Sunday, August 09, 2009

Trip to Piedras Negras

On Saturday August 8, Julie and I went on a mission/ relief trip to Piedras Negras, Coahuila, on the south bank of the Rio Grande across from Eagle Pass, Texas. Our goals were twofold: to gather information for the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas on how local churches can help the Iglesia Angilcana El Buen Pastor, and to give out food in four of Piedras Negras' poorest neighborhoods. We went with Steve and Betty Roederer from the Diocese of West Texas, and Billy Hausser from St. Luke's Episcopal who already has a relationship with the Buen Pastor congregation.

We left San Marcos at 6:30 to rendezvous in San Antonio at 7:30. We arrived in Eagle Pass at about 10:00 AM and changed vehicles to cross the border. When we arrived at El Buen Pastor, we were greeted by Padre Miguel who explained his church and their mission focus which is to show love, and share the gospel message with the poorest people in Piedras Negras. As the photos show, these are shanty towns along the railroad right-of-way with little more than tar paper for walls and holey metal roofs. These are the neighborhoods where we distributed one pound sacks of beans and gave the children pencils.

We also visited the Casa Bethesda which is an orphanage for children with significant disabilities. This private facility, houses about 20 people aged 9 months through about 55 years old because many of the residents have been disowned or have no family to transition them into society, and they are not forced out of this facility. While many of the children are mute or have significant learning and physical disabilities, the smiles we saw here were often more numerous than in the poor neighborhoods where our sacks of beans were intended to help these people make it through the weekend.

Another big focus of El Buen Pastor is youth education. We sat in on part of a bible study that a subgroup of the church's youth participated. No matter the economic situation, the El Buen buildings were a safe haven where youth could relax and have a good time. Meals are often provided with Christian Education events and are likely the only hot meals with meat many of the children receive in a week.

Keep these people and this church in your thoughts and prayers. While the resources are limited, the Spirit is working in this place and bringing love, hope, and opportunities to people who seek and find in this place. Expect to see more updates on this blog as Julie and I plan to return with others to learn the story of this place. This church truly reflects the unselfish teachings of Christ as their church slogan is to come and worship; leave ready to serve.

Kevin and Julie

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