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Probation Officer and Adult Volunteer Leader for the High School Ministry of Granger Community Church.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Life This Side of the Border

It's weird trying to get back into the swing of things after spending 7 days in Mexico. I can actually read all of the road signs, I don't have to take a bus everywhere(and if I did, I wouldn't have to worry about not being able to speak the language very well in order to tell the driver where I needed to go), I don't have to use part spanish and part shirades to communicate to people, I can drink the water, and I can flush the toilet paper down the toilet(in the city of Monterrey, you can't flush the toilet paper down the toilet... eeeewwwww). I love my bed and I totally missed my son Carter. But I can't help but feel like a part of me is still in Mexico. I wanted to give a recap of my week, so here it is. I'll try to keep it short.

Saturday, July 23: We arrived in Monterrey and met Back to Back at the airport. At the last checkpoint you have to push a button on what looks like a stoplight. If you get a green light, you can pass. If you get a red light, they make you step to the side and open up your luggage. Not that I have anything to hide, but I find this little game a little nerve racking. At least they didn't have the Mexican army standing there like they did last year. Didn't really do anything that night but hang out and get situated.

Sunday, July 24: First off to church. It was cool to see what heaven might be like. Sang mostly in Spanish and then wore headphones to listen to a tranlation of the pastor speaking. Went to Casa Hogar Douglas. The kids that were there were the kids who nobody wants. They usually have over 100 children there, roughly 60 something went home for the summer. So the children who were there, were pretty hard at first... wouldn't you be? We served them pizza for lunch and hung out with them for a while. Then I got to take a mallet and chisel to a concrete wall and chisel out holes for shower water handles and shower head. Josh Sargent joined me and was a beast. Went back to the compound for dinner and worship.

Monday, July 25: Off to Manantial de Amor children's home. These kids are freakin awesome. They met us at the gate with such joy... hand shakes, high fives and hugs all around. After two years, I'm still amazed at the joy these kids have even though they aren't with their families and have so little. It poured today. Later we learned that we worked through tropical storm Gert... what a name. We poured cement for their new play area, at lunch with the kids, threw them around afterward (nobody threw up), hung out with them in their rooms and just loved on them. Then it was back to the compound to hang out with the group and have worship in the palapa.

Tuesday, July 26: Back to Casa Hogar Douglas for more. This time Jami, Tammy, Jeff, Amber, John and myself backfilled mud to make the ground level to lay cement for the children't new sports area. This job was the hardest. I hit my wall several times, prayed for glory strength and moved on. It seemed like we made little progress, but by the end of the day with the help of other team members we accomplished a lot. Jami, Tammy, Amber, Jeff and John did an awesome job. All hit walls but kept going. It was fun to watch. Then lunch with the kids. This is one of my favorite daily activities. It was like having communion. I think that this is where Jesus would have been if He was physically here. Wait, He was, through 49 people and the children. How cool is that. Then back to the compound to hang with the group for dinner and worship at the palapa.

Wednesday, July 27: Back to Manantial de Amor for a couple of hours. We laid pebbles for about 45 minutes. We really pushed through that job and finished the new play area. It was really cool to see the children actually having fun on something we built and finished. Then we threw a birthday party for the kids who had July birthdays. It was so awesome to see their faces light up. They really don't have hardly anything. Everything they get means a tremendous amount to them. This was really cool to experience. Then we loaded up the kids and took them and the entire team to Plaza Sesamo (Sesame Street Water Park). I got to hang out with Ernesto, Alan and Andreas. These kids ran me ragged between water slides and then we headed to the kids pool where they wanted me to dunk them and throw them under the water. These kids were so much fun. Then we had lunch together. And like last year, when it was time to go there were no complaints... that to me is amazing. And then we headed to Tacos Fede, the best place to eat in Monterrey. Your tacos are huge and you drink pop from a bottle. It was awesome! Then we headed back to the compound for late night worship under the palapa.

