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2011-2012 Tijuana Knox young adult Mission Trip

Here is a blog recap of our 2011-2012 Amor Trip.  This is not the whole story but some of the highlights.

Wednesday – Dec. 28 

The 11 of us arrive at Knox at 3:45 AM, ready to head out to Midway so that we can have our tents set up before sunset at the Amor camp outside Tijuana.  The traveling goes very smoothly.  We pick up Kenny at the airport in San Diego and then Melissa at the Amor Office closer to the border.  Our group is finally complete – the 13 of us.

We cross the border quite simply and take the toll road along the States-Mexico wall to the Amor camp.  We quickly set up camp and establish our home for the next four nights.  We are all quite tired from our long day of travel and do not have any problem or objection to our heads hitting the pillows.

Thursday – Dec. 29

Our Amor Team Leader is Fernando – he is the first Amor Team Leader who was born and raised in Tijuana.  He is laid back and easy to talk with.  We arrive at the Barron Rios family home and meet Enrique at the gate.  We are not sure who he is.  There are no grand introductions.  This is typical for an Amor Trip because sometimes the families want to be involved and sometimes they don’t.  We quickly start scouting out the area, lay and square the foundation’s frame, and start mixing, pouring, and smoothing concrete.  This takes up all of Monday and by the end of the day we have a foundation.

Toward the end of the workday – Mark decides to go over and join a soccer game that’s already started.  Mark’s a good soccer player.  Bryce and Kyle join in too.  Kyle is not a good soccer player.  Playing soccer with the kiddos becomes a regular occurrence when there is free time.  Another highlight of the day is meeting four extremely cute puppies that belong to the family.

Friday – Dec. 30

We arrive in the morning and our concrete has had a night to dry and we’ve had a night of sleep. Some slept well – others didn’t.  Sleeping in the Mexican desert should be classified as a form of art.  Day two is building the walls and roof and putting them up.  We set up our stations and start working.  There’s a lot of sawing, measuring, and hammering.  The paved soccer/basketball court is a really nice place to build walls.  Eventually, we have all the walls done and put them in place.  It takes a while to center everything and make sure the house is square.  Once it’s square, the roofing frame goes up and we’ve got ourselves something that resembles a house.  Pretty amazing for two days of work – the only problem is that you can see through it…

Friday we get to know Enrique’s wife – Avrea – and I start exchanging smiles with her.  We also meet more of the family.  Enrique and Avrea have three sons and three daughters.  One of their daughters lives next door in another Amor house.  Therefore, there are children around constantly, which is a great joy!  For us none Spanish speakers, it is fun to interact and attempt our limited Spanish with them.

Saturday – Dec. 31

Most everyone had a better nights sleep on the second try.  We return to the Barron Rios’ property with a structure that resembles a house.  Our roofing team heads up to the roof for a sun filled day spent with tar.  Our ground team then wraps the house repeatedly.  We wrap the house in lines of bailing wire, then in thick black paper (the house is no longer see through), and – finally – we wrap the house in chicken wire.  The house then receives its first coat of stucco, which is when the TEAM aspect of the trip is most visible.  There are people making stucco – watering stucco – carrying stucco – and applying stucco.  We resemble ants and a team the most at this point because this involves everyone running around a lot and we have found our groove after days spent working together.

However, the highlight of our day was definitely when the Barron Rios family made us a meal.  It was incredible chicken salad with pop to drink.  Momma Avrea served us all and then we went inside their new home to eat.  For the first time, we had a Q&A session with the family.  It was great for me to feel like I could finally communicate.  We wanted to know everything about them – little and big – how’d they meet? – how many kids and greadkids do they have? – are they going to keep the puppies?  Then the questioning turned on us and they wanted to know what each one of us did for our professions. We went around and there were some pretty comical moments.  We thanked them for their generosity and they thanked us for coming from so far to help them.

Sunday – Jan 1

We woke up to a New Year.  We pack up the tents and head over to the Barron Rios house for the last coat of stucco and the last time.  We go straight to work when we arrive – we are in the zone after three days.  Some of the family had come over to their house for New Years and they still had a rented karaoke machine so all of the sudden some unexpected Backstreet Boys starts blaring as we stucco.  This eventually leads to karaoking and incredible dancing by the entire group.  It is a really joyful party and once again it feels like the language barrier does not exist as we rejoice together.  However, after one last song it is time to go.  So, we gather and pray for the family.  Bruce gives them the keys to their new home and we load up the vans.  As we pull away, the entire family is outside the gate waving goodbye to us – it is a beautiful God moment to complete a beautiful God-filled trip.


