Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It Was Enough: A Mexico Photoessay

We got back from our Mexico mission trip a couple weekends ago. It took me a little while to figure out what I wanted to say about it, because I was having a hard time processing how I felt. But our pastor asked me to speak about the trip at church last Sunday, and with a quick deadline to meet, this is what I came up with to say.

Along with the pastor's wife and one of their daughters, Matt and I had the opportunity to go to Reynosa, a border town right across the U.S.-Mexico line, near the bottom tip of Texas. We were really blessed to be able to go.

Camp: home sweet home for the weekend.

We met up with groups from four other Texas churches, and our collective group had two goals for this trip: build a home for a family in the Reynosa Colonias, and build relationships with the people we encountered.

Pilar de Esperanza ("Pillar of Hope") orphanage

We got to bring shoes and clothing to the children at Pilar de Esperanza orphanage, play with the children and talk to the women who run it, one of whom moved here from the Netherlands 17 years ago and never left. 

Pilar de Esperanza orphanage

We got to take a tour of the grounds, which included "Miss Piggy's Palace," a pigpen containing four rather thin pigs, and a chicken coop, and a few vegetable gardens. 

Shoes, shirts and toys for the children.

The orphanage also has two classrooms on-site, and they are hoping to add a library soon, because transportation is too unreliable to get the kids to school on time or at any regular intervals.

"Jesus is the bread of life." The pastor's church, where we ate lunch and "where the nice bathrooms are."

In preparation for the home build, we met with the pastor who had selected the family most in need of a new house.

The street outside the church, about how all the streets looked. Half-built cinderblock houses.

He was worried, because the family he had originally selected was in the process of separating — the mother leaving her husband and three children — and the pastor was concerned that we wouldn't want to build a house for them because the group we worked with had previously built homes specifically for nuclear families.

The family's house upon our arrival.

And our group replied that that didn't matter to us, that maybe this family is in need in different ways than the families that have been served before.

The twin mattress that the father and his three children had been sleeping on.

I felt so much compassion and love in that response.

The neighborhood, seen from the back of the family's property.

We built them a stable home. And then we got to witness the father and his mother accept Christ through tears during the dedication of their new home.

El baƱo. The bathroom.

I'm not really comfortable talking about my faith with people I don't know well. I've always struggled with Jesus' command to "go and make disciples." (Matthew 28:19)

The concrete slab that became the foundation of their new house.

We didn't even speak the same language! We had one translator for five churches, and three different ministry opportunities in different locations; the translator wasn't even around most of the time!

Building the floors. The kids were really into playing with the power tools.

But this trip was really a powerful message to me. 

Matt helping construct a wall.

All we did was swing some hammers and play with some kids and bring in some beds and provide some peanut butter sandwiches … and that was enough

Wall #2 being constructed on top of Wall #1. This was their whole front yard.

Jesus didn't need us to preach the Gospel or share grand testimonies in order to reach that family. He knew what he was doing.

I had gone back to the orphanage for the afternoon. This is how the house looked the next morning.

It occurred to me at one point that I wish I could share the experience more than I can in words and pictures. There is so much that I wasn't able to capture. 

Painting the trim.

Things like the wait to cross back over the border as drug-sniffing dogs circled every car. My surprise that, the second we crossed from Texas to Mexico, it was like entering a third-world country across the river from a nice, mid-size U.S. city. My disappointment when I discovered that the Rio Grande is not actually a "Grand River," but just a normal, average-sized one.

Adding the roof and tarring it.

The skinny wild dogs everywhere, looking for food scraps, laying in the middle of the road. The horse carts that came by to pick up trash, ribs visible under their hides. The way the church bus bounced over the deep, dry potholes that made up the Colonias roads.

Cooling off.

The poverty everywhere that makes even our poorest look blessed.

New beds for the family.

We were incredibly lucky to be with a group that had been here many, many times before, because none of the streets were labeled, and even if there were signs, too few of us understood the language. We were incredibly blessed to stay in a camp with clean water and dinner on the table every night, hot showers after a day of working and breakfast tacos in the morning.

One of the kids started handing out stickers to the ladies. I got a mustache sticker. He laughed every time he saw me.

In talking to a church friend after we came back, I expressed that I wished I had been in a better place spiritually before I went. I've spent a lot of time being frustrated with God over the last few months, and  generally not wanting to go to church, not wanting to pray. And she said that maybe I was exactly where I needed to be in order to go. Maybe I needed to go in order to come back.

I like that. Maybe she's right. Maybe I needed that message of "you are enough, this is enough" more than I thought.

That's enough for me.


  1. This is a great post and I'm glad the trip was so beneficial to everyone. :)

  2. Sounds like a great trip! For me, I always feel that the more I act well in my faith will say more than what I say in my faith. I don't want to be specific because you're right. It's weird to talk about my religious beliefs. I'm glad you got to have this experience!

    1. Thanks. I agree, that actions speak louder than words. I don't think it's weird to talk about religion if it comes up in regular conversation, I just don't want to be the one to bring it up if it will make others uncomfortable.

  3. So, jordan and I are going with our church to Nicaragua this summer on a medical missions trip. We will be in a village working with a medical team pulling teeth and giving shots, etc. So this post resonated with me. I'm sure there will be so much more than I can express in words and pictures. Reading this post makes me excited to go and serve, though. It's so hard to step out of your comfort zone, but I think it can almost bless us more than the people we serve sometimes.

  4. I loved this. This is awesome...what a cool testimony. Jesus LOVES those people, so cool that you got to be his hands and feet! What a gift to watch them accept Christ...praying for their growth and continued healing in every way. May they be rooted deeply!
    PS- boomer sooner ! ;)

    1. Thank you for your sweet comment and awesome heart. We're continuing to pray for them too. (P.S. Are you a Sooner too?? Boomer!)

  5. I love how God used you guys there, and used the experience to encourage you as well! I like what you said about the poverty there making the poor where we live look rich. It's so's easy to forget how much we have, and how much we can and should help people with less. Glad the trip went so well!

    1. Thanks. I struggled when we got home because before we left, we'd been watching a lot of House Hunters, and I'd been complaining about how I want a dedicated office space in our next house … and then that felt so selfish comparatively. I don't want to forget how much we've been blessed, even with the little we have!

  6. "All we did was swing some hammers and play with some kids and bring in some beds and provide some peanut butter sandwiches … and that was enough." isn't that true? i spent a year teaching english an an orphanage east of Puerto Vallarta, and i realized pretty quickly that my class wasn't going to transform the students into native english speakers. i also realized, however, that spending time with them, dispensing hugs, and working toward a similar goal was the only outcome i really needed :)

  7. What an amazing thing to do! I love that you did this, and that you shared it with us! You swung some hammers and changed lives, which is incredible- don't forget that!!!!

  8. You're an amazing and selfless girl to take your time to help others in need--there's nothing kinder you can do for another human than to spend time with them and show them you care. Props to you, lady. :) Your actions have done so much!