Thursday, July 28: Probably the hardest day emotionally. We left the compound around 10 a.m. and arrived at El Rio around 11:45ish. These people live in total poverty... the poorest section of Monterrey. They actually live on a landfill and make their houses out of trash. We went their to hand out fresh eggs, cold water, gifts for the children, candy, clothes for adults, children and babies. Each mom received a bag of 10 diapers that had to last a week. At least one mother brought their baby up with nothing on. They also received formula, of which one teenage mother sells to by coca cola because it's cheaper to feed to her baby. The baby's teeth were already rotted out. We also painted faces and passed out balloons in 100 degree heat. There were other people there who looked sad, then there were other people who were filled with joy. How could you be filled with joy and live in trash... literally. And then, before we passed out items that were going to literally help these people survive, their pastor stood up to help lead a time of testimonies given by August, one of our teens and Wendy, an adult leader. That amazes me. A man and his wife called to pastor a group of people who live in trash. That is amazing. That man is Jesus in the flesh. That man truely wants nothing in return. Not that pastors in the states don't give their lives away, and not that there may not be the same type of person here, but this man gives himself to people who can't give back to him. It is amazing that the contribution we made actually helped people survive. And Back to Back does this twice a week. What a priviledge to be able to do this for one day. As soon as we got back to the compound we changed into our swimming gear and headed out to play with the kids from the children's home. We literally swam for four hours with these kids. When we got out the pool was a strange color of brownish green. Then we had dinner with them. I think it was something like a spongy hotdog. My wife ate one... I'm so proud of her for that. I ate three. I'm still good. No revenge. Then we said goodbye to the kids of Douglas. That was hard. But we had to keep it together because the kids of Manantial wanted to sing to us and give a couple of testimonies. To open up, they thanked God for the Americans coming to them... I lost it. With tears already flowing they began to sing worship in Spanish... more tears. Then a testimonial from a 15 year old girl who told us not to worry about our problems because God is good and He will take care of us... more tears... then another testimony from a girl who's dad ran away and mother had died of cancer two years ago. She also has a four year old brother who is so cute and fragile. She talked of God's care... more tears. These two kids have more spiritual maturity than most people I know, including myself. Then we had the chance to pray for the children. And then for the moment I knew was coming a year ago... time to say goodbye. Matt tells us to hold it in the best we could. Who would think that you would make such a connection in seven days. But I love those kids, and a part of my heart is still in Monterrey. It was a hard goodbye. Harder than last year. But God has placed a stellar group of loving, Jesus-walking individuals from Back to Back and it's comforting to know that these kids are being loved on by some of the Godliest, awesome people to walk the face of the planet. After we gathered ourselves up, we went down to the palapa for our last night of worship. I love worship in Mexico. It takes on a whole new connection with God after you give your life away in work and relationship. Worship in Mexico is special... but it's not and shouldn't be bottled up down there. It can continue here. After worship, I hung out some more and then stayed up until 1 a.m. where Judy (middle school pastor) and I beat Matt and Julie two straight Euchre games... I fully expect them to expect a re-match when they come up here. And I fully expect to beat them again!

Friday, July 29: Woke up already packed and ready to go. But first we helped clean the compound for their summer wrap up. It was fun to help them tear down and give everything a good clean. It's an honor to close down the summer schedule with them. Then we had our last lunch there and waited for our bus to arrive. We said our goodbyes and headed off to Cola de Caballo, or Horsetail Falls. This place was awesome. We got to see God's majesty in many ways over this trip, and this was one of them. There really aren't words to describe the waterfall and the walk up to it. It was a great time to spend with friends and my wife. Then we headed to our hotel for the night... that was a long bus ride. Midstream we dropped off our only person who truely spoke spanish. So we were flying by the seat of our pants praying that the bus driver remember where he was told to go. We were in the bus so long that I thought he had gotten lost, but a solid hour and a half later we arrived at our destination. Unpacked, took a shower and then headed to cool restaurant, Las Aliatas (I think). The menus were in english but the wait staff barely spoke any... that was fun trying to order. The food was great though. Then back to the hotel to hang out with some of our team and at 12 a.m. on the button, I put my head on my pillow and was out.

Saturday, July 30: Drove to the airport. Waited for our flight. Was informed that it was going to be only a 2 hour and 50 minute flight... YESSSS. Arrived at O'hare. No hiccups. Took a school bus to Granger Community Church. Hugged people, said our goodbyes and then drove, no, our car grew wings and spit fire as we sped to pick up our six month old baby. Ya, he started to pucker his bottle lip and cried when he saw us... I'm sure it just hit him that we were gone for seven days.

I just want to add that I am proud of Jami on so many levels... leaving her sixth month old son to be a mom to children who don't have one... working hard for six straight days in the rain and sunny heat... eating food that she probably wouldn't eat here... her great attitude and her encouraging words to our students... you are awesome and I look up to you. I love you.

So that's Mexico in one long, long blog entry. Thank you for those who supported me, financially and prayer wise. You all made a difference.


Blogger Tammy McMullen said...

Just wanted to let you know how much fun I had with you guys on this trip. What a privelege it was to serve Christ side by side with you guys. Todd-I never got the chance to tell you that I saw a side of you this week that I had never seen before. I could so see your heart while you were playing with the kids. Thanks for all the encouragemnt through the week! You guys rock! We love you!

1:51 PM  
Blogger praynlady said...

Todd, it sounds like God blessed you with an incredible trip. You know, all He wants is for us to plant the seeds and He takes care of the rest. From your trip notes, it sounds as though you did just that. I can picture you with the people there, and without knowing you personally, I can even picture you hand motioning the bus drivers. I am so envious. I cannot wait till I am healed and can once again travel and go on mission trips.

Buenos dias, mi amigo. Camino con Christo y sus dias seran mejor!

En Christo,

2:06 PM  

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