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I’ve always been proud of my independence. I feel as though I can go anywhere by myself – a movie, a restaurant, another country – and be just fine.
I still relish the time in high school when I traveled to London with a school group proceeded to purchase a ticket to see an evening production of the musical, “Rent.” I traveled to and from the theater all by myself.
Growing up I figured I could do anything alone, and while I have proven to myself that I can tackle whatever comes along, I recently discovered it’s much more valuable to share the experience with others.
On Oct. 8, I joined 13 other women at the Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church parking lot. Even though it was early in the morning, the mood was jovial.
We clustered together and posed for photos. This group of women came with their bags packed to fulfill a mission; a mission that one person could not accomplish on her own. It would take all of us working together to get the job done.
This mission was to build a house in three days. The group, House of Hope, would make its fifth annual trip to Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, to construct a home for a family of three.
The project was coordinated through a nonprofit organization called Gateway Mission Training Center.
Most of the participants were familiar with the mission. They were equipped with their own toolbelts, drills and boxes of snacks. They even knew the restaurants we should dine at – the Owl Café in San Antonio, N.M., on the drive to Mexico and Sparky’s in Hatch on the return journey. Of course, there had to be ice cream in between.
One woman joked to me that I might be under the false impression that God wasn’t the main motivation for the trip.
I wasn’t fooled. Juárez may be riddled with violence and tragedy, but these women put their faith in God to give them safety. As for me, I put my faith in them. They had the experience and the heart for this project; nothing, I reasoned, could go wrong.
So I did not hesitate to jump on the bus. As I viewed the expansive New Mexican landscapes slipping by the bus windows, I learned about these women, their children, their jobs and a few of their stories from past Juárez trips. One of my favorites occurred as they were driving down a road and saw people waving to them. Thinking they were just being friendly and saying hello, the House of Hope women waved back. Little did they know they were driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street. The people on the curb were waving to warn the drivers.
When we made our lunch stop at the Owl Café, I felt my membership in the House of Hope cemented when one of the women presented me with a House of Hope hat. The baseball cap has a patch of a house on it and a button with my name on it. I may be an independent person but to be accepted by a group means a lot.
The landscape changed as we drove into El Paso and made our way to the border crossing. The wide open spaces were replaced with a sea of grumbling, rumbling automobiles. We would repeatedly inch forward, then settle. At times, we would shift from one lane to another or attempt to duck out of the way as an impatient driver would cut in.
Finally, we passed through the border patrol stations and drove through Juárez. The city seemed quiet as we drove past a city park and rows of stucco buildings painted in bold hues of pink, yellow and orange. The sides of some buildings were painted to advertise Coca-Cola. Dogs scampered everywhere.
We were minutes away from the U.S., but it seemed like a different world.
Arriving in unfamiliar territory didn’t intimidate me however. I was with friends.