Friday, May 2, 2014

Tijuana 2014

        As you (hopefully) know, I was in Mexico last week on a short term ministry trip. I don't even know where to begin, so if this post is a bit choppy, that's why. We left home at 4:15 last saturday, which put us at church at about 4:45. There was food there, although I didn't really feel like eating that early in the morning, so I just kind of waited around and chatted until we finally got on the buses at about six and got going. For those of you who don't know, it's around an eleven hour drive from the SF Bay Area to the California/Mexico border. We stopped three times, once at about 9:30, once at noon for lunch, and then once at about 4:30 in the afternoon. I am not a fan of road trips, but this drive wasn't too bad. Although I couldn't sleep at all, unlike most people traveling with me, it was nice to rest after an early morning. Yes, there were some loud and rambunctious ones (mostly the sophomores), but all in all, it was a pretty calm ride. Well, I can't speak for the guys' bus - I wouldn't be surprised if the last statement would be completely if applied to them. 
        This was my first time out of the country, but I hope it won't be my last. The border crossing went smoothy, although it was quite a pain to take all of the luggage out from under the bus and our carry-ons. We had to take it through security and put it all through a scanner, pick it up again, and then carry it out again and put it back on the buses. The guys did help with some of the girls' stuff, which was nice. You know, it just amazes me how strong some guys are. I mean, I could never carry four stuffed duffel bags, have a backpack on, and sling several sleeping bags over my arm. And still walk. Or even lift them off the ground. I can carry 50 lb feed sacks with no problems - I actually like doing that a lot, but how they can just pick stuff up and haul it all over the world is beyond me. Rambling? Oops... Tijuana is right across the border, so it was only about a fifteen minute drive to where we were staying after we got into Mexico.
        So I had heard all sorts of things about how terrible it is in Tijuana; how poor the people are and how run-down everything is. It really wasn't that bad. No, I'm not ignoring the fact that the whole culture is far different from the Bay Area and that we have it very easy here, but I feel like people were kind of exaggerating. My parents both, for many years, went on this same missions trip with the same church, only they went to Mexicali instead. Apparently, from what my mom told me, the people there were much poorer - all of their clothing was ragged and their houses were simply cardboard and scrap metal with no real structure. In Tijuana in 2014, the people have nice-ish clothes, and even if their houses are a bit patched and not what we might wish to live in, you can tell that they were built as houses. It was not a culture shock at all for me, and I rather liked being in Tijuana for a week. To tell the truth, I'd rather live there than here.
        We arrived saturday night, ate dinner, and were in bed by 10:30. We were all pretty tired after being in a bus for almost twelve hours, and were glad to get into bed. If you're wondering what the beds were like, I actually took a picture just for you! ;)

        They were wooden bunks, stacked three high, and each had one old foam pad about two inched thick. Needless to say, they didn't do much good in terms of padding. We each had a sleeping bag, though, so it was all right. I slept better than I expected to, which was nice. My bunk was right next to a window looking down into the courtyard, and at about 10:00 every night, I would climb up on my bed, lie on my stomach, and look down at everyone and what they were doing.

        The above picture was taken during the day when there was no one in the courtyard. The place we stay at belongs to a man named Sergio; he rents out his several bunk rooms and kitchen area to different church groups who come throughout the year. I believe there were three guys bunk room and three girls ones. The area that you can see through the window above is the dining hall. Here are some more pictures of TJ taken from Rancho Solo where we were staying.

        On Sunday, which was Easter, we had a morning service after breakfast. After that we split up into our church groups and drove out in buses to the churches. Ours was in a neighborhood called Descanso, so we were the Descanso group. Ours was one of the smaller churches. When we got there, we were just in time to hear the pastor's message, and then we walked around and handed out flyers for the VBS we would be doing the up-coming week. I made the mistake of wearing my sneakers that I am not used to; after a day of walking around the streets of TJ my left foot felt like it was on fire. Not my right one, however - I'm not sure why. After that day, I switched back to my boots. I can't believe I considered not taking them!

