Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mexico Journal: Day 11-12

These two days probably won't be that interesting or very long, so I combining them to get them done with.

June 14 (Saturday/Flag Day/ My birthday):

When I walk up in the morning on my birthday the first thing I saw outside was a volcano puffing some smoke. I thought it was pretty cool.

I gave the devotional for the group during breakfast, I found it interesting that it worked out to be on my birthday, maybe one of those God things. I turned twenty by the way.
We had a day in Puebla before going to Mexico city the next day, so we went to an African Safari Experience for the first half of the day.

After being there for a good while, we drove to the square of Puebla, and walked around a bit.

We ended up going into this building.

And we went inside this church, there was a concert going on right outside.

June 15 (Sunday):
We drove to Mexico City's Benito Juarez airport, said our goodbyes and after going through customs, we boarded our flight.
I think this was on the flight from Atlanta to Nashville.
And.....then Home.

Whew... there I'm done. I won't be back for a while-- at least for three weeks or so and then it depends on whether I feel like writing or not. Next time I probably won't write so much; it's rather taxing.

Mexico Journal: Day 10

June 13 (Friday):

The morning began with the usual fireworks starting at about 5:30 in the morning which had been going on most of the week, except this time the bursts were supplemented by a church bell. I think it was still meet to be part of the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, but I would think they could celebrate in a quieter or more conveniant time. I suppose it's just a cultural difference.

From the Huajapon de Leon, we got back on the bus and drove to Puebla. Here are some pictures along the way.

And now....


Puebla had a much different feel from Huajapon de Leon and Juxtlahuaca. It's much larger and has colonial architcture so in some ways it feels like a completely different place.

We had some time to walk around in a market. Joe, Austin, Jeremy, Joel, and Tyler (if any of you read this) this is where I got you guys souvenirs-- don't expect too much. If anyone else is reading this and feels left out, I'm sorry. But I'm relatively new to this buying gifts thing, so I had to start somewhere.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mexico Journal: Day 9

I think I've been writing too much, so I think I'll start cutting down on what I write. This one should be mostly pictures anyway.

June 12 (Wednesday):

The last day in Juxtlahuaca. We went to the church one final time before breaking up into smaller groups to walk through the market for a short while, before meeting everyone back at the hotel to load up our luggage. Here's some photos of the hotel I took before we left, it might have helped if I had put these up earlier.

We all walked down to the Arroyos for one last time, loaded everything up, said some goodbyes and boarded the bus. After some driving and a few slight deviations along the way we stopped at the gorge below for lunch. We had driven by it before, and I think I put that picture up.

There was a mostly paved path that we walked for about a mile through the gorge with its mostly green slopes rising on either side above the muddy river. I wonder why I'm writing these descriptions when I have pictures. Oh well, I guess I just like to.

On the way back

From there we drove to Huajapon de Leon, you can see it on one of the maps I put up earlier.

Up until Huajapon de Leon, I had been lucky enough to get a room to myself, so I was a little surprised when I was put with TJ, Kyle, and Sam: four guys of varying ages in a pretty small room. It proved to be interesting.

The square of Huajapon de Leon

The restaurant we ate in for dinner was on the second floor of the building behind me and overlooked this street and the square.

Mexico Journal: Day 8

June 11 (Wednesday):

The last work day in Juxtlajuaca. Painting was pretty much the same. I think we finished almost everything we intended to paint. Here's a picture of some of what we did, before we started the walls were just gray concrete.

We took a couple breaks on the roof. I used it as a opportunity to just be, to be silent. There was a delightful breeze blowing moderate the heat of the sun. It had rained most of the week. For one of the first times the sky was beautifully deep blue, contrasting with the color and form of the mountains. I love moments like these, if I could I would have stayed up there; it was peaceful.

I think the food and lack of sleep began to catch up with me. I began to feel a little sick and my tiredness hit me all at once after coming down from the second break on the roof. The painting went a little slower.

Our clown troupe performed another skit for the kids. In this one I was a pariental figure and the others were children. There were three parts of it, and it was to show that we should honor our parents, be kind to creatures, and to be honest.

The crafts and games, were less enjoyable for me. I think it was because I felt so drained of energy that I was just waiting for VBS to be over so I could get some rest. Still, I hope I reflected the love of Christ to them in some way.

My group, for this day (it got changed around a bit)

games and snack

After VBS, the Arroyos held the first church service at the new church. It was an awesome thing to be a part of. They set up a row of chairs outside under the yellow tarp and projected the words of the songs up on the front wall. The songs were in Spanish and then English. After the worship, one of the people on our medical team gave the sermon, comparing a medical checkup to how we should be in our relationship with Jesus. At the end, of the service three of our team leaders went up and prayed over the new church. Then the congregation prayed over our team and thanked us for our work. The congregation is full of such warm people who came up and shook our hands with a smiling beaming on their face suggesting how joyful and grateful they were to have the new building. Even despite the language barrier I was amazed to see how they seemed to accept us in community.

