Monday, November 17, 2008

Report: Mexico Missions with Amor Ministries

This is a guest blog from Chana. She kept a daily diary of our trip to Mexico this past weekend. We had an amazing time, and in 3 days of work, we built 1.5 houses for some wonderful families. I'll try to post some photos as soon as I can. MK

Friday, November 14, 2008

In Mexico with Amor Ministries. It’s almost 5 a.m. I probably got more sleep than usual but it was interrupted with McKenna’s tossing and turning and the blind roosters that crow all night. Mark and I are sharing a tent with McK and Micah has the small one to himself. He’s really digging that.

I’ve enjoyed the stars this morning and can see all my favorites although the moon is full.

We had fun on the ride here yesterday. McKenna and I rode in the back of the big church van that seats 11 people. Played a game called “Catchphrase” that got everyone going. The Beebe family, Jim, Jessie and Jeff, are really cool. He brought the games and when we weren’t being silly with that obnoxious, beeping thing, he and his kids were playing poker with imaginary money.

Had hotdogs and s’mores last night as well as plenty of good conversation although I still wish Mark had brought a guitar since that was so great last time.

One of our crew, Jillian, talked to me quite a while. She works with Disney setting up their excursions and doing various acquisitions and promotions for them. She was very interested in my writing and asked to read something I’ve written. I’d love to comply, but it would require reading from the computer since I don’t have any hard copies with me.

It was hard to leave Hannah, Sky and Maddie yesterday especially since Hannah will have to leave before we get back Sunday. Just love that girl. Also hard to believe she was sixteen when she came here with us three years ago. How I pray our kids find mates like her who love God with all their heart and spread light wherever they go.

Ah! I see the computer is charging through the pick-up battery. Cool.

Well, guess I’ll work on something else now. Hope I don’t regret the sleep loss later. If I can somehow eat a bit more healthy, I should be okay. Have to admit the hot marshmallow and graham crackers last night were yummy!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Yesterday was amazing but tiring. The house we worked on was already framed so we set about strengthening the wire in the walls and preparing it for tarpaper and chicken wire. I’d never stucco'd a house before, now I have. The stucco is a bit easier to mix than concrete but still labor intensive. The crew was absolutely amazing and a few of the guys had to refit door frames and such, fixing what was already there. They were lifesavers. A couple of them do construction for a living. They certainly moved us much farther along than was expected.

A few kids and kitties were always in attendance. Had a chance to pray for an older boy named Jose for healing since his mother told me he was sick and was on the way to the doctor. Also prayed for a kitten that appeared completely listless and on its last legs. Later it was running from a little boy that was terrorizing any cat that came in sight. Micah and McKenna kept trying to help the cat but eventually we just had to say, “Okay cat, you’re on your own.”

Micah also saw someone kick this really cool looking black dog so he tossed a piece of beef jerky to it. I thought it was going to stowaway in the van when we left since it seemed determined to stick to Micah no matter what.

NOW I’m getting tired whereas an hour and a half ago—right before 4 a.m.—I was raring to go. Figures.

I’ve been praying quite a bit this a.m. for safety for us and the families at home as well as outreach opportunities while we’re here. We’ll be doing a slab today so there’ll be tons more mixing and spreading. Maybe the stucco guys will just be glad it won’t require them to push up like they had to with the stucco. God be our strength, our glory and the lifter of our heads and arms. BTW, thank you for a pretty decent night’s sleep. I may catch a few winks right now.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wow! What a night! As McKenna kept saying, “At least we’ll never forget it.”

The wind created such a fierce sandstorm when we returned to camp we finally sought refuge in the women’s showers—the only place sheltered from the wind. It was hilarious to see all our little camp chairs gathered in a big circle inside these stark concrete walls. Ya’d think we were vacationing in a concentration camp.

Think it’s kinda funny I spent about ten minutes walking around the camp, praying the wind would stop only to experience such an unforgettably crazy evening BECAUSE OF the wind. The bonding of that time was much richer than an uneventful night of s’mores around the campfire.

