Wednesday, March 26, 2008

15 miles

I went to Mexico last week, but not in the typical "what happens in Cabo stays in Cabo" spring break fashion. My friend Laura has missionary friends in Juarez (which I apparently horribly mispronounce to the point that no one in my front office had any idea where I was going until I came back). Juarez is not what I would call a vacation destination. It's surrounded by mountains -- oh sweet mountains I've missed you -- so it's cold. It's also a desert, so it's dusty. Basically I was cold and dusty the whole time I was there. It doesn't really matter, my point in going wasn't to vacation so much as to help out and be with Laura's friends.

The three of them live in what basically amounts to a shanty town outside of the main city. The roads are dirt, the buildings are simple and built out of cement bricks. Things are not clean by any means. I'm amazed by their ministry. I've been struggling a lot lately with the things I do for my own selfish interest and to see people who basically gave up everything to live amongst people they feel called to minister to is stunning. And the impact they've had is also amazing. It is apparent that the people in the community love and trust them and that they feel very much the same. I love teaching, but even TFA had some major perks and ego boost points when I joined. It would be a tough pill to swallow if God was like "oh yeah, give up your nice bedroom and swimming pool and Gap card and head on down to Mexico and live amongst the poorest... because I said."

What is striking about Juarez is it's proximity to the United States. On the second day we were there we hiked up a mountain-hill and sat on a ridge that overlooked both El Paso and Juarez. The difference that 15 miles makes is truly striking. I hardly think that United States social services are perfect and I hardly think that everyone in Mexico is desolate and doomed, but the resources avaliable on the US side for a child are not able to be matched in Mexico. Laura's friend Delelah lives in Juarez, is 17 and has two children. Right now she stays home with her sons and her mother's new baby girl. Her mom brings in $40 a week and they live in a loaned house. To feed her son formula it would cost Delelah $30 a week. She is currently feeding him what amounts to strawberry nesquick. A mix of lack of funds and lack of education has caused this little baby to be fairly undernourished and it's just sad. Even if Delelah had made similar fertility choices in the US, the resources and education could be there for her. She could at least be able to get her babies formula and whole milk. I've worked crisis pregnancy and while I know the system is not perfect, it is at least there.

As we met with people and watched 13-year-old cholos hang out on street corners and huff paint, it seemed so easy to see how fast you can slip and how hard you can fall. When your basic expectation is to join a gang or get pregnant, you really aren't going to have many life plans going for you or much hope. Whether this is due to the border or the way we treat the least of those in any society or the economic market and the cheap jobs found in Mexico, I don't know. But it hurts to see that 15 miles or three shades of pigment or even a year or two of education can so drastically effect your life. It does seem fair that an imaginary line decides so much of someone's life.

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