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Friday, April 5, 2013

a different way of life

The nice looking maroon house was built by a mission group.

When we drove into Mexico, the first thing I experienced was shock. It's a jolt to the system to see people living in such poverty. Living in my middle-class suburban community, I know there are so many people around the world struggling to fulfill even their most basic needs - shelter, food and clean water. But it is another thing entirely to see it. To stare it in the face.

Most of the people in the area we travelled live in extreme poverty. They save for years to buy a piece of land or lease it from the government. Then they are forced to build their house out of whatever scraps they can find. Many of the roofs on these houses are old advertising billboards. The residences do not have multiple bathrooms with flushing toilets like we have. They have outhouses with a hole in the ground and a bathtub (without running water).

Since people have so little, most of the dogs are wild and live on the streets. They are malnourished, covered in fleas and ticks and have no vaccinations. A great number of them are small puppies as it is too expensive to neuter the dogs.
These are the pups that were on my work site that I grew attached to.
Sadly, I don't suspect there is a high life expectancy for these animals. The roads are not paved and at least once a day you drive by a dog who was hit by a car laying off to the side. In the first 15 minutes in Mexico, I saw a dog with all of his ribs showing...dragging himself with his front two paws. His back hips and legs were completely dislocated and just being pulled behind his body. It was hard to see.

You probably know by now that I have a love for horses. Well, one morning when I was brushing my teeth, I spotted two horses tied up by a ranch. When I walked over to say hello, I realized how starved these horses must be. They were so bony and sad looking. It broke my heart. Next year, I'm packing a grip of baby carrots and sneaking some food to the horses.


The family we built a house for consists of husband, wife and four girls (ages 9, 10, 12 and 18). They were living in this house and the family only makes $40 a month.


This image captures the whole house almost in its entirety. There is a small room on the other side of the wall behind the couch. It is wide enough for a queen mattress and that is pretty much all it contains. The parents sleep in that room and children sleep here. Not a lot of room for a family of six.

But here's the thing. This is not a completely doom and gloom post. Everyone we encountered in Mexico seemed genuinely happy. As we drove to our work site in morning, we'd see people walking to get groceries or standing in their yards. They'd all smile, wave and say "hola". In most instances, people seemed much happier than the people I see everyday who have so much more. I really noticed it in the children. They were so joyful to do even the most simple things like paint with us or barrel down a dirt hill on a little plastic toy car.


It is just so surreal to know that people are living so differently less than 600 miles away. When I got back from Mexico, I felt a lot of guilt for the wastefulness in our society. I couldn't quite find the same pleasure in the luxuries. Things we take for granted, like a long, hot shower. Knowing that many people will never have the opportunity to take one, I struggle with enjoying it like I used to.

Yesterday, I looked sadly at a boy throwing a temper tantrum because his mom wouldn't my him the newest Xbox game at Target. It makes me wonder about our world and our priorities. The things we work ourselves to the bone for and value so much. Material things. I question my sanity as I think back on my 60 hour work week with only 20 hours of sleep due to stress-induced insomnia. The price I pay to be out of the office for a week. It's just things that make you go...hmmm.

Unfortunately, I don't have any grand, insightful ending to this post. Just that I'm permanently changed as a result of this mission trip and I'm struggling to make sense of it all. I know y'all really want to see the house we built. Promise it will be up in the next few days.


21 comments:

Charity said...

Jessah just seeing the state of the animals breaks my heart. I can only imagine what the people are dealing with. However you are right in saying that these people have learned to enjoy the simple things in life and to be happy with less. I saw this very same need when I went to Honduras. It was heart wrenching. People always say why not help the poor in the US, all though I do our standard of poverty doesn't compare to that of other countries haiti, Mexico, Honduras, Ethiopia, India etc. I can't wait to see the house!

CeCe said...

It is so sad that there are people in the world living this way. I've been to Mexico and seen it too. Kids begging in the streets at 1am and people living in shacks. I don't know how to make sense of it either. We have so much here and they have so little.

Nathalie Willmott said...

wow what an amazing opportunity! How sad about all the animals in need that get overlooked that would break my heart! I love how you described everyone as being joyful in the midst of poverty! Look forward to seeing the house you built!

Infertile625 said...

I literally have tears streaming down my face. This is amazing. I am so glad you had a life changing experience. I have always wanted to do something like this.

Gypsy Mama said...

I couldn't agree more. I worked for 6 months in Mozambique, and saw the same poverty and the same happiness in the people. I think when we help those in need, it opens our eyes so much and we end up taking away even more from the experience than we left behind. Thanks so much for sharing this story

ThistleAshD said...

