Sunday, June 25, 2006


My Episcopal church is one of three, New York-area churches that is sending a group to do Habitat for Humanity-type work in Juarez, Mexico, and I must admit, I am feeling some trepidation now that the trip is upon us. Earlier this morning, our church held a special “commissioning service,” blessing all of us who are heading off for eight days painting outpost churches in the bleak Mexican desert. A friend who often does this kind of volunteer work in Haiti told me: “We like to say that nothing works, but everything always works out. Lower your expectations…because efficiency is not going to be part of your experience in Juarez.”

Later, as we prepared to depart from the church parking lot, anxious parents thanked me for making the trip and keeping their children safe. Frankly, I am not terribly worried about security, although Juarez is a rough border town. We are staying in a locked compound, and we’re traveling with experienced, savvy, Mexican/New Yorkers – Canon Sylvia and Father Hilario, who is a towering, muscular man with a shaved head and neatly trimmed goatee. Priest or not, anyone would think twice before messing with this dignified, fierce-looking man.

I am more uneasy at the prospect of a week of physically hard work in 100-degree temperatures, using a sleeping bag in a sweltering bunkhouse, to say nothing of chaperoning nineteen teenagers. I know they are not used to this kind of hard work.

“Better you than me,” whispered one of the mothers as she reached past me to give her daughter a final hug.

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