For several years we tried to promote the trip to a Christian community with which we're involved. We thought we would have no trouble organizing a team of families to "Come Build Hope". I did get several inquiries, and one family who was interested, but I also received no less than 30 emails/phone calls from people scolding me for promoting such a dangerous venture. Didn't I know such a mission was too dangerous for Christian families?!
Too dangerous? For Christian families? It still puzzles me. Yes, there are drug-related, and I'm sure other-related, homicides in Tijuana - 492 in 2013, up from 320 in 2012. Most of the victims were involved in street-level drug trafficking, according to KPBS news. By the same token, the number of homicides in Chicago was 415 in 2013, down from 503 in 2012, according to CNN. Yet no one thought twice when the school's music department traveled to Chicago. Theoretically, at the time of the trip, Chicago was MUCH more dangerous than Tijuana.
But is it safe?
Amor has a campsite down a long, bumpy, dirt road somewhere in rural Tijuana. Security guards on bicycles patrol the campsite 24/7. This year Paul was fascinated by the morning guard, Santiago, who always had a fire going near his post. Between Santiago's accent and Paul's accent, they had a bit of trouble communicating - "What name? Powell? Pole?" - but they struck up a relationship, nevertheless. At 64 years old, Santiago biked 2 1/2 hours one way to get to work. He loves Amor, the in-country personnel as well as the short-term teams who come to build - and he took his job patrolling the site seriously. (One morning
The team travels from the campsite to the worksite in vans or buses. Amor works through the local Mexican pastors. Those wanting an Amor house apply with a pastor, and the pastors meet regularly to discuss each family's need and circumstance. (The family for whom Sherwood Oaks built this year was living in a three-sided shack - with a curtain providing privacy - made of garage doors.) Each family must own the land on which to build, and they must put in "sweat equity" leveling the land for building. (Often more difficult than it sounds due to the rocky and mountainous terrain.) Because Amor has worked so closely and positively with Mexican churches, local government and police for the past 34 years, Amor teams are welcomed and beloved by the local residents.
|The view from this year's worksite. Fairly typical of the neighborhoods in which we've worked.|
Dirt, tires and shacks cobbled together with garage doors and baling wire.
From a ministry standpoint, Amor has an extensive safety protocol. They have had no incidences of violence in their 34-year history, comprising scores of in-country staff and hundreds of thousands of short-term volunteers. Sherwood Oaks has taken family camp teams, including children ages five and up, for nineteen years.
They have made the across-the-border trip to the emergency room exactly three times in those 19 years. One of those trips was for dehydration. The other two? MY children.
Fifteen stitches and seven stitches respectively.
If you drink enough (purified) water, and aren't a Thompson progeny, you should be fine. As a friend commented when I shared news that Trent and Paul were on the way to the ER, "Is that some sort of rite of passage in your family?"
But is it safe?
Several recent and compelling articles explore the issue of safety and children. In "The Overprotected Kid" in The Atlantic, Dr. Sandseter writes that children "have a sensory need to taste danger and excitement; this doesn’t mean that what they do has to actually be dangerous, only that they feel they are taking a great risk." Books like Free Range Kids examine the statistical likelihood of dangers we most fear, and encourages parents to let children explore and learn free from overprotectiveness. Mrs. Gore's Diary blogs about learning to let go of fear and trusting God in spite of internet news of brain-eating amoebas and secondary drowning.
In short - what, on God's green earth, could possibly be too dangerous for Christian families?
|Paul and buddies, just hanging out next to the 50-foot drop into the neighborhood dump.|
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you." -- CS Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Safe? Who said anything about safe? But it's good, I tell you.
|All smiles and bandages in front of the casa de amor.|