Testimonial from Reynosa: March 2024 Outreach

Here's what it was like to go on an Outreach to Reynosa in March 2024 from the perspective of Larry Welder, CrossBridger and participant

When I told my family about our trip, our daughter commented that the families were very lucky to have my wife Karen and I going on the trip. That was how I felt on my first mission trip so many years ago. The families were so lucky that I was going to help make their lives so much better. I didn’t realize at the time that the enemy had put those thoughts on my mind.

The trip to Reynosa started out so different. It seemed that the enemy had given up on me, at least for the moment. I began the trip feeling humble, knowing that God would be blessing Karen and I as much as He would be blessing the family that we served.

Crossing the Border

Over the past many years, the world influences how we should treat everyone coming across our border illegally, taints the feelings we should have for the families that live in Mexico. As we crossed the border, some anxiousness set in as we saw armed men that seemed to have sole discretion as to who could enter and more control of who they would search. They stopped our vehicles, that were pulling trailers, to see if we were bringing in items to sell, which would need to be taxed. They decided that our two trailers should pay $300 in taxes, while waving on a pickup, loaded with boxes and boxes or new TVs. In the past, the subjective taxes have been as low as $0 to as much as a few hundred dollars.

Once across the border, the realization set in that we were entering a country, more specifically, an area with a very strong cartel presence. In spite of being told we were safe; we were also told that we should not travel more than a block from the hotel and only in groups, never alone. In the few other foreign countries, that we have traveled to, many of the locals had some command of the English language - not so much in Reynosa. It seemed that the locals we met, seemed to believe there was no need to learn English, because they would not be leaving their country.

Day One

Up to worship and daily direction at 6:30 a.m., breakfast at 7 a.m. and then off to serve we go. The road is bumpy and dusty, but more bumpy than dusty. We get to the site on the first day and start by welcoming the family that we will be blessing with the love of Jesus. Our family’s story was heartbreaking. Our prayer for that area is not only for the families that live there, but also that the demons are driven out of each member of the cartel. Right now, the enemy seems to have a stronghold on the community, but I am hoping that one by one, the community will be able to become stronger than the cartel. We just need to be patient and faithful to God’s timing.

Construction on the first day went better than I expected. The building materials were painted, and three of the four walls were erected. Not bad for a spiritual crew of volunteers. The teams worked together, like a finely-tuned orchestra. Workers painting, cutting, nailing, playing with children and loving on the families. At lunch time, we loaded into the vans, down the bumpy road to the community church. Local ladies had prepared sandwiches, chips, and cookies to refuel our batteries.

Time for fellowship and to continue drinking water to keep us all hydrated. We erected the third wall of the house in the late afternoon, and then it was time to load the vans to go back to the hotel. Once there, we were off to our rooms for a quick cold to lukewarm shower, and then it was dinner time. Another great time to relax and enjoy Jesus with our brothers and sisters in Christ. After dinner, we ventured back for more worship, devotions, and God stories. It was a beautiful sight to see so many children, teens and young adults that were filled so passionately with the Holy Spirit, volunteering to be disciples to the nations.

Once back to our room, I began reflecting on the day’s activities. It was only the end of day one, but I sensed that this trip was different from all the other mission trips that I had been on. I became overwhelmed with emotion, and I couldn’t discern whether it was tears of joy that we were serving or tears of sadness for the community. Either way I knew it was the tears of the Holy Spirit flowing from me. I think I was feeling that God had given me too many blessings and that he should have given part of mine to the family. That was but a fleeting thought, as I know that he has endless blessings to bestow, but also that “to whom much is given, much is expected." Armed with the Spirit of God, I was determined to give as much as I humanly could. God had blessed me with gifts and finances, and now it was up to me to share the fruit of his blessings.

Day Two

Morning worship, breakfast, and off to serve we go. Not as chipper as the morning of Day One, but still the same desire to be God’s hands, feet, and voice, throughout the day. More painting, wall building, rafter framing, wall erecting, setting rafters, nailing on purlins. Lunch and fellowship mid-day and by the end of the day, we were ready for roofing panels to go on.

