During the week of July 17th, 25 travelers joined the Tijuana Ministry mission trip sponsored and organized by BASICS, Brothers and Sisters in Community Service.  This is the 11th year that St. Simon Parish has been an integral part of this mission trip.  We had not been to Tijuana on Mission since 2019 and, out of an abundance of caution due to the Covid pandemic, we limited the number of travelers and the program offerings for the 2022 year.  We did construction only this year and built two homes with this smaller crew of travelers.  We hope to resume the Children’s, Teen’s and Mother’s programs next year. 

Our base site is the Maria Inmaculada Parish in the La Morita area on the outskirts of Tijuana, about 20 miles from the US border.  The parish is run by the Missionary Oblates of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.   They provide us with dormitory style housing, an industrial kitchen where we prepare and serve meals, and an outdoor gathering area where we can do morning prayer, daily reflections and offer presentations from locals who help us to understand the local conditions.  The parish has a chapel where we attend Mass twice a week with the parish members whom we have come to know after our years of traveling there.  We take time during the week to visit with the community of families we have built for in the pasts.   

The families we build homes for come from an application process vetted by the parish.  The active outreach mission of the Oblates leads to a clear understanding of the dire individual needs of their community.  Each year the parish prepares a list of families in need, and we have a pre-trip where we visit these families who have applied for a home.  The injustice of the living conditions that the truly poor are forced to live in just 20 miles from our border is overwhelming, and our first desire is to want to build for everyone, but we have to match our resources with the needs and select 2 – 5 families to build for each year, prioritizing living conditions, health situations, and how children are impacted.  It is heartbreaking to have to say no to some, but luckily there are 5 other groups from northern California that travel to the same area to build homes so most families on the list are tended to.  

We have standardized on the design of the house we build.  It is 16’ x 32’ in size and includes three bedrooms, a functional bathroom with shower and flushing toilet, and a common area with running water.  The home also has electricity and sewer hook ups if the services are available at the street which in some cases is just a dirt road.  If these services are not available, we still leave all the hook-ups in the house so that they can be connected in the future as the city makes the service available.  

As I write this, a 16’ x 32’ house does not seem like much by our standards.  But when we hand over the keys and present the family with their first ever home, you see the overwhelming gratitude and joy of the family, and there is great satisfaction knowing that the Tijuana Ministry has left their small mark of God’s love that will have a multigenerational impact on the family forever.  

The effect of participating in a mission trip is different for everyone.  Naturally we experience the feeling of doing good for others.  But traveling with the Tijuana Ministry mission we hope there is also a conversion of the heart that takes place over the course of the experience.  This conversion comes from embracing the poor while sharing our love and joy.  It comes from encountering strangers and loving neighbors from across the border.  It comes from seeing injustice on a global level and realizing that you can have an impact both on the trip and when you return home.  It is experiencing the revelation that Christ lives within us, and we take His love wherever we go.

Thank you for your prayers as we have been away.  We are most grateful that St. Simon Parish has taken on the Tijuana Ministry as a mission of the parish.  We thank Fr. Brendan for the value he has placed on mission trips and the impact they have.  We thank the travelers from the parish this year;  Joe Eder,  CeCe and Devon Montgomery Eder, Tina Lipscomb, CJ Allen, Joan Mibach.  We hope that you will join us next year and that we will be beyond pandemic concerns so that we can continue with all our programs including construction, children’s, teen’s, and mother’s programs.  Please enjoy pictures of this year’s trip on our WEBPAGE HERE or on our FACEBOOK PAGE      Thank you!