Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Have you been waiting? Part Seven, at last.

Thursday. August 30

Didn’t take a sleeping pill last night. My vanity prevented me from doing so. I did not want to snore again, and the only way to ensure I wouldn’t snore, was to make sure I didn’t sleep. I am such a putz sometimes.

Most times actually.

I did pass out for a few hours, and aside from waking up utterly exhausted, and I woke up feeling better. My head cold was healed. Just like that. A miracle.

We spent the morning at the house, finishing it and ourselves off. My but it was hot. No, really, really hot. Glen was being brave but it was obvious he was not doing well physically. Tanya got a free trip to the local clinic after she fainted. Some of us were barely managing to stay upright while others worked tirelessly to get the job done. I was one of those wimpy ones. I was totally pooched. And feeling guilty that all I had to do was snap photos.

By noon we were done. In more ways than one. We had just built, by Canadian standards, a bright blue shed. No insulation. No drywall. Concrete floor. Plywood kitchen counter. It was embarrassing.,,, we have so much and this structure that we built seemed so inadequate for a family of 7. But it was solid. And blue.

Someone from IDT (the ministry in Mexico that organized our build) came to help us with the dedication service. She was fluent in Spanish and had no trouble translating our words for the Garcias. Larry went first, and did a fine job. Carmen went next, and sweetly gave them a Spanish Bible and some Bible picture books. I followed by presenting them with two photo albums; one filled with photos of us building their home. And the other one filled with photos of them – all seven of them. All flattering. She started to cry when she saw a picture of herself and I whispered “benito” (or whatever Carmen said that meant ‘beautiful’) and then teared up too. I told her she had a beautiful family and wished her much joy and love in her new house. That’s all I could handle. I felt a power-surge of emotion and had to step away before I fell apart.
Stoney Creek brought us a huge tub of Kraft Dinner for lunch which tastes awesome if you’re starving. And we were. We hung around the Garcia’s front yard for another hour, waiting for the bus to come back with our day camp supplies. By Thursday we were tight on vehicles again … one of the vans was spending the day getting it’s air conditioning fixed and the other one was being used as a clinic shuttle bus. That meant the big bus was going back and forth between the two job sites (ours and South Langley’s) delivering and picking up tools and supplies. It was also our washroom on wheels for those who had to pee during the day.

ANYways, by 1:00 pm, when day camp was advertised to start, a lot of us were ready to head back to camp. Head back to Canada, actually. It was hot. And we were tired. Bone-weary tired. Sick and tired. Not-excited-to-do-day-camp tired. Except Carmen. She was bouncy and happy and impatient to get started … “This is it! The best day! We get to share the gospel today!” Oh to be young and enthusiastic. Her joy bubbled up and oozed all over the place contaminating us with her infectious laugh. She set up the tarps on the empty lot, making a place for the kids to sit. Our team lead them in songs, entertained them with two skits, taught them John 3:16 in Spanish and then handed out the free gifts.

Yessiree bob, we handed out swag. Colourful Spanish Bible story books, Spanish “comic” books that explained The Greatest Story Ever Told, hair clips, smiles, stickers, balloons, colouring books, hugs, Spanish New Testaments, piggy back rides … It was awesome that kids we hadn’t seen all week showed up for the free stuff. We had lots. More than enough.

Of course, for me, the touching part was when Max and Jesse handed out the pictures I had taken. I had placed them in albums, and as the kids went through the line to get their gifties, Max and Jesse tried to match up faces with photos. They did a good job, telling one brown eyed, dark haired kid from another … and the kids were especially helpful, excitedly recognizing themselves and their siblings. Now I’m not saying that they treasured the photo more than, say, their Bible or balloon, but their eyes sure lit up when they saw their picture. And for the first time in 7 days, I felt like I had contributed something of value on this mission’s trip. As the photos were being printed, I prayed for each face as it dropped into the tray. My prayer was that each child would know that their photo had been taken by someone as an act of love. And that whenever they looked at their picture, they would be reminded of the love that our kids showered on them. And somehow “get” that God loved them too.

Watching our kids that afternoon was heartwarming and wonderful. I felt old and withered, but our kids? Full of life. And joy.

And when we were done; Rubbermaid tables put away, dusty tarps folded up, happy children’s arms full of freebies, THEN Carmen, Larry and Eric walked through the neighbourhood, and handed out New Testaments door to door. In the heat. Carrying boxes of Bibles. On rough terrain. With huge smiles on their faces. Wow. They were walking around, spreading goodwill and cheer, and all I could think about was finding a place to sit. There were no chairs in that ruddy country. Every bone and muscle in my body was reminding me that I’m an office worker and this business of standing all day was not going over well. In fact, I was under siege. My body was protesting. And longing for a bubble bath or comfy couch. Heck, a hard plastic church chair would have been heavenly.

I think I was the only one feeling discomfort. Because I was the only old one, remember?

Despite my longing for relief from standing, I was not prepared for the depth of emotion I felt as we got on the bus and pulled away. We would probably never see those kids again. Maybe in heaven. But what were the chances that any of us would return to this exact spot in Mexico? Bloomin unlikely, I’d say. What would become of these boys and girls? Did we really make an impact? How will God be able to use what we did? Will Enrique, Gordo, and Mimi come to know Him?

The line-up for the showers was lengthy as usual. And because I set up my laptop and start downloading photos before I join the line, I’m last as usual. Which is an OK place to be. No one was ever waiting outside my door wishing I’d hurry up. The girls who were first had a system worked out. One of them would stand in line as soon as they got off the bus. The others would run to the tents to grab their stuff, including hers, and they’d all shower together. I SO don’t get that.

