'Abide in me!'' - John 15:4
I’m sitting in a van surrounded by ten other people, eight of which I’ve only just met less than two hours ago. There are two more team members following us in a separate car and a Mexican architect and his wife are waiting to meet us in Mexico. It’s a beautiful warm, sunny day in San Diego and an ardent sense of anticipation fills the air as we all excitedly talk about the week ahead. As we settle down and wiggle our bodies into comfortable positions in the cramped van, we can’t help but wonder what the drive down and through the border will be like. A mass of baggage practically cascades over my head in the back, and I breathe a sigh of relief that we are finally on our way.
As we approach the border crossings, I note that these are nothing like the borders I am used to in Africa. We stay seated in the van and drive through the U.S. border in a matter of minutes. It all happens so seamlessly and we are already in line for the Mexican border crossing. Conversations diminish as curiosity takes over. As a border security guard approaches our van, Becca and I clutch the bags in the back in an attempt to prevent an avalanche of bags from falling on top of his head when he opens the back doors to inspect our cargo. We sit in nervous silence as the official instructs us to present our van for scanning. Three or four officials proceed to escort our vehicle across numerous lanes of traffic to the far left side of the border, where we wait for further instructions. Twenty pairs of inquisitive eyes turn to observe some animated conversation between several border officials, before we’re told to proceed through the border without the scan. Surprised at the sudden change of instructions, we humorously agree that they couldn’t agree on who would run the machine, or perhaps no one was able to.
The van proceeds to cross an invisible threshold and I suddenly find myself in another world. I marvel at the fact that a minute ago I was in the U.S. and now I’m in Mexico. Voices fade in to the recesses of my mind and I become enthralled in this incredible new environment. A labyrinth of cars, pickup trucks and people engulf the rutted and dirty roads. Dilapidated buildings and shredded billboards sail past my window yet there is such beauty in the vibrant colours and layering of materials. Repetition is evident in a wall off washing machines for sale on the side of the road and I find comfort and familiarity in the presence of tall security fences and barred windows. My emotions overwhelm me and I feel like I’ve come home. I feel God’s presence in that moment and I know that I am where He wants me to be. God has given me an incredible opportunity to be a part of this project in some small way.
The word ‘home’ is so powerful and has a huge impact on us. Home is that one place of our origin, somewhere we know we belong, a place we call our own. I do not feel a true sense of belonging in any earthly place. Home is where my heart is; in God. In John 15:4, Jesus declares ‘Abide in me!’ It becomes so significant to me that He extends this invitation to us; to ‘make your home in me.’ More than any earthly shelter, it is Jesus himself who is our shelter.
My time spent working with Engineering Ministries International in Rosarito, Mexico brought with it a real sense of belonging and meaning. I experienced satisfaction and privilege to be able to serve God and His people using the skills He has blessed me with. Granted there were moments of doubt, tears and feeling inadequate, it was a week of growth, sharing, laughter and problem solving. Days started with breakfast at eight, and usually ended around ten or eleven at night, breaking for lunch, dinner and team devotions. Some days were long and drawn out, and others passed by too quickly. Occasionally I wondered how we were going to finish our work in time for the final presentation on Friday evening. The project scope turned out to be larger than we had formerly anticipated. Along with a design for a new outreach centre, our time was spent re-programming the site and suggesting renovations for over nine existing buildings on the seven acre site. I was incredibly blessed to be able to work alongside a full team of great people from all different professions. I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 12, where it talks about spiritual gifts and unity and diversity in the body of Christ. God placed each member there for a reason, and our project would not have been possible without one of these team members.
Days were beautiful and warm with clear blue skies. In the evenings the temperatures dropped significantly and I found myself wishing I had brought a heavier jacket. As dusk approached every day, I treasured moments of standing on the hill and looking across at all the lights flickering on around us. Music soared and sensational smells of Mexican food drifted across the valley. Life was simple and peaceful and as the day came to a close, we would slink back down to our sleeping quarters for the night.
Becca and I were the only single ladies on the trip, so we shared an entire five bunk dorm room. We picked our beds according to the mattresses. We had a selection of two mattress types; mottled, lumpy and distorted or thin and non-existent. Spider webs adorned the walls and corners of our shower, bathroom and bedroom and housed a surplus of daddy long-legs. It was not uncommon to walk into their tacky webs, and on occasion there would be a web ornamenting the toilet bowl. Flushing toilet paper down the toilet was prohibited, so we quickly became accustomed to disposing of our waste in a small bin next to the toilet. The water was not safe to drink. The first time I turned on the sink tap in our bathroom, I was startled to see a thick muddy water run out. Simple tasks such as brushing our teeth involved a walk to the site’s supply of clean water and filling up a cup or bottle with drinking water. Having said all that, it was amazing how quickly we became adjusted, and then struggled to re-adjust when we returned to the U.S.
On Friday evening, our team presented our design proposal to an audience of people from YUGO Ministries. A great sense of accomplishment overwhelmed us and relief followed suit. The rest of the night was spent watching ‘How to train Your Dragon 2’ with the team. Saturday was a day of rest and touristy activities as we traveled to Ensenada and spent time visiting markets, exploring buildings and enjoying lunch together at ‘Big Burro’ (they make incredible tacos). On Sunday, we departed Rosarito in the morning to make it to the border before the rush. Often the wait can be up to seven hours to cross back into the U.S. Luckily, we only sat in line for an hour and a half and were greatly entertained by the dozens of street vendors selling their goods among parked traffic. We spent Sunday afternoon exploring San Diego, and subsequently returned ‘home’ on the Monday. The remainder of my internship will be used to compile a full set of drawings and report that will then be handed to YUGO Ministries.
Thanks you so much for all your prayers and words of support. I would really appreciate prayer for rest and clarity as we begin to detail and refine the project. Apart from learning a new program, I am currently working on the architectural and structural elements of the project. At times it can all become very overwhelming as I realise the scope of work I have to complete in a matter of months, but I am excited at the opportunities.
God bless you all!