Brandon and Beth had ordered these amazing tacos from town to bring to camp. Good thing since it would have been impossible to cook in that wind. It woulda been water and Clif bars for a hungry, dirty, exhausted crew.

Most of the group gave up on trying to sleep in tents in the 80 plus mph winds. A few pulled their stuff in the women’s showers. Even there, tents wouldn’t work since some places were like a wind tunnel. Mark and Micah toughed it out in their tents. Jessie and Jim, McKenna and I each took a seat in the van. It wasn’t too bad. I probably got more sleep than ever since I wasn’t sure when I hit the hay and just slept. Dreamed like crazy.

Guess we’ll be going back to the site where we were yesterday to put up walls and, hopefully, get through to a coat of stucco. Our crew was amazing. The foundation was poured by 2 p.m. Had a really good mixing process going on. As medic, I got my fair share of blood due to big Jeff pounding his thumb early in the day. I think it was kinda because McKenna was there asking him how to do things. Oops! How to get a pro off-track…I can totally understand what an enthusiastic distraction she can be.

As usual, she’s a ray of sunshine. She was having such an awesome time playing with the little girl of the family we were building for—little cutiepie not more than two years old with little pokey pigtails, chubby arms and a love for putting dirt on things. She and McKenna sat for a couple hours just stacking discarded wood blocks or putting handfuls of sand into cans to pour it out. Oh the forlorn expression on her face when she realized McKenna was about to leave. I soon figured out it was because she wanted to stick her hands way down into the water barrel and clean them like McKenna did. She couldn't reach the water, so Mark reached in and cupped the water for her to wash her hands, her little face making him melt in the process.

Micah’s been working hard. It was good last night to see him dorking around with Kelsey and Jeff playing Truth or Dare. They got a big kick out of daring him to river dance around the neighboring campers’ fire. He did it too—until a guy stuck his head out of the RV window to yell at him so he ran away. That was better than Kelsay’s dare to kiss one of the porto-potty seats. That’s where I woulda ended it. I at least advised her to take along an antibacterial wipe to aid her cause. Whew! Would’ve given me nightmares otherwise!

Looks like everyone’s movin’ and shakin’ now. Nothing was stirring about an hour ago, though, when I took my moonlight hanging jug shower. SOO cold but I just couldn’t stand the grit in my scalp one more minute.

Felt horrible a little while ago when I was sneaking into the pick-up to write and forgot how persnickety the alarm system is about trying to open the door with the key. It started honking loud enough to raise the dead! I’ll probably catch hell for that.

Okay maybe not. I just witnessed Ron and Mike playing Reveille on a couple big pots. They walked right up to the doorway of the women’s shower and banged away. I can only imagine how that must’ve reverberated off those concrete walls!

We talked to Hannah and the gang at home yesterday because Bill had gotten reports of a major fire in the Valencia area that had shut down the 5. They were fine but Mark told her she could evacuate to Terri’s if anything got threatening. They were unfazed and were about to go see the premier of the animated movie “Bolt”. Sounds like they’ve had their share of movies, Red Mango yogurt and In-N-Out. Gotta love it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It’s 7 a.m. and I’m back to warm showers and Starbucks. I’m CLEAN!

Yesterday was amazing. Everyone stumbled out of their sandstorm night and put in a full day’s enthusiastic work. Had just a couple dealing with a touch of nausea and maybe dehydration later in the day but nothing serious — well, beyond a pounded finger here and there. Everyone worked hard and kept great attitudes. Got a classic picture of Mark and McKenna on the roof putting nails along the edge. Micah was happy spending most of his day up there among the roofing gods.

During lunch we all gathered in the house that now had walls and a roof and brought in the Luna family who would be living there. Little Donna, the two-yr.-old who had been playing with McKenna, sat up on a wooden perch and ate chili and fritos with her mom and dad while we talked with them through our interpreter, Daniel. What a sweet family! It was the single most gratifying mission trip experience I’ve ever had since it was so tangible. We got to see their gratitude and hear their plans for their new home as well as get wonderful feedback of their observations of our crew—that everyone worked well together and never fought and just kept doing what needed to be done, etc. How many times do ya get a chance like that?

