It is always a little bit exciting and nerve wracking to travel somewhere in a different country. I had the opportunity to travel to Villahermosa, Mexico with a group from my church. In 2007, Villahermosa had a devastating flood. The city is shaped like a circle with a river surrounding the border so when there is heavy rain it is very easy to flood. The city was already poverty stricken, but the flood took what little the people of Villahermosa had. An organization called Samaritan’s Purse decided to organize some groups to send down there to help with the reconstruction of homes and communities. Even though the flood happened four years ago, most of the flood victims were still living in contaminated water in shacks made of anything from old roofing to tattered sheets and cardboard. Natural disasters are the most devastating to people who don’t even have anything to begin with. Another problem is that Villahermosa never gets cool. It is always in the high 80’s to the high 90’s with very high humidity. This makes it very easy for the people living in the unthinkable conditions to contract diseases.
When my dad heard about the flooding through Samaritan’s Purse he decided to put together a small group of people from out church to go down and help. On a cold, dark morning in Portland, Oregon I grabbed my bags and headed to the airport with my Dad. At the airport we met up with the other ten members of our group and boarded the first flight to Houston. From Houston we boarded a small rickety plane and headed to our final destination.
The plane finally landed and instantly I felt the change in culture. The pilot spoke in Spanish on the intercom, and as we made our way off the plane into the tiny airport I felt the heat of the night air in Villahermosa. We were taken by van to a small seminary in the city where would be staying. In the morning I was awakened to the sound of roosters. Our coordinator Daniel said we would be going into the city that day. Our group piled into the incredibly hot van and made our way to one of the neighborhoods that had been affected by the flood. I was speechless. I had never seen such poverty. House upon house of made of garbage. Shoeless children ran through the street. The smell was overwhelming. The heat beat down on us and it almost took my breath away. After touring the city we headed back to the seminary. Now that I had seen the conditions of the flood victim’s houses I was extremely happy to go to work building homes the next day.
We worked for the next four days in the hill country far away from the risk of another flood. It was hard work but it was the neatest experience. It was a joy to help, interact, and get to know the people. We dug foundations, painted, scraped cement, and laid down block for the houses. I have never had so much fun working. The people were so grateful, and they were the happiest people I had ever seen. It was very humbling to see people who had nothing so happy while people in America basked in wealth and depression. On the third day we were able to run a kids camp for the local neighborhood. There were about 150 kids that came. We had a blast with water balloons, songs, and a Bible story. On the last day of our work I was brought to tears. I never imagined how hard it would be to leave. I felt the people had been a bigger blessing to me than I had been to them. If I was ever given this opportunity again I would gladly take it. This trip to Villahermosa is something I will remember and keep with me for the rest of my life.
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