My work in Mexico has been along the border in towns on both sides. On one trip I stayed with Rev. Francisco Escelara and his family in Presidio, TX at the Recreational Outreach Center. They have a mission to people in the area with a child care program for working mothers, as well as their work across the border. I provided the Sunday service program at their church. We had a lot of laughs about a couple of language mistakes I made. At least I was trying and they appreciated that.
Francisco drove me along the border to the small town of Redford to work with the children in the school there. What a great time we had with those kids. They have a good school program but are very needy when it comes to outside activities.
We also went across the river to Ojinaga to the orphanage there. The children were just returning from school and as they came in, we started playing with the strings. Wow, what concentration they showed. They wanted to learn everything that I had. As a couple of them would get something they would say, “More…More…More.” We left them strings so they could take one to a friend at school and share with them. These are kids who have a bed, a blanket and a hook on the wall for their other set of clothes. To be able to give a friend something was a new experience for some of them. I take so much for granted until I see someone in their situation. When Jesus said to visit the sick and those in prison, or to give a cup of water in his name, I think he might have also mentioned taking a bright colored string to someone. What a great chance to share his love.
Francisco has three children and one of the boys became enthralled with the string and the messages that go along with the figures. He wanted to learn everything so he could use them on some of their trips to the interior. I left him my video and books so he could refresh his memory. He is planning on being a pastor himself. I know that the work will continue in the area through him.
Another trip was part of a visit to Edinburgh, TX to work with the schools there. I contacted a couple of churches that have programs across the border. One of the contacts was to Melvin Leslie, who has a Jesus Ministry to Mexico. His church has a feeding center and they are building a very large church that will have recreational facilities in it. This is in Reynosa, Mexico just across from McAllen, TX. I worked with the children who came to the feeding center. This was another case where the adults running the program and helping out, became as involved in the program and actually understood the stories better than the children. They will be helping the children long after I leave. God works in great ways.
I also gave a program in the evening to the adults in the church. It didn’t need much translation but Melvin did a great job of relating things to their specific condition. We had a lot of fun that evening. Everyone needs to have a little fun in their life, especially when their condition is so difficult. I also gave a program for the sponsoring church back in San Juan, TX. We had a number of teenagers at that program who will take the message to school.
A third trip was to Rio Bravo with a group who were building houses. This VIM (Volunteers In Mission) trip spent one week in Rio Bravo building two casitas. I did some work on them such as carrying cement blocks, wood and other supplies, but most of my time was with the neighborhood kids…and adults. Marj Hillmann and I kept the kids out of the way by doing string games. Each day we would arrive and ask, “What color do you care for today?” Then we were in the middle of teaching.
The foreman of the work was unhappy that some of his workers were taking time to watch and learn until we taught him a “magic” trick with the string. He then couldn’t find enough people to show his new found talent to. He was on our side then. He also did appreciate that we were keeping the sightseers out of his way.
There was a little shop beside the house where they sold snacks and pop. Many of the adults that came to the shop wanted to know what we were doing, so we started teaching them also. We had quite a following and it was fun to have them teach us one that they knew. All the time, we were throwing in the Bible stories or concepts that went along with the figures. You never know when the Word falls on fertile ground.
I also gave a program at one of the local churches. The pastor who was organizing our work wanted me to work with his youth. Standards are so different. After some singing as a group, he had the youth go over to the recreation building next to the church - about 50 kids. I went over and was surprised that there were no adults who came to help; just the pastor’s 13 year-old to help translate. What a challenge to try to keep control when I didn’t know any of them. We had a good evening and once they got started learning the figures, they were wonderful. It was a little dicey for a while, though.
Many of our team members also learned some of the string figures and will be taking them back to their respective churches. I also worked with the cooks that were providing our meals to teach them some of the figures. There was a park across from our sleeping dorm and a couple of times I went across and worked with some of the people there. It is amazing. Just bring out a piece of string and make one of the figures and someone will come along and wonder what you are doing. Then they want you to teach them that one. Pretty soon there is a small group doing string and they, in turn, teach newcomers to the group. It becomes a community in itself.