When we are given more than we could have imagined.

When we are given more than we could have imagined.

Last Thursday evening, my husband and two youngest kids and I met up with 7 other people we didn’t know, climbed into a van with our duffel bags and our good intentions and drove to the border town of Mexicali Mexico to build something. I’d been busy enough in the weeks leading up to our departure that I quietly panicked as we crossed the border at 11pm, realizing that I hadn’t checked Google News for the current drug cartel activity in this particular town. Egad! We had hastily put our precious children into the unknown hands of a young missionary team from our church and for a moment I wondered if I’d properly said goodbye to our elder children, if you know what I mean.

The fact that this was my first mission trip was a slight embarrassment that I had to overcome. It only happens once. But the fact that I was even momentarily fearful of the environment is an even greater ignorance, and way more embarrassing. We did not encounter any drug cartels.

We did, however, get a closer-than-average glimpse of a few families in a community that by our American cultural standards had no business being so joyful. If we need more Prada, more square feet, and more Klout to be happy, then these families shouldn’t have been as filled with as much inside-out brightness as they were. Sure, they have water (most of the day), and there’s electric power (often), and who could need more than those homemade tortillas? But these people had richness in their community and the kind of love that spreads throughout their big families. Hmmmmm. Who’s helping whom here.

Our team consisted of eleven people, most of whom had never done this sort of thing before, and the random nature of church-trip-signups usually (I’m told) leads to a mix that contains at least a couple friction points. We had college-aged young women (plus our own high schooler Riley), two strong young dads who’d left kids and family at home, and two couples, one young, one slightly older (ahem). And of course, one 9-year-old Jack to keep everyone smiling. We all showed up with our open ears, willing hearts and slightly dazed gazes. A motley crew for sure.

Our leaders put good effort into initiating conversation in the van, and we were able to hear a few of each other’s voices from our front-facing seats. Then as we arrived at our dusty destination at midnight with the temperature still hitting 80-something, the local missionary couple greeted us, and the commanding heat was our instant bonding agent.

“There are fans in the dorm, but we still suggest sleeping on the floor. Bug spray helps, but you definitely want to block the bottom of the screen door so not too many mosquitos get in.” Girls and boys had separate dorms. Our barren room quickly filled with laughter and colorful pillows.

Day One was 107˚F, which made Day Two at 88˚ feel ridiculously refreshing. In the evening our haggard crew gathered at the home of Pastor Miguel and his generous family. Just a few of us were bilinguals, but language barriers didn’t stop us from conveying our stories and genuine emotions in this heart-stirring time. We had spent the day lifting heavy trusses together, and dashing to find rogue tools to hand up to the guy perched on top of the ladder. We reminded each other to drink Gatorade and we paused to talk with the family whose 40×40 house we were nearly doubling in size.

And with each hour we melted together and became friends. One by one, and as a team.

One guy in our crew introduced himself as man of few words on the way down, then became the core translator on site, being the only one who spoke all three languages: English, Spanish and Construction. The other young Dad, at first quiet and reserved, quickly became the who smiled his way into the shotgun seat, humored us with great comedic timing, and shared deep hurt he’s enduring in his family life. The young ones shared their excitement, and exuberance for life.

We older ones (ok, we were the only older ones), shared the experiences of a slightly longer life, living through ever-deepening lessons of how God will use broken lives for His great story. We helped each other see the sometimes-invisible miracles that only time (and faith) can reveal.

In the middle of our family dinner Friday night, there was a torrential electrical storm that took out the power, and a rolling 3.8 magnitude earthquake that silenced our conversation only momentarily. We gathered in the dorm room and by iPhone light, we sang our worship to a loving God, with guitar accompaniment from Daniel, the son of Pastor Miguel, who tried to change keys to match our wavering voices. He taught us to sing “How Great Is Our God” in Spanish, and somehow it sounds even more beautiful that way. Finally, the heat and our collective excitement sent us on an adventurous late-night drive to Wal-Mart for a hilarious diversion of seeking ice cream and air conditioning. We united by laughing through our exhaustion and we were more greatly blessed by the extra challenges we could face together.

On the bus ride home, we were way louder, reflecting and laughing about our 80 hours together, and singing Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of our lungs (thanks to the one in college). Then, with one last burst of memory-making energy, we all spontaneously hopped out of the van (except the one driving) to walk across the border into the United States. It just seemed like one more new experience to share together.

So there we were. The Mexicali Club.  Eleven people who didn’t know each other before we climbed aboard this church bus, who only had one thing in common – to step more fully into how Jesus taught us to love each other. It’s in that space that we were given far more than we anticipated, and we built a lot more than a house.

Next up: The ones who are there all the time.



  1. Miriam
    Oct 5, 2014

    Oh, Suzy! I am encouraged and blessed with your skillful weaving of humility and marvelous storytelling. I always relish a view into your world and all that God is teaching you. I miss you terribly and am so grateful we are His. Love and blessings to you!

    • Suzy
      Oct 5, 2014

      Hi Miriam!
      Thanks so much for coming by:). And thanks for this encouragement. It’s so great to still be connected.

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