“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss.
When God called me to Amor, the giant in front of me was raising enough funds to get started. I was eager for the journey ahead. My “skills” and my heart where aligned to this new path. My purpose seemed crystal clear.
It has proven to be harder than I ever imagined to walk down this path. I know how to talk to people so they’ll tell me their story and I believe I’m pretty good at writing it. My background in journalism taught me about ethics and it was supposed to help me to stay objective. But I’m starting to feel extremely unequipped, so much so, that after the past couple days I’m frozen, broken, completely worn out, so today I’m writing from my favorite coffee house, praying and seeking comfort (working from home). I needed time to recharge, recover and collect my thoughts.
I just dropped my mom off at the Tijuana airport so I head to Rosarito to interview a couple more families for the blog. I need to interview as many possible so I can focus on a December project. With a printed Google map in one hand and a Garmin hiking GPS in the other I arrive to the Primo Community, a hilly community in Rosarito, Baja California – Mexico.
The purple arrow on the screen indicates the first home is not too far, straight up this dirt road facing a ravine. I hesitate. I see the tire marks on the dirt. I wish someone else could take the wheel and drive the truck up, alas this time I don’t get a co-pilot. In my head I see my teammates at the office rolling their eyes at my hesitation. Here I am again, drowning in a glass of water. See, I’m scared of other people’s dogs, street dogs are everywhere in Mexico; I’m a prissy city girl who until recently couldn’t even use a public restroom, I’ve used more outhouses I can count; and I’m quite of a nervous driver, and now, it is me and this hill.
I take a big breath, change the gear to low (I don’t know how to activate the AWD) and step on the gas. I’m half way up the mountain when the car starts skidding. I try to stay calm and collected. I fail at it terribly. I’m screaming and no one is there to hear me. I floor it. Everything turns sepia. I push the break, the car won’t stop, I’m sliding down the hill towards the canyon. Please God HELP ME!
I manage to turn the tires. It stops.
I take another breath. My lungs hurt. Neck, back, shoulders feel like they have collapsed into my thorax. I reach for my cellphone and call the only number from work saved in my phone. Should I just get off the truck and walk away, get a ride to the border and quit my days as a missionary? No one answers. I can’t remember what to do in case of an emergency. I call my husband. He doesn’t answer. I take a picture of the road with a SOS in the subject line. I’m stuck half way the mountain. The only way out is, well, down. I just hope it is not down the canyon.
I brace my self, I hold my breath and put the car in reverse. I really don’t know what I’m doing. The car starts skidding again. I should have abandoned the truck. What was I thinking? I don’t belong here. I am at the edge of the road. I cry out: GOD PLEASE SEE ME OUT OF THIS!
I open my eyes. I’m by the side of the road at the bottom of the hill. Danny calls me back I cry uncontrollably. It’s OK,he says. Sorry, he says. Get back in the horse, he says. He’s got to go. Drive safe,he says.
I must decide whether to turn right and find another way up the hill, or turn left and go back to San Ysidro, turn my keys in and tell them I’m not doing this anymore. I turn right.
With my near death experience behind me (yes, I’m calling it that because I’m not going to sugar coat it, it was gnarly) I headed back to Mexico once more yesterday. After our weekly Bible study at work and some time in the affirmation circle, I resolved to carry out my calling with Amor. So I grabbed the keys,the camera, and my notepad. Dan gave me some instruction into how to turn on the AWD (All Wheel Drive) just in case, and down the border I went.
The community is just as hilly as the one yesterday, although the ground is less powdery and driving with the the AWD on, makes a world of difference. However, I’m still on edge. I underestimated the PTS from my experience in Rosarito and now I’m struggling to make it. I arrive to the first house.
A Pit-bull mix greets me from behind the makeshift gate and it’s stopped by the chain around its neck, attached to a stake in the ground. A woman and a man rush to meet me and I have to excuse myself because I need to use their bathroom. Fortunately for me (because in my state I probably don’t posses the dexterity to hover over a hole in the ground) they have a full functioning bathroom. Well, I still have to use a bucket to flush the toilet, but I feel grateful.
