What an amazing experience! Four days of physical labor and spiritual introspection in Tijuana left me really appreciating how much humble circumstances can give clarity and meaning to my life.
There were, of course, some challenges. The night before we were to leave, my backpack was stolen out of the van I rented while eating dinner in Chula Vista. I guess I have to learn some things, like not leaving anything in plain sight in a vehicle (especially a rented one), the hard way. I lost my keys, checkbook, my insurance information, pitchpipe, the book Dare to Dream Again which I didn't even get a chance to open, the van's Mexican insurance information, and a magazine that had my address on it. That was the main expense — changing the house locks costed about $90. *sigh* Anyway at least that's all taken care of now. Looking back, maybe this incident was just another part of the journey towards greater humility. (Slight tongue-in-cheek)
Thursday morning we arrived at the orphanage safely, but it was pouring rain, so we spent some time just getting situated. It was quite surprising to see puddles of water in the rooms in which we were staying. But everyone seemed to take it in stride.
I think especially since this was the first time for everyone, there was a sort of anxious energy throughout the trip. With everything we did, a sort of I-don't-know-exactly-what I'm-doing-but-I-know-if-I-give-my-heart-it-will-work-out attitude seemed to make all the difference.
Later on the rain subsided, and we were able to spend the rest of the day laying the concrete foundation.
Carpentry began the second day. By the end of the day we had all the internal and external wall-frames erected. It was exciting when the walls went up to see our creation take on three dimensions. Everyone wanted to participate in hammering but it seemed like there were more hammers than things to hammer. I would come to find out that this imbalance would be quickly corrected. In the meantime, a few people took the initiative to work on other peripheral tasks like drainage paths and yard work, which impressed me.
Saturday night we stayed up late and played a card game called Presidents. Lo and behold I won twice but was reluctant to decide on a punishment for the 'fools.' I finally relented at the prodding of the other participants ;-). Here are Malissa and Sara on their journey towards greater humility.
On Sunday we had a worship service where Mark gave a lesson from a book called Celebrating the Wrath of God (I know, not a very comforting title). It was very moving; he shared an excerpt from the book about a WWI soldier who had come across a fellow soldier's body, alone in death and stark in expression. The soldier went on to describe how the face of his fallen comrade had moved him profoundly; it urged him to live a life worthy of such sacrifice.
I'm not sure if it was Mark's eloquence or the emotions of the three days prior — probably both — I was deeply moved and wept. I felt as if God's gentle but firm touch had finally waded through all the distractions, defense mechanisms, and insecurities and really contacted soft flesh, soft heart. There was joy in the realization that such a thing could still happen; there was sadness too, at the realization that this was in many ways a very special environment and circumstance. It was painful to think about returning home to a place which seemed so distant, so detached by comparison.
At least an experience like this gives me hope that such connection is possible even in my own culture, though it is rife with complacency and decadence. Now I am all the more convinced of my duty to do what I can with what God has given me to foster a kind of environment where deep connection can be made. If I hadn't seen some kind of progress towards this with my bible-talk group already I think I would have felt a bit lost upon coming back. Thankfully I have a much better idea now how to cultivate this sort of thing.
Eddie taught one of the kids at the orphange (and a few of us too) some basic break-dance moves. Someday I'll be a six-steppin' fool. Q: How does one become a break-dancer? A: Práctica, práctica, práctica.
Other trials came up during the trip too. Somehow my van managed to attract all the attention — a tractor tried to pass us while we were stopped on a hill and left a nice gouge in the front fender. And I managed to bottom-out enough times that the spare tire came off. More lessons?
At the end of the day on Saturday Kevin was backing his truck down a slope but veered too close to the edge; when the earth started to give way, all of the brothers rushed to help out. It took a couple of tries but eventually most everyone got a hand on the truck and heaved the backend of it over a few feet to safer ground. All the while Faith and Sara were praying for everyone's safety. It was a great victory and very symbolic of the unity that God had formed in us in order to accomplished what we had come to do.
Here is the blurb that I emailed to Tara regarding the trip:
I keep thinking, how often do I have the opportunity to really make a difference? The majority of my time is spent contributing in ways that are very detached — write a check, pray for someone. This was a very special time to actually be with the people and do something that had significant impact.
By Sunday many people expressed wishes of wanting to stay, and I could understand what they were feeling. I too was mourning the end of our time spent with people whose circumstances give them the humility to ask for help and therefore enjoy God's blessings. Our trip was a reminder to me that having so much materially here in the States can easily be an obstacle to really asking for the help that I need — perhaps not physically but certainly emotionally and socially.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled." - Matthew 5:3-6