I was going through some old files on my computer a while back and found this paper that I wrote for my senior AP English class about my first trip to Mexico. It's so crazy that my feelings about Mexico remain the same four years later.
"As the chilliness began to settle in around me, I pulled my blanket in tighter and laid my head back. After many attempts to get comfortable and numerous kicks from the boy sleeping on the floor, I gave up on sleep. As the hours wore on, I thought about what the following five days would bring. In March of 2007, our charter bus headed for El Paso, and, eventually, Juarez, Mexico.
Morning finally came and we pulled into El Paso. After abandoning our beloved bus for six vans, we invaded the local Wal-Mart. Each of our teams was given $200 to spend on gifts and household items for our families. Pretending we were members of Extreme Home Makeover, we stuffed our carts with towels, plates, curtains, sheets, blankets, rugs, toys, a ceiling fan, and even a folding table with four chairs. We checked out, loaded the cargo vans with our newly-bought décor, and headed for the church where we would take our last showers for the next four days.
We crossed into Mexico and found our work site, crammed into the midst of other houses. We set to work making concrete and laying the foundation for the house. As I was helping shovel sand for the mixer, I became aware of a small girl watching us from the tiny shack that she shared with about eight other people. She moved slowly outside and sat on the old washer that stood just outside the house. Her two year old sister, Diana, remained behind, hiding behind the bars that kept the house safe from any burglars roaming the streets. The two girls belonged to the family of five that we were building the new house for. After a couple of hours, the first girl introduced herself as Flor. Soon, boys and girls from the many houses around us ventured out to see what we were doing. Many of them began to help us shovel or carry buckets of rocks.
Over the next few days, I became attached to Flor, along with a three year old boy named David, Diana, and many other little kids. When we weren’t working on the house, we played with the kids. We played Pictionary in the dirt, we taught them the Macarena, and we also got deeply involved in a game of Pato, Pato, Ganso (Duck, Duck, Goose).
One day, Flor came up to me and out of nowhere, she wrapped her arms around me and said, 'Te quiero mucho,' meaning, 'I love you very much.' She didn’t care that I smelled, that I was dirty, that I hadn’t showered in three days; she saw through the things that would probably make some of my friends at home back off.
By our fourth day there, the house was finally finished. Though it was about one-sixth the size of a small house here in the U.S., the family was overjoyed, especially the children. Over the course of only four days, I fell in love with those children. It was then that I realized that something had to be done. Something must be done to help these children have the life they deserve.
I thought about it the next couple days. I still remember the exact moment when our van slowly drove by the tiny preschool on our way out of Juarez at the end of that week. It was white with brightly painted cartoon characters on the walls. About twenty feet from these walls stood a tall fence made of barbed wire, complete with the spirals at the top like you would see outside a correctional facility. It was then that I knew I wanted to make places that are safer for kids to learn. Without education, they will never make it out of there."
My heart broke into about a million pieces when I left Mexico that year, and little did I know I’d be back every year and then again as an intern. I guess you could say it was the beginning of my love of serving the impoverished, of teaching, and the start of a journey that has taken me on a wild ride. Some people call it obsession, I call it passion…because I think that’s what Jesus would call it too. God desires for us to be passionate about the things that break his heart, and the poor and the lost are just two of those things. Align your heart with God’s heart and you will begin to see the that the things that break your heart most likely break God’s too. Find your passion and run with it. And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.
“…there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” – Jeremiah 20:9
my favorite picture of David and me