Brent and I came to Mexico unprepared to adapt to a new culture. We just plunged in to the work in front of us, and into the living situation given to us. We didn’t know Spanish, we didn’t understand the culture, and we didn’t have any friends yet. And to top it all off, the first winter we lived at Agua Viva it rained almost every day.
Brent was fine, busy learning the ropes. He went to San Diego twice a week to work with Lourdes, the office manager, and Pablo. When he was home he was busy, one minute taking care of some labor-intensive need around the ranch (a backed up sewage line, a generator that wouldn’t start), another minute looking over the financial records and deciding how to budget incoming funds.
But I was alone and lonely. My son was three years old, and my daughter was just six months. Martha’s kids were the same age. And we young mothers were trapped inside tiny homes with them day after day. So whenever we could, we would strap our little ones into their backpacks and take a walk up to the nearest little store, about half a mile away.
The babies would usually be lulled to sleep in their packs. The bigger boys would pick wild flowers, throw rocks, find birds’ nests, and chase each other. And Martha and I talked. It was that winter during those walks that Martha spent countless hours talking to me about the beauty and generosity of Mexicans, helping me understand differences in world views, and giving me insight into my new experiences.
One overcast day Martha and I needed to get out of our houses. We took a pleasant hike to the store, and bought some snacks once there. But as soon as we got ready to leave the store, the grey sky fell. There was no warning, no drizzle or mist, just an immediate and furious downpour. And we were stuck at the little store. No telephones, no car, no way to get home or to even get word to home.
Martha knew the man who lived near the store. He had a plot of land with a shack house, surrounded by unattended grape vines. I did not know the man, but I had seen him come for water at our ministry post a few times. He was old, unkempt, and not often sober. But what was really intriguing about this man was his very very old pickup. It was a 1950’s-ish Chevrolet, and looked every one of its years.
Martha decided to ask him for a ride. She ran as fast as she could up to the shack and back with the news that he would come for us. It took a while, but then we saw the pickup inching down the drive through the vineyard. He pulled up to the store; Martha introduced us under the porch, out of the rain. Then we grabbed our children and ran for the car.
I don’t drive without my seatbelt on. I certainly didn’t take my kids anywhere without their car seats. So you can imagine my inner turmoil as I was running for the truck, knowing that we had one small cab in which to stuff three grown adults and four youngsters. The space was going to be tight, and it was obvious no one was going to be buckled in.
But what awaited me I could not have imagined. Martha and I ran for the passenger side with our kids, but that door was completely wired shut, both at the hinges and at the car handle. And it hung precariously to the side of the truck!
The old grizzly man undid all the wire, pulled off the door and set it on the ground. We folded and piled our wet selves and our soggy offspring onto the seat, wincing over open bench springs. We watched wide-eyed as our chauffeur handily wired the door back into place.
While he was making his way back around to the driver’s side, I strove to hold my two kids on what little lap space I had. When I pulled my toddler up, I realized with no little terror in my gut that there was no floor beneath my feet, really, but rather a big gaping hole where the floorboard had completely rusted out. I straddled the hole with my feet, and put a death grip around my babies. I stared at Martha incredulously, and I could see the muscles in her cheek working hard. Still, she was nothing but gracious to our knight in rusty armor.
I know a few things: you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and you don’t gasp over the highway rushing under your feet when you are being given a ride home in a rainstorm. About halfway home I started to giggle internally at my predicament. If I had known how my life would change would I have ever ventured into Mexico? Not likely. But Oh, the lessons I was learning.
I was learning of the gift of pure Mexican hospitality: our driver didn’t feel like going out in the rain. He was aware that he didn’t have a decent taxi for helping ridiculous young mothers who take walks on rainy days. But what’s a neighbor to do? Obviously, a good neighbor cares for those in need.
I was learning how to love God and His adventures. His adventures are scary and unpredictable, even though He himself is good, and never changes. I could not have imagined the exhilaration I would feel soaring down that highway (or the exhilaration I felt upon arriving safely back at camp). Who was living this crazy life? Was it really me?
And I was learning so much about humility. Life does not have to meet all the safety regulations to be lived well. A lot of life is imperfect and downright messy. But what does a person do with that? T
hrow a fit and demand that her whims be met? No, I was learning that she accepts surprising lessons taught in humble situations. She watches and emulates the graciousness of her friend and mentor. And she climbs into the pickup and learns to just be grateful.