Mission Trip to Concepcion del Oro, Mexico.
Purpose: To continue the construction on the church foundation.
The following is taken from my journal I kept during the trip. I apologize for the grammer and random thoughts, but this was my first everything: first flight, first trip outside the US, and first mission trip, so my emotions were running high. I hope you enjoy the pictures, unique stories, and experiences I encountered each day. God is awesome!
Flight to Monterrey:
I have my own window seat with an empty seat to my right. Much more comfortable than the flight from Dayton to Dallas. I was squished between two people. Towards the end of that flight, I just felt like getting up to stretch and run up and down the isle to losen up my body.
Overall, the first flight was very cool and novel. It felt like a roller coaster, with your breath taken away for a few seconds. Man’s amazing feat, create a large steel vehicle, with hundreds of passengers, flying hundreds of miles per hour, at staggering heights. The Wright Brothers would be proud.
Right now, my ears continue to pop, forcing me to yawn constantly to open my ear canals to relieve the pressure, as we climb in altitude. We are beginning to get above the clouds, revealing a spectacular sight. Flight went by very fast. Just got signal to prepare for landing.
Just arrived at the hotel in Concha del Oro, very long drive-3 hours or so (Had to travel to the small mountain town of Concepcion del Oro 3 hours South of Monterrey-Concha is short for Concepcion). But I got to sleep and catch up on the zzz’s I missed yesterday and on the flights.
Had dinner with Juan Carlos and Adah (Juan Carlos is the lead pastor of the church and Adah is his wife). Of course, they made an American dinner, pizza! It was very good. Juan Carlos made his own hot sauce which was very good on the pizza.
Strolled around town to see the sights. Everyone was outside, either kids playing, teenagers hanging out, or obviously, the thing to do is cruise around town. I guess they neglect to forget the gas prices, even though they don’t really have anything else to buy, such as computers, video games, or any sort of luxuries we have.
The people are very friendly and you can tell, from their gestures and greetings, they strongly value friendship and family.
As a result, they put less emphasis on material objects, which Americans have sadly become reliant on possession and temporary objects.
I’m exhausted. I’m going to hit the Internet for a little bit then head to bed (Yes, the hotel had wi-fi!-very nice because I couldn’t contact anyone via phone, so I had to communicate through email and Skype). Church is at 11 am,so I’ll finally be able to sleep in!
Oh, I forgot, the first meal I had in Mexico was chicken critters at a Chili’s (We met up with our translator in Monterrey, and yes, went to a Chili’s near the airport-looks exactly the same as the one in the states-who would have guessed, right?!)!!
I slept alright last night, at least until I woke up early this morning to Paul snoring very loudly (Paul was my roommate I was essentially assigned to stay with). I tried to make noises so he would wake and stop snoring because it was very alto, but I was unsuccessful. Before the church service, I’m going to give Juan Carlos the Spanish Bibles and also a Spanish/English dictionary because of course, I brought two of them with me for some odd reason (I forgot I already had one, so I purchased another-found both while unpacking at the hotel-so why not give both the Adah).
“Me gusta presentar estas espanoles Biblias a la iglesia.” I need to practice this. I can’t think on my feet like I use to in Spanish class (Took Spanish for three years in high school and two years in college-still didn’t stick). It seems as though it’s going to e a beautiful day. Paul wants to get a few fans from a local shop to cool our room at night; agreed! Then, at the end of the trip, we can just donate them to the church.
I’m also thinking about buying a cheap watch to wear, so I don’t have to carry around my cell phone or iTouch. Hopefully today, I will get tons of great pictures of Concha and the surrounding mountains.
It’s about 6:30PM, just woke up from a nap, just feel groggy. I hate that. Naps are suppose to be good, refueling the body, but no, you feel worse than before. Today was very interesting though. The church service was great. Who would have guessed God moving via two languages.
Even though there was a language barrier, praise and worship was still moving and God was obviously speaking through us. After the service, we had a fiesta and food. The comida was very good. I got to meet the translator named Bob. There’s a story behind Bob. He has been living in Concha for, I believe over 10 years, so of course he’s fluent in Spanish. He owns a bakery here in Concha and cares very much for the Mexican people.
Actually, just realized his name is Don, not Bob. Well, anyway, he’s a very fascinating person with a very interesting backstory. He is a fitness/nutrition expert, bicyclist/triathlon participant, tried out for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. He understands the country of Mexico suffers from a high prevalence of obesity, so his bakery is trying to reach out, one pastry at a time, educating and supplying healthy pastry options for the people of Concha.
