Last weekend, my family joined an energetic St. John’s team led by Kendelle Milton down to Tijuana for a house-building mission with Amor Ministries. It was an inspiring three days from beginning to end; and I want to encourage you to attend worship on April 9th, Passion Sunday when we will be sharing slides and testimonies from the experience.
The last time I was in Baja, I was leading a group of young adults from Glendale Presbyterian Church, including my future fiancé! So I was looking forward to this weekend, and can testify that it re-grounded me in the healing role of the church, and the core message of the gospel – the abundance of God’s grace and love, offered to us in Jesus. I will never forget the family’s warm greetings and the pozole – a delicious hominy and chicken soup that Maricela, the mother had prepared for us. They were living in a house much smaller than an average bedroom; and where they slept I have no idea. I’m happy to say, however, that with St. John’s gifts of money and labor we were able to build a two bedroom structure with four doorways and four windows that tripled their living space. The faith of this family, their simple lifestyle, and their kindness was a reminder to me that abundant love, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit is in no way dependent upon the material prosperity we take for granted on this side of the border.
The fact that these families hear about Amor homes through Tijuana church pastors encourages me, and that the local community of faith is empowered to be a force for grace and goodness through these mission efforts. Amor’s house-building work is well known now, framing about 400 homes per year in this border city. A few years back, when the city council was approached by Amor for donations, a member replied, “I grew up in an Amor home. I would love to help.” She then promptly arranged for all the concrete for these homes to be donated free of charge, in perpetuity. Once again, a gift of God’s abundant grace.
As we were preparing to leave, I overheard the father of the family speaking to the Amor ministry staff member who accompanied us. “Can I pay you anything for this work?” he asked. Remember that the average wage in Tijuana is $15 per day. “No my friend,” he replied, “It’s a gift from our Heavenly Father.” And that was that. “Don’t forget,” the father later said to us, “We are family now. Come and see us again, just to visit.” I’m hoping that before too long we will. The church can feel at times very weak and ineffective in the face of the world’s problems. This past weekend, I was refreshed again…and given eyes to see how much is being accomplished for the kingdom by those who are filled with the power of Jesus’ compassion and love.
I offer this epilogue. On Friday afternoon, as the soon grew hotter, a man selling ice cream pushed a small cart up the hill toward our building site, ringing a tiny bell. Gradually, I saw our group descend one by one on this fellow with delight; making a significant dent in his inventory of frozen treats, and handing him US dollars, ones and twenties. His eyes grew wide as he received payment for his services, and I think he may have taken a few days off since we never saw him again! It reminded me again of the joy of unexpected, super-abundant grace.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3: 19-21
Hope to see you soon…