My Mountain in Mexico
For the first time in fifty hours I felt comfortable. My hair was not greasy, my legs were not asleep, and my clothes weren’t bunched up and wrinkled. The caravan I was a part of (five vans and four trailers), had been on the road since 3AM the previous morning. Everyone was bushed.
Initially, I had embarked on this mission trip because I was a lover of adventure. Plus, my best friend Olivia was going – she had impulsively invited me to come a month beforehand. I had impulsively agreed to go, with some wild notion that it would be a picturesque outdoor adventure straight out of Rad Girls Collective.
After crossing the border, the caravan drove four hours across the Mexico desert to the city of Chihuahua (population est. 800,000 people). By dinner time, we had arrived at the church we would be working on. It was a beautiful, solid cement structure called the Templo Luz y Restauracion. Surrounding the church were a hodgepodge of shacks, rundown houses and walls covered in graffiti. Mangy dogs, cats, chickens and ponies roamed the dirt roads. It was a different world – a world of dirt and poverty and abandonment… not exactly the glamorous adventure I had in mind.
Our first morning commenced at 5:30 am with strong coffee, beans and devotions. Through heavy eyelids, I could see the sprawling city – a blanket of sequined city lights beneath the pink sky. But we weren’t working in the city. Templo Luz y Restauracion was located on the outskirts of town, where the traffic wasn’t very thick. The mission crew got to work right away. Men started cutting boards for the pews, welding long sections of steel, and stomping around on the roof; the generator for their tools filled my ears with incessant humming.
Olivia and I were assigned to work in the medical clinic with two other women who possessed the extraordinary skill of caring for people unconditionally. Those two women taught me so much about having compassion. I observed the American nurse tenderly select reading glasses for the Hispanic grandmother. Neither one couldn’t understand the other’s language, yet there was a bond – a tenable bond of love and respect.
The afternoon wore on. I helped give away thirty pairs of reading glasses. And even though I was stuck inside, I wasn’t totally missing the outdoors – there was a grand old mountain just outside the window. All day I watched it stand there, admiring the blended brown and green hues, noticing how the sharp edges cut against the sky. To me, the mountain was an icon of adventure – a symbol representing my exploits in Mexico.
I was lost in reverie when Olivia pulled my arm. “Come out and look Laurel!” I went, tired and grudgingly. She dragged me to the middle of the dirty, pebbly road just outside the church door. We were almost blinded by the flood of golden sunlight. It poured over Chihuahua, transforming everything to a mystic, mosaic of gilded colors – even the cement brick houses were beautiful in the sunset. There were some children playing the street, shrieking and chasing the hapless chickens and I watched the sun filter through their hair like halos. Behind everything, framing the scene like a massive backcloth was my mountain; solid, immovable, stern. This was my magazine moment! I was living the dream of every adventurer! But in that same instant, I realized Olivia and I weren’t on this mission trip for ourselves after all. We were there for a noble and humble purpose: to love others and to serve others. It was a different kind of adventure, in a completely different world – a world of hidden beauty and richness and hope.