When on a mission trip in another country there is always a different pace to each day. Some days start late. Sometimes there is more work than there are hours in the day. Sometimes you arrive at the site and there is no one to direct you in your efforts. Flexibility is the key. Too often we try to impose our own ideas of American productivity with our efficient schedules and precise timetables onto the people we have come to serve rather than simply being with them, and just being available. Tonight we have a program at the Tijuana Cultural Center at 5 PM. Or 6 PM. Or maybe 7 – it just depends on who you talk to 😉
We brought a group of twenty- four from our parish (St. Teresa of Avila in Auburn, CA) down to Tijuana Mexico to work with the Catholic service group Young Neighbors in Action. Seven adults, seventeen teenagers, three suburbans, countless prayers from worried family and friends, and we were on our way! We are staying with the sisters at the very lovely retreat center, Casa de Retiros Del Espiritu Santo.
Sometimes, even when you have the best of intentions, things go wrong.
Apparently, my son can’t help but smile for a photo opportunity even when he has a board nailed to his hand! Maybe he has learned the truth of St. James exhortation to us to, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”1
My wife and I have had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time in the orphanages laundry room this week. We have seen a never ending stream of clothes being processed through the six washers and dryers owned by the facility. As the clothes come out clean but often still damp, they are piled high on a big table in the back of the room.
We then begin to sort them based on the name of the child written on the clothing tag or somewhere along the lining. There are bins along the wall for every one of the approximately sixty children housed by the orphanage. Karina, who runs the laundry is truly an amazing woman. She can take any article of unmarked clothing and simply by looking at the size of it , she can from memory match it up with a child that it will fit. She is in her mid thirties and has been at the orphanage since she was ten years old. I have gotten in the habit of saying a short prayer for each child as I find an article of clothing with their name on it. I have found it to be a simple way to “pray without ceasing” for the children at the orphanage while performing my duties for the day.
Of course it’s not all hard work. We’ve had plenty of opportunities to play with the orphans at recess and during lunch. Often after lunch the courtyard will be cleared of all the small children and toys, and a full-scale futbol game will break out between us and the older teenagers.
They are much better at banking the ball off of the walls of the corridor than we are, but once they loaned us one of their own as a goalkeeper we actually ended up winning a game. I do much better playing with the young ones 🙂
We also made it down to the playa (beach) with some of the older kids yesterday afternoon. We walked about a mile or so down the boardwalk and back, enjoying the sun and the surf. And, we actually saw dolphins just off the shore playing in the water. They want to take us back on Friday for a Fourth of July picnic with the entire orphanage to end our time with them. Truly, it will be difficult saying goodbye to all the little ones we’ve gotten to know over our last week together.
We actually had a great time at the cultural center tonight. The Symphony played several songs for us and we recognized several of the orphans from the orphanage who were performing. We waved to them from the crowd and felt for one evening like stand-in parents at their children’s performance. We were able to watch several different forms of traditional dance, including a Caballero on a dancing horse! Several of us even got to sit on the horse while he made it dance for us!
The food was excellent – carne asada cooked on a outdoor grill as we all sat and watched some more dancers perform a great choreographed piece. Afterwords all of us danced together in the courtyard along with some of the performers from the evening. There is nothing like food and dance to bring people together!
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