International Ministries

Experiencing the Grace of God in Tijuana

November 6, 2006 Journal
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Chelsea, like many other people from different mission groups, has been able to experience how God has changed the lives of women in Tijuana through the ministry of Deborah's House.On October 7th we had a beautiful dedication service, but we haven't been able to open our doors to full ministry because the house is not yet connected to the sewage system in the city.Please, pray that God might open the doors for us to soon have the shelter functioning in its full capacity.Chelsea recently wrote about her experience in Tijuana and we would like to share her letter with you.

Experiencing the Grace of God in Tijuana

Sometimes in life the unexpected happens, and a person does not realize what just occurred until they stop and think about it later.That is exactly what happened to me while I was serving on a mission trip in Tijuana two summers ago.The Tijuana mission trip was my first mission experience out of my hometown.To be honest I did not really know what to expect, but throughout the week and a half that I was there, everyday brought a new surprise.

The project that we were working on was a house for women and their children that were victims of domestic violence.It is called "Deborah's House."Several years before the missionaries even arrived, a group of women had started praying that a shelter would be built for the women and children that needed a safe place to live.They had seen a need in the community and made the decision to act on it.Through the power of prayer their wish is now being granted.This house would be one of the first houses made for this cause showersin a city of two million people.I honestly cannot even imagine how many women and children are living in horrible situations in Tijuana, without any hope of ever having anything better.While this house was being built the only place that women and their children could stay to escape from domestic violence, was an emergency shelter that could only house two families at a time.

The third day we were there, we started work on the house.Our first day of work was harder than I had imagined that it would be.I was put on the digging crew, which meant that we were using picks and shovels to dig down about a foot into hard rock.The goal was to level off the ground so that cement could be poured tokitchen make a sidewalk running along behind the house.I can honestly say that it was the hardest work I had ever done, but something kept me going.I guess I knew that when it was all done, I would be happy that I had been able to help.I looked at it in the way that it was my turn to share some love because of all the love God had shown me.During the time that I was working my mind kept wandering, and I thought about the families that would live in this shelter.By the end of the first day I was whipped and did not know how I would make it through the rest of the week.

While we were staying in Tijuana, we slept at La Iglesia Emanuel (The Church of Emanuel).Later in the week, the lights went out one night around eight o'clock.bunkbedsThat same night within the hour a woman and her three children arrived at the church.The girl was sixteen (the same age as me at the time), and the two boys were fourteen and four.Because the lights were out the family was able to eat in privacy, which is something that they needed.I came to find out later that they had been walking all day to get to La Iglesia Emanuel.It must have been hard for them leaving their home and all of their possessions behind, knowing that the only thing they had was each other and the clothes on their backs.The mother had made the decision earlier that day to leave home when she found out that her husband was sexually abusing her daughter.This family is an example of a family that was torn apart by domestic violence and was in need of a safe place immediately.The home that we were working on would become, with God's grace, their home when it was complete.

The next morning I was able to go with the mother, daughter, and the sons to the emergency shelter to help them get settled in.On the way I tried to talk to the older boy a little.I knew some Spanish, but not a whole lot.He was pretty quiet and probably really afraid so eventually I stopped asking questions and just observed.The whole ride I was thinking about what it would be like to be in their situation, and I do not think that I came even close to imagining what they were actually experiencing.

When we reached the emergency shelter I helped sort through boxes of clothes that were donated by other mission teams in hope of finding some clothes that would be suitable for the daughter, mother, and two sons to wear.After we found some clothes that would fit them we blew some bubbles for the four-year-old boy and some of the other little children that were already living at the shelter.I was amazed that something as simple as bubbles could brighten up a child's day.

It was an eye opening experience for me because I was able to see whom exactly we were making the house for.I did not see the girl again until we were leaving.It was kind of an awkward moment for me because I was not sure whether to hug her or just say "adios."Eventually I decided that I would give her a hug if she wanted it and was amazed to find that a hug was exactly what she wanted.She hugged me for a few seconds and then gently kissed me on the cheek.Even though I hadn't really experienced a goodbye like that, I knew that she was saying thank you for helping her and her family.As I walked away from the house I looked back and could see her eyes full of renewed hope and sadness at the same time because of the uncertain future that lay ahead of her.

Out of the whole trip to Tijuana, that was the moment that changed me the most.I realized what it is to make a difference in someone else's life and at the same time what it was like to feel myself change.That moment made me realize that my life was meant to be used to make a difference for others in the world.It inspired me to observe life from a different perspective, seeing how I could make a difference in other's lives.It may be simple things like asking someone if I can bring their grocery cart back to the store for them, or it may be big things like living roombecoming a missionary doctor.Whatever it is, the slightest gesture can make the biggest difference in someone's life.

Today, the house is almost completed and soon mothers and children will be living there safely.I cannot help but wonder who will be moving in and how the girl and her family are doing.I wish that I could be there to see the day that some families move in.I want to see the looks on their faces when they see their new home that I was able to help build.In my opinion, the house serves as a symbol of hope and new life.The women and children can live there and know that they are safe.They are beginning life again with more options for their future, and the futures of their children, because of their brave decision to leave the abuse and search for the light.

Chelsea Sneller

(currently living in Costa Rica with Gary and Mylinda Baits)

Calvary Baptist Church, Salem, OR