i am never surprised, but i continue to be amazed at the generosity and of the north point family whenever there is a need or an opportunity to donate. thanks so much to all of you who provided food and supplies for our team that went to juarez! i’m sure there must be other church families that do the same, but nobody does it better.
we left on thursday afternoon and drove half-way. in order to save expenses, we stayed at a church building in midland. the young pastor of the church was standing at the door, waiting for us, at 10:00pm…with a huge smile and full of grace as a host. he didn’t know me, but he knew we worked for the boss and couldn’t wait to share their resources with a tired group of guys.
we met the staff of amor ministries at a mcdonald’s in el paso to go over the details of our trip and discuss travel across the border. it has been three years since amor took a group into juarez on a work trip, but it was just like old times. amor has been doing this for over thirty years. it shows.
the first thing i was struck by as we passed through border inspection on the mexico side was the absence of military presence. and the absence of weapons. three years ago, when we went through the same crossing, there were dozens of soldiers…all dressed in full military uniforms and completely armed. most had their faces covered with masks to hide their identity. this time, we were greeted by a few men and women border guards, dressed in stylish black pants and shirts…and big smiles. not quite what i expected.
we had all our proper paperwork. apparently, they had a new plan on their side. everything went smoothly. they didn’t even make us unload our trailer…and within 45 minutes, we were on our way to the amor campground!
the drive through juarez was different. in the past three years, they have built a new road that completely by-passes all the downtown grid lock and it took us less than twenty minutes to make a drive that used to take an hour or more to get us through downtown. absolutely amazing. once we got to the south of town, we were on our way to the rural community of san augustin.
as we drove the rural four-lane road, the signs of growth were everywhere. new buildings…bigger farms…even some concrete side streets (though not many). it’s obvious the community where we built the amor house is right in the area where there is going to be massive industrial growth in the next decade. it was pretty exciting to see the possibilities.
scott, my good friend and president of amor ministries, said some penetrating words to me on that first day. crossing the border in el paso is not just crossing into mexico…it’s crossing into the rest of the world. we live an amazing life here in the usa, but most of us are completely insulated from the reality of how the majority of the world lives. crossing into mexico, is like crossing into guatemala, the dominican republic, india, the philippines, kenya, burma or a thousand other places. to me, the border of mexico is like the gateway to understanding.
i said this last week, but it’s a more profound reality for me today. humans and god do not see borders alike. borders mean a lot to us. borders represent my territory…my turf…my space. “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours…and mine is not yours.” i get it when it comes to countries and even the walls we put around our yards. i guess that’s what makes the greatness of god that much more astounding. when he looks down, he doesn’t see a wall separating the usa and mexico. nor does he see a wall separating americans from mexicans. if i’m his follower, how could i ever be found guilty of honoring that wall? *mind is blown*
we worked on the house with pastors and church members from 12 different churches from the juarez area. their theological differences were huge, but it didn’t matter. serving, side by side, for the good of people and the good of the kingdom has a way leveling the playing field for humble people.
people have always asked why we mix cement by hand in wheel barrows when we go to mexico. why not rent a mixer? why not buy a truck load and have it delivered? there are two answers: first, the mexican pastors have always asked us to build the way poor people build in the communities we serve. it builds credibility and shows that we are not “too good” to join them in their culture. second? because it’s good for us to remember that the way we do things is not always the better way. different, but not better.
we went on this trip at the invitation of amor ministries. they asked us to be the first group they lead into juarez since operations were shut down three years ago, due to violence. it was an honor to be asked. i hope other groups will now follow our lead.
we had a little transportation snafu a few days before we left. we ended up needing to take wanda’s 2004 grandma-mobile…minus the car seats. let’s just say the hyundai elantra is one mean off-road machine.
saturday night, we hosted a little barbeque for the pastors in the amor camp. the carne asada recipe i made was straight out of the old town national city backyards of my youth! can’t wait to grill some more back home…
on sunday, we made the decision to drive home through the night…bad weather was rolling in. we made the 12-hour journey safely and painlessly.
but, all-night drives are for the young.