Wednesday, November 13, 2013

El Nino -- A Community of Possibilities

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Dawn came as usual around 6:00 a.m. here in Tijuana, and after breakfast, we headed out to the community known as El Niño – home to thousands of people a few miles outside of Tijuana. We spent the morning at a church named Lo Mejor del Trigo, with Pastor Daniel Nuñez, his wife Yolanda, and a team of young evangelists and church leaders, working in a barrios surrounding the mother church. This main congregation has planted about 20 churches in the area in the past three years. Their goal is to plant 50 churches, and they seem to be well on the way.

I wish somehow I could transfer the sights and smells and sounds of Mexico to you, so that you could experience what we are experiencing here! El Niño is a very poor, fast-growing community. They now have electricity and running water – luxuries out here. On the drive to El Niño, we pass the giant statue of Christ, so common to many Latin cities, with His arms outstretched on the hillside overlooking the highway. Today we go to teach an energetic group of young leaders in the principles of Step Up To Life, so that many will be able to come to Christ and His open arms!

On the drive out there, we pass through an area that always fascinates me. On the right is a very steep drop-off into a deep valley….one drives carefully here! But on the left is what appears to be a VERY old cemetery with hundreds and hundreds of gravestones crowded into it. It’s not a lovely place at all! The stones are nearly tumbling down the hillside; many are broken down, as though too many people have crowded in. There is no grass….only brown…another symbol of death. The cemetery rather reminds me of the many broken lives who are buried there, and the hopelessness and despair of so many people in this great city. The landscape itself is rather barren. High hills – akin to “mini-mountains” – stand like guardians around this impoverished community. Although the hills are made of earth (unlike northern Minnesota where they are made of granite), there are enormous stones scattered around everywhere, giving a somewhat surrealistic feel to the view. There are no trees to speak of, and the ground itself is dry and dusty. The turn-off from the highway takes us into El Niño, where all streets but the main street that passes in front of the church are dusty, filled with potholes and rocks, narrow, and passable only by driving VERY slowly. (I might add here that Omaha dwellers have never seen POTHOLES!!)

Lining the dirt “streets” are dozens of little shops—really only awnings covering a table, or several piles of everything imaginable – all for sale. People are there selling every day, but especially on Sunday morning when it is the official Market Day! It rather reminds one of a city-wide flea market….awnings and food stands everywhere….people wandering from shop to shop, buying what they need, or sometimes trading from one shop to the next. Music and lively conversation are everywhere.

We noticed some interesting additions to the community this time….a rather large Penex station just off the highway….thankfully you can buy gas out there now. Also, a large Calimax store….the local equivalent of Wal Mart. It would seem that civilization is encroaching upon this area, which in this case is a good thing!

As we cross the railroad tracks a few blocks from the church, we see something else. An entire squatter community stretches left and right along the tracks as far as the eye can see. We don’t really understand the concept of “squatters” in the States. These people arrive, sometimes with large families, from other areas of Mexico, or sometimes even other countries. They arrive with literally nothing. So, they find whatever little piece of ground they can, and begin to gather any pieces of building materials that they can find. The “houses” are a patchwork of pieces of wood, metal, and plastic. They frequently do not have running water or electricity. Life is somewhat like wilderness camping all the time, only much harder. They are doing what they can to subsist. In the beginning, their presence is not legal….especially here so close to the railroad tracks. However, once they have lived on a piece of ground for a specified period of time, it can become theirs. These communities can literally crop up overnight in many cases, and they house those who are one step better off than homeless.

Finally we have arrived at Lo Mejor del Trigo, and are nearly ready to begin the training workshop, which Dave will be leading. One more thing captures my eye as I stand in the entryway to the church….nearly every one of these homes has a TV satellite dish on the roof! It reminds me once again of the amazing opportunities we have for the Gospel in this day and age of such extensive technology.

Perhaps this has given you a bit of context for where we are working this week. Wish we could bring each of you along sometime, but for now this is the best we seem to be able to do!

Continue to keep us in your prayers, as Pastor Steve Peterson joins us tomorrow for a Fresh Start workshop and more times of pastoral counseling.  More to come.....

Dave and Sheryl

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