Tomorrow, my mom heads to Mexico. Not the part where there is turquoise water, white sand beaches and overflowing fruit platters. But the part you read about in the news.
We first went to Anapra in 2000 with my youth group. Back then it was just sand, cinder block houses with no electricity or running water. We came to help build a new school in a Juarez neighborhood where parents locked their kids at home so they wouldn't get into trouble while they rode a bus to a factory and worked for $1/hour. Along came a pastor, Antonio, who saw a need and moved his family to Juraez so he could teach adults to read and write in this room made of palettes and cardboard.
And then we arrived and helped pour the concrete for a new building. It took a week to build just the floor - mixing concrete by hand, twisting metal into rebar. At the end of the week, a bunch of teenagers stood in a circle around our concrete slab. We listened to prayers in Spanish and a man talk tearfully about how he'd found God that week.
"Asi alumbre vuestra luz delante de los hombres, para que vean vuestros buenos trabajos y glorifiquen a vuestro Padre que esta en los cielos." Mateo 5:16
And then other churches came. Buildings were built. Tile laid. Chalkboards hung. The Colegio Susana Wesley was born.
Four years ago, my family went back for Thanksgiving. And that little slab of concrete is now many buildings. It's a beautiful, vibrant school.
And the kids are amazing.
But as the situation in Juarez has deteriorated so has Anapra.The volunteers don't come as often. Antonio and his wife, Dina, are at risk for extortion or kidnapping because of their local status. The funding sources, who are also struggling to maintain their own budgets, aren't giving as much away.
So my mom and a team of people will go back this week to help out with repairs around the school. They will deliver supplies and a lot of love. It's the least they can do for the two people and their staff who give their lives in service in the face of violence because they believe in education and in God's love.
This week I'm praying. For my mom and the team's safety. For the kids of Anapra who grow up with the odds stacked against them. For the families who can look outside their cardboard houses and see the lights of the El Paso gated communities where there is enough food, enough education, enough jobs and enough safety. For our hearts to be moved - whether it's risking our comfort and safety to serve, collecting school supplies and clothing to give away because we have more than enough or simply signing up for the school's newsletter and praying.
And as we eat ourselves into a food coma next Thursday, make a list of all the stuff we want for Christmas, attend holiday parties and complain about the burden of our jobs, car repairs, the cost of decorations or the stress of family get-togethers, I hope we pause.