I asked my Bible study leader to write a guest post for me. Tony and his family lived on the USA-Mexico border for years, but they didn’t live on the American side. They lived in Mexico. He and his family worked as missionaries on the border and witnessed some incredible things. In this post, Tony talks about their first trip to Mexico. Please follow along and see how his Mexican love affair began.
Thank you Tony for this incredible story! 🙂
Dusty roads and cactus in Mexico
By Tony Crumbley
I am thrilled, honored, and a wee bit anxious today because my good friend Morgan graciously allowed me to sneak into her blog and post some of my Mexican adventures. Here we go….andale!
My wife and I have traveled and lived in Mexico over the past 25 years. Our first trip ever was back in the summer of 1990 when we were young, naïve and in love. (We are still in love after 30 years, but not young.) It was the most incredible 10 day trip to a foreign country that we have ever experienced. Our journey took us from Atlanta, GA to Mexico City via airplane and I’m going to tell you this. Flying into Mexico City late at night is not the best idea for your first visit south of the border, unless you are a daredevil like us. We spoke almost no Spanish except all the normal greetings accompanied by the most important phrase for traveling, “Donde esta el bano?” (Where’s the restroom?) So it was a good idea that we traveled with 27 other people from three different southern US cities some of whom spoke Spanish.
When we arrived in the Mexico City airport there were so many men, women and children pressing up against the customs area barriers that I was certain we would either a. lose some baggage along the way or b. lose some people in our group. Believe it or not, we didn’t lose either one. I am confident there was an angel or angels hovering among us to keep us huddled safely together as all 29 of us wove our way through the sea of beautiful Mexicans. I’m not sure if my heart rate has ever been so elevated in an airport at any time in life. And I’m pretty sure I gained a few grey hairs as well as lost 20 or so normal hairs due to the stressfulness of weaving through half the population of Mexico City in the airport.
It would have been nice if our group had been able to hop on a bus, head to a nice hotel or hostel and crash for the night, but that didn’t happen. Rather we hopped on a bus and drove all night to a small city in Zacatecas named Estancia de Animas. I’m not sure about you, but I have never been a big fan of all night bus rides and my body has been carefully trained not to sleep on a bus for more than 15 minutes at a time. Wow., that was a long, long bus ride to Zacatecas. Thankfully, my wife was able to snooze fairly well, so one of us got rested up for the adventure that lied ahead.
However, there was one really cool moment on our bus ride that I have to share with you. Our group was going to this small Mexican town to do a work/mission project in which we were planning to help a local missionary woman who is sweet as an angel and tough as a bouncer in a bar on the bad side of town. Her name is Cris and she was so excited for us to be there and ecstatic that she had 29 eager laborers for the next several days to sweat like crazy while painting, digging, cleaning, and landscaping all around the grounds of a home for the elderly in the pueblo of Estancia de Animas. There was one minor issue that she failed to tell us before we boarded the plane to come there, she had no money or supplies to do the work we had planned to do. To add to this dilemma, she never told us this crucial bit of information.
So there we were around midnight on some road in southern Mexico cruising along at an insanely high rate of speed in the pitch black darkness on a bus to some small town of 10,000 that we had never seen but only heard of. Cris, my buddy Dwayne, and I were all three huddled together in aisle seats when the cool moment happened. Cris informed us that she had zero pesos (or dollars) to buy supplies for the various projects we had planned to do. As she shared these sobering words I could see the joy and excitement slowly drain from her rugged facial features. I remember her saying, “I don’t know what we are going to do.” Imagine traveling over a 1,000 miles with 29 gringos to labor on projects with no supplies.
Dwayne and I knew what we were going to do. We had built into our groups budget a small fee that everyone had to pay, teenager or adult, which was to be used for………….you guessed it—supplies for our projects. Dwayne shared the good news that we had money, and lots of it, with our friend Cris and tears of joy began to roll down that rugged, weathered face of hers. This was one of those Kodak moments for those of you over 30. This was one of those ‘wow’ moments. This was what faith looked like in Mexico and it was a moment that stretched my faith to a whole new level.
I would love to tell you that the rest of the trip was incredible, glorious and without obstacle or crisis, but I would be lying. Everyone in the group got sick and missed anywhere from 1 to 4 days due to their sickness. Everyone but two people was seriously ill at some point during those 10 days. My wife and I were those two lucky ones. To add to the stomach illnesses there were days when the water was shut off and toilets did not work so well which meant we had to haul buckets of water from an outside reservoir and flush. Not fun, but necessary. Add to this there were no functioning restrooms at the facility where we did 90 % of our work. It had not yet opened and the water was not turned on. So you either had to hold it for 7-8 hours or trod 1 mile back to the base or find a nearby cactus to do your business. Being the southern boy that I am doing my business in the cactus patch was no big deal. I was right at home. However, the ladies got a lot of exercise each day making that 1 mile trek to the base for as we called it ‘potty time’.
We had to travel by pickup truck quite often on dusty roads as the sun beat down on us so that we could visit local families and churches to eat a meal, sing for a congregation or just see the sights. Sunscreen was my best friend along with my trusty ball cap. They were two travel companions that I don’t leave home without.
I will say this. The people of this small town were so wonderfully gracious and kind to each of us while we were there. They smiled and greeted us like we were royalty each day in the dusty roads of Estancia de Animas. The kids and teens invited us to play soccer/futbol or jump rope every day and they never got tired. The food was delicious! The day we had to leave my wife and I greeted, hugged and kissed about 100 kids and adults and we cried like everything because we had fallen in love with each one of them. It was our first adventure into Mexico, but not our last. It was the beginning of a love affair with the Mexican people and culture that resulted in us moving our family to border Mexico many years later.
I will say this about traveling in Mexico 25 years ago, it was my first trip out of the country and I learned a great deal about what to do and not to do as you venture across the globe. Here’s just a few tips:
—Travel by day if possible, especially if you don’t sleep well on buses, planes, and burros.
—Travel with others when possible. It simply makes the journey more enjoyable and offers protection.
—Travel with pepto bismol or some stomach medicines because you most likely will need them along the way. Take enough for you and one more person in case a buddy doesn’t have any.
—Do some type of work/volunteer project if possible, even if it’s only for a day. The rewards and joy you will experience in helping others is beyond belief.
—If you are religious, pray a lot, really, pray a great deal. You may just witness some cool answers to those requests.
—Travel back to the same location at least once or twice in your lifetime to renew those friendships you made on the first trip. Social media is great, but there’s nothing like going back to eat a meal or play futbol with a family of friends you met. For me, this is what makes travelling most meaningful—the people you meet along the way. And I must tell you, the Mexican people are some of the most beautiful people on earth.
Morgan, thanks for sharing your space with me. You’re awesome!
Peace to each of you as your travel,