He uses all natural ingredients found in local plants and healthy sugar alternatives. The soccer game was really fun at Juan Carlos’s house (sorry, football! Mexico was playing Cuba). Their passion runs dep with their soccer. They were representing the colors of red and green proudly, including Larry and Gina (Larry is a friend whom actually invited me on the trip and Gina is a high schooler whom already has been here once before). Mexico won 4-1. Every time Mexico scored, Juan Carlos would launch himself onto Larry (Lorenzo-Larry’s Spanish name).
I probably had the best hambourgesa I’ve ever had. It had onions, tomatoes, lettuce, guacamole, and several more things, oh plus ham. It was very delicious, but wasn’t staying together in a clean fashion. We also had ice cream afterwards, which was also muy bien.
On our walk back to the hotel, there were a lot of peole in the town square jumping on trampolines and celebrating and such. It was weird because the town seems to come alive at night, rather than during the day. Overall, it was a great day, with God speaking in various ways.
Tom and I were walking around the worksite and I saw the finished project, what it looked like and everything, even before Juan Carlos showed us the blue prints. It was very surreal (I know it sounds weird, or if it was my imagination, but I can still see it today, and how the church will look). Jorge, a 18 year old, has been put in front of us for a reason (Jorge was a friend of Juan Carlos’s from Monterrey). We’ve all had moments where we can find ways to help/minister to him.
It was very interesting to hear Jorge was/has been neglected by his father and step father, so of course he doesn’t see the importance of a fatherly figure. He doesn’t care or is indifferent towards both of them and he told this to Larry during the soccer match. Norene is also helping him with his English (Norene is Tom’s wife, which was there to help with the children and Bible study).
By the way, Jorge’s English is very good and the way he learned was by watching movies in English; amazing! It seems as though he looks up to me as a brother. I don’t know why, maybe because of the similar age, and our similar hobbies and interests. Jorge must be the vehicle of God’s choosing for this trip, at least at this moment.
I couldn’t sleep at all last night. I tossed and turned quite a bit. Of course, that’d happen before the first major work day. Breakfast was very interesting. Don came by with a lot of pastries, about 6-7 different kinds, all with their own unique ingredients. The two I had were very good, the last one had a different kind of cheese, which was very good.
Breakfast was at 8:00AM, and we got to the worksite at 9:30AM. The first thing we all had to do was very tedious and strenuous. The dump trunk that was delivering stone and sand couldn’t get past a very large boulder, so of course we had to move this boulder by hand. It took two levers, and 6 or 7 of us to push this boulder about 5 feet. What a great way to start the day!
After moving the rock, we began mixing concrete in the mixer. To do this, we would add two buckets of water first, concrete mix, and then 25 shovels of stone, and 30 shovel fulls of sand/gravel. These ratios weren’t consistent every time, which caused to cement to be runny, but either way, Juan Carlos was always telling us to add more water, or stone.
We did quite a bit of mixing, to find out we’ve only covered the surface of the corner, where it was being poured. Very tedious work for little results. Once we were finished with the concrete, we started bending inch thick rebar.
We would put the rebar into this homemade/weird contraption, measure the amount that needed bent, then took a heavy duty metal pipe and put it on the end to force the rebar to bend. We had three of us pushing/pulling the pipe, but once someone left, Tom and I were the only ones, and it was very tough to bend. We pretty much bent rebar all day.
At lunch, we had scrambled eggs, refried beans, and tortillas, it was very good for how weird/simplistic it was. Today was very demanding, but it was nice to work hard and get my hands dirty. It was pretty funny, Phil was by far the dirtiest out of all of us and we’ve just been messing with him all day about looking like ‘pig pen’ from Peanuts.
We also exchanged money as well today after work. I exchanged $40, to get I believe 412 pesos, no idea what I’m going to buy with that. Paul, my roommate, which obviously has a problem with me being on the computer at night, bought a fan because he always complains he’s hot. Last time I checked, we’re in Mexico (I was obviously upset about this situation).
Oh also, to get his fan, one of the Mexicans that works at one of the stores, wanted an American magazine, so of course, Paul asked me if I had any magazines and I told him I really don’t have any I’d like to give up. But my conscious got the best of me, so I felt bad and gave him my Men’s Fitness magazine to help pay for the fan (bought this magazine, plus several others to read on the flights).
After we bought the fan, we headed back over to Juan Carlos’s to have dinner, just the four of us guys. Well, the second group arrived at the house at short time later, to find out that we/everyone forgot Phil at the hotel. So David and Larry went back to get him. For dinner, we had this mysterious soup, but eventually figured it was corn soup and it was very good. We also had friend chicken, rice, and this lettuce/slaw, which was also good.
Overall, the day was filled with a lot of hard work, I really like talking with Tom about philosophical, psychological, and educated topics. He’s very smart. His insight on life and everything is very unique and I definitely have learned a lot from him already. Jorge is continuing to teach himself English, which continues to get better each day. Well, I have to wake up early so I will leave it at that.
