Something about not having running water terrified me. It scared me more than the buzz on the news channels about dangerous drug deals in the country I was planning on visiting. Foolish, vain me was worried about smelling nice and having a flushing toilet. During my spring break of 2010, I traveled with the Yuba Sutter Mexico Mission teens, on a quest to build homes for less privileged families. I had no idea what I was getting myself into; I only knew what I had been told: it was going to be tiring, dirty, and, somehow, fun. I went along with my friend who knew I was nervous. Just to boost my confidence, he told me he had been on this trip since he was seven. Well, if he at seven could survive, I could too.
We arrived inside the Tecate border after spending the night at a church in Costa Mesa. It was my first time in Mexico, let alone my first time traveling with a mission group. I had no idea what to expect. We arrived at AMOR ministries’ designated campground and set up tents. I fell asleep that night, uncertain of what I had gotten myself into.
We met the family our smaller group was building for on the second day. They were an energetic bunch, consisting of a mother and her three boys. One was particularly interested in our work, and he had learned English from his father. He helped us with anything he could, and kept us entertained.
Mixing cement was probably my favorite thing to do on the trip. The first day, we mixed wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of the gray sludge. I couldn’t tell you why it entranced me so much, but I loved the rhythm of mixing. 1 shovel dirt, half a shovel cement, one pinch of fiber, 1 bucket water, add a bit more here and there to get it right. Despite a 20-minute rainstorm interrupting our work and leaving a lot of our cement sopping, my first time mixing concrete was highly successful.
The dedication of the home we built was a beautiful thing. I didn’t speak much the night after this, because I was in awe of how the family reacted to our work. It was as if they couldn’t ask for anything better than a slab of concrete bordered by flimsy wood walls. There was no electricity. There was no plumbing. And yet the mother cried when we handed her the keys. I suddenly missed my shower, but not for me. I wished I had packed it and given it to them.
I did more than survive. Despite my initial fear of unhygienic campsites and accidentally nailing my hand to a piece of wood, I found myself loving nearly every moment I spent in Mexico. From the family my group built for to the overall feeling of compassion in the campsite and the country itself, I came home a new person. I tried to tell my mother and father about what I had seen without shedding a tear, but it was impossible. The knowledge that I made a difference, even though it felt like I did little more than stir concrete, was too overwhelmingly beautiful for me to ignore. I continue to live enlightened, always striving to make a change for the better. Mexico taught me that there is no end to what you can accomplish for other people, so you should just go and do it.
Even if it means not showering for a whole week.
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