Project Mexico, Summer of 2018

What is it like to be on a mission trip?

Project Mexico, through the Greek Orthodox

Holy Cross Church, is a mission-trip in Tijuana, Mexico.

Project Mexico. 

Well, what exactly is Project Mexico? What do you do?

On this amazing mission trip, you get to experience things. You get to do things that you wouldn't think you could have done. You, along with other people, get to build a house! 

But, it's not like any house you see in the United States, with outer bricks, and several rooms with countless bathrooms and a triangular roof; Its a rectangle. It is simply four walls, a concrete floor, and a flat, tarred roof. But to the family who suffers from severe poverty in Mexico, it is a mansion. To the family, it is like winning the lottery.

The start of this trip started in a church lounge room, with a group of people with gargantuan smiles on their faces, all sitting in a circle. It started off fundraising. A lot of it. We each had to raise $1,200, each, over a period of five months. Now, granted, that does seem like a sufficient amount of time to raise that kind of funding. But, when someone is so excited and anxious to be committing oneself to this kind of trip, time flies. 

Five months rapidly fly by, the school has been out, the weather is beautiful, and the last week of August is finally here. We all meet up at the church around dawn and we all take a bus to the airport. Everyone is getting each of their own luggage and bags and off we go, boarding the passenger airplane. 

Five hours later, after no sleep or lunch, eventually we touchdown in beautiful San Diego, where the sun is always out and it is summer 24/7. After we collectively gather our belongings, we make our way to a van rental and find a van. Now all of us are stuffed in a hot, clammy van making our way to a Project Mexico base, where we meet other Project Mexico volunteers and enthusiasts. We all got a shirt that has a wonderfully made design with Project Mexico written on it and a water bottle, only one, unfortunately.

Three hours zoom by and back on the van we go. Now, all of the crew is whining and complaining about how famished and thirsty we all are, and we take a three-hour intermission as a very overpriced, but gorgeous, mini-boardwalk along the Pacific. 

 This is now going to be the longest part of the transition from the United States to Mexico, the border. This was possibly also the most frightening part. Imagine this: You, with several other people, jammed in a van, meant for nine (we were eleven), crossing two tolls, with more armed military soldiers than I can count with my fingers, holding machine guns that could eat through almost anything, perhaps a van filled with eleven people. They made us get out and wait under an umbrella while they took our car and put it under a large magnetic X-ray to check for anything we could have hidden in the van. 

With all of that hassle out of the way, we were in Mexico. Land of Los Muertos, the dead. Now, that is slightly frightening, but there really wasn't much to worry about; at least where we were going to be going. Nevertheless, the trip to our campgrounds, where we were spending the nights, was absolutely outstanding.  One would have been mistaken to not have taken thousands of pictures. There were beautiful and colorful houses that were along mountainsides, the Wall that President Trump has ut to be built, and the ocean in the distance was breathtaking.  

Once we made it to the campgrounds, which was an orphanage full of enthusiastic young adolescent boys and several well-trained dogs, we set up our tent, and organized whatever it was we need to do. We all kept our clothing and personal belongings in garbage bags and our suitcases so the dust and invasive deadly insects wouldn't get in and come home with us.

With everyone set up, we all did evening Vespers, a type of prayer you do in the evening, we ate and lights out. We were to wake up bright and early at 7:00 a.m. sharp, do whatever we needed to do for an hour, breakfast, morning prayers, and off to work. The time we were all waiting for.

We all split up into three groups and went to three separate sites where there was a small plot of land, either in between two other buildings or in the open. Our group specifically got lucky because we got a site in between buildings with a mini-mart across a street, but the only downside was that it was a thirty-minute drive away from camp. 

We started by leveling out the plot of land and marking where the concrete foundation would go, and once that was figured out, we all had three wheelbarrows and started to get the cement ready, which is obviously much more work than having a machine that does it for you. It is very heavy, and tiring work, and it makes you feel like you're living in the past, honestly. 

The second day, when we got there, the cement was all good and dried up and we started to set up the framing. This was actually fun to do, although it was very tedious. When we finished connecting all four of the walls we carried them over and installed them to the concrete foundation. When we connected the walls to each other we packed up, and off we went.

The next day, we put up a wrapping around the house, like siding as we have it here. It consisted of chicken wire, siding paper, and two layers of stucco. This was one of the easier days, except for the people who were mixing up the stucco. That was hard labor, no lie about it!

The roofing day was more of a relaxing day because most of the people weren't allowed to work on the roof either because they were too young and it was out of caution, or they didn't want to. The older men of the group were the ones who worked this day. On the "break day", if you will, it gave us time to talk with some of the orphaned boys who came with us. We would talk about "how bad the Americans are at Spanish", play soccer, even in that small limited space, and walk back and forth to the mini-mart across the street, blowing through our money.

The next day was a painting day. We all grabbed brushes, and buckets of paint and let me tell you, we all went to town! We were all taking turns painting the sides and in a matter of time, we finished the house. Once that was complete, we installed one window, and one door.

Mind you, this house was only two rooms, with a wall splitting one from the other, without any plumbing, electricity, air conditioning or heating. It was like the sheds that we have in our backyards. Nothing more, nothing less. 

The day that we handed the family the keys to the house was the best day, hands down. We all entered the house and did a beautiful house prayer for the new house and the poor family who just got blessed with a new house. The room was full of emotion, happiness, and thankfulness. People were laughing, smiling, and sobbing. It was a roller coaster of emotions. There hasn't been any other better day for this family.

All of this should make one think. Especially if you live in the United States. Where you have everything at the tips of your fingers. You want water? You just walk a few steps and turn a faucet. In Mexico? You had to walk a football field's distance. If it gets cold, you can just turn up the heat, or vice versa. But in Mexico? You can only strip so much, or put on so many layers! The moral here is to be grateful. Even if you think life isn't going your way, be thankful you at least have been given life! There are people out there who are struggling to find a bed to sleep in.

Project Mexico was an experience of a lifetime, and I do not regret it, not even in the slightest amount. I am encouraging as many people as possible to join and do it, because there are people out there who need your help, and need a home to sleep in at night.

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