During devotions, we were asked to picture Jesus, showing up at our site and what we might see him do when he got out of the van. Yes, Jesus also endures the bumpy roads in and out of the community. At the end of reflecting, I asked Karen what she pictured, and with tears in her eyes, she said that he would sit down, gather the children around him, and love would flow. Her words brought tears to my eyes, as I pictured the very same Jesus with the very same children, and they all had such big smiles on their faces.

Karen and I both knew Jesus was at our site because the local children and the children that came with our teams were interacting with each other, playing, painting, sharing food and always with such big smiles on their faces. There was no room for racism, no room for hate, no room for evil, just room for Jesus’s love to flow from one to the other to the other. If only all adults could share the love of Jesus so freely. In retrospect, I think Karen and my vision of Jesus, surrounded by children, really represented, all of God’s children, young and old. That he would have been telling and showing all of us at the site in Reynosa, how to unconditionally love each other.

Day Three

When I arrived at the family site on the morning of the third day, I was filled with a sense of amazement. In two days, this group of crazy Christians had taken a bare concrete slab and built, not a house, but a home for two of God’s children. A home that was ready for only roofing and windows to be completed. A home that on the morning of Day Four, would be furnished, decorated, blessed, and dedicated. Then the keys would be handed to the family to experience God’s love firsthand. My prayer for them is that every time they walk through the door, they feel not only God’s love but the love of each of us that helped serve them, that week.

Day three was so very special to Karen and I, as we were able to meet the young lady that we have sponsored for the past two years: Danna, who is 14 years old. She was not shy and timid as I thought she might be, meeting these two old Americans. She was outgoing, and we had a great time getting to know a little about her and her family, what she likes to do and about her school. She was quick to point out that her school is strict. If she were to show up to class after the teacher, she would not be allowed to enter and would spend the day in the hall. She said she is good at math and thinks a career in Criminal Justice might be her calling. We took pictures and said our goodbyes.

With tears, in our eyes, Karen and I agreed, that Danna is no longer just a picture on our refrigerator. She is a lovely young lady, deserving the life that God created her to live. God is so wise I think he introduced us to Danna to not only show us this beautiful young lady he created, but also to say, “I got you, she is not only in your mind, but now embedded in your heart. Y’all will be back.”

Day Four

We worshipped, ate breakfast, packed our bags, and said goodbye to the Hotel El Camino. Note to self: If or more probably when we come back again, bring pillows, washcloths, and fewer snacks (we gained weight this trip). We arrived at our home site and began scurrying around, completing finishing touches. Cleaning, decorating, furnishing, and getting everything ready for our family to meet their new home. Prayer, dedication, hugs, tears, more hugs and tears and it was time to leave. We all shared a sense of accomplishment and a desire to get back home to our families and our own beds, but I think that everyone left with a pain in their hearts for the family and community.

Prayers that their lives would be better with their new home and that they would share about the blessings they had just received from God. I know for Karen and I, that pain in our hearts, was the pain of God removing a small piece to remain with the family and another piece to remain with our sponsor child, Danna. I believe he removed those pieces of our hearts to graft onto the hearts of our family and Danna, so that they could feel our love daily, but also, he removed those pieces so that we would have more room in our hearts for future families and for his children throughout the nations.

This trip seemed so much different than others that I have been on. It’s possible it felt different, because I’m much older and realize I have more time behind me that I have ahead of me, unless God gives me the years to live like some of the Old Testament heroes. Being older and, hopefully, a bit wiser, I see that the world’s views of life are so much different than how God created each of us to live. So, with only a limited time to produce good fruit, I realize that there is much that still needs to be done. So many people to serve, so much love to spread, so many souls to save that there just isn’t any time to sit around and grow old.

"Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing." Psalms 92:13-14 NLT

Questions? Please feel free to contact Julia.

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