Did you know that the Rock Church goes to Tijuana once a month for a good time? Now, we're not talking about the worldly kind of "good time" you may have had in Mexico during your crazy freshman years. This is the fellowshipping-with-others, blessing-a-family, serving-the-Lord kind of fun you'll get when you join the Tijuana House Building Outreach.
Ah, Mexico There's something about that country you've just got to love. For me, it's where my mother's parents were born, and where I met my husband. It's the great food, lively music and the wonderfully useless stuff they sell at the border as you're waiting in line. Whatever the reason, the Lord has given me a heart for that place.
So, a couple of years ago when I heard about the TJ House Building Outreach, I was a natural candidate to go help out. John Hilton, a former associate pastor at the Rock, started the ministry in the fall of 2002. He and other members of the Rock staff went on a few team-building trips to Tijuana, and soon called for the Rock body's help.
Now led by leaders Ed Crenshaw, Michael Hilton (John Hilton's son), and T. Michael, Rock volunteers go to Tijuana one Saturday a month to build houses for families in need, dire need. On my first trip, the early morning sun shed light on a side of Mexico and a degree of poverty that many know exists, but don't want to believe.
Of the 103.4 million people estimated to live in Mexico, the bottom 40% share only 11% of the wealth, and are considered to live below the Mexican poverty line, according to Mexico Child Link. This was the other side of the world I never imagined I'd see firsthand.
The standard of living of these poor people was startling. Families of four, five or more live in tiny shacks clustered together on hillsides-often without running water or electricity. It's a stark contrast from our cozy U.S., and makes me wonder how two countries can be so close geographically, yet so far apart socioeconomically.
"Most people don't know what it's like on this side of the border," says Mike Hilton. "When you come [to Mexico] it opens yours eyes to see what life is like 30 miles away, and 90 percent of the world looks more like this side of the fence than that side."
But why Mexico? Why should we care or get involved? James 2:14-17 explains this topic well: What does it profit if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Love your neighbor, a command found at least a half dozen times throughout the Bible, is another great reason. Jesus calls this the second greatest commandment, just under loving God. Matthew 22:36
Christ set this example of love and servitude for us in Matthew 20:28. So, what better way to love and serve our neighbors south of the border than the Tijuana House Building Outreach?
Expect to be blessed.
"You're probably going to be blessed more than the people getting the house," says T. Michael.
You will help build a 12' x 12' or 12' x 16' house for an extremely grateful family. On my first mission, we built a house no bigger than my bedroom for four sisters. When we gathered inside to pray for them, they looked so blessed by this tiny "house" that it moved me to tears. The thankfulness and humility of the Mexican families who receive a house will amaze you.
Each family is chosen from a long waiting list by Caravan Ministry, a Christian mission in Mexico. Families are picked on the criteria of who's in the most need-which isn't tough to find in a country where many families live in total poverty and children are often compelled to work on the streets to supplement family income. Caravan Ministry then hooks the family up with the Rock Church's faithful volunteers.
Expect to eat awesome Mexican food. You can't get any more authentic than a homemade meal cooked right in front of you after you've finished the house. The delicious meal is the family's way of saying "gracias," and often costs them several weeks' salary just to feed everyone.
Lastly, expect to have fun. This mini-mission to TJ has to be one of the most enjoyable ways to serve the Lord and our Mexican neighbors.
"I love going down, helping out and blessing a family," says Ed Crenshaw. "The first time I went was a huge high."
It's the high that comes from working with fellow Christians to build something you never thought you could, it's super-fun balloon sword battles with the Mexican kids and the sugar from the "Bolis" popsicles you'll eat at the border that will keep coming back for more.
Each trip down is truly its own different and unique experience, filled with new opportunities and surprises. The ultimate surprise for me was meeting my future husband while serving God at the Outreach. Not that you, too will meet your soul mate there, but I guarantee you'll be blessed abundantly in some way or another.Experience Mexico in a way you never have before-serving the Lord and our Mexican neighbors. It will touch your heart and soul as it did mine. Through love serve one another. For the all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Galatians 5:13-14
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View the pictures from the January 2004 TJ House Building Outreach.