I am now a Candidate in the ordination process to become a Minster of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA)!  Bwana Asifiwe! (Praise the Lord!)

The Waterbed Fiasco

In my ever growing brilliance, I decided to do the following during my last week before Kenya: wrap up my 12 weeks of hospital chaplaincy (CPE), exactly one week after CPE is finished, take Presbyterian Ordination exams (ords are the bar exam for Presbyterian ministers) 3 Friday and Saturday; plus 1 more which I receive the paper topic at noon Saturday and have until Thursday to complete, but I am leaving Tuesday morning at 6 AM for orientation for my Kenya trip. After I told my mom this grand scheme, she said “that’s not the brightest idea.” I hadn’t really thought of it that way until she put it so kindly, moms… Any who, while doing all of this I also had to officially move out of my apartment which brings me to my entertaining story of the day.

I have been working on my time management skills since college because they were “lacking” then, but I have gotten much better in seminary. Therefore, I had been moving out of my apartment in increments. Each day I would move some bo-jazz and then on Thursday I would check out of my apartment right before ords. Seemed simple enough. So, I saved moving my waterbed for the last day, Thursday (yesterday) because I like to sleep. Yes, my immediately family all have waterbeds, representing. I called around Austin Wednesday and found a Home Depot that had a waterbed pump. Everything was in place which is a sign disaster would ensue.

I awoke at the wee hour of 9 AM and ran over to the Home Depot to rent the waterbed pump. I returned home and headed downstairs to find a water hose, it was muddy. I ran back up to the third floor and plugged everything in and turned on the pump and nothing happened. The pump was making the “pump noises,” but would NOT take the form of a verb and pump. I noticed the hose had a hole in it so I decided to go back down and find another muddy hose. Rinse, lather, repeat. Same problem. I ran downstairs and found the bestest hose in all the land, muddy of course and returned once again to no avail. At this point, I determined that even though the pump is making noise, it is not pumping. It took me 3 hoses… So I ran back to Home Depot and told them their pump’s broken. They told me it was not. I asked them to test it and they then returned to tell me it’s broken, to which I replied “I know.” They called the “north” home depot and asked if they had a pump, they said they did so I was off on another quest at now 12:30 PM. I arrived at Home Depot #2 and asked for the waterbed pump. They told me that they didn’t have a waterbed pump. I told them, well they called here about 20 minutes ago and you said you had one then. A younger gentleman walked out of the back office scratching his head and looked at me and said, “yeah that was me. Sorry I misunderstood them. We don’t have a waterbed pump.” This was when I had to count to 3. Then an older employee who had been listening to the conversation came over and asked, “how high is your waterbed?” I held my hand 3 ft off the ground. He said “no, what floor are you on?” I’m on the third. The old man said, “Well, all you have to do then is put one end of the hose in your bed and the other out the window and then go downstairs and suck on the hose.” I replied with a half-hearted, “alright.” I returned home slightly frustrated and fatigued by trying to figure out my current quandary in life. After entertaining some brilliant ideas of changing the time-space continuum, I succumbed to sticking one end of the hose in the bed and the other out the window, I ran downstairs, lied on the ground and starting sucking and 20 seconds later I was choking on glorious water. It was the happiest I have ever been while choking! The waterbed was completely drained in 20 minutes, thank you old man.

Back to studying for ords.


I was blessed this past week by the timing of my required psychological evaluation for ordination because it took me home for my brother’s 20th birthday and for one last hoo-raw in OklaHOMEa before I leave for Kenya. It was also frustrating because it was a quick trip so I didn’t get to say goodbye to everyone I wanted, but I got to spend time with my family and a few Broken Arrow friends.

Throughout college and in seminary, I have come to realization that I am an oddity (and not in the way you’re thinking) because my family has lived in the same house for 25 years. Since I am 24, that house is the only home I’ve ever known as…home. Therefore, when I say I’m going home it has a different meaning for me than most people. I am going to the house where I can explain every patched hole in the wall with a rousing story, locate every light switch blindfolded, and yell a family members name and get a response. Not to mention, the parentals pay for everything! Therefore, I love home!