They also said they had been a bit confused about “religion” since most seem to care more about manipulating money out of them. What a perfect opportunity we had to just GIVE to them and smile Jesus’ love.

We all gathered in front of their little house at the end of the day and big Mike (who had floated from job to job making sure the greenhorns like me didn’t screw up) picked up little Donna and brought the mom and dad to the front of the picture with him. What a golden moment!

When we drove away they were waving from inside the house and little Donna’s daddy had her perched in the window. It could have been a poster advertisement for Amor Ministries. I think the smiles inside our van were even bigger.

We had a crazy (and a bit delirious) trip back across the border. While we waited about an hour and a half to be allowed back into our country, Beth, Michael and Jessie started trying to think of 100 words using only the letters from the word "Thanksgiving". They had been doing well and were up to maybe 80 when Brandon started tossing out nuggets like “angst” and “vast” while we gasped in amazement. Right about the time they crossed the 100-word mark, Brandon started laughing and held up his cell phone to admit his success was due to wikipedia. Michael stated, “Brandon, you almost had us convinced there was a brain in there!” The word “turkey” seemed quite appropriate considering the circumstances.

As soon as we crossed the border we barreled toward In-N-Out to snarf down burgers, fries and shakes. Probably not the best idea after the chili and chips for lunch. I had ample opportunity to regret it all the way from San Diego to Valencia as we bounced along at 85 mph. Yes, Brandon was at the wheel.

We got back around 9 p.m. to unload. It was so neat to see my 16 yr.-old making a list of numbers and emails to keep in touch. Lots of hugs all around, despite our unwashed state.

It’s like microwave friendships the way people bond on mission trips. What might take years under normal circumstances is accomplished in a few hours of blood, sweat, tears and sandstorms.


Dale Baker said...

Great blog! Thanks for was fun reading and made me wish I could spend some time with you guys again...tell everyone I said hello. I'll have to make a batch of that Christmas Granola and think of you all as I consume it...

Jon said...

Thanks so much for posting this. I am going to send it around to the rest of the Amor Ministries team. We are so glad you had a great experience - loved the part about the windstorm actually adding value to the shared experience. Looking forward to seeing the pics.

Unknown said...

Just read your blog and was so touched by it. Thankful that Jon Wilson sent it around for us to hear your story.

Reading it reminds me, in those challenging days, why Scott and I do what we do - for the past 28 years.

May the blessing of your trip carry you and your family into this holiday season with the knowledge that you changed the lives of 2 families forever!

Gayla Congdon

Anonymous said...

Hey guys,

Glad to hear you made it home safely. It was great working with you guys this weekend, you're all awesome! Thanks comin' down and I hope to see you soon.

Karenkool said...

That was an ejoyable read. Glad you all had success.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just discovered your blog. Thank you for sharing memories of your Amor trip. I have been to Mexico three times for mission trips (two with Amor and one with Mission 4 Mexico). Chana's report brought back vivid memories, smells, sounds, and thoughts from my trips. I thank God for these incredible experiences. I'm sure we can all agree that doing God's work is challenging yet very rewarding. Hopefully lives are changed because we've humbled ourselves and done whatever we could do to improve their circumstances here on earth. The ultimate goal is to show Jesus to them and to affect their eternal lives. What a privilege to be able to do that. Praise God for Amor and other ministries like them!

Mark Keefer said...

Thanks for all the feedback everyone! We can't wait 'til next time!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mark Keefer,

I am trying with great intent to get in touch with the people of "Hollywood Lost and Found" in particular, Rick Mitchell regarding his essay on film company logos. Sorry to post this here, but I see you are on his "team" of bloggers, and though you may be able to help. (I don't have a blog that's why I'm posting anonymously). I'm working for a company that is doing a project on RKO. If you could help me get in touch with Rick, I would greatly appreciate it. You may email me at Once again, if you can help, thank you very very much!

Margaret Sheehan