Sunday, March 21, 2010

Trip report from Piedras Negras

The previous weekend I went down to Piedras Negras, Mexico again with some folks from a couple of the local churches. The trip was tiring, but very rewarding as usual. There were a lot of things going on, as there were close to 100 people that ended up going; but I'll just try to capture a couple of the highlights.

The main project that I worked on was the "church on the tracks" that we started building back in December (some pics and info in this blog post). Here's the interior of the church as it was when we arrived (lots of good progress since the last visit!):

And here's the interior/ceiling after a couple days of work:

Some of the other people were working on the outside to get it finished up and painted:

At the same time many of us were working on that church, there was yet another new church project underway. The church team that goes to Piedras Negras has worked with Pastor Francisco and his wife Alma for many years, and for most of that time Francisco and Alma have run their church in a little 14x14 single room. They had recently grown out of that room and are currently meeting in the blue tent you can see in this picture:

What you also see in the picture above are people tearing down that building to the left, in order to make way for the new church building. They were able to close on the land the first day we were there, and start the process for Francisco and Alma to finally have an actual church building. Here's the foundation trenches starting to be built (digging by hand/shovel, of course...):

In addition to all that construction work, there were also a couple people that did some work at the handicapped orphanage, in order to fix some minor building code issues that had cropped up. And many of the youth went over there with some adults to play with the children (young and old) at the orphanage.

Every trip that I go on, there seems to be one special moment that reminds me of why we go. This time, it was Sunday morning at a church service at the "church on the tracks". There is a retired firefighter with construction experience (Jim) who goes on these trips, and he really takes the lead on all the building projects. During these last few visits to work on the Soup Kitchen and the church, he has worked with a young man named Alfredo, or Freddy as we call him. Freddy is the son of Irma, who runs the soup kitchen. Freddy doesn't speak a word of English, and Jim doesn't really speak any Spanish; but they've worked side by side, with Jim teaching him much about construction; and even helping Freddy with some tools and a vehicle to help him get started with a carpentry business.

So, at the church service; Freddy gets up and starts talking about how much Jim has taught him and helped him, and how much that has meant to him. He told everyone that he never really had a father growing up, nobody to teach him these things or tell him right from wrong, etc. He thanked God for bringing Jim into his life as a father figure, and then thanked his mother (Irma) for all that she had done for him and all that she had had to put up with as he grew up. Irma came up with Freddy and Jim, and hugged them both with tears in her eyes. Here's a picture with the pastor of the church, Joe; and Irma, Freddy, and Jim.

And I think that highlights the true value of these trips. The projects, donations, construction, etc. are all terrific and wonderful things to do; but the most meaningful results are always the lives that are changed and the relationships that are built. Jim got a lot of satisfaction out of the Soup Kitchen improvements and building that church - but I'd bet that Freddy's heartfelt thanks for Jim being the father that he never had means more to Jim than any of those construction projects.

Nos vemos,