Here is a report on our Missions Team’s recent trip to Mexicali in the words of Tom Pilkington:
The Subcommittee on forming a new mission to Mexicali went on a fact finding trip during the weekend of January 23-25. The team from Murrieta consisted of Tom Rothhaar, Tom Pilkington, Jim Naylor, Alvaro and Adeline Jackson, Meg Matthews and Betsy Healy. Saturday afternoon, we were also joined by Ken Curfman who was an active member of the Light of the Canyon Church and who became the Missions leader. Ken now lives in St. Louis and loves the mission enough that he flew out and has said he will be an active member of our mission…gives you an idea of how the people of Colonia Santo Niño will affect you. We were met by Rev. Lupita Alonso and her husband Santiago from First UMC of La Puente; Lupita speaks fluent Spanish and was our translator; and since both Lupita and Santiago come from Mexicali, they know the town well.
Saturday morning we left the hotel and ventured out to Colonia Santo del Niño. The drive was about 10 miles from the hotel which was made a little more circuitous because of road construction. When we arrived, we were met by Joel Meloz and went on a walking tour of the Colonia. As we walked we were greeted enthusiastically by several of the families. We asked questions of the families about what the Community Center meant to them and were rewarded with many heartfelt testimonies, some of which we filmed. What we heard was that, when the community center was operating, it gave the children a place to meet and center their activities. We also heard about their missing the medical services that were provided. For instance, the lady in the photo below told us about the regular care and medications she had received for her 21 year old daughter. Now that the medical services are no longer there, she is unable to get care for her. Others spoke of their children missing the music and the weekly breakfasts and craft times. After the walking tour, we were joined by the current pastor of the church, Pastor Miguel, and were able to visit inside the chapel and the Community Center.
The chapel, except for a problem with the roof, is in good shape. They have recently put in new flooring, the seating is comfortable (able to seat around 45) and the décor was pleasant. As we toured the Community Center, it was pretty evident that it had not been used in a while. The lights didn’t work and we were told that they could not afford the electricity. There is a medical examining room, a dental operatory, a classroom, a restroom, a kitchen, and a meeting room.
As we sat around the table, these are the projects that were discussed:
• Fix the roof. We see that in two steps
o A quick patch to eliminate the leaks
o Later, using money from the San Dieguito Church…and maybe more that we have to raise…building a shade structure over the Community Center and the 50’ of open land between it and the church. That would eliminate future leaks and provide cooling for the Community Center as air would pass between the two roofs. Alvaro is drafting a plan, and Jim is thinking through details.
• Replace the asphalt shingle roof on the church building.
• Install a concrete floor between the buildings. Redo the handicap ramps that lead into the facility.
• Install new flooring in the Community Center. The subfloor in the bathroom needs to be replaced.
• Install a “swamp cooler”
• Provide Bibles to be used in evangelism
• There is a need for new “pew Bibles” and hymnals
• Develop an apprentice program for teens. The idea here is that most HS graduates as well as those who drop out of school do not have a trade and therefore are idle and gravitate toward the cartels. Perhaps the pastors can get companies to hire the youth for a month or two with no pay and teach them a trade…then maybe hire them if it all works out. We envision one pastor (Miguel) talking to the potential employers and the other (Joel) talking to the teens.
• Provide a projector and laptop computer. On Sunday they can be used in service during worship, but during the week, it can be used to show movies in the area between the church and the Community Center…that would be a draw for the people to come to the church. Miguel is a great evangelist…and that makes a new ministry to draw the folks.
• After school tutor program. Use the Community Center to help kids with their homework and have two or more computers to allow them to do research.
• Restart the old programs from the community center. The following is copied directly from the church blog…while none of the programs are currently operating; they all did have a positive impact on the community.
• Breakfast .- A weekly class time and serve hot, nutritious breakfast for at least 50 children in the community. With this we constantly strive to improve their nutrition and help the economy of their families.
• School of Arts and Crafts .- It is a program specifically aimed at housewives who want to help their economy through the sale of crafts they produce. This program works two days a week with two periods of courses per year.
• School of Music. – Music lessons, group flutes and children’s choir. Classes are once a week and aim to introduce children and young people in this art by stimulating their development.
• Adult Education INEA .- With the support of the National Institute for Adult Education have the service of Elementary and Secondary open.
• Medical Office .- We have a clinic that serves one day a week.
• Library .- We have a collection of over 300 books for consultation and home loan.
• Pantries .- Every month we distribute groceries to some families in the community.
• Brigades and Special Campaigns .- At least once a year we organize a Social Medical Brigade in our facilities. We also have permanent campaigns delivered school supplies and toys at Christmas and Children’s Day.
• Counseling .- We service family counseling, addiction prevention, and spiritual help to anyone who asks.
• Link .- also serve as a liaison between the community and other service institutions that offer their services through us.
The team was wonderful and each person contributed a unique perspective. Everyone is anxious to go back…to provide the community with the assurance that we are for real and that we won’t let them down.
We have tentatively planned a return trip on February 20-22 to work on the roof patch, do preliminary work on getting the Apprentice Program off the ground, hold a breakfast and craft time for the kids and maybe get our arms around a few of the other minor projects like painting a restroom.
Here is a quote from Betsy Healy regarding her experience in Colonia Santo del Nino:
Candace, the congregation in Colonia had been praying for a miracle and had almost given up hope of ever getting help. They were struggling to keep the church open and the minister had received no money from his DS or diocese or whatever they call it there since Sept.. He had the turn the power off because he could not pay the electric bill. The Sunday service with the community was so beautiful and although we did not mostly know the Spanish, we all loved singing along with them. At the end we all held hands and prayed together and then we prayed separately, one on one, and held hands looking eye to eye. Oh my, you talk about heart to heart with these very materially poor people but so rich in spirit and now hope! They just so wanted a definite date that we would be back and Tom was able to give them that, Feb. 21, 22-hopefully we can make that work.