Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ciudad Juarez Experiences

We went to Rubens church today, and were blown away by what we saw.

Ten years ago, the Mexican government wanted some good land, but there were already families living on it. The government offered to give the families different land if they would give up what they already had. A few families agreed, but the Mexican government had not expected that, so they had to quicky find some new land. Their solution was to clear some empty desert land, and let the families live there. This patch of desert is where Rubens church is. At first, the houses were only made of paper, and the church was a canvas tent. More and more families started to move into the area, so the government set it up for three hundred families. There was no school, so Rubens church started one. Two members of their congregation were teachers, and they were able to start a good school. After a while, however, it was too much for the teachers who already had teaching positions, so they gave the school up to the government. The government still runs the school, but they take all the credit for its creation.

Today, the area houses thousands of families. Buildings are made of cement cinder blocks mortared together. Fences are made of wood pallets nailed together. The sand is so fine it is just a pink dust. Before all the new houses were built, the sand blew in the air so thick that people could only see a few feet in front of them, and had to walk around with rags covering their faces. It is the worst area we have ever seen in our lives. We couldnt believe we were actually there, seeing it with our own eyes. Even though it is really poor and dirty, adults and children walk around comfortably in the area, unlike in the actual city. Children can play with each other there, and we have not seen any children playing outside in the city.

That is the area where many of the lost women from Juarez have been found. Huge graves with many women have been found in that barrio. Ruben did not tell us until we had left the area. It is such a sad, desperate area. It is amazing that he puts so much energy into it. He lives in a relatively nice part of the city. While it is still nothing like the United States, you could easily live without knowing that the desert barrio is nearby. Even so, he chooses to have his church in one of the poorest, saddest parts of the city, and he does it with love for the people. When we drove through the barrio, almost everyone waved at him. Many of the young people do not have fathers, and he has made sure to give every child as much help as he can. He will visit homes and help families make important decisions, as if he were the father the family is missing.

Rubens church is now in a real building. He and his congregation have been building it for the last 5 years. They have paid for all of it with their own money. In the barrio, where the church is, families earn 50 USD a week, yet they have donated over 100,000 USD to the construction of the church. It looks like a warehouse with a stage in the front, and hundreds of chairs. They still have a lot of work to do, but they are doing it bit by bit.

We have realized that you have to believe in God and be strong in your faith to live here. No one goes out unless it is necessary, there is little money, it is dirty,dangerous, and there seems to be little hope for improvement. There is no way you could live here without faith that God is watching over you. Religion is a necessity here. We have never seen that before.

Holly and Kevin are going to donate some money to the church, as part of our thank you to the family. We would also like to donate some money to them at Christmas, and if anyone else is interested, it would be a great way to give during the holidays. The church is the only thing that creates a sense of community, where people can unite together, so a donation would be so much more than a donation to support religion.

It has been amazing to stay with Ruben and see the role that religion plays in his life. For him, religion is only about helping others and making the world better. That is what his church encourages and supports, even when they are living in the most dangerous place on Earth. He is a great person, and we are so happy that he has been able to show us and teach us so much.

Jose and Emma

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