I must be freakishly private. I cannot image any circumstance where I would shower with a friend or three.

After our showers, it was back on the bus. Illiyah, the woman who arranged for South Langley and the Ab family to join her at the migrant camp, had invited us all to her place for dinner. Tacos. I wondered if she’d have any chairs.

When we arrived, children and men from down the street and from neighbouring homes came out to the bus to welcome us. They shook our hands and smiled and looked into the boxes and bags of things we were sorting through. They poked their hands into our stuff and smiled and said words I did not understand and I wasn’t too friendly because it felt like they wanted to scoop our donations before we even got the chance to give them to Illiyah. I put all the stuffed animals and Beanie Baby’s I’d brought from home into a box and carried it up to the house. Carmen, along with Eric, was of course kinder, but they too, brought the leftover Day Camp supplies up to Illiyah’s house. The men and children followed us into the yard and stood around. More men and children showed up, just standing around and smiling. The kids climbed all over our teens, wanting attention and piggy back rides.

A line up formed outside of Illiyah’s front door as the Murrayville and South Langley groups made their way, single file, through her living room and to the kitchen for their fish and beef tacos. Drew was having issues with his stomach and was in no mood for a meal that hadn’t been prepared by his mom or Ronald McDonald. I too, was feeling a tad queasy and just couldn’t summon the courage to have anything but a slice of watermelon. In the end, he did end up trying the fish from my fish taco, which turned out to be Angel Fish. Go figure. He said it was good.

I was mostly looking for a place to sit. There wasn’t one. And my legs which had protested all afternoon, were screaming at me as the sun set over Illiyah’s yard. I took my mind off the lack of seating, by taking just-as-the-sun-was-setting photos of our teens.

And it was through the lens of my camera that I noticed all those neighbour kids and their dads getting the nod from Illiyah. She had fed us all, (like 70 of us) and had leftovers, and now she was offering tacos and watermelon to these others.

They were appreciative, grateful, helpful and happy.
And I felt stupid.

After we had eaten and Illiyah’s neighbours had cleaned up after us, seventy of us squeezed into a tiny one room schoolhouse on her property where she shared her story. It was hot in there.

There weren’t enough chairs, so I stood as she told us about her husband leaving, about raising her sons alone, about almost losing one of her sons in a car accident, about promising God that she would dedicate her life to serving him and about how hard it was to do that. She told us stories about working in the local orphanage, working at the migrant camp, working from her home… She told us what it was like to never know where her next meal would come from.

She encouraged all the neighbourhood kids who were hovering in the doorway to come in and meet us, and then she shared their stories. One young girl, was 14 when her mom died, so she took over raising her 5 siblings – aged 2 months to 10 years. She is now 18 and is still looking after her brothers and sisters with Illiyah’s help.

(That's her in the red t-shirt, surrounded by her younger brother and sisters.)

We, as a group, prayed for Illiyah, her ministry and “her kids”, then took a few minutes to shake each child’s hand.

I stepped out into the Mexican night air, thankful for the light breeze and huge moon. Thankful that God decided, back in 1960 when I was being conceived, that I should be born to Canadian parents. I was thankful that God knew I’d be divorced and chose to have me raise these sons in a country where there is a law regarding child support. And I live in a country where I have the privilege of being able to work at a well-paying job.

Illiyah’s life is not an easy one. It’s brutal.
And but by the grace of God, I could be living her life.

I allowed myself 20 seconds to get all emotional – that’s how long it took for me to walk across her yard and onto the bus. I prayed as the tears streamed; thankful for my life, and thankful that I had met her – the Mother Theresa of Mexico.

That evening, back at Eden, we Murrayville-ites worshipped, had communion and prayed together. And while some of us watched my laptop, I just sat n pondered. It had been a loaded day.

The next morning, Friday – our last day in Eden – we went to a local market where the children clung to our teens. They are so starving for affection, and can I tell you, our kids were generous in giving it.
We returned to Eden, packed up our tents, had some soup and headed for the beach. Those that were feeling under the weather stayed back. I really wanted to go but was torn because I assumed it’d be another 4 hours without a chair, and really? I’m too old for that. Drew decided not to go… he was worried about the heat because we knew there’d be no shade.

In the end the opportunity to take beach pics was too great to pass up. Indeed, there were no chairs. And no shade. But there was sand, and waves, and people. A very good combination…
Sure, there was the guilt of being a lousy mother, leaving my youngest behind.
I got over it.

And that was it.
By 8 pm that night we were on our way home.
It was bloody awful.
Lots of sick people pooping in the bus’s toilet.
Unbelievably hot rest area stops.
More people getting sick.

And that old question of who was going to share a seat with me.
No one wanted to, especially not my own kids.

Poor Kevin was the last one of the bus, so he had no choice. What an uncomfortable situation…

After 6 hours, I got Clint to trade with him. And then 12 hours after that I forced Drew to take a shift beside me. And somewhere on that 38 hour commute home, I forgot to wear makeup. No little pots of colour came out during pit stops at gas station bathrooms. I arrived back in BC with greasy hair and blah eyes. And so very thankful to be home.

So thankful and excited in fact, that I got off the bus, got in my truck, and drove home, not even bothering to gather my luggage from beneath the bus.

Before I left, people (random people, lots of them) predicted two things to me regarding this trip:
1. I would have so much fun.
2. I would come back "changed". "I'd never be the same."
I've been home exactly one month.
Was it fun?
Have I changed?

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