What can I say to describe my experiences in Tijuana, Mexico? I think these pictures say a lot (click on them for a closer look!) God used Tijuana not only just to change my world view, but my whole life trajectory as well. I hope everyone can experience the very best of Tijuana just as I have as I share with you my experiences there.
Over the past seven years, I have been to Tijuana several times serving on house building mission trips. The ministry that we partner with there, Amor Ministries, actually didn’t start as a construction ministry at all. It originally was a ministry to the orphanages of Tijuana, but it was discovered along the way that many orphans had families in the area, but these families were sending their kids to the orphanages because they had a better chance there and many families couldn’t provide basic shelter and food for their own children.
Because of this, some thirty years ago Amor ministries started providing houses to Tijuana families in need of them. In the short and skinny, it is a humble and simple house that can be built in a week by boy scouts (but truthfully, girl scouts build them faster… I am not joking)- a backyard shed by American standards, but it provides years of hope for struggling families and a concrete example of the faithful providence of God. No really, it is an actual concrete example of God’s faithful providence.
These trips are amazing. I enjoyed working with my hands during the house construction, I learned how to build a house from the ground up there. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting every new family we built for- the best part of the trip in fact. Being that I know just enough Spanish to look really stupid really quickly, It always was a laughable experience for both the team and the family whenever I talked, but that never seemed to stop me from sharing my heart for these brothers and sisters.
The cold breeze accompanying the outdoor showers back at camp actually served to be quite refreshing considering that fact that after a long hard day of house construction in the late July Tijuana summer sun, you had one of two things that you could look forward to. (A) a cold shower before supper followed by sleep in a hot stuffy tent shared with 6 other young men still discovering the use of deodorant or (B) supper followed by sleeping in a hot stuffy tent shared with 6 other young men still discovering the use of deodorant. The cold breezy outdoor showers served their purpose well.
What made this experience the best for me was waking up every morning with such a meaningful and solid purpose: doing God’s work. After my first trip to Tijuana in 2006 at the age of 20, I left knowing I would serve others with my life, but didn’t know how. I did; however, do what came naturally after such a life changing experience, I kept going. Two years later, I cut ties with my good life, job, and college track back home and set off to spend three months in the poorer neighborhoods of Tijuana doing one thing: serving.
One of the greatest summers of my life? No, the greatest. I bought a round trip ticket for the extended excursion knowing I was most likely to return home afterwards and start school again, but a large part of me yearned that God would somehow provide for me a way to make it oneway. When I reflect on the details of a simple life afforded by those daring enough to serve God in places far outside of our American comfort zones, I am always beckoned back to Tijuana, Mexico. It was a time in my life that words will never be able to do justice.
Images still race through my mind: the rolling dried mud hills scorched by the sun and scattered with make shift house after makeshift house, the looming haze each morning from the last evenings trash burn, the tent that housed my belongings (a mexican blanket, a cot and a chest), and the throes of poverty daily catching my attention competing against the joys found in addressing it. But most of all, what made my summer what it was and what I will always remember most were all the people that became a part of my story as I became a part of theirs.
God’s work brings with it an affinity and a redeeming quality that has brought to some of the greatest points in my life. Tijuana was a starting, training, and sending place for me in regards to desiring and seeking God’s greater work in the world specifically in my own life. I can truly say that I have experienced the very best of Tijuana, I hope someday you will as well. Thanks for the read 🙂