When our numbers began to over-fill the two vans we had originally planned to take, we put out a plea for additional drivers. Four people responded, allowing us to add a third van. Pastor Ram and his wife Tara agreed to drive with us to San Diego. They are not yet documented to cross the border. They spent a week with a pastor friend of Ernesto and did the return trip with us. Pastors Ernesto Cordero and Rudolfo “Chavo” Ramirez offered to be flown to GR and drive to and from Ensenada with our team. They flew back to San Diego early July 25. Interestingly, Ernesto left on a 30-hour mission trip to Chihuahua with a group from his church this same evening!
Three vans and two trailers left Grand Rapids with 26 people on Tuesday, July 12. We picked up Ed Hultgren and sons Nevada and Zach in Springfield MO late Tuesday evening and picked up three girls in Oklahoma City early Wednesday AM.
One van was having trouble keeping up, early in the trip, so we stopped and switched the trailer to the third van, switching all occupants, as well. By the time we got to New Mexico, it was evident that we had some serious problems with at least two of the vans. We stopped off at a mechanic in Grants NM leaving a couple of adults behind with the one van, and continuing to Rehoboth with everyone else in the other two.
Although we had planned to hike at El Morro National Monument Wednesday afternoon and stay at Zuni Christian Mission School, that plan had to be changed. The administrator at Rehoboth Christian Mission School was kind enough to allow us to use the dormitories there. We were hot, dirty and exhausted, so the showers and beds were very welcome.
Luke Pikaart, our grandson, who is from Rehoboth, led some of the team on a hike near the RCMS campus, while others toured downtown Gallup on Rte. 66, taking in the Gallup Cultural Museum, Richardson’s Trading Post, etc. Meanwhile, another van received repairs at Pep Boys in Gallup. By mid-afternoon, the basic repairs were completed and we continued our journey. We passed up our customary stop at Window Rock, AZ, headquarters of the Navajo Nation, to save time, not knowing how the vans would perform.
We stopped off in Mesa, AZ to pick up VBS bins from Nancy Halberstadt’s daughter. It felt like it was still 100 degrees at 10:30 PM! Then we continued on to San Diego. Ed wanted to meet up with his friend, Dan, there and Dan chose the Denny’s we went to for breakfast. Some of us still have fond memories of the “pink” Denny’s on the Pacific Coast Highway along the waterfront. This one was torn down two years ago to make room for a new hotel. We missed our lovely waitress, Maria, who had welcomed us and served us so faithfully for so many years. So, imagine our delight when Maria greeted us at the other Denny’s! What a reunion it was.
While we were at Denny’s, Pastor Ernesto took Ram and Tara to their host family. We got to the border and all vans were taken to secondary inspection. After much scrutiny and questioning, we were allowed to pass into Mexico.
After arriving at the Casa Hogar Childrens’ Home, we unpacked, showered, ate lunch and drove to LaBufadora, a big blow hole and tourist area, where the teens bought Baja jackets, backpacks, blankets, etc. We had a great time of worship Friday night, led by some super-talented teens. Then, it was off to bed to rest up for a big week of ministry.
Saturday is training day for the VBS teams. In just a few hours’ time, they need to learn songs with mimicas (motions), in Spanish, of course.
They also learn stories, texts, crafts, games and puppet shows. The puppet narratives and songs are on CDs, but they still have to be practiced to make sure the puppet is talking or singing. Arms get very tired and sometimes need support from friends! We were blessed to have the help of local teens, Cesaŕ, Keyla and Cesilia.
Saturday was also our first day of construction. The first house to be started was up a VERY narrow, climbing road. The team pulled the tool trailer up to the top, but had to leave it there, because the only way to the actual worksite was down 140 concrete steps.
Someone seized the opportunity to break into the locked, but unattended trailer and steal some power tools and the new generator we had planned to give Ernesto. They also broke a window in the van and took a GPS. Rough start!
On Sunday, Ernesto made a hasty trip to LA to visit a nephew who had had a stroke. The doctors had given him little hope of recovery, but he recognized Ernesto’s voice, opened his eyes and began talking. Ernesto saw a miracle take place!
We attended Iglesia Principe de Paz and Pastor Chavo preached, using an interpreter. After church, we drove downtown and parked the vans for a few hours, for team members to purchase lunch and see the beautiful harbor and tourist area of Ensenada. The rest of the week, we would see much poverty and deprivation.
Monday through Thursday, four VBS teams assisted seven small churches, who were doing VBS for the first time. Leaders from all seven churches had attended the VBS conference put on by Nancy Halberstadt and Ciria Tallamantes, using MOSES curricula.
This year’s conference was attended by over 500 people, representing 108 churches, from Ensenada and from many hours away.)
The two construction teams worked hard to complete the two homes, and by Thursday afternoon, only a couple of minor details were left.
All teams joined at both locations for the house blessings. The new home owners are presented with a Bible, signed by all who worked on their house and the keys to the house.
Pastor Ernesto prays a blessing on the home and residents and the MOSES teams sing their benediction song. Often, a few tears are shed, as it is quite emotional.
Nancy, Becky and Judy taught sewing classes at two locations and left 20 donated machines and 24 boxes of basic sewing tools. The ladies were delighted with the pretty pillowcase project and the gifts. Both groups expressed an interest in continuing to meet together for mutual learning and encouragement. Great stuff!
Ed led two training sessions, where he trained trainers to teach CPR and first aid classes. See his full report on our website or the MOSES Inc Facebook page.
We had a special treat on Wednesday evening. Pastor Chavo and his family provided a scrumptious dinner of ceviche, fish tacos and ice cream treats. A few people mistook the green sauce for guacamole and had interesting reactions (tearing eyes, red faces, sweating, burning lips and tongues, etc,) but, in the end, all survived.
While all this was going on, Ernesto managed to take all three vans for repairs still needed. By the time we left on Friday, we were pretty confident the vans would all make it back to GR, and, obviously, they did.
So, although we have some details to attend to, the participants are all home, safe and sound.
We are thankful for your prayers and for safe travel, good health and godly attitudes. Another successful trip has taken place, people were served and also served us. Eyes of teens were opened to struggles of poverty and hunger and to the opportunities for further mission opportunities. And that’s what it’s all about!
September 9-11 MOSES will be in San Quintin which is 3 to 4 hours south on Ensenada. They have 30 people from their church going in their church van and private cars. They will be staying in a church.
The pastora who is hosting them says she has 25 churches who will be coming and at least 100 people. They are trying to figure out food. What a neat thing to know what we do in Ensenada is being multiplied in Chihuahua, San Quintin, Cuba, Acapulco, etc.