Tom Pilkington reports:
The team arrived throughout Friday afternoon at the hotel. The whole team of Lupita, Santiago and Fletch from La Puente UMC, along with Tom R, Tom P, Meg, Al, Adeline, and Betsy from Murrieta, met up with Pastor Miguel and Pastor Joel at 5:30 and had dinner at a Mexican Restaurant walking distance from the hotel. At the dinner, we finalized plans for the next day. Here is a photo of the team at the hotel (actually taken as we were preparing to leave).
After breakfast at the hotel, we left for the Colonia…arriving at about 8:15. We set to work immediately as follows:
Roof Repair:As reported earlier, the roof of the Community Center had developed serious leaks. We brought down roof patching materials which had been donated. Two of the local men in the Colonia volunteered to work on the roof to repair the leaks. The procedure was to clean the roof by sweeping and then washing. The patching material was then applied, followed by a fabric, and another layer of patch material.
Apprentice Program: While the roof patch project was going on, the apprentice program was discussed. The idea of this project is to put teens, either HS graduates or drop outs into an apprentice program to teach them a trade. Jobs are hard to find, especially for kids who are easy prey for the Cartels. The employer would agree to bring the teen on as an unpaid apprentice for one or two months and train him. If the relationship works out for both parties, the employer would agree to bring the teen on as an employee…perhaps at a reduced pay rate for a second period and then full rate. The young person would agree to work for that period without pay, be to work on time, work diligently, and strive to be a good employee.
Tom P. and Pastor Joel visited three potential employers in the Colonia. One was a carpenter shop that seemed to be making cabinets. We visited with the owner where we explained the idea, and he agreed to work with us. We then visited an auto repair shop where we visited with the manager who understood the program and said he would talk to the owner. A third potential employer that we visited with, a tire shop, said no. So one potential employer for sure, one possible and one NO…isn’t a bad start. The goal is to get two employers working with us…find one teen per employer, and try it out, starting the project during the April/May time period. Tom P. will work with Jim Naylor in developing a contract form that both employee and employer would sign. The plan is to get the employers to sign contracts by the April trip, and then recruit potential teen employees putting them together at the May trip.
Children’s program: Meg, Betsy, and Adeline were busy preparing for the kids. The previous evening, after dinner, we walked to a market and purchased bread, peanut butter, jelly, ham, cheese, and mayonnaise for sandwiches. They had also brought down games and crafts that the kids participated in. We are trying to organize other Mexicali churches to participate with us in providing the lunch and activities on a weekly basis so that we can provide it when we come, but they can provide it the rest of the time.
Other children’s programs that used to be available were music and mentoring. The mentoring program has restarted and will be more effective with the computer lab. The music program has a piano, but needs a guitar or two and some willing instructors. Maybe someone from the school can be recruited.
Dental Clinic…where all the water leaked…was inspected by a local dentist from Mexicali. Anna reviewed the supplies and gave a visual inspection of the dental chair. Anna is planning on bringing in three other licensed dentists and teams of students to volunteer at the Colonia every week on a rotating basis to provide dental services to the community.
Medical Clinic…The existing facility contains a medical clinic with an examination table, and supply cabinet. Our intention on this trip was to visit the University Medical School and discuss getting doctors and medical students to come and offer a similar schedule as the dental clinic. The meeting could not be set up on the Saturday, so our next visit will be extended one day, arriving on Thursday and leaving on Sunday to accommodate the school. Meg Matthews is also working with students at Cal-Baptist University to send Nurse Practitioners to help. Meg is also planning on getting a list of supplies that are needed in such a clinic and working with vendors in Mexico and the US to provide them without cost.
Electricity, water and sewer to the Community Center was interrupted when air conditioners and copper wire was stolen. We have contracted with electrical and plumbing contractors to reconnect the Community Center. The estimated cost is about $300…of which $100 has already been advanced.
Refrigerators are needed in both the dental and medical clinics to keep medicines preserved. Several medicines were spoiled because they were not stored properly. We are looking for small units without freezers…these should be purchased in Mexico. They cost about $125 each.