Any who, I got to surprise my little brother for his birthday and go out with the family to Olive Garder, (or as Patrick calls it “the OG”) his favorite restaurant. The next day my two best friends from Broken Arrow came over, Brad and Josh (and Josh’s wife, Laura), and we took over the world by means of a 1999 computer game. Then Gina, Brad’s wife, joined us and we all went out to dinner. It is amazing that at 24 the three of us are still able to get together every now and again. I don’t think we realize how amazingly blessed we are by each other.

Sunday, I was liturgist and was asked to tell the congregation what I was doing/attempting to do currently…it took a while…and reminded me that I have a lot to do. Then that night my family was invited over to the Carter’s house for a very relaxing, delicious dinner of catching up and conversation with Richard, Mary, Brian, Cynthia, Austen, Taylor, Mike, Alice, and my family. I was reminded of how I love my home church and home people.

Monday, Brad and I beat Super Mario Brothers 3 in an hour and a half. It used to take us four days to do that when we were in the third grade. Therefore, we felt amazing. It was also Brad and Gina’s 2-year anniversary so I assisted in distracting Brad from preparing the dinner he was making for her.

Tuesday, I was evaluated psychologically for 5 hours.

Then I went over to Josh’s new house and later his parents took us out to the best BBQ in Broken Arrow, Wild Bills. Amazing people and BBQ, my favorite combo plate. Then I went over to visit Crystal, another best friend from high school, who I hadn’t seen or talked to in a long time. It was great to catch up with her and see her new house. Apparently, we’re getting old…and houses.

Each night my family would get into our new spa for 20 minutes and talk. Quite ingenious, one cannot take electronics like TVs/PCs into water…yet. Therefore, we had to sit down as a family and talk. Excuse #37 to buy a spa. The next morning my family drove me to the airport at 6 AM and my trip home was over. Time is getting quicker…it must be working out.


Fantastic Weekend!

I had a fantastic weekend! Those are always nice. It began with the Chi Tau Chi retreat which is the Christian Fraternity I was in during college. It was fantastic to see old friends and begin new relationships as well. We played basketball, rock band, guitar, and just spent time hanging out together. At college-ish functions like this I always miss college and am reminded of why I am glad I am not in college anymore simultaneously; needless to say, a weird feeling.

Saturday, I drove up to Dallas for a college friend’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony and I really enjoyed the entire night. I was especially caught by a line during the vows because of my current hospital chaplaincy job, “in sickness and in health.” This line has a whole new meaning to me after this summer and seeing all of the people in the hospital with their spouse right there beside them or in the not so happy cases their spouse is no where to be seen. Either way, when I heard these words being said all of my patients flashed before my eyes and there was water on my face for some peculiar reason. I am finding going to wedding after wedding to be rewarding in the fact that I focus on a different part of the vows each time and will hopefully fully understand the magnitude of what I am saying one day when I get married. It reminds me of how youth directors will make their youth write out the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed in modern English so that they have a better understanding of what they are saying each week. That is what attending more wedding ceremonies than I can count has have taught me.

The reception was very nice as well. The bride, Carrie, was very busy (expected), but she took the time to tell me 3 times, “I am so happy you are here.” I didn’t expect to get to speak with her at all, but she took the time to come up to me 3 times and tell me that. I like her a lot. If she ever starts a fan club, I call President.

I then went to stay the night with a family I lived with for a summer in college while I was working as a youth director in their church. It started out poorly because I had to wake them up at midnight because the e-mail I sent them about me coming didn’t go through. Any who, the next morning we went to church and it was a very nice service. I always love going to new and different Presbyterian churches, but haven’t had the opportunity the past 2 years because I have been at work every Sunday morning. I am happy that the Giffords have found a good new church home. It was great to see them again and be reminded of all of their personality traits. It is funny how you forget the subtleties of people and then when you are around them again they come flooding back and you remember how much you have missed them and I guess in the not so fortunate cases why you haven’t missed them too much. Any who, it was a lovely visit.

On the way home I stopped and had an early dinner with two of my best friends from college, Rachel and Sam, and Sam’s fiancée Katie. It was really nice to be back together with the college group again and reminisce of our 4 years together. I wish we could do that weekly.

This weekend was an awesome pick me up and energizer. The Giffords and Rachel have been overly generous to me recently (as they always are) and it has just been such an inspiring gesture to know how much people care about me and will always be there for me. It makes it much easier to go back to the hospital on Monday and attempt to be as gracious as I can to each patient I see. Word. Well, that’s more than enough for now. Good day!