Trinity Church has as long-term commitment to serving in Mexico. Through a strategic partnership with Hands of Mercy (HOM), we bring the gift of a loft house to a family in the Ensenada area. These homes* are prefabricated in church parking lots in the US and assembled in Mexico. Being in Southern California, we’re just a few hours from the border, making this is a perfect ministry for our church.
It’s hard to believe, but I took my first trip to Mexico 10 years ago. It was my first short-term mission trip and I was pretty nervous. As we drove down, I drilled Rick Carter, the HOM State Side Coordinator, with tons of questions about what HOM was doing, why they were doing it, safety issues, etc. Rick told me that serving in Mexico was less about the family receiving the home, and more about the need for the American church to have their eyes opened to the needs of the poor. As he continued, Rick said that “fixing Mexico” wasn’t the end goal…but giving people the opportunity to see poverty first hand, to have their hearts changed, to give people confidence to go on other short-term trips and to eventually encourage those called to enter full-time missions.
When I got back, I had drunk the punch. I’ve had the privilege of going back and serving with my kids every year since. On this last trip, I was asked to give the devotional during breakfast. These are some of the thoughts I shared with the group.
Reflections On Serving In Mexico
- Don’t drink the water. Seriously! But do eat the tacos. I can tell you that the freshly made quesadilla, tortillas, grilled meat, hand picked onions, radishes and cucumbers will get your mouth watering. Be warned though…you’ll never view the food at Taco Bell the same! I have to admit, on more than one occasion I have dreamed about carne asada from Poblanos!
- Poverty is not mange. The dogs in Mexico often have mange…a skin disease that you can bring home to the family pet. But poverty is not mange…you can’t catch it by touching someone. A handshake or hug of friendship are tangible gifts of compassion. Don’t be afraid to give them generously.
- Helping Hurts. Seriously, I am always sore after a build and need a few aspirin. There is a book with a similar name called When Helping Hurts. One of the keys principles is to not helicopter in to “fix things,” but instead, partner with those organizations that have a long-term commitment to the area. One of the things I appreciate about Hands of Mercy is that they run everything through local churches and pastors. While I’ve never seen any of the families after I’ve left the area, and don’t speak the language and can’t personally share the gospel with them, I have confidence that they are being ministered to by our partner pastors that live in their communities.
- The people you meet on the trip are special. Not everyone is willing to give up a weekend, cross the border and serve the poor. There is something about the long drive down, the run to the taco stand and serving together in the name of Jesus that gives you an instant bond. You get your own language “The Ranch,” “La Buf,” Poblanos, etc. Look for those that go multiple times. You have a better idea that it wasn’t just a “peer pressure” trip.
- There is a difference between writing a check and doing the build. Writing a check takes what…about a minute? But doing the build takes hundreds of volunteer man-hours and miles, power tools, and trucks. It’s easy for one group to look down at the other…but, in reality, we need both. Matthew 10:41a says “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” …ie The giver shares in the reward of the worker! On a side note, often the givers and the workers run in different social circles. This is why I believe its so important to bring back photos and stories of the work so those that give can see how their money is being invested. This way they can be encouraged in their gift and challenged to give more.
- Going to Mexico prepares you for serving elsewhere. Since going on my first short-term trip to Mexico I’ve had the privilege of serving on other short-term mission trips to Haiti, Russia, and Romania. I can tell you from experience that dealing with culture shock and poverty can be hard emotionally. You need a place to process, and what I found is that serving in Mexico gave me an emotional bucket where I could place these emotions. The smell of burning trash in Haiti? That’s like what I saw in El Zorrillo. Not knowing the language in Moscow? That was just like Mexico. Serving the Roma children (gypsies) and seeing the dirt, grime, and smells? That was just like my last Mexico trip.
- Serving in Mexico has been one of the “secret ingredients” of raising confident kids. My friend, Mark Brown, taught me the concept of giving your kids “roots and wings.” You want your kids ROOTED in the Word of God, community, and service. You also want to give your kids WINGS, confidence, and independence. Bringing my kids to serve in Mexico has helped on both accounts. They get to see poverty up close (both the needs of others and how blessed we are in the States), they learn how to work in teams and how to work with their hands. They gain confidence working with power tools, having the responsibility for getting a certain task done, staying up late, ordering their own quesadillas and playing with someone who doesn’t speak the same language.
- If you want to work on your spiritual life, serve in Mexico. It’s important as believers to mature in our faith…to bear fruit. You want to experience love? Serve a family that can’t pay you back. Want to experience peace? Sit under the stars after a loft house build. You want to work on your patience? Wait in the car for hours at the border. There is not one fruit of the spirit you won’t have the chance to exercise by serving in Mexico.
- Are you a feet inspector or a feet washer? As Christians, we have been called to serve the poor. We’ve also been called to be good stewards. But it’s easy to get in the trap of doing so much “due diligence,” we fail to serve the people who are right in front of us. Yes, some people will take advantage of those willing to give. That is between them and God. Our job is to give generously and serve faithfully.
- Mexico is a mirror…take a good long look. We as Americans have been given so much! There is no possible way that God gave us all this abundance so that we would spend it on ourselves. To whom much is given, much is required. He gave so that we can give. We have been filled up to spill over and be a blessing to others. Serving in Mexico causes me to reflect on these things. It also causes me to stop and give thanks for the many things that I normally take for granted (like paved roads, a roof over my head, indoor plumbing, clean water, education for my kids, etc)
Bottom line? Be the hands and feet of Jesus and go serve in Mexico : )
Mexico Trip Photos (2005-2014)
* A loft house is a 12-foot by 12-foot structure with 4 windows, a lockable door and a second story attic loft for sleeping that is reached by an interior stair system. Though not luxurious by any definition, a loft house gives some basic protection and shelter from the elements.