Two years ago, when I came here for the first time with my church, this was an intimidating place for me. I was stepping into something for which I was completely unprepared. I’m not a big “children’s ministry” person. I understand some Spanish, but I can’t speak it. And because Mexico gets a lot of negative press, it was a little scary to make that first trip. But now it just feels like a second home. The campus here is very comfortable and secure. And many of us from CCI have built strong relationships with the leaders and the kids. When you’re on campus, it’s easy to forget that you’re in another country. But not far from the children’s home, there are colonias (neighborhoods) that quickly remind you of the poverty that Casa Hogar’s kids come from.
This is only my 6th trip to Casa Hogar, and it is the 2nd time I’ve been responsible for bringing a group of girls down here. Some folks thought it was a little crazy to go on a missions trip without any men… and even I thought it was a little crazy to go to a Spanish-speaking country without anyone to act as a translator! Yet somehow, it seems to work out. I’m convinced that what we are doing is a “God thing,” and these “girls trips” have turned out to be some of the best we’ve had!
This week was the first time that we did it completely “on our own.” Usually, we meet someone on the US side and follow them through the border crossing to Casa Hogar. It’s not really a big deal – it’s very close to the border. But the prospect of getting lost in Mexico and maybe even having to ask for directions (in Spanish!) was intimidating. Mexican roads, especially those off the beaten trail, are far less permanent than US roads. We’ve come down here before only to discover that a road we used to take was washed away or closed! Fortunately, nothing like that happened this time. We were proud of ourselves that despite a missing road sign and making an accidental u-turn, we still found our way to the orphanage!
But this trip has still taken me far beyond my comfort zone.
There is another group here for the weekend, a Mexican church that has been using the facilities for a retreat. They’ve been staying in the house that we usually use… so we’ve been staying in the girls’ dorm. There are no doors on the bedrooms, just sheets hanging from curtain rods. All five of us are staying in one room with a bunk bed & 3 mattresses on the floor. That’s a little more “togetherness” than I’m used to, but it wouldn’t be half as bad if had a door that we could close. I don’t like knowing that folks can just come in to a room where I am sleeping. During the day, if we are resting or trying to take a nap, the kids that are still here play right outside of our room and come in and out all the time. Our room is also right next to the kitchen where the workers prepare breakfast early in the morning. It’s not that I feel endangered… I’m just used to having some peace and privacy, and that’s not possible in the dorm. I’m definitely not getting enough sleep.
The dorm has a large “community style” bathroom for the kids, and that’s the bathroom that we’re using this time. (The adult workers who live here have private bathrooms in their apartments.) It has several toilets and showers in one room… without a locking door. It’s not fun to try to use the toilet or take a shower knowing that at any time, anyone could walk in on you. The toilets have little stalls with low walls (you can see over the if you’re standing up) and a curtain for some measure of privacy (even tho I can see through the curtain when I’m in the stall, so I’m sure it’s somewhat see-through the other way as well… and the curtain moves with the breeze & any time anyone walks in front of it…)
It’s nothing like a “normal” American public bathroom with high walls and locking stall doors. The shower stalls have translucent plastic shower curtains on them… but there is no private changing area, so either you change inside the shower stall behind the translucent curtain, or you change out in the open. I’m sure this situation is fine for the children who live here… but I’m a 36 year old woman who prefers to take care of her bathroom needs without an audience :/
The majority of the Casa Hogar girls weren’t here the first two nights that we stayed here… but they are coming back this afternoon. I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the kids again… and I’m looking forward to some of the plans we have for the kids and the workers… but I’m not looking forward to having that many more little faces peeking through the curtains!