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My Story
| APOSTOLATE | TESTIMONIES
Barbara Forbes’ experience of Extreme Missions in Cancún, Mexico.

Barbara with missions kids
"While we were at work, the children came around to capture our hearts and our attention."

I threw up my arms, angry that the nail was being this extremely uncooperative. A blister emerged on my hand faster than the nail was pounding into the tin. “Por favor?” Casting my hammer into the air I desperately pleaded with my roofing partner, and he scampered over the tin to help me. In seconds the nail was in, and another section of the roof was in place. It was exhausting work, but I was blessed with muscular help. A handful of men from the village had come to assist us to reroof their chapel, and despite my marginal Spanish, I quickly became fluent at delegation.

For this Mission Youth Extreme Mission we had arrived from around North America to Cancún, Mexico. The first day after an early morning we mini-vanned it to a small village in Chetumal about 6 hours south-west of Cancun where for five nights we slept under a palm roof on a concrete floor. Mornings we contributed our hands and enthusiasm to two construction projects and in the afternoon spent time with the village children. No one among us was an expert at finishing cement walls or replacing tin roofs, but we had plenty of help
Barbara repairing a roof
"Mornings we contributed our hands and enthusiasm to two construction projects."
from the community. Their generosity was phenomenal. Men took the day off to mix cement or pull nails, and women invited us to their homes for a variety of delicious Mexican meals.

The children kept us in motion when we weren’t occupied with a hammer or trowel. The afternoons we coloured, played soccer, and sang with them. While we were at work, they came around to capture our hearts (and our attention).

“Canta, canta,” they would shout at me in request, whether I was on the roof or within arms’ reach. “Soy una tasa…” Smiles would spread and their brown eyes would light up as I began their favourite song for the eighth time that morning.

Local generosity was highlighted when it came to meals. We were invited to five separate homes, and some welcomed us for return visits. Arriving at their simple dwellings we would duck our heads to enter the kitchen. A plastic table and chairs would be set up and the women wouldn’t bat an eye as they pressed tacos for our group of eleven. I loved the variety of delicious dishes we tried, and I’m sure they got a good laugh when I tried a chunk of hot habanero chili.

I had ventured into rural Chetumal not sure if I could make a difference. After all, the local men knew more on roof raising, the kids outmatched our enthusiasm and energy, and the women effortlessly cooked up tacos for our group. We were here to set an example, but could we succeed if they were the ones teaching us?

When the new tin was securely nailed into place, we shared a final mass with the villagers. Afterwards, the local full-time evangelizer said a few encouraging words. Standing at the front of the chapel, Juan expressed that we had indeed set an example. The locals were not used to seeing women on a roof, pounding nails and lifting tin. We demonstrated that though we come from other corners of the continent, we are Catholic as well. And we wanted to help them build their church – our Church
Barbara and missions team
"God had called each of us to Mexico. Though I might have thought it to be miniscule, we did have an impact."
– one holy, catholic, and apostolic.

The following morning, we were once again out of our sleeping bags bright and early. This day, our final one, we were on the road to Cancún by 6:30am. Some of us took the ride as a chance for some much needed shut-eye, but we were all awake upon arriving at our destination. The sun shone at the ruins of Chichen-Itza as we learned of their pyramid’s time-telling properties. Stone jaguars kept watch on us as we entered the ancient Mayan ball court, to be greeted there by a flash rainstorm that got us all wet. When the clouds cleared we learned a bit more history and had time to buy trinkets before eating lunch. Continuing to Cancún we stopped once more to swim in a cenote. The water in the cave refreshed us all; however the Yucatan humidity didn’t escape us for long.

I’ve returned home with fond memories of this Extreme Mission. Though many times I questioned if our presence would be fruitful or if we would accomplish something, maybe I was looking at the wrong definition of success. God had called each of us to Mexico. Though I might have thought it to be miniscule, we did have an impact. Father Matthew, our chaplain for the week, probably worded it best.

“It’s not about ability, but availability.”


PUBLICATION DATE: 2009-11-02


 
 

Related links

Helping Hands Medical Missions
MissionYouth
St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center


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