Squinting at the sudden onslaught of light, I stepped out of the van into a dry, dusty scene.Poverty and desolation rose to greet me, and, astonished, I almost knocked over the unfortunate person climbing out after me.I gawked in amazement at the new world, unable to comprehend the crude, decrepit fences constructed of rusted barbed wire and the ramshackle homes that barely concealed the wary eyes that scrutinized my every move.The motif of poverty and desolation stretched further than my UV-assaulted eyes could see.Trash lay scattered everywhere; paths were nothing more than parched earth between the jagged poles that eked out tiny squares of hard, unyielding dirt, the lone source of each family’s sustenance.Thin stray scavengers slinked between rubbish heaps, completing the picture of the unyielding oppression of poverty.Welcome to Mexico, to Rosarito, Baja California, to the world of slums so often masked behind entrancing visions of white sandy beaches and luxurious seaside hotels.
From posh suburban California to bleak, desolate Mexico, the contrast put Dorothy’s “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore” to shame.I had always heard of the uninhabitable squalor of third-world countries, but the easily-overlooked, distant pleas for funding from child sponsorship commercials paled beside the physical, concrete reality that confronted me every way I turned.Only hours before, I had lamented my house’s lack of a second story; these people thanked God for the chance cardboard box that kept their rickety homes from falling apart for one more week.My Sarang church mission team had embarked with the purpose of helping the community, and after recovering from the shock, I vowed to contribute to the best of my ability. As our troupe set up the frame for a sturdy, new home, the backdrop of dilapidated homes gave us the motivation to continue to lift and hammer long into the hot afternoon.With every push, with every heave, we gave hope and confidence to the downtrodden, poverty-stricken community.
Every morning during the week we stayed in Mexico, our team would gather up the local children and teach them simple Bible stories.On one of those days, we gave them coloring books and crayons, and I almost cried as the young kids happily colored brown for what was supposed to be grass.The bitter tang of destitution tore off the covers that wrapped my eyes, revealing exactly how much I took for granted back at home.The conventional sturdy walls that keep out wind and rain, the ability to flush away at a toilet at will, even the tap water clean enough to wash dishes – these people never experienced these simple luxuries.My eyes opened, I find so much to be thankful for.Now, I can see and understand how much sweat and tears lie behind the conveniences available to me at home.Admittedly, I do sometimes lapse into complaint, but I have matured enough in understanding to know that what I bear, what I go through, is nothing compared to the daily hardships taken for granted in the absolute poverty found just south of the border.
The Mexico mission exposed how many privileges I had as an American-born, but even more than that, it underscored the critical need to aid those suffering in third-world countries.Through this experience, through learning how fortunate I really am, I can now take advantage of my situation and spread it to those in need.I still pray for little Angelina, the girl I took care of for that short week. I hope to join next summer’s mission team to revisit the children and to catch a glimpse of the fruit of our labors.
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