Westwood team builds in Mexico

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A mission team from Westwood Baptist Church in Alabaster recently traveled to the small village of Colonia Jardin in Mexico. They spent a week there building improved housing and distributing food to the underprivileged people in that community. Just across the U.S.-Mexican border, there are many of these small impoverished villages called &8220;Colonias.&8221; From deep in the heart of Mexico, people, have come to that area in hopes of finding work in the tourist town of Nuevo Progreso. The sidewalks are lined with street vendors selling tacos and tamales.

The air is filled with the smells of roast chicken and corn. Along the streets are the small souvenir stores selling hats, belts, pottery, toys and woven blankets. Americans look for bargains here and the Mexicans are struggling to maintain a bare existence.

Around Neuvo Progreso and along winding dirt roads are the small communities, called &8216;Colonias,&8217; where hundreds of these would-be workers and their families live.

A very few of the families have found work – some as street vendors, waiters in the restaurants or field workers raising lettuce, melons and onions. The climate and soil in the Rio Grande&8217; Valley allow these farm products to grow in abundance. Some of the people live in plywood houses that were built for them by U. S. mission teams, but many still live in crude shelters made of sticks, rocks, paper or plastic sheets. A few have electricity and some have water, but none have plumbing.

Baths are taken in a small bucket or tub and water is used for washing and cooking-not for drinking. The mission-built houses have cement floors, but many people still sleep on the hard damp ground. Their diet consists of non-perishable beans, rice and noodles because there is no refrigeration.

Recognizing the extreme needs of our neighbors in Mexico Westwood Baptist Church has, for the last five years, sent missionaries to help improve their living conditions, thereby sharing the love of God. In March of this year, a 29-member construction team headed by Jim Burt, drove to Colonia Jardin and joined Bobby and Lillian Culpepper for a week&8217;s work. The Culpeppers are full-time missionaries who coordinate activities aiding the people of these border communities. Westwood&8217;s team was sent to distribute food and to build three houses and five additions to old houses in Colonia Jardin. The team included men, women and college students.

Arriving in Colonia Jardin, the volunteers were shocked and saddened by the deplorable living conditions. Lynn Bush reported, &8220;This was my fourth trip.

It had taken me 20 years to decide to go the first time. I was just overwhelmed at the plight of these people and filled with a strong desire to help. I have since gone every year.

Now, as I see some improvement in their quality of life, I know that we are doing the right thing and fulfilling our roles as Christians.&8221;

Driving through the rocky dirt roads, the team found an old Catholic church, a small school and three &8220;tiendas&8221; (stores), along with probably a hundred of the usual plywood houses and dilapidated shacks. There were, perhaps, 300 people living in the village. Water facets were in some of the yards but few had electricity. Friendly children and dogs were playing in the yards and along the roads.

One of the volunteers&8217; jobs was to build a house for Juanita; she was living in a 4×6 plywood lean-to behind her daughter&8217;s house. She is now the proud occupant of a 12×20 plywood house with a tin roof, a door and two windows. The building cost Westwood about $1900. Another assignment was the construction of a $900 addition to the 12×20 plywood home of Adela. She shares her small home with her husband, two brothers and her small daughter. That&8217;s five people living in a house about the size of two very small rooms.

Adela, at last, has that kitchen she needed so badly. All of the other houses and additions were completed and gratefully accepted by the people of Colonia Jardin.

Jim Burt, who made the trip, remarked, &8220;We may not be able to help all of the people in the Colonia, but if we can help just one family, it is worth the trip.&8221; The team did that many times over, by acting on God&8217;s commandment, &8220;Love thy neighbor.&8221;

For information regarding participation in the Colonia Jardin, Mexico mission work, call the Westwood Baptist Church mission office at 664-0122.

Catherine Legg can be reached at mailto:clegg2@bell-south.net