Last summer, the Friends church building in Aguajita, Mexico lost part of its roof to a tornado. Thursday of last week, LeRoy and I went with a team of 11 other people to replace that roof. 12 adults and an 8-year-old in a 15-passenger church van means very little “wiggle room” for anyone and it’s a long way from Wichita, Kansas to Eagle Pass, Texas. A group of men from Friendswood, Texas joined us on Friday
After spending the night in a Holiday Inn Express in Eagle Pass (and biscuits and gravy for breakfast), we crossed into Mexico. It’s a little disconcerting to drive by soldiers inside sandbag fortifications with guns aimed at the road! When we stopped to get our tourist papers, we saw even more soldiers. I didn’t focus the camera on the soldiers but we did capture some of their vehicles, as well as members of our group milling around waiting for our paperwork.
Even though we’ve been into Mexico several times since we got our passports, they have never been stamped until this trip. Where we crossed the border at Los Algodones, we just walked in and never came in contact with Mexican officials. The only contact we had with officials at the border was on the American side as we crossed back in.
When we arrived in Aguajita, the only access to the second floor of the church above the fellowship hall and entry room was by way of a ladder.
Materials like these bent C-channels were what we had to start with. The guys made use of as much of this as they could but of course there were new materials, as well.
Everyone went to work as soon as we arrived, carrying these materials and corrugated roof panels to clear the remaining upstairs room. There were only 4 women on this trip, none with welding or construction experience, but we did what we could to facilitate work for those who did have those skills, including putting together the scaffolding. We carried boards, metal, you name it.The welders were hoisted up to the second floor and some of the guys began straightening the metal and tack welding on angles that would be used later. They put it all together like a jigsaw puzzle and eventually they ended up with a roof and an OSB floor above the entry room.
Of course, there were new materials involved, too, not just what had been salvaged after the tornado. The majority of the work was done by our team but the men of the church helped hoist the new roof material from the ground to the second story and one fellow even did a little welding.
Everyone of the team did whatever was asked of them but one of the young women, Yvonne Saenz, went above and beyond, scaling the ladders many times, hanging on rafters to get things in place, things the rest of us women were somewhat (?) reticent to do. Just this once, I caught her standing still!
In the midst of the construction, the women of the church provided 3 meals a day for the whole team. Beans were a staple, along with fresh tortillas each meal. They even let us Americans try our hand at tortillas. Yvonne and her sister Ashley had an advantage, though, since they’ve made tortillas at home for a long time. Mine were somewhat oddly shaped, so I stuck to making the dough balls and left the rolling out to the experts.
Mexican Coca-Cola in glass bottles was found at every meal, even breakfast for those who wanted it.
Nathan Macy, the son of Matt Macy, another member of the group, provided a real connection with the children who hung around the church. He speaks Spanish well enough that they understood each other and played together every day. Aside from the fact that he nearly fell through a tin ceiling, fell into a den of fire ants and had a prolonged nose bleed one day, he was a valuable member of the team!
When Ralph Corbet, the team leader, started on the stairway project, everyone else was tied up in other areas and I wasn’t, so I offered my limited services to carry wood, hold patterns, whatever Ralph needed at the moment. And when he said “You’ll be up on the ladder drilling a hole for the bolt to go through”, who was I to argue?
And when he gave me measurements and told me to cut the wood, I did it! Thanks to HGTV, I even knew that the saw needed to be running before it hit the wood!
The staircase job would have gotten done without me, but at least I had that valuable experience with power tools. This picture was taken after the celebration service they had to celebrate the ministry anniversary of Samuel and Cristina, the church pastors, as well as Samuel’s birthday. We shared a fellowship meal with the church and their guests that night complete with white linen tablecloths and paper lanterns above.
Our hostess was Olga and she took very good care of us. She spoke no English and my Spanish is extremely limited, but we learned about each other’s families from pictures and gestures. I’d love to be able to have a good long conversation with her some day.
We got home last night, but that is a story unto itself. Maybe another day.