I've been struggling for a lot of months with the lack of simplicity here in the US. This just continued to send that thought home to me. I really think the American Dream is so very far off from what we should be chasing in life...

Aubrey said...

Wow. I can't imagine how you wouldn't be permanently changed from that experience. I'm glad you were able to have that experience. Those poor puppies and horses - it's so hard to look at them. And those are just animals... so sad. We really ARE lucky.

xoxoxo

Amanda said...

Permanently changed. Yes. Those are the words that described my heart and mind after traveling on several mission trips out of the country. I've been to the Dominican, Honduras, & Guatemala. Absolutely loved each trip. I noticed what you noticed... The people have little but act as though they have it all. I feel like often we go down to minister and teach them and in turn come back completely changed and ministered to ourselves. I do believe every person in America needs to witness their way of life. Too often we take everything for granted. Even the little things like toilet paper & warm water. Thanks for writing this :) it's beautiful and reminds me of the passions God has placed on my heart. Beautiful!

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

I remember some of the same things when I was in Mexico years ago. I particularly remember the kids an how happy they seemed. So great to get perspective every once in a while! We really do take so much for granted.

LWLH said...

It amazes me that the people with the least enjoy life the most but those of us who enjoy all the pleasures from life take it for granted.

These kinds of experiences really give you clarity.

Sadie said...

I worked in the international development sector for many years, and I have always been struck by how people in the global south manage to find joy and generosity in the most meagre of lives. I often feel as though they are the ones with their priorities straight, and whenever I worked in Africa or the Middle East, I felt we had as much to learn as to offer. I'm glad you had such an educational experience too!

Emily said...

It really makes you think when you see how happy those children can be with barely anything, yet so many kids in our country are complete spoiled brats and throw a fit if they don't get their way. I love the US, but at times the things I see also disgust me. People really don't appreciate how much they have. Whenever I have kids, I am definitely going to expose them to other cultures so they can see how others live. I think even for adults, it's important to witness those reminders, as we do all forget time to time when we have so much. It sounds like an amazing experience so far, and I am so glad you are being so moved by all that you're seeing. Loving your updates and pics!

alesha said...

Such a beautiful post. I hope someday I can travel and help others. We truly take for granted what we have in the US. I think this goes to show that its not necessarily the "things" we have in our lives that make us happy.

Amber said...

I can't help but wonder about the people in the maroon house, in comparison to the others living near by. Are they viewed differently by their nieghbors? Do the people living in the maroon house feel guilty because they were the chosen family for the mission group to build them a house? I can only imagine how this has changed your life. I would love to do something like that someday. It sure does make you appreciate the small things in life - like a working toilet and hot shower. Thank you for sharing this experience with us. I really, really look forward to reading more and seeing more pictures.

Janna Renee said...

Wow these pictures touch the heart. I wish Americans weren't so materialistic and they witnessed what people in other countries go through.

Tiara Lee said...

Wow this is seriously amazing. Way to go! You're an inspiration to me. Amazing pictures too!!! Thanks for sharing :)
-Tiara
www.illbelovingu.blogspot.com

TracyZLesh @ Then I Got To Thinking said...

It's amazing that in so much poverty, people can be happy and see light in such darkness. I am with you, the animals would be so hard for me to see - especially the skinny and malnourished dogs and horses, but it all breaks my heart. It's amazing that this is less than 600 miles from us, truly. I feel a similar way (on a much, much scaled down level) anytime I visit the homeless to feed them lunch with work... makes me re-think my warm bed.

Melanie Schultz said...

your words on the animals breaks my heart. I remember when we were in Mexico and Jamaica, I would just stare straight ahead at the seat in front of me. It was too hard to see those poor things suffering. I couldnt wait to get home to my dog. God bless you for all the work you do. I know many people appreciate it.

Em said...

I don't know why the animal stuff hits me so hard, but it really does. I just can't bear to see it or hear about it. Breaks my heart. I like the idea of bringing carrots next time. Go for it.

Whitney B. said...

You.are.awesome. This post meant so much to me. I have often struggled as well with the materialistic things of our American world. As much as I am an American girl at heart and love my country, I can't stand to see the spoiled kids at Target (that you are referring to). The animals being neglected breaks my heart, but why would they take care of them? They can barely take care of themselves... it's very sad and I am so thankful there are people like you and many others who take the time to HELP!

christinayanggg said...

God bless you guys for doing this! Continue to do His work! (:

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