By Ali Woods, Katie Woods, & Rev. Tammy Kuntz*
The December 2021 mission team to Manos Juntas Mission in Rio Bravo, Mexico included nine missioners from Wellington First UMC (Firelands District), Lodi UMC (Firelands District), and Seville UMC (Canal District).
Our first stop was at La Casa de la Esperanza (The House of Hope) Children’s Home in Nuevo Progresso, which currently provides a home for 18 children, ages 3-15. The children also have school and church there. We made great connections with the children playing Pato, Pato, Gonso, (Duck, Duck, Goose) Rojo y Verde (Red Light/Green Light), a game of Red Rover, and basketball.
The big project for the team was to build a casita for a family. This project requires several days of work. Our first day was spent laying the block walls. We worked together to lay mortar and stack cement blocks to create walls that were 10 courses high. At times, we might have been preparing mortar, other times, handing blocks to a partner, or maybe helping to make sure the lines were level. The next day, several members of the team began to stucco the outer walls of the home while the other half was forming the rafters for the roof. This work went so well, that we finished the roof and final touches on Wednesday. We completed the casita a day ahead of schedule! This project took just three days, and we were treated to a wonderful meal prepared by the homeowner. We shared a blessing of the house with gifts for the children and for the family.
With the extra time, the team helped complete a couple of painting projects at the Mission center. The gates of the Mission got a fresh coat of red paint while the outer walls of the clinic received a new finish of blue and gray. The painting was finished on Friday before we traveled back to La Casa de la Esperanza to help the children create a ribbon tree in celebration of the new year. It was absolutely wonderful!
Throughout the week, the staff of Manos Juntas was by our side to support our work. Willie, a Global Ministries missionary and the director of the Mission, checked-in and shared his vision for future projects. Julian, the Mission coordinator, was on-hand to ensure we had all the materials and directions that we needed. Carlos served as our interpreter as well as our site foreman. Juan Loco and Poncho served as our maestros, our teachers, showing us the skills needed to complete the casita. Fernando and Cello prepared all our meals.
The goal of the mission journey was to help Manos Juntas serve the community in a region where there are so many who are in need. At the Children’s Home, many of us felt at ease and were able to connect to the little ones using gifts of play we share here at home. The building of the casita was a little more difficult for some of us who don’t often have the chance to strengthen our masonry and carpentry skills. We worked as hard as we could and provided as much assistance as we were able. We didn’t have to do anything special. Our time, energy, and presence are the real gifts that allow Manos Juntas to continue its work, and, although we were there to provide for others, we are grateful for the abundance we received.
Our lives are very blessed and the gifts we have to give are numerous and plentiful. We want to give in the most effective way. During our evening meetings, the group had conversations around the best ways to support the mission, while avoiding toxic charity, as we work to enrich the relationships that have been established.
*Ali Woods and Katie Woods are laity from Wellington First UMC and the Rev. Tammy Kuntz is coordinator of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission for the North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church.