       After we gave out all of the flyers, we headed back to Rancho Solo. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon, so we had approximately two hours until dinner and our evening service. A missionary from Venezuela was temporarily back in the states, and he had come down with us to preach for the week. It was really cool listening to him. English is his third language, yet I would never have guessed that; he is completely fluent. He mentioned that Spanish is his fifth, but he didn't say it was his last. Who knows how many language he speaks!! He was a very passionate speaker, and listening to him preach was a great privilege.
        The next day was our first day of VBS. We loaded up into our buses at 8:45, and were at our church about twenty minutes later. We prayed on the bus, and when we were done, us first-timers got to learn about the traditional game of 'Tecate' played by High School students while in Mexico. It's like that one where every time you see a Volkswagen bug you call it out and punch the person next to you, only with a certain beer called Tecate. It's all over. "Don't drink it", I was told, "But keep an eye out for the signs". ;)
        Every day after that (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday),we had VBS in the morning, and then ate lunch in the bus on the way to our afternoon ministry. Monday it was sports camp, Tuesday was prayer, Wednesday as Refuge, and Thursday was Campo. Sports Camp was, I think, my least favorite. My feet were killing me that day, and although I did have fun running around with the little Mexican kids (they are too cute!), it wasn't particularly enjoyable. I was definitely not expecting everything to be enjoyable, however, so it was all right.
        Tuesday, I helped out on construction the whole day. That was my absolute favorite out of all the things I did the whole week! I spent most of the time scraping paint off of a porch and replacing several parts of it that were rotten. They painted over it the next day. Not too far down from me, so me of the guys were working on putting in a new porch. Nate ended up hitting a water pipe by mistake and we had a little flood before my dad found the shut off valve and, well, shut it off. I was VERY disappointed I didn't get a picture, but oh well. Nate wouldn't be too pleased with having one - in fact, he told me so - but what he doesn't know is that we have the piece of pipe and I'm going to put it on a plaque for him. ;)
        The Refuge for the Elders is the place that people either love or hate. It was started by a man named Frank and he goes and picks up the elderly people along the streets that are just abandoned to die. He brings them back and they can live there as long as necessary. They are fed, cared for, and they have the opportunity to hear the gospel every day. When the high school group from our church goes to TJ, every day, another team goes to Refuge for afternoon ministry. We help shower people, serve meals, wash feet, trim nails, sing, and (for those that can) talk to the people there. It is a really touching experience, humbling and actually pretty hard for some people. I enjoyed it a lot.
        On Thursday, we went to help out at another church as our afternoon ministry. It is called Campo Abierto (meaning 'open field'), and they do both morning and afternoon things there. In the afternoon, however, they have another team to help them out. It is basically just an open field - well they now have a building, as of last year - but it gets really hot and their team needs a bit of a break at that point. So, we serve lunch, and then take the probably close to 100 kids outside and play with them. Piggyback rides, jump rope, tag - we do it all. It was nice to see some people from the Campo team, and fun to play with the kids. I ended up swinging one end of the jump roope for about two hours straight out in the sun.
        So now I've gone through our VBS and afternoon ministries each day, what else is there? Well, on Wednesday, each church had a fiesta, so we headed back to Descanso at about 5:30. We had been to Refuge that day, so it was kind of a rush getting back to Rancho Solo, showering (which is mandatory after Refuge), and then diving back to the church. Oh, and I took a picture of the inside of our bus for you:

         Some pictures taken at Descanso. After eating at the fiesta, we went outside and played in the street. There were tennis balls to toss, jump ropes, balloons, and many other fun things for the kids.

         One of the MANY dogs around Tijuana:

         The church at Descanso:

        Since the construction team didn't have a church to go to, a few of those guys came to Descanso as well, including my dad. We threw tennis balls with the kids and had a lot of fun playing with them. Am I the only one who still hates when balloons pop? I hope not. I distanced myself from that area after a while. ;)
        If you didn't know this about me, I have something akin to an allergy to pork. I pretty much have to follow the laws in the Old Testament about not eating unclean animals and not eating anything that has been cooked in a bowl or pot that has once had pork cooked in it and so forth. Any slight contamination makes me extremely sick. Any time I go with my church group, I know there is a chance I could get sick. I only eat the fruits and vegetables, but it is all prepared by the same people, and with the same utensils as bacon, sliced ham, and often pulled pork, so I just hope that it is all clean. I got sick after the weekend of girls' retreat last year. On Wednesday afternoon, I started to get that tell-tale sore throat. I told my team leader that there was a high chance I would be really sick the next day, but somehow, my throat only got a bit worse. I was still able to go to VBS and Campo that day. So then I was thinking, the bus ride home tomorrow is just going to be awful if I'm much sicker than this! I wasn't. My throat was on fire and my head ached, but I wasn't too miserable. I figured it wasn't a very bad reaction, and was really thankful for that. Then, on Saturday, my first day at home, I got a fever and was in bed until Monday. I was too miserable to do anything but lie in bed - I didn't even feel like watching a movie because my head hurt and it seemed like all of my muscles hurt and I had a bad cough. My mom was great, she brought me a cup of yarrow mint tea every hour, and in a couple of days I was all right. Well, I kind of had to be all right, because I had just missed a week of school and had to be at the junior college at 8:00 in the morning. I learned from a friend in class what exactly I had to do, and then worked for the rest of Monday, and all of Tuesday to get about a week and a half worth of work done. I was still sick, mind you. Then, on Wednesday, I had to present a building I had designed to my class. By that time, though, I was a bit better. It was a real blessing that I didn't get sick until I got home from Tijuana; I'm sure it was the result of a lot of prayer from my friends and the adult leaders.
        SO that was my Tijuana trip! It was amazing going to serve the people there and I am totally going to do it again next year. I'll probably do construction, but I'll hope to still go to the Descanso fiesta. ;) I feel like i was able to connect more with the people from church while we were in Tijuana rather than in California. Maybe the things we were talking about were more similar, but I felt like we were able to actually relate to each other. I made a few new friends, and got along splendidly with everyone. Until, that is, someone made the mistake of saying that 'country' is synonymous with 'trashy'. Umm, no. 



  1. It sounds like you had a wonderful experience what a nice way of making new friends :) the whole border issue in México is quite bad I have never been in Tijuana but I have been in Tamaulipas next to TX and there was so many marginalized places in need of attention, here in México it isn't secure to live in states near the border. I've heard of many spooky crimes. Tijuana looks kind of Arid there isn't many trees.. I can't tolerate either when a balloon pops I some how manage to get kind of mad.

    The person who made the "trashy"comment was rude every country has it's beauty.I was truly impacted when I first arrived to México too, not a pretty entrance but then I got to visit many places, states, pueblos, learned new cultures, ate lots of food heavenly tacos and met new people- I fell in love ♥ and got adapted to a new way of living. I must say life is a lot more harder here than in the US.The government is very harsh INSANE !! but you just learn to deal with it.

    It was a blessing that you got sick once you arrived home I can't imagine being sick in a different country. I enjoyed reading your mission adventures Reyna what a beautiful experience it is to serve others thank you so much for sharing.


  2. It's funny that you mentioned that you went on a missions trip to Mexico, because a dear friend of mine just got back from one in Mexico! :-)