Written by Luke Coffman (Fort Worth, TX)
With a sense of overwhelming finality, I ripped the sheets off the bunk that had been my home for the last month, folded the now sweat-stained cloth, and placed it at the top of my suitcase. I also stuffed in the green fleece blanket which, in Mexico, was much better suited for a pillow than a blanket. I zipped up my bags, threw my passport into my backpack, and walked out of the door. As I threw the black canvas bag into the back of the van and said my goodbyes, a stifling sense of anxiety fell over me. The primal, irrational fear coursed through me as I sat in the second row of the 15-passenger van. All the emotions of the past month combined with the uncertainty of starting a new chapter in my life to create a sensation of panic.
One last time, we drove through the streets of Reynosa, past the stray dogs, rotting plywood shacks, the smell of sewage, and people sitting on the side of the road — their bodies tanned and leathered by the ever-present sun. I waved goodbye to the man who made his living selling grilled chicken on the side of the street from an old rusting grill. I was still full of emotion: excitement for the next phase of my life, guilt for the rich life I was about to return to, regret that I could not do more to help these people, and wonder at the grit that it took to live here.
I came to Reynosa for the first time last summer with my dad, who had only recently returned to Reynosa after not making the trip for several years due to the situation in Mexico. My most distinct memory from that trip is not wanting to leave and promising myself that I would return the following summer. If the experience I described above is any indication, you can see that staying for four weeks this year only made it that much harder to leave. I believe that this speaks volumes about the people of Faith Ministry and the work that God does through them.
What is it about Reynosa that makes it so hard to leave? Why, after four weeks of sleeping in the Mexican heat every night, working long days under the sun, and holding my breath in the shower, am I so reluctant to return to the U.S.?
A trip to Reynosa is an opportunity, for one week, to free yourself of all the distractions that get in between us and God and live a life that is truly life. A life where the only purpose is to do God’s work, to love your neighbor, and of course, to eat some truly amazing food.
For those of you reading this who may be considering a trip to Reynosa, I would encourage you to pray about the opportunity. My experiences here have become a large part of who I am. Before coming to Reynosa, I had heard many stories from my dad, read many articles, and seen many pictures which depicted some of the things I would experience; however, no words could adequately convey the depth of emotion, revelation, and realization that I would feel. To see how the other 99 percent of the world lives is an incredibly eye opening and, I would say, necessary experience. It is so easy to forget that the troubles and worries of our lives are trivial compared to the challenges faced by many people around the globe. This realization is a frameshift that has the potential to be life-changing.
For those of you who have been to Reynosa in the past, I would ask that you pray about restarting the tradition. Faith Ministry is a very different place than it was ten years ago, and the city of Reynosa is booming with more paved roads, shopping malls, and fast food restaurants every year. The ministry now reaches 21,000 people annually through their many outreach programs, such as the clinic, garden, woodworking shop, student scholarships, and churches — to name just a few. During my month in Reynosa, I never once felt threatened or worried about my safety. Even during the tumultuous election process in July, I always felt well-informed and safe because I knew that David was well-connected in the community, and Colleen kept us constantly updated.
I am grateful for the impact which Faith Ministry continues to have on my life, and I’m humbled that I’ve had this opportunity to serve alongside some of the best people I know. I hope you will be in prayer about how you can best help the ministry, through your prayers, gifts, or service. God has done amazing work through Faith Ministry, and with our prayer and commitment, more is sure to come.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”