Yesterday was another memorable day as we drove 2.5 hours up into the mountains to meet a new community and some sweet new people.
I find that my heart is very soft here and I cried lots of tears as I hugged young children and senior citizens. We ate authentic Mexican dishes given generously and proudly and were graciously welcomed into tiny simple homes.
In October you all heard the good news when Hurricane Patricia swept passed the populated areas around Puerto Vallarta but you may not have heard how the communities in the mountains were affected by the rains. Rivers overflowed and many villages were badly damaged by floods. La Fuente Riviera Church headed up to these villages at that time to deliver food and clothing and in the process they formed new relationships with people in the town of Mascota and surrounding villages.
Yesterday we went to the small town of Tecuani, a farming village nestled in a beautiful valley. It is a peaceful village, but the people are poor. In October, the church met the principle of the school and asked “how can we serve you?”. He asked for help painting portions of the school and the surrounding fence. So yesterday we took a team up to paint and hand out clothes and shoes and to play with the school children.
While everyone else was scraping and painting and working hard, I was snooping around the school’s 3 classrooms. As I walked by the Grade 3/4 class, I heard in perfect unison and in perfect English “Good Morning”. Then they burst into laughter – they were excited to practice their limited English with a gringa. I applauded with great enthusiasm and they sang me a song. Then the teacher of the Grade 1/2 class invited me in to spend time with her class – practicing introducing themselves in English, counting to 20, asking me questions, and finally singing me a song about elephants. Then the tricky part – they asked me to sing the song back to them in Spanish – which I did (okay with a bit of mumbling!). They were so shy and so well behaved and so excited to show off their language skills and I was blown away by this community that ensures its children are educated and are learninga language that will help them succeed – even though there is no English spoken in their town.
We then wandered around the town, meeting the curious townsfolk. The most moving moment of the day came when we met Candio, an elderly gentleman living alone in a tiny cement one room home. Pastor Fredy asked Candio how old he is and he said he is 85. Fredy then asked when his birthday is and he said the 21st of January. Fredy confirmed “21st of January? That’s today!”. The old man’s face lit up and his toothless smile broke into a grin “Then I guess I’m 86!”. He invited us in to sit with him, we sang him Happy Birthday and gave him his first Bible and a toque for the cold mountain mornings and prayed with him. He said we would always be welcome in his home. I sat beside him and as I saw his eyes fill with tears so did mine. Such a humble and simple life – and yet generous. I know Candio is lonely and I so hope to visit him again someday.
This flower that I saw yesterday reminds me so much of so many of the Mexican families I meet – my eyes tell me that they are too poor, that happiness cannot flourish in the poverty and struggle. But then I see a child laugh or an old woman smile when I greet her and I see that there is life and love that continues to bloom in a dry and broken country. How I long to be able to pour a cool drink of God’s love on the places I visit.
And so I continue to wonder what my calling is here – where should I dig in my hands and my heart? Where can I serve most effectively? What do I have that others need? For now, I am enjoying exploring this beautiful country and meeting its amazing and resilient people.
Unfortunately, yesterday I also met its ravenous mosquito population and apparently I was a delicious gringa buffet! Today I pay the price….