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Saturday, August 15, 2009

...We heart visitors...

The last few weeks have been full of non-stop groups, construction projects, craft projects, bonfires, beach/pool trips, etc. and it has been entirely exhausting and entirely wonderful at the same time. Here are a few pictures of groups and some of the things groups do while here...

They build houses for poor families in the community who need homes:

This house was for a single mother and her 4 kids who previously had been living in an old school bus.

Praying over a newly built house before handing over the keys to the family.

Groups do fun crafts and activities with the kids:

They make bottle rockets.

They play fun games.

They make yummy meals for the kids & staff.

It has been so good to have visitors here, both for the well-being of the orphanage, and for the sake of the kids!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

...a bed and a blender...

It often surprises me here how much poverty there is in an area soooooo close to one of the richest states in one of the richest countries in the world. I say it is a surprise, not because I forget that I am living and working in a very poor area, especially in a recession, but mainly because here, there is not often stark, immediately-slammed-in-your-face-at-first-sight poverty, and when you do find it hidden there, right under the surface, it kinda punches you in the stomach a little bit.

The thing is, Mexico (or at least, Baja California) is pretty good at hiding its poverty. No matter how poor a person is, they will almost always have their hair done nicely, wearing nice, clean clothing. Maybe I am a bit jaded after having done some work in Africa, where the immensity of the poverty is evident everywhere you turn, but still sometimes I forget where I am and about the poverty that surrounds me. I mean, we have Starbucks, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Applebees in the closest city to us - it is easy to forget the economic situation in which we live.

I recently had an experience where I was invited to someone's "Home" and was struck, to the point of tears, by the humility of their living situation. I justify putting "home" in quotations because it is indeed a family's home - where they live and sleep and eat - but it is also a place where no one should ever have to call home.

After allowing my eyes to adjust to the dusty darkness of the inside, I could see that this was a little worse than I had been expecting. We occasionally bring groups to do grocery dispenses in an area where migrant farm workers live in tiny shacks with their entire families. Even those homes did not prepare me for this 7x10 cold concrete shell, where the graffiti-covered cinder block walls enclosed nothing but a tiny propane cook stove and a piece of particle board lifted up on bricks to make a bed.

It had been my experience up until this point, that even in the humblest of living situations - like the nearby migrant camps - people still are able to find things like beds, fans, tables, lamps, etc... basic home necessities to make even a shack somewhat livable. But this particular place is home to a newly married young couple with a 9 month old daughter, who have no nearby family, and have been out of work for months. There is no water, no table, no bed, no bathroom and electricity borrowed from a neighbor via an extension cord, which sustains a lukewarm mini-fridge and bare light bulb hanging on a hook in the wall. And they pay $80 a month rent for this place!

The young mother, Olivia recently landed a cooking job at the orphanage where I live and work, and that is how they walked into my life. I have somewhat adopted this family and am attempting to help them in any way that I can - God has really placed them on my heart. My boss is fully supporting this endeavor however he can, but keeps asking what it is about family that has fully grabbed my heart and attention - when there are 50 people a day at least who ask us for help and food and clothing for their families. I think that what grabbed me was the fact that they did not ask. Olivia and I had been fast friends for a couple of weeks before I heard about her small family's situation from a mutual friend. And even when she invited me to her home to meet her baby, the humility in both Olivia and her husband Noe was touching. They've never asked for anything, and they are happy - together as a family, and that one of them has finally found some work in our town. Olivia told me "Tengo mi esposo, y mi familia, y tenomos salud y trabajo... todo esta bien..." Basically that she has her family and they are healthy and she is working - what more could she need?

I think this is what always strikes me - here and in Africa too - that some of the most content people I have ever met in my life are the ones who have nothing. There is not the luxury to gripe or complain here - and when you're at the bottom, every blessing is noticed and appreciated.

When I asked Olivia if she would mind if I found them some things to make their home more comfortable, she was already overwhelmed with appreciation. She said to me "Jay (no one here can say my full name) I would be perfectly happy if you could find us a bed and a blender - so that I can make salsa." A bed and a blender - all she needs to feel comfortable. My.Heart.Broke.

I have since found her a bed and clothing and food for all in the family, but am still looking for a blender, and dining room table, a crib for the baby, pots and pans, a lamp, etc. etc. etc... And maybe even a better living situation all together.

She has also started making appearances in our church services, which is awesome since the family are not Christians. I do not like to push my faith on people - to make them feel like I have in-your-face ulterior motives in provding what little help I can (I know many of you disagree on this - but I believe that God is big and will/can water any seed planted). But I want to always attempt to live out my faith and follow in the footsteps of Jesus - and hopefully seeds will be planted and people will see that. If people ask (and they almost always do) why we do what we do - why we would help people we barely even know - then I tell them, without holding back. And I always pray for the opportunity to do so.

So I tell you all this asking that you join me in this prayer. And also maybe hoping that some of you might want to help me in this endeavor. If anyone wants to donate or sponsor any of the items listed above, OR anything else to this family, let me know. I love you all! :)