July 27, 2015 - Mexico
Thus far, most of my blogs have captured experiences with Amextra and its impact. I want to offer a glimpse of life with our host family. The majority of our time is spent with them and life with them has brought my heart both, in fact, joy and grief. Our host father told us early in the summer, "This place is ugly, but if you are patient you can see beauty." I have found much truth in his statement, more than he may know.
There is Jose Cruz and Reyna-- father and mother. Jose Cruz is 37 and works in construction. Reyna is 36 and manages a household of 9 kids-- yes, 9 kids. There are 3 boys, ages 13-18, and 6 girls, 16 months- 15 years old. The 15 year old is actually the wife of the oldest son. This family of 11 dwells in a small 4 rooms. It is half built cinder block and the rest is a roof of tarps and plywood, aluminum sheets, and big tree branches. The space is small and they have let us share the boys' room.
The family has basic electricity and unpurified water from a hose, but no plumbing. Reyna cooks on a two burner electric range for the entire family. TV is the only luxury they have, and whether you're inside or outside, there is always trash. Trash is everywhere, because slums lack basic infrastructures.
We love this family. A usual day consists of breakfast with Reyna, work at Amextra, and then hanging out with the kids until dinner with the family. Despite language differences, we have built an intimate relationship with the family; we have numerous inside jokes, and through much miscommunication and laughter, we share our cultures and stories. This family has so little, yet they demonstrate such profound generosity-- giving us room, food till we're stuffed, blankets, and more.
The most beauty in this family can be encountered in the children. There is hardly a moment without a baby or host sister or brother. Through them, I grasp more richly the words of Luke 9:48. I love these children. I love holding the little ones. I love dancing or teasing the older kids. I love when they talk to me in Spanish even when I repeat, "No entiendo, I don’t understand."
I love this family. They bring me joy in how I see God's creation, yet I have also grieved much over the brokenness in this family. We see the brokenness of unhealthy family dynamics, the effects of alcohol, and the negative consequences of machismo - the Mexican code of masculinity. This treatment is internalized by the women, especially the girls. For example, the third daughter is nicknamed "ugly." She isn't, but she believes it and projects her bitterness and pain onto her siblings. How can a family flourish when they demean each other?
There are many beautiful and heart-breaking things in our family. I never expected to live in an urban slum with a family in poverty. It isn't easy, especially when there is injustice. Yet God is here and is teaching me to "not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good." And that truth first and foremost has happened through prayer and pressing into relationship with our host family. We have one week more, and I know it will be bittersweet to leave our family, beautiful and broken.
Written by Derek