Saturday, February 18, 2012

Far from Africa but close to my heart: Tijuana, Mexico

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” –Frederick Buechner

Me on a trip to Mexico in 2010
I miss Africa a lot sometimes. The memories of the months I spent in Africa give me such a mixture of deep joy but also sadness at the awareness of the extreme human need present in the world. Through my internship in Africa I learned a lot about poverty and experienced the joy that comes from living life serving others. This post isn’t about Africa, though. Not specifically. One week from today I’m going to Tijuana, Mexico for a week and I am so excited I had to blog about it! (Maybe I should change the name of my blog?)

For those of you who don’t know, a few weeks after returning from Africa I started working on staff at Huron Hills Church with their Youth and College Ministry. It’s been awesome! I get to work with a lot of great students leading small groups, mentoring students one-on-one, speaking at youth retreats, teaching, worshipping, etc. Next week, on Friday, February 24th, a dozen college students, my boss, two experienced team leaders, and I have the opportunity to go to Tijuana, MX where we’ll spend spring break serving. We will be doing work alongside local World Vision staff in squatter communities near the Mexico/US boarder. The partnership between the communities in Tijuana and our church community is a long and mutually encouraging and joy-filled one. I helped to lead a trip of high school students to Tijuana in 2010 (that’s what the photos are from) and I am looking forward to returning to see the people who blessed me so much then!
A worksite in one of the communities

Why am I so excited about going to Mexico? Multiple reasons. This trip combines several of my passions: traveling and learning about new places, helping and getting to know people in poverty and situations of extreme vulnerability, working with students, and raising awareness of global issues.
According to globalissues.org, “Almost half the world—over 3 billion people—live on less than $2.50 a day” and in 2003 10.6 million children died before they turned 5. Facts like that are awful but once you’ve seen the facts first hand, experienced what it’s like to have friends barely surviving because they don’t have enough food or access to medicine, and known the pain of watching a child die of AIDS, the simple facts about poverty and global needs become more than facts. It becomes personal. Living in Africa showed me this. It is no longer just random people somewhere suffering… the people have faces and emotions, family and friends, hopes and dreams. This is why I am so excited to spend spring break loving my Mexican friends in need and hopefully playing a part, however small it may be, in helping them “reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice” (as World Vision would put it). In my life of material abundance, I feel a responsibility to not ignore the physical needs of others. I am not ok with living a self-centered, comfortable life at the expense of someone else. This is why I am so excited that there will be 12 college students along with me joining in the vision of living a life serving others.

Ceasar... one of my favorite Mexican buddies
There is one more reason I love spending time with people who materially have much less than me. Christians living in places like Bangui, Central Africa or Tijuana, Mexico have a strong faith. Their physical need has helped them know the necessity of trust and faith. They have experienced God’s provision, God’s closeness in desperate situations, God’s unfaltering love, and the strong hope and knowledge that God will one day make things right again. I’ve never personally known what it’s like to have barely any material possessions and I’ve never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from but I do have needs. Emotional. Spiritual. Less physically obvious, but no less important. When I spend time with the joy-filled Mexicans I am always reminded of my need for God, my own helplessness and the need for faith and complete reliance on God that we share. The Mexicans living in shambled squatter villages in Tijuana may appear more needy than I am, but in reality I am just as needy. In need of Christ and his never-ending love. My Mexican friends encourage me and fill me with a fresh hope, joy, and faith. They remind me there’s more to life than the material. They show me the joy that comes from sharing Christ’s sacrificial love with others. I can’t wait to get to Mexico! 

I will have limited access to internet while I am in Tijuana but I will do my best to share pictures and update you all on the work being done in Tijuana. To read updates and stories about our trip while we're gone you can go to the Tijuana North Borders blog. You can find it here: http://hhctj2012.wordpress.com. 

3 comments:

  1. Adventure is a great thing to do you know every thing about world when you in adventure.......Every adventure has many learning subject.
    Voluntary African Trips

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  2. Great blog!!

    If you like, come back and visit mine:
    http://albumdeestampillas.blogspot.com

    Thanks,
    Pablo from Argentina

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