An interesting thing of note--on the way back we passed a Catholic procession for the Virgin of Guadalupe. It was dark and they were shooting off fireworks that were all noise. In the procession each person carried a candle and walked slowly and in silence except for the fireworks and several guitars at the end of the procession. In the middle they carried a statue or figurine of the Virgin Mary in something like the beds which royalty would be carried around in. The whole thing to me seemed a little weird.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mexico Journal: Day 7

June 10 (Tuesday):

We did more painting. I did more edging; TJ and I did so much of it that by the end of all our painting, we had gotten pretty good at doing it. As I was paired with him in painting, the chaplain for our team asked me if I would be interested in doing the devotional for our team some time before the end of the week. I said I would but at the time I didn't really feel like I had much to say.

It was odd thinking about doing a devotional for a team of people who the majority are a good deal older and have more years of wisdom than I. So I was intimidated by the idea of doing a devotional for the whole team. For those who know me, I do not tend to be the best at public speaking; I can be a little shy. I didn't want to be the young guy who didn't know what he was talking about. In short, I wanted to seem like I had things down and I didn't have anymore to grow. And yet, I don't have things down and I do have more to grow. I am still young in the faith. There's always more to grow, I am still on a journey; I'm still learning to walk. Jesus has been teaching me that all this last year each time I want to settle down into someplace comfortable, someplace that doesn't take any effort, he pushes me on into places where I cannot do things on my own. He stretches me because has more a greater plan for my life, which begins with things like doing a devotional even though I've never done one before.

After painting we had VBS again. Our number of clowns increased for this skit. It was pretty similar to Monday's skit, with the other clowns tearing me down with words which they did by symbolically putting signs on me that said mean things, but this time at the end someone came in and then built me up with words, they turned around the signs to say good things. Oh, and we also had clown make-up this time.

Hey look, I'm a sad clown.

The clown troupe. Left to Right: Kyle (Hawaii), me, Samuel (Miami), Courtney (Hawaii), Nola & Elijah (Juxtlahuaca).

This day the medical team went to a different village to do a clinic, so the team leaders were changed around a little bit and I got my own group of kids without really any help, so I had to use what Spanish I could remember. It's a whole different thing to learn a language and to be able to apply it. It was challenging, but I found myself understanding more and being able to speak more. And that is such a cool experience. I still didn't understand a lot, and I think one of the kids might have insulted me a few times but I don't really care. The whole thing was so much fun (I wish I could come up with a better word but that's how I can best describe it). I think those several hours hanging out with those kids, and helping them with crafts and games was the best part of the whole trip for me. I think Jesus is giving me more of a heart for children.

Beginning of sunset, from the roof of the church we were painting. The pictures go from left to right looking down on Juxtlahuaca.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mexico Journal: Day 6

June 9 (Monday):

This day was a little different from the other workdays. The medical team actually did the clinic outside the church we were painting. Before we started working, they sent a few people and I out to tell people about the clinic. Fortunately, Zoe, she's from Nashville and knows a lot more Spanish than me, did all the talking.

We resumed painting again. The day that I went to Xochiquilazala, they had painted the ceilings with white paint, so we were able to start painting the walls. I did the edging at the top of the wall of the room which was going to be the pharmacy; we painted it blue.

After lunch, we cleaned up and prepared for VBS (vacation Bible school). Zoe, the two twelve year olds: Sam and Kyle, and I did a skit about how words can tear people down. I was the person who was made fun of in the skit. After that the kids were split into groups for crafts, I was one of the team leaders for the kids. I didn't really have a group this day, but I ended up helping with TJ's group of kids.

At first, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I struggled remembering any Spanish which I could use, so I felt pretty useless. But about halfway through the crafts, I began to pick up on things and be able to talk to the kids a little more so that I actually was able to make myself understood. For anyone who has not experienced trying to talk to some one in a different language, it is an amazing feeling to be able to communicate something, even if it is just a word, so that each successive word understood feels like a victory.

I was amazed by those kids. They were so much fun. I'm not really sure why, since at first I felt unsure of myself and didn't know what to do. But something about being around those kids, even though I didn't understand half of what they said, was invigorating.

For VBS we also did a game and then a snack.

This is TJ; he's from Hawaii. Joel is the little boy; he's crazy.

Mexico Journal: Day 5

June 8 (Sunday):
Here's a Catholic church we walked by on our way to the Arroyo's home.

We went to the Arroyo's home for breakfast and then for their first church service. I think Arroyos have been there for about fifteen years or so. When they were first there they just did things to serve the community, but from that time their congregation has grown from no one to having outgrown their yard.