Restroom Repair: We started the renovation of a restroom that is located outside the community center. There were several holes in the walls that were patched with wallboard and patching material. A new toilet was installed to replace one that was broken. We purchased paint, but were unable to paint the walls because the patching material was still wet. There is a second restroom outside that needs similar attention on the next trip.
Outdoor Theater: We brought a desktop computer and a new Epson projector that will be used to show movies outside in the patio area. These movies will attract members of the community and can be used as evangelism opportunities.
Learning Center: The computer will do double duty as it will also be used as a resource in a learning center for school children. Already, adults started tutoring the kids in the community center after school. The Murrieta Missions team has committed $200 per month to pay for electricity, water, and internet connection. The computer will give resources on line for the kids to do research for their homework. More computers are needed…especially laptops.
Air Conditioning…The air conditioning equipment was stolen leaving the structure very hot in the summertime. Rather than install a refrigeration unit which is expensive to run , it has been suggested that we install a washed air or “swamp cooler” on the roof that could be connected to the existing ducting system on the building roof, and then raise it to the new roof once it is built. Doing it in two steps would allow the building to be useful during the very hot (~120o F in June/July/August) summer. The swamp cooler should be effective because the weather is dry.
Projects for the next trip include preparing to install an air conditioner unit mentioned above, cleaning the Community Center, replacing the floor in the inside bathroom, repairing and painting the second outside restroom, providing some training for Sunday school teachers, installing a shower in one of the bathrooms, doing some outside landscaping, cleaning the windows and repainting the iron gratings on the windows, begin working to set up food pantry, work on getting physicians and medical students to begin working on a medical schedule at the clinic.
Shade Structure: In October, we hope to build a shade structure over the existing community center and the patio area. This will provide a permanent protection from leaking, shade for the poorly insulated community center (air gap will provide a circulating air space to keep building cool). In the future, the community center might possibly be removed and the shade structure could be enclosed to make a slightly larger building with better construction.
For financing this structure, the bill of materials costs out to about $15,000…of that amount, the Joint Commission has about $8,000 available in cash now. We will need to raise an additional $7,000 to do the work. Detailed plans are available.
Guatemala Project 2015
As many know, I was blessed to get the opportunity to travel to Guatemala on a mission trip with Guatemala Mission Project – guatemalaproject.org . I am very thankful for all of the support and prayers that you all have provided me with on this journey! It was one of the most beautiful experiences that I have ever been through. The culture, the people, and the richness that was found, in ways other than money, made this mission trip quite different.
We traveled to a few different areas in Guatemala and were able to see how they lived and how their culture showed through. Most lived extremely humbly. While we were installing the stoves it would be in a small adobe brick room with dirt floors and natural light that was coming from the door. We would see all of the corn hanging from the ceiling or stacked up from just being harvested. The culture was humble, but beautiful, and they were making the best out of whatever the situation they were placed in. We also visited and supplied clinics that were overflowing with need and schools with wonderful children loving the opportunity to learn and loving, even more, the new school supplies.
Saying that Guatemalans are hard workers is a huge understatement. On the streets of wherever you were in Guatemala you will see men, and even young boys, hauling loads of wood or boxes that could easily snap their backs. They walk up mountains to support their families and their work is very demanding. Women and children were eager to learn and to even help when it came to installing the stoves. They craved a new thing that came with more independence, like the stoves. The stoves heat up quite fast, use less wood, and the people are no longer being affected by the danger of the smoke.
Richness in life isn’t measured by money, being in Guatemala that is very apparent. These people have gone through more than most of us have dealt with but they do it with such grace and humility. They have smiles on their faces and take care of each other. They were grateful for a stove that took less than an hour to install, but in that time it was one less thing for them to worry about in their families. The richness in the Guatemalan people is an eye opening experience for everyone. I would highly encourage anyone that is able to go on the next trip, or support this wonderful ministry. Please also visit our Facebook page for photos from our trip and further information- www.facebook.com/guatemalamissionprojectIAI
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.