From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Spokane youth group invests hearts, hands in Mexico

by Shannon Albo and Mikayla Hood, for the Inland Register

(From the Sept. 13, 2001 edition of the Inland Register

In July the youth group from St. Mary Parish, Spokane, travelled to Tijuana, Mexico to start building a home for a family living in sub-standard housing.

Our journey began the previous September with the planning of our fundraisers and making arrangements with Esperanza, the organization we worked with. Our money-making activities ranged from selling rosaries, crosses and birdbaths, to car washes and service projects.

With the help of the parish’s Knights of Columbus and faithful volunteers we served breakfasts after Mass on Sunday and waited tables at the Priests Appreciation Dinner. Each of us sent out letters, asking for financial and prayer support from our families and friends.

During these 10 months of hard work and preparation, the youth and the leaders became close — sharing work, play and dreams, and forming what will be lifelong friendships. After the excitement of awaiting our departure for Mexico, our parish sent us off with heartfelt good wishes and special blessings, commissioning us on our mission to the poor. At the Spokane International Airport we said our goodbyes to our families and, with another prayer, we were sent on our journey.

After arriving in San Diego we met up with two of our leaders who had gone ahead to pick up the 15-passenger vans which served as our transportation for the week to come. We had expected that crossing the border would be a huge change but it wasn’t. It wasn’t until we passed though the city of Tijuana and reached the area where the poor people live that we realized how different our countries are. Neither we, nor the kids we met there from the Bellingham Youth Group, had ever seen this kind of poverty.

Arriving at the work site Salvador, one of the Esperanza guide/helpers handed us shovels and picks and showed us where to start. After successfully digging foundation trenches 56 inches deep and 18 inches wide, we came to the part we thought was the most fun — filling them back up with cement! We shoveled sand and rocks into buckets, mixed these with water into cement and passed the cement by bucketsful into the trenches. We worked very hard for a week and were exhausted, but before the cement hardened we made our mark: “St Mary’s, Julio 2001.”

We expected that because the people in Mexico were poor, they would also be sad. When we got to know many of them we realized that though they were very poor they were really very happy. They were always smiling and willing to give of themselves, whether it was a kind word or a tasty lunch or even fun play time with the small children.

A sad/happy event was our trip to the orphanage. The sad part was seeing all the children with no families and having them call you “Mommy” if you picked them up. The happy part was knowing we brought joy into their young lives if only for just a few hours. Later we worshipped with the people of the village at their church about a block away from the posada where we were staying. The church was so familiar with its cross amid the flowers and the priest greeting us all.

Later, there was a sad moment we could not turn to joy. We walked along the border wall and saw crosses there in remembrance of people who died trying to get across the Mexican/American border. The names and ages — some as young as 13 — brought home the reality of these deaths. Scraps of paper were stuck into the wall. One scrap read, “The world will never be free until there are no boundaries dividing people.” The words helped us realize the reality of the struggle these people face.

This mission helped us to see what Jesus was talking about when he said, “Blessed are the poor.” We have so much more comfort and “stuff” in our lives, but these poor of Mexico are rich in love and peace and faith. We helped to build a living place for a family and they helped us to realize how much we really have and to not take it for granted. They also opened up a new space in our hearts. None of us will ever forget these blessed poor.

We are so thankful to all those who made our Mission Trip 2001 a reality. The generosity of parish, family and friends made it possible for 19 youth and 7 adults to serve God in this special way: “Whatever you do to the least of my people, this you do unto me.”

Vaya con Dios.

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