They set up foldable chairs underneath the roofed area to the right and on the paved area on the left. They hung up tarps to cover the sections that weren't roofed, which was a good thing because it started raining during the service.

The service we went to was the Triqui service. Historically, the Triqui people have a reputation of violence, just before we went there was some incidence of violence near Juxtlahuaca. The Triqui people tend to be wary of strangers so it makes it hard to go into their communities and preach the gospel. And from what I've been told, they are one of the great unreached people groups today. Yet, if I hadn't been told about this history I would never have known because such joy and kindness shown on their faces. Someone on my team remarked that if this had been our first impression of the Triqui we would have thought that they were a very loving people. This just testifies to the remarkable power of Jesus to transform us, to transform cultures, and people to be more like his kingdom.

It was a blessing just to be able to see the simple community the service brought out. Where there weren't words exchanged there were smiles. They greeting us incredibly warmly. Everything was very relaxed and people would walk in and out during the sermon while the kids were also running around and playing. I didn't really mind. In America we would be shake our heads in disapproval at such behavior; we have this kind of set order within the church almost a kind of hierarchy in a way, but there there seemed to be more of the feeling that we are walking with Jesus together, in community and not on our personal walks with Jesus. It was the kind of community and church which is refreshing because it doesn't take itself too seriously, it doesn't worry about manners or the formalities, but simply about the gospel acted out in community.

Also, it was a much needed reminder that we have brothers and sisters in the Christian faith outside of America. In the US it becomes very easy to associate Christianity with our country as if we have some claim on it, or at least a better understanding. But Jesus intended Christianity for every tribe and nation and not just our own. So it's great to see others in a different country who are on the journey with Jesus just like I am. It's sobering, being as egocentric as I am, I forget that this story is bigger than myself, bigger than my own background. In a reality, my story is one small part of the greater harmony.

In the afternoon, after a little bit of free time, there was a picnic in a park for those in the church. It was a lot of fun. The food was pretty amazing and I got to play soccer for a while until it started raining. It was just a continuation of the blessing to be able to see the church outside of the service, yet to still see the same sense of community. Somehow it felt that we were included even though I couldn't really communicate.

When we went back to town, we had a little free time to walk around town.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mexico Journal: Day 4

This one will be considerably longer; it was an interesting day.

June 7 (Saturday):

The day began with us walking to the church, that's where we would eat breakfast. Here some more pictures from slightly different angles.

We would walk up this road then turn right, then our view to the right, looking down on Juxtlahuaca is the next picture.

After breakfast, the medical team would head out to the different clinics, depending on the day and the work team would start more painting. But this day, I was fortunate to be able to go with medical team and Stuart to help him out with a clowning act for the kids up in the village we were going to.

Here's part of Juxtlahuaca from where our trucks were parked for loading up the supplies at the Arroyo's house.

There wasn't enough room in the cars we were taking, I think we had four people in the cab part of the truck I was in, so I got to ride in the back of the truck among our bags and lunch. It was covered at least so I didn't have to worry about flying out of the back if we hit some crazy bump. We hit a good number of bumps, but the roads were surprisingly good for a small town in the mountains of Mexico.

The journey was beautiful, even despite the bumps in the back of the truck. The mountains were awesome. I'm not sure what it was about them but they may be the most beautiful mountains that I've seen. My pictures do not at all capture how beautiful they were, I wonder if any picture can.

Driving through this town, which is the same town as in the picture below, we were delayed for a little while because the townspeople were having a procession for the Virgin Mary, or some other Catholic event.

At the highest point of the drive, as we crested the top of one mountain, we were probably at at least 13,000- 14,000 ft, before we wound down to town, Xochiquilazala. I'm not exactly sure how to pronounce that name correctly, I think it might be Aztec.

You can see the town on the right side of the picture, on the side of the mountain at the level of clouds. It's at about 10,000 ft.

Looking out from part of Xochiquilazala.

Looking up the road we came down.

I was Stuart's assistant for clowning. The kids flocked around him when he started doing tricks. For my clown costume, I used some size 52 pants and bungee cord which Stuart had bought earlier, so that I would fit the part of a clown.

I really didn't do all that much, but in the end I was glad that I was able to be there and to watch, but I did up end up being chased around by a group of kids wielding the balloon swords which Stuart had made. The kids seemed to enjoy it a lot, but I'm not too used to running around at ten thousand feet. I ran out of breath within about a minute and a half. It ended up with me sitting on the ground letting them beat me up with their swords for a while.

By the time that silliness was over, Stuart had started to make balloon animals for all the kids, and I mean all. He blew up at least a hundred balloons. I just enjoyed watching the whole thing, I'm not sure why.

I tried to talk to some of the kids in Spanish, but I tend to be too hesistant. I think Jesus is growing me in that area though.

Less people than expected came to the clinic so we left a little earlier than we had anticipated, so we loaded up and drove back down the mountain through the clouds.