I had the privilege of joining 27 other MOBsters , and 7 chaperones- including our fearless leader “la pastroa” Sheri Fry- on an amazing trip to Mexico. We worked at the organization Ipoderac, nestled in the heart of the city of Atlixco. Our time was spent working with livestock, cleaning, clearing land, and most importantly- playing, learning, and interacting with resident Ipoderac boys.
I wish that I could convey the laughter filled days, the unparalleled beauty of our surroundings, the botched attempts at speaking Spanish, and the priceless smiles of everyone we met. The Magic, frustration, and AHA moments will remain forever in our hearts and minds. Its something that no photograph or piece of prose can ever truly capture, but I hope that my words can give you a glimpse.
We arrived to Ipoderac after a long day of traveling. We hadn’t been there more than 30 minutes before several games of soccer, basketball, and Frisbee were in full swing. I watched the interactions between our group and the Ipoderac boys on the soccer field; they seemed to move as if they were one organism passing the ball from player to player with ease. It didn’t matter that they had just met, or that they didn’t speak the same language, they were just kids being kids. It was clear from that moment on; we would all be fast friends.
On one afternoon I was assigned to work with group of boys responsible for livestock care and cleaning as their afternoon chore. What I learned is working with livestock involves a lot of excrement - the details of which I will spare you.
Chucho, one of the boys in my group, showed me how to properly bathe the pigs, and laughed as I squeamishly scrubbed them. Standing in that little pen - covered in filth - Chucho and I conversed apprehensively. I asked him about school, what types of things he liked to do, and he asked me about my life in America. I slowly approached the subject of family, and his life at Ipoderac. I tried to gauge his willingness to share - not wanting to encroach on any boundaries.
We merely breached the surface of the topic of his family, the absence of his father, and of his time living as a “Street Kid.” However he had lots to say about how he enjoyed his home at Ipoderac, and was grateful for the community. Chucho’s story is all too common. Though the specifics of the Ipoderac boys’ pasts may vary, they challenged with the reconciliation of their pasts, and their hope for a bright future.
Part of our work included clearing land for the future girls residence at Ipoderac. We used Machetes and other tools to clear out greenery from part of the field. I don’t know what it is, but there is definitely something about giving a teenage boy a machete that makes him feel pretty invincible.
We worked under the hot sun, sometimes without much water, pulling weeds, cutting shrubs, and doing what often felt like negligible work. We often found ourselves frustrated and asking the questions of: “Is this really what we came all the way from Denver to do?” “How is this work meaningful?” “Are we even making a difference?”
I too found myself asking these questions, when something dawned on me. We didn’t need physical proof or evidence that the work we were doing was helpful and meaningful, and it wasn’t even about that in the first place. The meaning itself is found not in amount of land we were able to clear in our time there, or the amount at which we increased productivity by helping with chores, the meaning lies rather in the act of our just being there. Building relationships, dedicating time, and demonstrating a willingness to work are the true ways of impact.
Service is not about doing the thing that makes you feel accomplished. Service is about providing help in a loving manner, which doesn’t always look the way one might think. The goal is never to go into a trip with the attitude of “fixing,” but rather with an open heart and attentive ear. It’s impossible to hear God though the murmur of agenda and expectations. Perhaps the most important thing that I have walked away from this trip with is the understanding that it is possible to be intentional in your actions without letting your personal agenda or idealisms cloud your view of the greater picture.
More than anything else, I bring home with me a new sense of gratitude; gratitude for clean water that flows freely from the tap, gratitude for a roof over my head, and gratitude for a family who loves and supports me. It’s this new lens that we bring back with us from this trips, a lens that I wish would stay as clear as it was the moment we arrived back home. But like all things, with time the lens fades, and I believe that there is a reason for this, so that we will continue to go out into the world whether it be to Mexico, Haiti, Nepal, or our own backyard, and spread God’s Love again and again.