Caring Caravan to Mexico

by Bjarne Christensen

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    The day just didn’t start out right. The weather was supposed to be warm and sunny, but this particular Saturday morning in Mexico was cold, windy, and overcast. The dust was everywhere in Tijuana and our car, chameleon-like, had changed color to match the weather and the city.

    Trying to find the LDS chapel was no easy feat. Everyone in the car had his own opinion of where it was, as had every Mexican we asked. As we tried to decipher the street signs, we read one that said, “Un Sentido.” By the time we found out what it meant, it was too late. Our whole caravan was on a one-way street—going the wrong way.

    We had made the trip from Los Angeles that morning in a couple of station wagons, two huge vacation trailers, and a two-ton truck crammed with over 100 used suits, 150 dresses, 600 shirts, blouses, trousers, and sweaters in all different sizes and shapes. We had nearly 100 pairs of shoes and loads of underwear, ties, and odd pieces of clothing. Add to that over 300 gift-wrapped toys and gifts, several bicycles, a rocking horse, 10 pairs of roller skates, and 30 to 40 boxes of canned goods and food. All of it had been collected in Los Angeles for the benefit of an orphanage and some of the needy Saints in Mexico.

    In less than a month an idea for a Chatsworth Second Ward (Los Angeles California Chatsworth Stake) Aaronic Priesthood MIA service project had grown into a major undertaking.

    After a few “No comprende” answers to the grinning Mexicans, we found the attractive little Mormon chapel on a hilltop overlooking the city.

    There to meet us were all the children just coming out from Saturday morning Primary. But before long children from neighboring streets were on hand, too, to help carry half of the clothing and supplies into one of the classrooms for later distribution to the needy. After handing out some of the gifts for the children, we were off again, this time in a downpour, to an orphanage across the city.

    It was quite an experience.

    Recalls Randy Hansen, who spearheaded the project: “When we first came to the orphanage, the children’s eyes were really wide, and they weren’t sure why we were there or what was happening. When they helped us unload and carry in all the packages and supplies, they loosened up. We were then able to be more friendly. When we played ball with them you could see that they didn’t do much of that type of thing. They probably didn’t have any supervised activities. It was really touching when they sang to us because I have never studied another language. When I heard them trying to sing in English and then I tried to sing in Spanish, I knew how much they must have practiced to get it just right.

    “I would like to have had more friends and members from our ward go down there,” he added. “It would have been a good experience for them. A lot of people come to church on Sunday and feel the Spirit, but they sometimes lose the Spirit during the week. This trip made me feel that we need to have this kind of spirit with us no matter what we are doing. It really touched me because I have never really felt like that at any other time.”

    Kathi Regas feels much the same way about the project: “It was a good experience for all of us and made us appreciate all the things we have at home. I needed to give of myself to others and in the process I became much more thankful for what I have.

    “The children seemed to need so much love. We brought them clothing and toys, but they needed love. When we began to play with them, you could tell by their expressions they appreciated our caring. I was really grateful that I could do something for someone else. I found that the children down there are especially grateful. We take so much for granted,” she said.

    “I also became more thankful for everything that I have, especially my parents,” adds Marlene Yeates. “When we went into the nursery, I felt like taking all the children home with me. It is a feeling I probably will never forget. It was really a good experience, and I am glad I had the opportunity to be part of it.”

    Mark West echoes the same feelings. He says, “I thought it helped us all get together. It helped us personally to see how other people live. We are too accustomed to our warm little beds. For example, when I saw the children in the little nursery it really hit me.”

    Debbie Webb comments: “They just wanted us to hold them and give love. This one little boy was sitting stiffly in the windowsill all alone when everyone came in. Then I held him and he started acting like a person. When it was time to leave, we put him back in the windowsill and he stiffened up again.”

    It didn’t matter that it rained miserably on the way home. Our hearts were full of sunshine.

    Photos by Bjarne Christensen

    Barbara Hardy with a new admirer

    Randy Hansen with friend

    Debbie Webb and Katherine True in a serious moment

    “How are we going to get through all this?”

    Phil Oberhansley, Russell Shurtliff, and Ricky Hansen enjoy a joke with the children

    Phil Oberhansley, Georgene Walker, and Catherine Erickson present gifts to the Tijuana youngsters

    Becky Reed and Kristy Chapman with Mexican Primary children

    Adrienne Latimer was right at home among the Spanish children

    Todd Horsley, Mark West, David Skinner, and Scott Ord are busy in the men’s department