Two weeks ago Kent and I headed to Baja California, Mexico where he led a work project for A Child's Hope Foundation. Kent leads these trips about five times each year, and since people often ask what these projects are all about, I thought I'd outline each day for you all. This makes four times that I've gone with Kent; he has been about 20 times. This most recent trip was organized for single adults, but since families usually come, I'll include some pictures of past trips, too.
Monday is reserved as a driving day for families or others who want to carpool and want their own vehicles in Mexico. Kent normally flies to San Diego, as do a few other volunteers, on Tuesday and rents a van for anyone who needs that transportation. The group meets at a shopping center north of the border during the early afternoon of Tuesday. We hand out walkie talkies to all the drivers and caravan across the border.
Our friends and family often ask about how dangerous it is to cross into Tijuana. While there are plenty of media reports of drug lords targeting each other, tourists are safe. Over 100,000 Americans live in Baja California, and the Mexican military and police have been revamped in recent years to weed out corruption from within and protect their tourist industry.
I've never felt in danger while traveling in Baja, and the military checkpoints and police presence only increases my sense of security down there. When we cross into Mexico, we stay on a toll road along the coast, barely entering Tijuana, and head to the quiet little valley of La Mision.
Normally our group stays at the Door of Faith Orphanage, which has a "campground" for volunteers. DOFO was hosting two other groups this time, though, so we stayed at another campground within walking distance of Buena Vida Orphanage where ACHF is their exclusive source for volunteers.
This new campground was built earlier in the year, and has the same amenities as the Door of Faith campground except for one important difference: the pipes at the new campground are big enough to flush toilet paper!
The dorm rooms are grouped like an apartment building, with four shared bathrooms in the middle. Each room has several bunk beds with *new!* mattresses where we rolled out our sleeping bags. Facing the dorm building is an enclosed kitchen and pavilion for dining. Each campground also has a large fire pit where our group gathers each evening for a short devotional, planning time, and group games.
When everyone is settled in, we head to the orphange to meet the children.
When we approached the Buena Vida Orphanage, Kent told me to pull out my camera so I could take pictures of the children mobbing him. I thought he was kidding. (It's true. After 14 years of marriage, I still don't always know when he is being serious and when he is joking.) Anyway, when they saw him, the kids ran up to him in waves yelling, "Ken! Ken!" and wrapping their arms around him. It was very sweet. Then they started grilling him to see if he could remember their names. This is a little game they play each time he comes. By the end of the trip, he remembers all their names; but matching names to 32 children on the first day is nearly impossible, and the children find his incorrect guesses very entertaining. (At the end of this trip we got a group photo signed by all the children, so he can study up for his next visit in August.)
This is Sarah, who helps to run things at A Child's Hope. She is the one who organized this single adult trip. Anyone can put their own group of at least 15 people together, and Kent will take you down. Family reunions are especially fun. Or you can join any of the regularly scheduled holiday trips during the year.
After everyone gets two or three dozen hugs and some time to play with the children, Kent takes us to the second most important location in La Mision: the taco stand!
Yep, this is where the carne asada inspiration comes from. Next door is a little restaurant with more delicious food. This first night, many of the volunteers were blown away by the tastes at one establishment and tried to pack in a second meal at the other so they wouldn't miss out on anything. We just tell them to pace themselves. It's easy to put on a few pounds during a week in Mexico.
We close Tuesday on full stomachs with a short campfire devotional and plans for a busy workday to follow.