A few years ago I went along with several people from my church on a missions trip to Mexico. When I signed up for the trip, I was exceptionally excited, and knew this was something I was meant to do. I was about to start a general course on trades through the local college (funded by my government) with the intention of moving on to Residential Construction, and becoming a carpenter (such dreams!)
For this missions trip, we were to help build the second story of a building at the Bible College missionaries from our church were running. We also poured a patio slab, built a large shed, and poured the slab for a house of a pastoral family who had recently lost their home in a hurricane. I say ‘we,’ but mostly I just sifted sand to mix into the concrete, and carried bricks from one place to another. I hadn’t the skills to do anything more, but every bit helps, right?
Anyway, here we were at the end of the trip, at this couples ‘home.’ Basically it was a thrown together structure that was mainly open, and had highway banner ads as a makeshift roof. These people were poor. There was no question.
They did have a kind of flush toilet system, but the water for it was stored in a bathtub beside. They had a very limited water supply. It was also in a sort of shelter, kind of like a largish outhouse, with a curtain to the outside for a door (I know, nightmare!) While I struggled with the idea of using that bathroom, I did feel really good about the reason we were there.
We worked really hard that day, and there were many times that I thought I wouldn’t make it – but I pushed myself. It was for a good cause. There were frogs in the sand pile as I gathered it into pails to add to the concrete mix. It was hard to shovel into that big pile without cutting a frog, or adding it to the pail. Being me, I kept trying to save them… perhaps I should have just let them be for all the good I did, and apparently they were poison to touch. Luckily I was wearing gloves.
While we were working (and most of the woman were off doing crafts with a group of children) the Mexican women were cooking our lunch on an open stove built of adobe, or cob, or something like that. Of course, there was meat in the meal plan, and I was nearly vegan at the time. I ate the vegetables, and tortillas, and drank the pop (it seemed that no matter where we went, pop was the drink of choice) and I felt okay.
However, they were very concerned about the lack of meat in my diet, and insisted on making me some sort of potato/tomato/cheese soup (okay, I ate the cheese – it causes digestive discomfort, but it wasn’t horrible at the time.) with more corn tortillas in addition to the food I had already eaten.
I felt bad as the men went back to work, and I stayed at the table waiting for my ‘special’ meal – but what could I do? I didn’t want to offend the cooks, I already do that enough. So I sat, and ate, and it was very good – not just for the taste of the food they made for me, but for the care and concern they put into it.
Here were a large family of people poorer than I have often known, living in conditions I had only seen in pictures up to that point, and they were worried about what I was eating. Here I went to be a blessing to them, and came off being blessed so much more than I could have given.
When I got home from that trip, I made corn tortillas for the first time. Ever after, whenever I make these for my meal (often along with soup, as they taught me) I am reminded of this family, and how deeply they touched my life, though I only knew them that one day. God sometimes blesses us in the most unexpected ways.