Dear friends and family,
Thank you for supporting me in my missions trip to Mexico, with Jess, Harry, Kim, and Ozzy from RIT InterVarsity. We praise God for our safe travel to and from Mexico, a good, productive week of work there, and the fun experiences we had sightseeing. Thanks to your prayers, we were able to raise enough money to cover our expenses and donate the remainder to the Caldwells’ ministry.
David Caldwell founded the Camps International organization to facilitate planting kids camps in various countries and staffing them with nationals to carry on the ministry. Their main focus presently is on the Mexican division called RYCCA, though there are possibilities for starting camps elsewhere in the world. In Mexico they are essentially building a prototype camp, where they can experiment with both how to build camps as well as how to run them effectively. This knowledge will then be used to jump-start other camps in the future. One of their major construction projects has been building a house for them to live in on the land, in the form of several concrete domes. The vision is for camp cabins to eventually be built in the same style.
We arrived late Saturday night, so our first activity in Mexico was to attend a church service in Morelia the following morning. It wasn’t too different from a contemporary church service in the US, apart from being louder and all in Spanish. In the afternoon and evening we visited the Caldwells’ land near Loma Caliente, where they are building their camp. David took us on a tour of the camp and explained their goals, both so we could get a sense of what we were working toward and so we could videotape David for use in a promotional video.
While the camp is located out in the middle of nowhere and lacks power and communication, the Caldwells have an apartment in the town of Acuitzio del Canje. This is where we did all of our work, since there we can plug in our laptops and get Internet access (albeit slowly compared to RIT). One of the first results of our time in Mexico was a new logo for Camps International. Kim, Ozzy, and Jess were our design team, and they went from brainstorming to a final logo in a record time of one day.
In the next few days, the design team branched out and created more materials based on that logo. Ozzy designed and implemented a new Camps International web site and began copying over the information from the old site. Kim and Jess created letterhead, envelopes, and business cards for both CI, the English part of the ministry, and RYCCA, the Spanish component. Jess also came up with ideas for a promotional video, which will hopefully come to fruition in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, our lone engineer Harry was at work designing and building things. One project he worked on was designing a structure to keep solar panels pointed toward the sun. He also researched solar water heater designs and how to mount a tank of water on the roof of the domes. His biggest project, however, was experimenting with plans for building a small camp stove by cutting off the bottoms of two aluminum cans, making small holes, and fitting them together with fuel inside. The idea is to have the campers build these stoves based on directions Harry wrote, and cook a small meal on them.
While all of this was going on, I was the resident computer expert. My first task was to improve their Internet connection, by configuring the equipment they had to receive the wireless signal and give them a better connection. I also sorted through decades of old computer equipment to determine what to throw away, including troubleshooting old printers. A lot of my time was spent doing technical support for the Caldwells and the rest of the team. I upgraded and configured Linux computers, helped Ozzy get the web site working, and did many other miscellaneous things. Computers seem to fear me, and my mere presence nearby seems to make problems disappear — we called this my aura.
We worked straight through Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, taking the occasional break to eat Mexican food cooked by David’s daughter Cherith (with help from Ozzy and the others). On Tuesday we spent the morning getting a tour of Acuitzio from Moises, the local theater teacher. Ozzy hails from El Salvador and is fluent in Spanish, so he was our interpreter for most of our interactions with the Mexicans. Moi played us a video of the town from the 1960s, and then showed us around two old churches and the plaza in the center of town before taking us to lunch at a local restaurant.
Over lunch we listened as David talked to Moi and tried to help him see the problems with his living-for-the-present mentality, which included drinking several beers while we were there. This is not an unusual attitude in Mexico, which is one of the problems the Caldwells hope to address with their camp ministry. Please pray that Moises would come to see that life does have meaning and that he shouldn’t squander it.
During our short time in Mexico we saw God bring two more opportunities to light. First, David got a call from a man who has his eye on some land in the Dominican Republic he’d like to buy for camping purposes. This could be the next location for Camps International to start a camp. Second, we got a visit one afternoon from a local official, important enough to have a police escort. He wanted to know if David could use his American connections to obtain an ambulance or fire truck for the town of Acuitzio, because their current emergency vehicle is somewhat lacking. I did a little searching and found that a used ambulance could be had for as little as $6000. We’ll have to wait and see what God does with these new connections.
We did some sightseeing Thursday evening, out in the touristy areas of Patzcuaro. We visited the first university in the area, which is now a museum. Our designers appreciated the printing shop they had there, which included old-fashioned lithography where artists would draw on flat stones in order to print onto paper. We also visited a former convent, which now contains a number of small souvenir shops that we patronized. We closed out the evening with a visit to an ice cream shop, which featured such flavors as queso (cheese) and tequila.
Our final fun activity was a drive and a hike to the top of a mountain Friday evening, featuring a large rocky cliff and a great view. This is a place they want to bring the kids from camp to go rappelling. We didn’t have the equipment to try it for ourselves, but we took a lot of pictures for ourselves and for the camp. The sun was dropping behind a mountain as we hiked back down, giving us a nice view of the sunset.
We spent Saturday finishing up our various projects, though we each had plenty more we could do if only we had the time. We left the web site ready for David to continue working on adding and organizing the information, though we haven’t made the new version public yet. Around 10 PM David drove us to the airport, and we flew overnight, bounced through Chicago, and returned to Rochester around 3 PM Sunday. (I slept for 15 hours the next night to make up for my inability to sleep on airplanes.)
We all enjoyed our visit to Mexico, and David was very appreciative of all the things we accomplished. Upon reflection, we realized that each of us had an important part to play, and without any one of us the team would have suffered. God clearly chose each of us to be there, because before this experience none of us five were close friends with each other. I was even told by our InterVarsity staff worker, “This is the most unlikely group I’ve ever seen.” Regardless, we all worked together well.
I’m graduating from RIT this year, but I hope to return to Mexico again, perhaps next spring. In the meantime, I intend to post more stories and pictures from Mexico here on my blog.
Thank you again for your support.