"There is a lot of work to do in Tijuana before it can become a beacon of Christ’s light like Antioch, but to watch God move, to listen to past stories of God’s provision is so encouraging and such a privilege."
"It is exciting to be part of something bigger than yourself and to walk in the footsteps of the early church."
"I experience such joy working alongside Pastor Guillermo and his family, and my relationship with them grows after each trip. I look forward to the weekend when we return."
The fact that Cornerstone Church just recently sent a team to Tijuana might be news for many people, but Cornerstone has been aiding Pastor Guillermo and his family physically and financially for years, and for some this bi-annual weekend mission trip even predates the birth of Cornerstone.
Tijuana is a city full of contradictions, it is racked by extreme poverty and has more than its share of violence; but also is a resort city of sorts. It is the city that Pastor Guillermo has made his home, cultivating a growing network of churches ranging in size from churches that meet in traditional buildings and home churches, to a tent set up by a pastor trusting God that people will come. The city has a population of almost two million with a large portion of that population in transit to and from the U.S. border. Although this high traffic nature of Tijuana contributes to its negative image as a city, it also insures that the Gospel can move even further. To me that is reminiscent, at least in part, of the Ancient church at Antioch. Antioch was one of the largest and most prominent cities in the Roman Empire. Centrally located in Syria along with port access to the Mediterranean, Antioch provided constant traffic of wealth and ideas. The early Christian church flourished having fled there to avoid Saul’s persecution. Ironically Saul, after his conversion and name change to Paul, taught there for a time and even made it his missionary headquarter of sorts. There is a lot of work to do in Tijuana before it can become a beacon of Christ’s light like Antioch, but to watch God move, to listen to past stories of God’s provision is so encouraging and such a privilege. It is exciting to be part of something bigger than yourself and to walk in the footsteps of the early church.
So, what exactly is the trip like to Tijuana? Well typically the itinerary is as follows: We leave late on a Friday afternoon and get to the border. Because we usually bring three vans packed full to the brim with supplies for the outreach, we attract attention from the border patrol, but the inspection usually only lasts a few minutes and we are on our way once again. When we arrive at Pastor Guillermo’s church we are greeted by him and whoever is still awake. After quickly unloading and getting sleeping arrangements, it’s lights out because tomorrow begins early. Breakfast on Saturday is at 6 a.m. and yes, there is coffee. After breakfast we prep for the day which usually includes preparing hundreds of lunches, helping Pastor Guillermo with his tech or handyman needs, and for some of us it involves experimenting with clown make up. Our main outreach has been in various locations each time I have traveled to Tijuana. We partner with local churches to put on an outreach that runs a lot like a festival. Several of our team preach to the crowd, we have a worship band and we usually have a children’s program. We give out food and sack lunches, clothes, eyeglasses, and medicine. We have had a prayer tent and sometimes a few students from a local barber college come and do free haircuts. Toward the end of the day we host a barbeque and grill hundreds of hot dogs, it all depends on what kind of team God puts together. We wrap up the day by cleaning up and getting some amazing street tacos from Tacos El Gordo.
No one has trouble sleeping that night. Sunday’s breakfast includes fresh tortillas from a local shop; then we have a meeting to share our experiences from the outreach. We pray over Pastor Guillermo’s family. After packing and saying our good byes we are on our way back. The last few times the line to the border has been quite fast, but still long enough to pick up a churro from one of the street vendors.
Our most recent outreach centered around an orphanage called The Refuge. An American family with a couple of extra staff, fosters around 20 children in a traditional family setting. The mom, Michelle, home schools the kids to insure they get a good education, but she goes well beyond that to make sure that her kids learn life skills as well. These are skills often neglected in other orphanages or ones we take for granted. Everything ranging from balancing a checkbook, to grocery shopping, to hygiene habits like brushing your teeth or how to take a shower. Skills that children from a nuclear family tend to pick up from watching their parents – Michelle and her family take extra care to impart these things to their kids. I had a blast playing soccer, tag, basketball and a conglomeration of basket-soccer-tag/jungle ball. The kids were all thrilled with the hot dogs and responded well to the message and antics of our multi-talented clown team.
It may sound strange to say that you had fun on a mission trip, because fun is not something you normally consider on a mission trip. It is not a priority, but I experience such joy working alongside Pastor Guillermo and his family, and my relationship with them grows after each trip. I look forward to the weekend when we return.