Everyone was up very early to travel to San Diego, California, and all flights were on time!!! We were picked up by our hosts, Darrell and Maureen Graham, the directors of the Mount of Olives Children’s Village. We had two 15 passenger vans and a trailer to take us all south across the border to the orphanage. The first van was motioned to pull aside but then motioned on their way; the van with the trailer was held at the border by the Mexican guards for 20 minutes then released to catch up with van #1. Traffic jams and checkpoints made the trip twice as long as usual, but we arrived safe and sound to our home away from home. After room assignments, a delicious meal, and an abbreviated history of how this place came to be from Darrell, we had a grand tour of the place. God’s abundant blessings for this place are evident all around!
All were “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” after a good night’s sleep as they entered the main hall for breakfast. The TASCers were reminded about personal devotions and the plan for the day. The original plan was to worship at the church where the VBS was to be held in a little village called Zorrillo; however, God had other plans for the group for Sunday worship. After many concentric circles around where our Google maps told us the church was supposed to be and stopping many times (with many different answers) to ask where the church was, we abandoned the search and headed to the church in Maneadero. God’s providence was evident as we joined the much smaller than usual congregation as most of the members were out of town for the week. Our group filled the church, and the remaining congregants were grateful for our presence. After a late lunch, the VBS crew got their specific plans laid out for day one while the others enjoyed the outdoors. The TASCers enjoyed another magnificent authentic Mexican dinner and prepared for the evening worship service lead by Pastor Ed with singing accompanied by Denise on the piano. Pastor Ed challenged us with the instruction of the Word found in James 1:21-27.
Day one of the VBS began on “welfare” registration day. For many of the poor families that live in the area where we are hosting the VBS, it is a day where they report to the “welfare” office with their children to prove the needs that they have. Needless to say, the number of participants was small, but that did not damper the enthusiasm of the team who was full of energy and excitement for the gospel message! The Mount of Olives and the surrounding area have many projects for the team to do including sifting gravel for a stucco project, painting boards to be used for shelving in the new shop, pouring a bond beam on a small building, digging a trench to be used for electrical conduit to the shop, and pouring a cement pad to be used for an addition to a house for a dear friend of the orphanage. Even after all that was accomplished, the young people still had energy to play with the children of the orphanage after dinner.
Day two of the VBS was very encouraging as the number of students more than doubled from the day before. The children were very engaged with the material. The team was kept busy with the increased number and are looking forward to tomorrow’s event!
Area parents of the children who attend the local elementary school must help out by serving the school in ways such as cleaning and serving meals. Some children of the Mount of Olives also attend the school, and so they too must take their turn participating in that service. Because of this, Darrell and Maureen Graham like to give back to the school where they can as well. This year their part was assisting with the construction of an addition to the school facilities. We sent a crew to the school who poured a bond beam and two columns for this addition. When both the VBS crew and the concrete crew had finished their lunch, they worked on a variety of projects around the orphanage including painting, some organization of the shop (I say “some” because there are days that can be spent in there), installing trusses on the small building and a general clean-up of the properties.
One thing you should never do in Mexico is change the time for the VBS event. Due to the events of the day, it was decided that the VBS group would begin a half hour earlier and that proved to bring less children to the event. It is clear though that there is a definite core group that is dedicated to learning and the memorization of their daily memory work. The group left behind worked on installing some plywood on the trusses set the day before, continued with the clean-up and made some adjustments to the heavy front doors of the ministry center as the weight of them causes them to sag and not close properly over time. At 10:30 we travelled to the Calimax grocery store to purchase food items to be given to those who are living at the migrant camps and a few other families who are in need. We rendezvoused with the VBS group there and headed to the migrant camps. These migrants, as they are called, are made up of the indigenous people of Mexico. They are impoverished because the authorities do not give them birth or marriage certificates which would give them citizenship and benefits. They are caught in a vicious cycle that most will never get away from. The group left the camps and spent the afternoon at a local attraction called “La Bufadora,” which means “The Blowhole.” Waves from the ocean create back pressure causing an underwater cave to send water high into the air. Today though there were no large waves, so the blowhole was more like a “poof hole.” We returned and enjoyed an authentic meal with Tres Leches for dessert.
Today back to the normal schedule for the VBS crew, and the numbers were back up, giving proof to the statement from yesterday that change of start times is not good in the middle of the week.
“Don Diego” and his crew keep the children engaged in the day’s lesson and remind them of the previous day’s memory work. Miss Rachel is the IT person for the week making sure the hand motions go with the song of the day. Mrs. B and Mrs. M join in with these songs and gestures with gusto! Chris and the other girls are working right alongside the children in the classes and crafts. It takes teamwork to make something like a VBS work, especially in Mexico. The group left behind finished a few projects that we had just started before we went to the migrant camps. A couple of new projects began after lunch and were completed. One of the most difficult projects involved “digging” a trench for water, power and Internet to the mid-way cottage. Digging is not the proper word as it was more like using a pick ax and a jack hammer cutting through the decomposed granite rock. At quitting time, the trench was made, ready for the conduit and reconnection of the utilities. The other half of the group finished painting an apartment-like home for one of the resident house mother helpers, creating a firebreak on the hillside as protection for a brush fire that can happen at any time in this dry season. A safety fence was also installed on the hillside to protect the children from walking off the cliff created for the new shop. All in all, quite a few things were scratched off Darrell and Maureen’s list. Time for sleep and rest to begin the last work day at the orphanage.
Final day! The VBS crew had their final presentation and awarded 5 Bibles to each of the participants who memorized all five verses for the week. One such recipient was one of the mothers who was present every day. All of the other children and their parents who attended received a Spanish New Testament for their hard work! It is now our prayer that those who attended will grow in their love and faith in our Savior Jesus Christ! The crew left behind finished up a few items on Darrell’s list including pouring 76 feet of sidewalk around the RV community building. The rest of the group helped clean up the work done on the shop and unloaded the PVC conduit for the power cables to be run to the new shop! It is a blessing to the orphanage having these things taken care of, so the staff can concentrate on taking care of the children. In the afternoon, we went to see Sara and her son Angel. They are a family that the Mount of Olives has supported for many years. We bring her some food staples, and she will divide her share up and give it to others who may need it just as badly as she does. She showed us what it truly means to share with those in need. Her warm smile and her abounding joy are a testimony to how we all should live. What would seem to be a hard life to live, she is grateful for every day that she can take care of her son and help others.
Time to travel home. The group was up before dawn to pack and load up for our journey home. Both vans left on time at 5:30 am and made our way to Tecaté where we made a record time border crossing of 55 minutes (really good for a Saturday morning). At the San Diego airport, we said our “see you laters” as we know that if we do not see one another in this life again, we know we will see each other in paradise. It was a great week, with great people, in a great place!
Soli Deo Gloria!