I feel like I’ve been at Unidos por Siempre forever, but also no time at all. What I said at the beginning of my time here still rings true; the days here all blend together, and if I don’t separate them, they run together, like watercolor paints in a flood. In the vein of paint and water, on Sunday the deluge of rain from the weekend, finally stopped and we recovered, finally getting to dry some clothes, and relax continuing into Monday, because there was no school, for some reason that I now forget. We painted little 8 x 6 inch scenes with acrylic paints, which was a great way to occupy our extra time, in relative peace and quiet. The only requirement that I gave was that there be minimal white space, and I would often ask if the kids could add more details after Melina painted an entire page red and said she was done.
On Tuesday, we were back to our regular routine, but with four new children: Melanie, Daniel, Angel, and David, who were going to stay in the mornings and then their parents were going to pick them up. Kinda like daycare. I am always amazed at how fast friends everyone becomes. Children, for the most part, skip that shy, awkward, getting to know you phase that adults have. Of course, they’re quiet at first, but then they just start jumping rope and drawing in the coloring books. It feels like “Yes, of course, we’ve been friends forever”, and its a joy to see. Wednesday night there was this beautiful moment, where after all dancing together, María had all the kids lay in a circle with their heads together watching the clouds as the sun began to set, and talked to them about how much God loved them, and how God had created them, just like the clouds in the heavens, and how Jesus lives in our hearts. It was a really sweet moment and reminded me of Matthew 6:26-30 where Jesus tells his disciples not to worry.
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
Of course then on Thursday morning, we had to have all the kids together for a little meeting because some of the new kids were getting hit, and hitting the other children. I think that’s what is so funny about working with children, you have these sweet touching moments, but also the regular chaos of anger and frustration.
I have no good way to transition to the weekend. So I will just say this. It was kinda crazy. Friday there was a dance at the kindergarten and all the kids came home early because María was hosting a big political meeting for the community. Ricardo (I forget his last name, but it’s not Ricardo Anaya), a politician in PAN, el Partido Ación Nacional, came and almost a hundred people from Rojo Gomez. He made a pretty moving speech, and then lots of people got to ask him questions. My understanding is that the reason for the meeting was that there is a lack of clean water, but I was also pretty busy helping to set up lunch. We had agua de piña, agua de coco, and lemonade, pollo and carne asada with corn tacos, rice, pasta salad, guacamole, beans, and of course three different types of salsa. It was really cool to see how connected María is to her community and the influence that she holds politically. We always jokingly say “María conoce todo el mundo”— Maria knows the whole world.
But on Saturday, we met some new people. A group of Americans came from Calvary Chapel Bible College Murietta to do some outreach and hang out with the kids at the orphanage, which was really fun, and also was a reminder to think about how to do good mission. The Americans made Italian food, brought new jump ropes and coloring books which was fun for the kids and they got to play soccer outside which is always a blast. They did a felt story from Mark about the Triumphal Entry of Jesus, because of Palm Sunday and had a team game of laying down palm branches. It was interesting to talk to some of the students and leaders. One of the students, I think his name was Jason asked me something like “Is it frustrating to have a bunch of Americans come for one day and have a big party and then leave?” I didn’t answer very well at the time, but it got me thinking. Because I do think it’s wonderful that the kids get to have a party for a day, and I appreciate that all these people are taking time out their lives to come down and hang out at Unidos por Siempre. I believe that spiritual education of children is important, we are of course called to spread the Gospel to all nations, but the children know the stories from Mark, even if they don’t have Bibles. They know that Jesus loves them.
It was very telling that American group needed to use our water bottles, and our gas to make their food because they didn’t realize that we don’t have drinking water. It was wonderful not to have to prepare food, especially after hosting the political meeting, but there isn’t any more propane. Often times we (Americans) come into a community thinking that we know what they need but can cause real harm. I certainly am guilty of that in my time here. For example, I wanted to get a dishwasher, which Unidos por Siempre does not need; it is a waste of electricity, and we have enough time to wash our dishes by hand, why would we need a dishwasher? It is important to ask what a community needs. After the group left later in the afternoon, Maria asked me “Why didn’t the Americans bring any food?” (It turned out that they had brought two large boxes of bread, so the question was somewhat answered in this). I didn’t know what to say. I tried to explain that they were there for the spiritual education of the kids, to which she replied “Food for the spirit is good, but we have to eat too,” which may have been the most pointed remark I’ve heard her make.
If I’m honest, I am not doing good mission either. I am only here for a few months, and I build relationships with the kids only to leave them soon afterward. I am not a good role model for success in life because I am not Mexican. Being a white American, and growing up in mostly functional family hinders me in my work here. Kena and Rosa are good examples for the children. Kena is studying to be a nurse and Rosa is in high school and helps the kids sometimes with the alphabet and practicing math. The children need a teacher, a real teacher. Someone who can be here, year-round to tutor the kids and help those who don’t know how to read, and don’t know how to multiply numbers. I am not that person. I do not have a teaching degree. I am less equipt than many. That being said, I don’t think my time here is a net loss. I’ve built friendships here with the staff and with all the children, with Maria’s family and hopefully, through God, I’ve helped a little bit to teach the kids a little more of the alphabet, a little more of the numbers. I came here because I felt like God was calling me, because I couldn’t get my visa to go to Spain, because Tijuana is in my bones, or at least the collage of Tijuana, that I have experienced. And so my response is that it’s better to come one day than to not come at all, and who knows, even if they don’t remember your names, the sparkly stickers that are on the whiteboard and the stairs, are here to stay. The kids love them.