We did a dream box, where they put what they wish to have one day. A house, a car, a vacation, a trip on a plane, a happy family, there is not difference, they are just like you and me.