By Pastor John Hart, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Catasauqua
This past summer my son, Gideon, and I had a wonderful learning experience. We
were members of a mission trip in Tecate, Mexico.
The trip was organized by Third World Opportunities, a faith-based organization
based in San Diego in conjunction with the San Diego County Ecumenical Council.
The trip was a seven day event. We arrived in San Diego on a Saturday and spent
the night at a local Lutheran church. On Sunday, we departed the city with Pastor
George Johnson, director of Third World Opportunities. An hour later we arrived
at the grounds of Rancho San Juan Bosco, an orphanage for boys. The ranch became
home for us a very exciting and moving week.
The orphanage is a privately run home financed entirely by private contributions.
During our stay, the home housed 36 boys ranging in age from 5 to 18 years old.
The first night at the orphanage we were welcomed by a missionary from the United
States who explained to us the work projects that needed to be completed. In
addition to Gideon and me, groups from North Branch, Minnesota, and Fort Collins,
Colorado, were working at the orphanage that week. Since there were only two
of us, the group from Minnesota “adopted” my son and me, and for
the rest of the week we worked side by side on a home building project on the
outskirts of Tecate. I say “home,” but in actuality it was about
the size of what would be a medium-sized shed in the United States.
After breakfast with the boys each day, we would travel to the job site and spend
several hours constructing the house. The building was a real test of our carpentry
skills, mainly due to the poor quality of wood available.
With our slogan, “brute force and ignorance gets the job done every time,” the
house was completed on Saturday morning, our last day in Mexico, just moments
before the arrival of the new owner. We presented her with a Spanish Bible and
performed a very moving house blessing.
When we weren't working on the house, we went on field trips. The trip
that made the greatest and most lasting impression on us was a visit to Tijuana.
We spent the night at the House of the Migrant, a five story building that offers
housing and care for men recently deported from the United States.
During the Tijuana trip we toured the wall separating the United States from
Mexico, which was erected in its current form in 1994. On the Mexican side of
the wall are over 2,000 large crosses with the names and ages of those who have
lost their lives crossing the border over the past decade.
That evening we dined with one hundred recently deported men and learned about
their stories. The next day we visited a community of people living in the city
dump, home to thousands who make a living picking trash.
The sad reality of our time in Tijuana was that, while all of this poverty was
happening, just miles away in affluent San Diego and Pacific Beach people are
surfing, roller-blading, walking, and relaxing on the gorgeous beaches.
I learned a lot during that week, and I have developed a whole new insight into
what it means to be blessed. I made many new friends while on the trip, and our
congregation now has several outreach programs in discussion. I feel blessed
to have been able to travel to Mexico, and I encourage you all to pursue outreach
in your own congregations.