Dirt floors and tin roofs

Trip Start Sep 04, 2008
Trip End May 19, 2009

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Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Sunday, February 8, 2009

I woke up early on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to do construction work in the poorest community I have ever been to. The homes I was working on were the cheapest in the whole city because they're on the edge of the city dump. Many of the residents of the area make a living out of picking through the garbage for re-salable items such at bottle tops, glass, aluminum, plastics and cardboard.
Wednesday I got dropped off outside a hotel in the city, where AT and I were supposed to meet our ride to the construction site. We didn't know who was going to pick us up, so we waited patiently on the sidewalk... for about 45 minutes. We peeked in the hotel lobby a few times, to see if there was anyone who seemed to be waiting for us... all we saw was a few tables of "gringos", pshh - tourists. We decided to divide and conquer, since the road we were waiting on was actually closed due to construction. Eventually I saw AT talking to a man down the street about where we had been waiting, and he waved me over. I walked down, and couldn't find him anywhere. Then, I noticed he was standing inside the bus that had been sitting in front of the hotel the entire time. I walked aboard and met all of the "tourists", who were actually a youth group from a church in Albany, Oregon. They invited us to work with them for the rest of their trip, which extended our one day of service to three! Needless to say, I met some really great people, and I really enjoyed their company while we served at the dump, their fellowship while we were waiting around, and the discussions we had each morning on the bus.
When I arrived at the dump community on Wednesday, I took a crash course called "impoverished Mexican construction 121". I spent the morning building a home for a homeless family. We built it out of only four materials - wood, corrugated tin sheets, nails, and Corona bottle caps (salvaged from the dump). When we arrived, we faced a dirty overgrown corner of the church property, and when we left, there was a self standing structure with an entire wall in place. Not being able to speak Spanish came in as a mixed blessing for me... I wish I would have been able to communicate with the people I was both working for, and working alongside - but - it also gave me the opportunity to put aside most distractions and work my hardest for people who really deserve it.
Thursday I put three new sheets of a much thicker tin on the roof of a different home, and Friday I helped to put up the walls on a kitchen for a church in the community. On Friday, I was able to work with some locals, and while we couldn't communicate very well, I knew they were glad God made me six three with equally gangly arms! I spend much of the afternoon holding a tape measure up at the ceiling level, and nailing boards that they would have had to use a ladder to reach.
I was also able to attend a bible club on Thursday and then the same thing at a different location on Friday. While I really enjoyed serving through construction (and I hope to do some more before I'm done here), I had a great time at the bible clubs. Each were packed with 50+ Elementary aged kids, and the leader, Pepe, was every bit as enthusiastic and energetic as they were. It doesn't seem to matter where I go, I love hanging out with bright eyed, smiley, energetic little kids, even when I can't speak their language. The kids at these clubs very much reminded me of the kids I was able to spend time with at an orphanage in Kyrgyzstan. It amazes me how similar they are, despite living in opposite climates on opposite sides of the world. Although I feel like I already have a pretty good plan for what I want to do with the rest of my life, if those plans fell through, working with those kinds of kids would be my next choice - they never fail to put a smile on my face.
Once again, I have so much more to say than I could possibly add to these blogs, but I'll have to leave you with a few final thoughts.
1. I am amazed by the people and opportunities God provides for me, and each day I'm trying to do a better job seizing them. 2. I'm quite fond of my new friend AT, and my months living alone in Thailand have given me even more appreciation for the companionship he offers. I look up to him as a role model, and I deeply admire his faith. I hope to learn a lot from him in the coming months.3. If I were to get excommunicated from the US, there's no doubt in my mind that I would move to Oaxaca, Mexico. I am in love with this city.4. The number one (numero uno :-) thing on my to-do list is learning Spanish.
Much Love,Stephen
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