Tijuana Mission Trip

Venturing Beyond Our Border to Do God’s Work

TJ Trip
Left-to-right: Janice Kashmier, Trudy Moriarty,
Scott Verseman, new-homeowner Jaime,
Rod Gerlach, Theresa Ancona and Karen Padron

Article by Rod Gerlach

Joyful Harvest Church took its outreach far outside of the church walls—more than 2,000 miles to be exact—to Tijuana, Mexico on July 21-28, 2017. Five church members joined 12 other Christians from churches in Crystal Lake and Island Lake to build 3 small homes for underprivileged families.

To save time, the mission crew (ages ranging from 16-74) flew from Midway Airport to San Diego. There, they rented 2 cargo vans and a 15-passenger van to transport purchased building materials, food, and the crew across the border for the week. It didn’t take long for the Lord’s presence on the trip to be felt. A Home Depot manager noticed all the Thrivent Financial T-shirts, adorned with crosses and a heart, worn by the people purchasing more than $1,800 in materials. After learning of our cause, the store manager provided a substantial discount on the bill.

The first travel day was a long one, since departure from Joyful Harvest was at 2:30 a.m., and a layover in Denver added to the flight time. God’s hand was also evident when crossing the border, as the Mexican border patrol waived tariffs on the building materials after it was explained they were to build homes in Tijuana. Everyone soon found their place in the men’s and women’s bunk bed sleeping quarters in the walled El Divino Mission and settled in for the evening.

The first work day wasn’t at the home sites, but rather within the courtyard of the mission. Plywood boards for the walls of the 12x12-foot homes needed to be painted green and brown, and lots of lumber was cut. Teamwork and fellowship evolved naturally as the volunteers switched duties throughout the day. Crews were assigned bathroom and cooking duties each day, which always ended with devotions and a huddle around a fire pit consisting of lumber scraps.

Sunday was a spiritual morning when mission trip members attended a church service across the street from the mission. Pastor Doug Liston from Joyful Harvest provided an emotional sermon, and 3 other visitors from Illinois read scripture from the Bible. All were interpreted for the predominately Spanish-speaking audience. The congregation and its visitors all sang Christian songs in Spanish.

After getting a peek at the 3 work sites over the weekend, Monday was the first work day there. The steep terrain provided challenges on 2 of the sites in the hilly neighborhood. Space was tight, and it was an adventure ascending or descending by foot to the locations. Each construction team met its goal of erecting all 4 walls in the first day, which ended early at 3:30, so the volunteers could visit an orphanage related to the mission in Tijuana that night.

Mexico’s sun was intense, but ocean breezes made the weather tolerable. Two long, hard workdays followed, with windows and doors being installed, a loft for children’s sleeping quarters being attached, and the roof affixed. The sounds of hammers echoed in the neighborhood. All of the homes were completed. Anticipation immediately built for the last day in Tijuana—home dedication day.

Each crew chief presented the home owners (families of 8, 4, and 3) with keys to open their new homes. The 2 pastors on the trip led prayers, and everyone at the ceremony formed a circle and recited the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish and English. Spanish Bibles and cross necklaces were given to each family. In addition, crew members nailed a cross above the house doors. It was all very emotional and spiritual.

All good things come to an end. Mission trip members packed after the ceremonies and spent the night at a San Diego ocean-side hotel, where photos and memories were shared. God truly blessed us all.