Since leaving Gillette, Wyoming following the Picnic in the Park, life has been a bit of a whirlwind. We have shared much of our stateside journey already, so I’ll jump right into our trip here in Mexico.
We crossed the border in Laredo. For anyone looking for a mission field within the United States, Laredo is your place! The city itself is not very welcoming or attractive. The spiritual oppression is palpable and among the worst we’ve ever encountered.
Crossing the border itself was anything from easy to frustrating to comical. After crossing the bridge into Mexico we got in the “things to
declare” line (for the dogs). Two border control guards asked us to take our dogs out and when we did they jumped back with exclamations of “Wow! They are big!” Within moments we were surrounded by border control guards who were all taking pictures of our dogs and uploading them on Facebook.
They let us through without any hang-ups ad pointed us towards customs to obtain visas and a car permit. At this point the road was divided by a meridian in the middle with two lanes of opposite traffic on either side. It was a bit eerie because there was bumper-to-bumper completely stopped traffic leaving Mexico for miles on end. Even the bomberos (firefighters) who were directing traffic were taking pictures of the line. Our lanes, however, entering Mexico had only sporadic traffic. Where it was a relief to not be stuck in the worst traffic I’ve ever seen, it was a little intimidating to be among the few that were entering when a multitude were leaving. Sal and I had a good laugh over it. God’s people are always called to go against the flow of the world anyway.
In our excitement over how easy it had been to cross the border, we completely missed customs. As we continued further and further south on the highway, we realized the fact. We followed signs to Los Federales (federal police station) and asked for directions to customs. In retrospect we questioned the wisdom of stopping there for directions, considering we had just entered Mexico illegally (by accident), but they just chuckled and pointed us back the way we had come.
Inevitably we got lost several times on our way to customs. We stopped multiple times for directions, but everyone gave us different routes. After about three hours in and out of Nuevo Laredo, we finally made it to customs and continued legally to Monterrey.
From there, everything went as planned, except that because of the hang-up at the border, we arrived in Monterrey after dark (#1 rule of driving in Mexico: Don’t drive after dark!) Being in a hurry to get off the road we decided to find a hotel instead of risking getting lost in Monterrey at night trying to find the YWAM base. We stopped at a 7/11 to ask where a good hotel was and the guy behind the counter said, “You’re in luck! Take a right at the next light and there is a whole district of hotels.”
“Wonderful!” we thought. “Praise God!” We turned right and sure enough there were several hotels. We stopped at one that advertised 300 pesos, commenting on how inexpensive Mexican hotels were (17pesos = U$D 1). When Sal asked for a double bed room, the receptionist gave him a quizzical look and explained he only had single beds and they were 300 pesos for four hours. A little alarmed we observed our surroundings better and realized indeed we were in the red light district (which was curiously lit not in red but with Christmas lights). We got directions to a family friendly area with hotels, but even there prostitution was very prevalent. As uncomfortable as the whole event was, I pray every Christian experiences the heartbreak that we did that night over beautiful women created in the image of God being extorted so grotesquely. It was both haunting and convicting.
The next morning we found the Monterrey YWAM base.We were well received and shown exquisite hospitality. They connected us with other YWAM bases along our way as well as a contact in Corrientes (there was an Argentine there who’s sister lives two blocks from the Corrientes YWAM base). They invited us to spend the night as to get an early start for Guadalajara, and that is precisely what we did.
In Guadalajara we received a very warm welcome from old friends. Tonight will be our third and final night here. We’ve accompanied them in ministry to an unreached area in Jalisco, Sal helped fix a problem with the water, we rested a spell from the road, repacked the van and washed our clothes and ourselves. It has been a huge blessing. Long trips always remind me of what a grand blessing water is. From here, our plan is to continue through Central America only stopping to sleep through the night. We should be able to jump from YWAM base to YWAM base almost exclusively. Although we have passed a few military checkpoints, we have not yet been stopped. It could seem they are much more concerned about traffic headed north. Also the fact that we speak Spanish has been immensely helpful and allows us to fit in very well.
Thank you for your continued prayers. You are often in our thoughts and prayers as we carry you in our hearts across the continent. May God richly bless you!