This morning, I woke up at 6:30, still tired from not being able to get a full nights rest. It was very tough to stay in one spot. Of course I was tossing and turning, but somehow I was able to dream. Very weird dream of course. We left for the church at 7:00 and an unbelievable view all around Concha. The sun not even showing itself, but its beautiful rays atop the mountains. So breathtaking. One of the most serene and gorgeous mornings I’ve ever experienced. True peace.
It was great to see the worksite again (being sarcastic). Today, we mixed and poured concrete. It wasn’t fun. Very strenuous. I was constantly moving. My other group members weren’t consistent on their tasks and jumped around from one thing to the next. So I was stuck doing a lot or helping someone else. We would fill buckets of stone, sand, concrete mix, and water to mix in the mixer.
It was a very fine science because Juan Carlos was very picky on the consistency of the concrete, rightfully so for him to be that way. But a common phrase was “add more water.” WE did a great job through today. Poured the base of 2 pillars, then a base pillar to connect the two, so it looks like this: (I drew a bad illustration, so I’m not even going to attempt to describe it).
We had fun today also. It wasn’t all serious. I probably had my favorite lunch so far: I forget what they’re called, but they were flat corn shells, about 3 cm thick with a ridge around the edges so nothing would fall out. It had ground hambuger, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and cream of milk to add to it. Also, they had this spicy avocado sauce to put on top.
I don’t know if I was just exhausted and hungry, but it was amazing. At the end of the work day, we had fruit and snacks. I got to experience a papaya. I didn’t really like it, but I ate it anyway. I am completely impressed with their mangos! Juicy and sweet, they’re very very good and its the food of choice when I’m on a break.
At the end of the workday, Tom, Larry, and I were doing resistance training, wait for it, with rebar! Yes, rebar that we actually bent yesterday. I had them doing arm curls, reverse curls, upright rows, and shoulder presses. It was fun and a little hard, especially after we were beat tired, but any form of muscle building is good.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the market nearby to get some Gatorade. Tom, Larry, and I all tried some Jabinero peppers and they were ridiculously hot! (I later found out they are called “Arbol” or tree peppers, not Jabinero) It was pretty much on a dare, we all ate two of them and the heat stuck with me for a long time after that! The store owner knows quite a bit of English, and he got a good kick out of us eating those because even to them, they’re very hot!
We also learned from this owner and his workers that the Mexican market crashed in 1984 and he showed us that in one day, 1,000 pesos went to the worth of 1 peso. The money worth dropped exponentially, very amazing! Didn’t know that. He also gave me some old Mexican coins for me to keep which was very nice.
We just got back from dinner and once again, the food was fantastic. They were cheese and onion chimigancas? Not too sure if those are the name. We also had potatoes, rice, and peppers, plus a side of hot sauce of course. Larry brought his peppers and we ate a few with our meal-not a good idea! My lips are still tingling. For our desert, it was like this wafer/lemon/pecan pie. It was very good, no surprise. I think they’re trying to fatten us up for this trip.
Other people stopped by their house tonight, like Jorge and Roberto. Roberto is the gym teacher at the local school and he actually asked Jorge and I if we want to play basketball on Friday. I guess Larry is playing also, so it will be Americans vs. Mexicans. Also, tomorrow, we are having dinner in the mountains and visiting Robertos’ parents. According to Larry and Tom (whom have been on this trip before), this place is amazing!
They grow/or have their own fruit orchard, from pomegranates to apricots. His mom also makes jams, so I’m very excited, not only for that, but also the experience. OH, I had to pray at dinner, IN SPANISH! Juan Carlos made me. I believe I said, Thank you for the food, thank you for the day, and thank you for the women that prepared the food…pause…uh….y…amen. I couldn’t think of anything else to say!
Also, I translated and helped other people talk in Spanish tonight. It was very weird. I don’t know, but I think my Spanish is slowly coming back (knock on wood).
Oh, I also forgot, (by the way, this isn’t everything that has happened, there’s so much more to this trip than just through these words). Jorge found a lizard at the worksite, put it in a container and pulled it out to show us. Well, the lizard didn’t like that he was being held by his tail, so he just snapped it off and ran away, but the tail still squirming on the ground. It was very unexpected and something I’ve never seen before. Weird, I know.
It was really cool to find out about Jorge and the movies he has seen. From Twilight to Star Wars, and BAtman, I definitely need to give him a list to watch. And he watches all of these on the Internet, in English!
Juan Carlos came to our devotional tonight to share the gospel. (So every night, our group would meet together, for a relaxing devotional, reflecting on the day, where we’ve seen God working, and such). He was very thankful of us and what we’re doing here in Concha. We found out how long the construction project is going to take and it’ll be roughly 8 more years. He also described what the church is going to look like, which sounded very similar to what I saw earlier in the week in a vision.
More journal entries to come…