When we sit down, after my effusive apologies, we begin to chat. She offers me a tortilla and beans. It is “la hora de la comida,” dinner time.
Once again I’m woefully unequipped for the job at hand. This woman, has endured everything, sickness, hurricanes, losing her home, cancer, poverty and so much more. Then she tells me she was sold by her mother at the tender age of three. At her new home she is forced to cook, clean and other things she prefers not to elaborate. I can’t contain it. She tells me this as her husband holds her hand. I have to stop her. I excuse myself and walk out of the house. I need to get some air. I can’t breathe. I can’t cry and lose it in front of this couple. What right do I have to feel sorry for this woman? I get angry at myself. She offers me a glass of water.
In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people.
Colossians 3:23 (NCV)
I quickly collect myself and start talking about her new house and the experience with Amor. This couple could not be happier. They already know their current home is not going to protect them from the rain, so they are already moving their delicate belongings to the new house. Among those precious items , the pictures that survived the hurricane that destroyed their home in Veracruz 14 years ago and forced them to move to Tijuana.
I can’t ignore the hope that a single home has brought to this family and the importance of the mission of Amor.
Am I in? A gentle voice asks within my spirit.
That’s the question I’ve been struggling with since yesterday. After this family I met another one. Three children who had not eaten anything in three days, for what a neighbor brought them a couple of squashes and beans to make them a ‘proper dinner.’
I interviewed their ‘abuelita’ next to pile of human feces. The smell hunts me.
Then it was the border. Two hours. While the traffic was awful, the worst part were all the faces of misery hitting the glass, begging for money, trying to sell something, clean my windshield.
And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. 2 Thessalonians 3:13.
I was staring at a girl who couldn’t be older than five (although they often times are because of undernourishment keeps them quite small) carrying a baby when I began noticing all the people in their cars trying not to see them. Many of them, cross everyday. Does it get easier with time? I wonder what stories would I tell myself not to let it get to me: That It is not my business; that they probably brought it to themselves?;that maybe it’s Karma?; that it is not as bad as it seems?; that they probably live like millionaires with all the money they make panhandling; something like ‘be the change you want to see’ and if I focus on raising my own kids well the problems of the world will be fixed… One Day; “Charity Begins at home.” And then…
A man hits my window and demands me to pull the window down. I insist I don’t want to buy anything. I don’t have any money to give. I don’t have anything more to give. I’m done. I make an ugly gesture short of sticking my tongue out (if no one else cares why should I?)
I feel embarrassed of my behavior. I’m also driving the company car, wearing the company hat and the company shirt. For crying out loud I’m a Christian and I’m not only treating this man poorly but also I’m judging my fellow drivers of whom I know nothing. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 basically is screaming at me “Don’t do bad, while ‘doing good’.” Oh, God, I’m so unequipped my heart yearns.
So I make the effort, pull the window down and…
“Sorry sir, I’m tired, I haven’t… (I was going to say I had not eaten anything since my coffee this morning when I remembered those children without food for three days). I continue “You know, the traffic (I remember he has been standing among the traffic, the cars, the smog for hours)” I bite my tongue trying not to cry… again.
“Senorita, I just wanted to say thank you.”
“Why?”(I’m expecting he will say something like “for my house.” It happens)
“Well, not sure,but you are Christian right?”
“Yes, sir, though right now not a very good one.”
“Are you a Pastor or something?”
“No, no, far from that Sir. Just a very broken person right now.”
“So what is that ‘Amor’ Ministries? It sounds like something good.”
“It’s an organization that builds houses.” (I brace myself for him to ask me how to sign up. I ran out of papers explaining the process and I’m drained to try to explain to him that we work with Pastors, that I don’t personally hand out homes, that it all depends of people coming to build homes and that he might make too much to even qualify even if he lives in a squalor because simply there is not enough people coming down to build homes.)
“See, I knew you were here to do good. That’s why I wanted to say thank you. You know everything helps.”
He smiled and left.
Could I be that someone that cares an awful lot?